Inspiration in the halls

A few years ago during the depths of the great recession, a friend who owns a marketing firm in another city decided to go all-virtual. He dismantled his brick-and-mortar office, set up a home networking system for his entire team, and dove headfirst into a brave new work environment. It did the trick. He was able to keep his doors open (so to speak) and maintain client satisfaction with a minimum of angst.

I have to admit, we considered doing the same. And yet, after some consideration, we just couldn’t pull the trigger. More than anything, it came down to one thing: creativity. That’s what we sell around here. That’s the difference-maker. It’s still one of the few aspects of business that can’t be commoditized.

And how does creativity happen? Usually not by sitting alone in an office staring a hole through the computer screen. No, it’s a product of human interaction, sometimes structured, sometimes less so. We’ve written about brainstorming sessions before; they’re an invaluable tool, especially when people have worked together and respected each other as long as we have.

But more often than not, creativity is sparked by happy accidents. The casual remark in the hallway. Some wordplay between co-workers. A quick doodle on a whiteboard. Like a summer storm, it can appear at any moment. And dissipate just as fast.

Phones and emails and Skype are valuable conveniences; we couldn’t do our jobs without them. But they’re also barriers; extra layers that get in the way of true creative magic. I’m sure you’ve experienced teleconferences and webinars where you weren’t completely engaged, even when you wanted to be. It’s because technology trumps nuance. Synergy gets sapped when it’s converted into electrical impulses.

Sometimes the best decisions are the ones you don’t make. I’m pleased to say that we kept our office and our team intact. Sure, some of us work from home from time to time. But the real breakthroughs happen up close and personal. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Brian Rouff serves as managing partner for Imagine Communications.

Contact Brian at


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