Ordinary workplace materials can inspire creativity in IT

February 5, 20184 Minute Read

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Workplace materials—you know, those items you see every day and don’t think twice about—have inspired some of the most beautiful, creative, and modern architecture designs in the world today. Architecture happens on a big scale, but out-of-the-box thinking doesn’t have to. Every leader, employee, and IT decision-maker (ITDM) has the opportunity to look at basic workplace materials and find inspiration.

Take paper. For the most part, its use is fairly commonplace. You might use a sheet to scribble notes, make lists, or write memos. For some, though, paper represents boundless opportunities for creativity. For a writer or an artist, a blank page isn’t just a blank page—it’s an invitation to bring ideas to life. Just think: Paper can be used to express technical ingenuity. Origami, the art of paper folding, has resulted in amazing creations ranging from thousands of traditional cranes to the reconstruction of world landmarks.

Paper can also serve as inspiration for other art forms, like architecture. In a post on Architizer, an online community for architects, the editors collected 10 stunning examples of origami-inspired buildings to show the strength and power something so delicate can inspire. “Architects love origami because it achieves what buildings rarely do: frame space through extreme economy of means,” the editors wrote.

Get inspired by origami architecture

Whether it’s a home in the country, a museum, or a university, these beautiful structures will make you look at workplace materials, like the humble piece of paper, differently.

  • The angular art museum: No two views of the Herta and Paul Amir Building, which houses the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, look the same. The concrete building looks as if it were made from folded paper, with complex geometric panels and planes. The structure looks different from every angle, hosting a variety of different shapes and shadows. Opened in 2011, it’s the leading museum of modern and contemporary art in Israel—the building itself a work of art.
  • The abstract house: The Klein Bottle House in Rye, Australia is a “descriptive model of a surface developed by topological mathematicians.” A Klein bottle is an example in math of a non-orientable surface: While it can be manipulated and distorted, it remains topologically the same. It’s easiest to demonstrate this principle with paper, and a Möbius loop is a simpler version of a non-orientable surface. If you take two ends of a strip of paper, give the strip a twist, and glue the ends together, then you (or, more realistically, an ant) could reach every point of the paper without needing to climb over an edge. Thanks to CAD technology, it’s now easier than ever to turn an abstract idea into an actionable design. The Klein Bottle House has a central courtyard and a staircase that connects every level. Like the Tel Aviv Museum, the building looks as if it were folded.
  • The tech-obsessed university: The Centre for Sustainable Energy Technologies in Ningbo, China is used for both education and research, and its design was inspired by Chinese lanterns and wooden screens. The facade folds to create a dramatic silhouette, but it’s not just about the aesthetics. The building is designed for sustainability with a “double skin:” an inner skin of concrete and an outer skin of glass. Unique lighting between the skins makes the appearance of the building change throughout the day, while its roof provides light to all floors and natural ventilation. But the coolest part about it is how it’s cooled and heated using geothermal energy—which brings a whole new meaning to “office tech.”

Workplace materials meet innovation in office tech

ITDMs can take a leaf (pun intended) out of these architects’ books by thinking creatively about workplace materials. Even the most staid tasks offer an opportunity to think outside the box. IT may not be typically thought of as a creative profession, but it is one that requires ingenuity and problem-solving skills. The best ITDMs are always looking for new ways of doing things and seeking innovative approaches that can benefit their organization, whether by improving efficiency, reducing costs, enhancing security, or increasing employee satisfaction.

Why not use workplace materials as a launching point for thinking differently? Consider the simple whiteboard, an age-old staple of brainstorming during meetings. What if your team is remote? Most modern videoconferencing tools—WebEx, GoToMeeting, Skype, Hangouts—have built-in whiteboard tools. That old-school office tech can easily become new-school office tech that sparks collaboration.

If paper-inspired architecture can teach you anything, it’s that all workplace materials can be used in unique ways, whether it’s repurposing them or finding their digital equivalent. In the office, anything can be a blank canvas.

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