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On NPR, Jonah Lehrer Discusses Creative Workspaces
Imagine | March 22, 2012

On NPR, Jonah Lehrer Discusses Creative Workspaces

On tour to promote his critically-hailed new book, Imagine: How Creativity Works, Jonah Lehrer stopped by NPR to talk about how each of us can become more creative. In Imagine, Lehrer views creativity through a wide lens—"considering everything from the invention of masking tape to breakthroughs in mathematics; from memorable ad campaigns to Shakespearean tragedies." As he explains, there are many ways to spark creativity and create those 'a-ha!' moments that result in original ideas.

On NPR, Lehrer talked specifically about Steve Jobs' design of the Pixar studios, using it as an example of fostering creativity through simple, yet ingenious means:

"The original design for the Pixar studios consisted of three separate buildings, where they'd put the computer scientists in one building, and the animators in a second building and the third building would contain everybody else: the directors, the editors and so on. Steve realized that that was a terrible idea; that the real challenge of Pixar was getting people from these different cultures — these computer scientists and these cartoonists — to work together, to really collaborate. And so he insisted that Pixar studios just be one vast, cavernous space.

[Jobs] insisted there be only two bathrooms in the entire Pixar studios, and that these would be in the central space. And of course this is very inconvenient. No one wants to have to walk 15 minutes to go to the bathroom. And yet Steve insisted that this is the one place everyone has to go every day. And now you can talk to people at Pixar and they all have their 'bathroom story.' They all talk about the great conversation they had while washing their hands.

... He wanted there to be mixing. He knew that the human friction makes the sparks, and that when you're talking about a creative endeavor that requires people from different cultures to come together, you have to force them to mix; that our natural tendency is to stay isolated, to talk to people who are just like us, who speak our private languages, who understand our problems. But that's a big mistake. And so his design was to force people to come together even if it was just going to be in the bathroom."
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