The Creative Environment

In the world of business, and especially the world of technology, we have some archetypical stories of entrepreneurs in the garage, working to create new products and new companies. But too many of those stories seem to neglect the creative environment in which great ideas and inventions happen.

This is especially unfortunate because inspiration for this type of work doesn’t seem to come from being surrounded by market analysis data, or charts and graphs about return on investment, but instead happens like so much creativity does, with a blaring soundtrack while sitting on a folding chair, inspired by the music, movies, books and art that surround us.

Worse, we hear about things like Celebrity Playlists and the artworks that people appreciate long after they’ve been successful, after they’ve already proven they have the ability to achieve, but seldom with a focus on what was playing at the time when they did the first work they were recognized for.


So, some time ago, I began a project to start to document some of these environments, inspired by the entrepreneurs and creative talents that I’ve had the chance to work with or be inspired by. Among others, I’ve gotten some great responses from Ray Ozzie of Microsoft (and of course Lotus); Jeff Bezos of Amazon; Pierre Omidyar of eBay; Dan Bricklin, co-creator of VisiCalc, and some more contributors along the way. As I start to share what I’ve found, I’d like to ask the same questions of you that I’ve asked of these people already.

  1. What music, books or movies do you remember paying attention to at the time when you did your signature work? (This can be your “best” project, or merely your best-known, or the one you’re most proud of.)
  2. What do you remember of your physical workspace — clutter on the desk, notes on the walls, whiteboards or blackboards, etc.?

The goal is to evoke a sense of what more subtle things may have been influencing the work that’s created. There have, of course, been many similar or related efforts over the years, and I’ll be trying to share and document of number of fantastic responses to these questions that I’ve collected.

If you’d like to participate yourself, you can answer the questions here in the comments, or post a reply on your own blog using the tag “createnv” (since it seems that’s not taken yet) and/or embed this post on your own site with the code below. I’ll be collecting responses from the blogosphere along with my own research and posting it all here in the days to come. (Thanks to Travis Isaacs for the image.)