HR Advice

How to Create an Innovative Work Environment

Written by Scott Scheper for Gaebler Ventures

Creating a work environment that stimulates creativity and innovation starts with an understanding of two key drivers of innovation.

Wondering how to make your company more innovative?

Companies that decide to build an innovative work environment are starting off on the wrong foot. They've focused on the end -- not on the means.

Do not focus on building an "innovative culture" for your workplace. Instead, focus on adopting the two main ingredients that contribute to an innovative environment: the 2 P's.

The 2 P's: People and Physical Layout.

The 2 P's are simple. They're not abstract. They aren't related to terms like values, beliefs and attitude. The 2 P's are tangible--they're real.


Leona Helmsely once said, "I don't hire people that have to be told to be nice. I hire nice people."

Her words would be meaningful, if it weren't for the fact that she served jail time for fraud. Even seemingly nice people can fool you.

You need the right people in your organization to foster innovation. However, this is the biggest problem most start-up companies have. They either hire friends from their MBA program or get fooled in the interview process.

What's the key to hiring the right people? Your gut. Resumés only tell about a quarter of the story. References don't reveal much either because the former boss feels obligated to be nice, and many interviewees can answer your interview questions in a way that suggests they are innovative even when they are not.

When hiring for the first time, be prepared to be fooled. Even the most successful entrepreneurs have been deceived. In Fortune's latest article on "America's Most Admired Companies," Apple placed first. In their interview with Steve Jobs, he notes that "Recruiting is hard. It's finding the needles in the haystack. I've participated in the hiring of maybe 5,000-plus people in my life. I take it very seriously. You can't know enough in a one hour interview. So in the end, it's ultimately based on your gut."

Some people are just great at being interviewed. They seem talented on the surface, but after two months you'll find yourself with a lethargic liability. The best strategy is to prepare the right questions to screen for innovators, dissect every small detail in their resumé, and most importantly, go with your gut.

Physical Layout

Most startup entrepreneurs don't think strategically about their office layout.

That's a big mistake if you are striving to create an innovative work environment.

A poor physical environment affects employee attitude and employee behavior. Even worse, it can poison the opinion of potential customers.

The only time you don't need to worry about your work environment is if you're running a flea market. Other than that, it doesn't matter if you're a comic store owner or you run a government funded cubicle city. You need to focus on the physical work environment and design it in a way that gives you the business edge you're searching for.

Bottom line, clean up your office. Make it polished. Make it professional. Add some creative elements, and watch your employees become more creative and more innovative.

You'll also have an easier time attracting innovative employees who prefer to work in an environment that is conducive to creativity and big ideas.

Scott Scheper is a venture finance enthusiast and serial entrepreneur hailing from Orange County, CA. Scott recently graduated from Chapman University where he was a Cheverton Fellow and graduated with honors in Finance, Management and Marketing.

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Do you agree that people and physical layout are important drivers of innovation? What's your experience in making your organization more innovative? Leave a comment below.

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