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Managing for Creativity

Harnessing creativity and innovation is important for all companies today. As our world becomes more urbanized and connected, a company’s competitiveness and speed determine success. To keep up with the robust pace and dynamics of our environment, every organization needs to creatively innovate while delivering value to the bottom line.

Often however, as companies grow, they over-focus on managing for operational efficiencies, resulting in diminished creativity. It shouldn’t be an either/or proposition, efficiency and creativity can and should co-exist, even as you scale.

So how do you manage for creativity?

When we think about a creative enterprise, our minds go to a startup, art studio, or smaller design agency. But in reality, today’s creative enterprises aggregate the ideas of hundreds if not thousands of individuals. The larger the scale of the organization, the more impact can be leveraged by launching innovative products and services at scale. In fact, managing for creativity becomes important in a marketplace looking for the next industry breakthrough and if done at scale, the potential for impact is significant.

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This week I spoke at the Bloomberg Breakaway CEO Summit in New York alongside Jamie Kern Lima, Co-Founder, and Co-CEO of IT Cosmetics and Lisa W. Wardell, President and CEO of Adtalem Global Education. In our main stage discussion, moderated by Carol Massar of Bloomberg Businessweek, we examined the leadership challenges of organizations, including the war for talent and managing for creativity, which is a particular focus for Andy Cohen and I as Co-CEOs of Gensler. We believe that growing a creative company requires an emphasis on diversity, creating a culture of creativity, and constructing a workplace environment where creativity can flourish.


Creativity is fostered when people in different disciplines and diverse points of view cross paths. Creativity is part of a collective process where people of different experiences, backgrounds, and generations intersect. If someone comes in from a different discipline or industry, they bring a different perspective to the table. When differences are integrated, these fresh ideas are what often lead to breakthroughs.

Diversity is not a box to check off. In an effective creative enterprise, diversity means inclusion and valuing the uniqueness of each individual. An organization needs to have a culture that genuinely values the opinions of others, hears each other’s perspectives, and learns from the differences. Every voice counts. It is the different voices in healthy debate that challenge us to try a different way and create new things.

Culture of Creativity

Managing an innovative culture means being willing to experiment even within the premise of productivity. Creating a platform that enables people to experiment, innovate, and collaborate, enables the necessary ingredients for new ideas, services, and products to flourish. Besides investments in the latest data and technology, your organizational platform needs to be built around using these resources to drive innovation. It is important to create a culture in which ideas matter. This means platforms that give people the opportunity to engage in research and other idea-generating forums.

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Workplace is at the Core

It is often said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast’” well workplace design devours culture at all the other meals. Company leaders can talk about their culture and publish brochures, posters, and slogans about it, but if your space doesn’t walk the talk, its all for naught. Your people experience your company’s values, culture and priorities from the workspace that you create for them. In addition, your workplace should exemplify your “why.” It should tell the story of your purpose. The design of your space is a core tool for fostering a creative culture.

We have studied the intersection of workplace design and innovative office environments for over a decade. Our most recent work, the 2019 Gensler U.S. Workplace Survey, looked into this relationship. Our research discovered that the companies who offer a combination of different spaces that accommodate both focused individual and collaborative teamwork – both integral to creative thinking – increased the likelihood of chance social interactions and the interface of ideas, putting an organization in the better position of fostering creative thinking.

Creativity at Gensler

With more than 6,300 professionals in 48 offices across the globe, Gensler thrives on creativity. We are focused on Shaping the Future of Cities, using innovation and creativity to take on the challenges of urbanization. As the largest global design firm in the world, we have mastered the delicate balance of scaling creativity alongside of business excellence.It requires an ongoing process and requires constant attention.

Our diverse workforce gives us the advantage of divergent points of view and the opportunity to innovate in ever-changing ways. We emphasize collaboration on all of our projects and even from an organizational design standpoint. We established a Co-CEO model to ensure collaboration from to top to bottom. And finally, our workspaces are designed to support the individual and collaborative activities of our people.

While some may believe the myth that innovation only comes from an individual or when a small group of people are locked in a garage-like incubator, we understand that creativity comes in any size, and can be inspired and nurtured through collaboration, diversity and creating workspaces where people come together. At our creative enterprise, leaders play the role of social architects and leverage the collective viewpoints of our people, generating a marketplace of ideas by knowing how to amplify versus hide our differences.

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Diane Hoskins

Diane is one of two co-CEOs of Gensler. For her innovative leadership, Diane, along with Co-CEO Andy Cohen, ranks on Business Insider’s elite “Creators” list, a who’s who of the world’s 100 top creative visionaries. As a hands-on leader, Diane oversees Gensler’s global platform and its day-to-day operations, with over 7,000 people networked across 53 offices, serving more than 4,000 clients in 140 countries. Diane is focused on Gensler’s global talent strategies, performance, and organizational development to ensure that we serve our clients with the world’s top talent.