How to Design a Space for Creative Flow with Chief Strategy Officer at A+I, Peter Knutson and Chief Design Officer of Publicis Groupe, Bastien Baumann
As we start thinking about the epic “Return to the Office,” many are thinking about space and how it can be used more intentionally for collaboration, creativity, and productivity. Peter Knutson, chief strategy officer at architecture firm A+I and Bastien Baumann, chief design officer at Publicis Groupe join Erica on the podcast this week to discuss this very topic. A+I and Publicis Groupe partnered together to form Le Truc, “a New York City-based center of creative excellence for clients, converging 600+ creatives, producers, and creative strategists from Publicis Groupe New York agencies into one dynamic, collaborative space.” So for these two creatives, space and how to use it to maximize creative flow is top of mind. As we’ve seen in the last year, employees have proven they can be just as productive at home as they were at the office, which leads to the question, why come back at all? Bastien asserts leaders must give their people a real tangible reason to come back. Peter maintains that people are why we will want to return to the office—people are the pull. Listen in for a thoughtful conversation around people and space and why we gather.
Peter 9:58 – “The idea that comes to you in the shower happens because creativity is hard and amorphous, right? It’s not something you can grab and force. It’s something that you have to sort of coax and cajole a little bit. You have to fight with it sometimes. You have to prepare and just wait sometimes. I think that for us, it was really meaningful to think about Le Truc as the challenge to be creative, especially to be creative on the timeline for others is a huge pressure. And this idea of, what is the space that allows you to wrestle with the uncertainty of the creative impulse? What is the version of the idea in the shower in the office? Is it more than a conference room and a desk? Is it something other? And I think that’s where we’re really pushing this is, what is the variety of physical environments that can change the way you’re experiencing the world in a way that gives you that moment or that inspiration that’s going to let the idea come out, let the idea become formed? And then how do you form it afterwards? Because nobody has the right idea; nobody imagines the perfect thing the first time it enters their brain. And that challenge is fun to tackle as a spatial one.”
Bastien 12:56 – “Thinking about creativity and how it works—it’s two basic steps: diverging steps and converging steps. So you need two steps. You need one where you’re going to be by yourself, feeding yourself about the problem, what’s the problem? And then you’re going to have to exchange that problem with others. So it’s really collaboration. And open space is amazing for that because you’re with everybody. But you need that time where you’re by yourself—you need to do the things, you need to craft the thing, you need to find the solution. This time you don’t need anybody, so that’s why you go to a library or you try to hide everywhere you can, in a coffee space or whatever. I think the spaces of today for creatives are good for collaboration but very bad for crafting by yourself.”
Peter 20:04 – “Even in just the beginning instances of this, Hybrid is a completely different thing than working all in person or working all remotely. And there’s an imbalance between the people who are on a call and the people who are physically in the room that is impossible to overcome. There is language that your body says that is impossible to replicate on a Zoom call.”
Bastien 23:25 – “I think you need to give people a reason, a very tangible reason of why should I go back to work? Because I’ve proven to you that I’m as productive as I used to be when I stay at home.”
Peter 25:35 – “I think there’s so much to be said for, ‘We are the reason to go back to the office’ right? We are the pull. People are the pull. And the relationships you form and nurture and exhaust and trust and depend on.”
Peter 26:16 – “I’ve yet to feel, at the end of the day, exhilarated by eight solid hours of Zoom meetings. And I think it’s because the joy of being social doesn’t quite transcend to this environment.”