The Atmosphere of Innovation

I wrote this post years ago about The atmosphere of coffee shops and bars. In it, I pointed out that coffee shops and bars have the opposite mood of the effect of drinks they serve. Bars serve depressants and so the atmosphere is usually set by high-energy music. Coffee is a stimulant and the atmosphere in coffee shops is set by tranquil tones and soft singer/songwriters.

At the core, it would seem that a person tries to maximize the balance of their environment with what they feel internally.

This brings me to a question, “What would be the atmosphere of the most innovative places?”

My instantaneous thought is high brow design, modern and sophisticated. Companies like Apple, Google and other similar tech companies come to mind. Except, these companies aren’t as innovative as they were when they started. It’s hard to imagine what item Google could create that would rival the shift their search engine had on the world. Yet, that search engine was likely started in some plane Jane libraries, garages, or computer labs.

The “Atmosphere of Innovation” is more along the lines of the coffee/shop bar idea. When you are working in a low brow, low design space and the only thing you have is to create, then innovation brings balance to the plainness of the atmosphere. A high-design space makes one feel innovative just by being there and likely lowers the actual innovation.

However, the reality is that only companies with significant capital can afford the beautiful offices, and so rather than being an actual place of innovation, it is a signal to find those who are perceived to be the best talent.

The Atmosphere of Innovation is a culture of people, not a design of an office. Too often this is mistaken.