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10 August 2015

Graffiti and Innovation

Written by: Maya Golan, Junior Analyst at Edelman

Culture, Employee Engagement, Innovation

In every sector, and every workplace, developing ways to foster creativity and innovation have become vital for businesses to find and maintain a competitive edge. As a result, there has been a surge in the amount of research seeking to identify new methods and tools that can sustainably, and consistently enhance creativity.

One particularly interesting study conducted by Dr Simone Ritter and colleagues, suggests that unusual or unexpected experiences can notably enhance our creativity. Simply by doing tasks in a different way, we can encourage more flexible and creative thinking. Further studies have also shown that creative ideas often emerge when we engage in random non-task related activities. Also referred to as ‘incubation‘, this process has been proven to increase both conscious and unconscious creative thinking. So if you’re ever struggling to find that creative spark, taking a break and doing something completely different might just be the best way to ignite it.

It’s fascinating that our capacity for creativity and innovation isn’t fixed, and whilst of course some people might be ‘naturally’ more inclined to creative and innovative thinking, we all have the power to build and boost our creative capacity. At Edelman, there is also a clear understanding that in order for creativity to flourish, and innovation to follow, managers should play an active role in designing and delivering the right work environment. As well as encouraging employees to actively seek out new experiences.

And speaking of new experiences, I recently tried my hand, for the first time ever, at graffiti.

Now this didn’t happen at a skate park, or the underground, in fact, it was with work. As part of my team’s annual away day, we were treated to a graffiti workshop at the Graffik Gallery on Portobello Road.

On a rainy summer Friday afternoon, there we were, surrounded by works from some of the most promising and well-known street artists in the country. We learnt basic stenciling and spray-painting techniques, and fuelled by excitement, a little Prosecco (and possibly some spray paint fumes) we each started work on a personal canvas.

With none of the team having any previous graffiti experience, which they were willing to admit to at least, it was fascinating to see how everyone approached the task differently. Some dedicated their masterpieces to loved ones or had their home decor in mind, while others just worked with colour and went with the flow.

At the end of the afternoon the room was transformed into a wonderful collage of colourful canvases, each representing a different creative journey. On leaving the gallery, a lot more energised and inspired, I thought to myself how rare it is to genuinely experience something for the first time ever, in our day to day lives. I also felt pretty privileged that I got to have an afternoon like that, which could help foster my own creativity and innovative capacity, as part of my job. Ultimately, I think it’s testament to Edelman’s commitment to supporting employees and providing a work environment that helps us have unexpected and unusual experiences.

As the research shows, not only is it fun, it’s essential to bringing the best out of ourselves, and delivering work for our clients that makes a difference. After all, as the great John Cleese said: “if you want creative workers, give them enough time to play.”

For more information about the Graffik gallery and the available workshops, please click here.

Image by The Social Experiences Club.


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