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Creative workplace characteristics and innovative start-up companies

Young S. Lee (School of Planning, Design and Construction, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA)


ISSN: 0263-2772

Article publication date: 3 May 2016




This study aims to investigate the characteristics of the physical work environment that are known and used in practice to promote creativity for innovative start-up workplaces. The first part of the study identified these characteristics from a content and visual analysis, and examined the current state of implementation of these characteristics in the work environments of innovative start-up companies. The second part of the study examined criticalness and practicality of these characteristics in the workplace with a group of experts in the workplace design, evaluation and management.


A content and visual analysis for written and visual images was conducted to identify a comprehensive list of characteristics of the physical work environment critical to creativity of the workplace. With the seven characteristics identified, an instrument was developed and interviews were conducted to assess the physical work environments of 22 innovative start-up companies in Michigan. Following up the interviews, an expert group was formed with 26 professionals including architects, interior designers, facility managers and CEOs. A survey was conducted with them to understand the significance and implementation issues among the seven characteristics.


The most frequently incorporated characteristics in the innovative start-up companies in Michigan were spaces for idea generation, technology interface for collaboration and spaces for a short mental break or social hangout. The three most important physical work environmental characteristics for companies to produce creative, innovative ideas and products/services for growth and market competitiveness were balanced layout, technology interface for collaboration and spaces for idea generation.


The study provides a comprehensive framework to evaluate creative workplace regarding the physical environment. It also offers insights on the work environments of the innovative start-up companies for increased creativity and innovation performance in the workplace.



While the author was not a member of the grant recipient team, the author would like to thank the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs for funding the Arts and the Innovative Workplace (AIW) Project where a part of this study was conducted, and the project team for allowing the author to conduct the study and share the data.


Lee, Y.S. (2016), "Creative workplace characteristics and innovative start-up companies", Facilities, Vol. 34 No. 7/8, pp. 413-432.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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