Creative Thinking X: Boukje Cnossen on New Work and creativity

2020-09-09 What does the future of work look like? What role does creativity play in shaping new working environments? The Creative Thinking X conference on 24 September 2020 will bring together creative professionals, innovation enthusiasts and curious people from universities, companies and society in a virtual space to address the New Work movement. Boukje Cnossen, Professor for Cultural Entrepreneurship, will give the keynote speech.


The event is free of charge due to the support of the European Fund for Regional Development and the State of Lower Saxony. The event is organised by the cooperation service of Leuphana University.

The current "New Work" trend emphasises the central position of communication processes as well as mobility, online work and flexibility. Up until now, even in modern facilities such as coworking spaces, start-up centres or accelerators, attention was usually focused on local exchange. Cnossen explains: "Many of these institutions are now surprised at how successful consulting and networking services via tools like Zoom are. At the same time, the question arises for many institutions as to what (regional) added value they offer. If everything is perceived as independent of location, the regional aspect can easily become blurred." These are the very topics Prof. Cnossen and Prof. Dr. Matthias Wenzel are currently working on in a cooperative research project, which gives the participating regional start-up centres and accelerators a space for creative exchange. The Creative Thinking X-Conference also offers a space for creative exchange, in which to consciously reflect on the future of work and to explore the term 'New Work' with creative approaches. "And it is precisely such spaces for exchange that we need in order to be creative and to design new work environments," says Cnossen.

The world of work is generally changing: "Today, more and more workers and managers must be able to create ad hoc conditions for working outside their own workplace. This happens, for example, when people hold meetings in public spaces, i.e. in cafés, work in trains or make hands-free phone calls while cycling or walking through the streets." Cnossen's research shows how organisations can learn from temporary cultural events: "These can form a temporary organisation within a few hours, which at the same time exists in real life, but also consciously separates itself from that by visual and material cues. This can teach us how to signal to the outside world that 'something else is going on'. It allows us to differentiate ourselves better when working in public space."

At the same time, as people increasingly work outside the traditional workplace, they have a greater individual responsibility to create a space that promotes creativity. Exchange is particularly important in this respect: "In my research, especially on people in the creative industries, I find that although many of them often work alone, they always need moments of exchange and feedback. Especially in the new world of work, which is often thought of as 'remote', this social exchange is particularly important. "Creative work also includes creative problem solving. "In large tech companies, many problems are already solved remotely. They use tools like Slack or Google Meet. The advantage for these companies is that they are already familiar with such communication channels, can quickly coordinate their actions and are therefore able to act immediately. For other companies, intensified remote work means a major break in their way of solving problems and their communication processes," Cnossen concludes.

Companies and organisations need to answer the question of how they can create space for creativity when designing new working environments: "In many professional areas, we can perform our everyday work, our routine, without being present on site. But in order to bring together different teams or people from all over the company and, for example, to create visions, a space for shared physical experience is often needed. This will remain important in the future. "At the same time, the concept of location-independent working is currently spreading. However, Cnossen has a critical view of this: "We are never really independent of location. The term is actually misleading because our environment has an influence on us. Thus all of us are always location dependent." Even virtual space has physical effects: "Let's take the example of Zoom fatigue, i.e. online meeting fatigue: Here, virtual space has a direct effect on physical experience. Virtual is therefore always material and physical."