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Guest Post by Tori Nichelle Porter, Senior Online Marketing Manager

There has been a ton of buzz recently about Jonah Lehrer’s book Imagine: How Creativity Works, including a recent NPR article about fostering creativity in the workplace that got me thinking about the work environment we’re lucky enough to have here at Smith Micro’s Productivity & Graphics group in Watsonville, California.

If people ”in a relaxed state and good mood are far more likely to develop innovative or creative thoughts” then the office here might have been the secret ingredient in 2011 being one of the biggest years of development we’ve ever had!  With multiple software launches and side projects filling the calendar, the employees still have an extreme amount of fun.  According to Lehrer, we’re doing it right, so I want to share with you a quick look behind the scenes at just a few ways we’re able to cultivate imagination for our team, which leads to better products for you.

1.       We are allowed to express ourselves.
Employees create the space they work in.  That lizard is sort of a mascot, and the lamp came from an office White Elephant game.  Not every company lets you set up a Tiki bar in your cube, or advertise your love for your favorite sports team.  (Thankfully, we don’t seem to have too many competing teams!)

2.       Management encourages us to express ourselves.
The web team took a clay class together a while ago, and last month the entire office worked on a painting together.  In addition to all the user art on the walls, you can walk through the office and you’ll find doodles and drawings everywhere.  There’s been a rotating puzzle in process on the pool table for at least 2 years now, and last month we built a bunch of cork craziness.

3.       We are given an environment to be creative.
If walking is the path to a big idea, all we have to do is step out our back door.  Our office is right next to a gorgeous slough, with plenty of trails to walk and wander.  You can frequently find a member of our team bird watching, jogging or catching a breath of fresh air to reset their brains.  What’s better than some California sun to encourage innovation?

I think fostering creativity and having fun is a key to successful software development and feel extremely grateful to work with a group of people that embrace the same idea. You never know, the chatter during a walk to lunch may be what leads to the breakthrough feature in the next version.  (Or even a whole new creative iOS app like Sockpuppets!)

We’ve shared with you a few ways we relax, what are some ways you break out of your box and encourage your imagination? 

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