I see us being part of two ecosystems: gaming and startups. One thing that is common for both is that you need to be creative. In gaming creativity is sometimes seen as quite structured, where some people’s job is to be creative and others don’t need it so much. It is true that some people are more natural DaVincis and others aren’t, but the segmentation of creativity can work only for bigger and more established game developers. In a startup everyone needs to be creative. And there are big game companies too that want to foster everyone’s creativity, which is clever because you probably get more new ideas in this field that inherently needs lot of creative power. In a startup (any startup) creativity goes to all fields, not just art, design or code, but you have to be creative with your business models and how your talk to your customers and everything else too. There is no one set model how you’re supposed to do a startup.
We try to create a creative environment at Tribe. Heikki and Jarkko decorated our rooms with objects that give out a tribal vibe. We’ve organized workshops or meetings out of meeting rooms. Last week we discussed we should have a spring excursion to some forest. We realized there was no perfect timing for it but we could have our weekly meeting in a forest. So we did. We went walking in the national park of Nuuksio and grilled our lunch there. We actually discussed business all the way.
This is a pleasant way of fostering creativity. It doesn’t need as much money or effort you’d think. Mostly it needs the attitude that you want to get it done. However sometimes creativity also comes from forced conditions. When you just can’t do things as you’d like to do them you are forced to be creative and find another way for it.
Alf Rehn talks about this kind of “ugly” creativity in his book Vaaraliset Ideat (Dangerous Ideas). We used one example from him when we were brainstorming the characters for Velvet Sundown. We gave ourselves a very strict time limit and then forced lot of ideas to come out. When it seemed that all the rational and non-rational ideas had come out, we really started forcing out more ideas. Some of the last ideas ended up in Velvet Sundown. Like Rehn I’m not a big fan of “creativity techniques” as such. I don’t think creativity can be bottled and packaged, but sometimes forcing the situation to be different from the status quo helps.
Even if easy creativity exercises don’t always help, I do think that keeping the working environment interesting and changing it sometimes, helps to foster new kinds of thinking. As Marshal McLuhan says “the medium is the message”. When applied to meeting rooms this means that the type of the meeting room you have will affect the way the meeting is conducted and what the results will be.