Monday, 22 February 2010

The World's Most Creative Organisations

It can be quite hard to track Kursty Groves down, but when you do – even by Skype – it is well worth the effort. Kursty is the author of (soon to be published) “I Wish I Worked There! A look inside 20 of the most creative spaces in business”.

It seems somewhat of a misnomer to call Kursty just an author, for she has a background in industrial design, worked as a television presenter, runs her own business and is a fully paid up practitioner of Innovation, who has helped some of the most successful brands in the world continue to grow market share.

Kursty divides her time between London and New York and we managed to catch up with her for a quick chat in the few weeks that are left before “I Wish I Worked There!” hits bookshops.

Over the last few years Kursty has been helping organisations build creativity and innovation capability, frequently running these interventions at off-site venues.

The chief motivation for this book were two nagging concerns :

“When I run a creative session, there is invariably something wrong with the venue. Either there is too little light, or there is no space for people to reflect”

“And even if the venue is great and the delegates leave inspired, they often return to an uninspiring workplace that undoes all the good work we have done together”

Some organisations think they can address this by introducing a ‘creative space’.

Kursty visibly flinches when she tell me “it can be so misguided. Someone in HR decides to paint a room green and put in a few beanbags. They seem surprised when no-one uses it.”

When pushed on how to make creative spaces work, she can’t be stopped:

“The first thing is that management have to use the creative space. If they role model behaviour, then others in the organisation will follow. Also, it has to be firmly on brand – the bouncy balls will only work at Google- they don’t fit the culture of a bank.

You can’t just copy what is in one creative company and expect it to work the same in another”

Google is always seen as the go-to guy when you want an example of a creative space, and the author is clear that one of the reasons their space works so well is because it is firmly on brand. They are all about making the world’s information universally accessible quickly and speed is a key measure at Google. Kursty tells me that this then gives them permission to have things like a fireman’s pole in the building. It fits with what they are trying to achieve overall.

EA designers have intense periods of absolute concentration whilst they develop new gaming software. Their offices are intentionally dark places where inventors can tinker with code and graphics and continue to create the world’s most successful games. In contrast to the low-lit work areas, there are huge expanses of outside spaces with softball pitches and gyms, to encourage play, create energy and encourage collaboration.

So we know that just copying other organisations is not going to help our organisation become more creative, so why should we buy the book?

“The book is intended to be act as inspiration. I have visited what I consider to be the 20 most creative organisations on the planet. I have then boiled down what makes them so successful. They all have environments that inspire, stimulate the brain and encourage communication.”

So how could we have the perfect creative space in our office? Kursty sums it up by saying it should do the following:

1) Stimulate

2) Enable reflection

3) Promote collaboration

4) Encourage play

She has also identified the 7 Foundation Principles that need to be in place, but is keeping tight lipped about them telling me “you’ll have to buy the book”.

By now the clock was ticking and I had only a few more minutes of Kursty’s time before she got on a plane. In our last few minutes she told me about her new business, , where she and her team will help find you the perfect venue for your off-site meeting

“Even the most creative people in the most creative companies need to go off-site and find inspiration”

Creative guru, innovator and entrepreneur. Kursty Groves seems to practice what she preaches.


  1. Great piece - it's so true that people think that just changing the wall colour is going to make the organisation innovative

  2. Reminds me of the time I went to a meeting with a senior civil servant in his security tight offices in admiralty arch. We were tAlking about strategy devoment - but be showed me into a beanbAg filled room where we squatted uncomfortably in formal attire to have a serious discussion. It was nuts!