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Growing Pains: How We Transformed Congestion into Creativity

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 16/03/2016 Betsie Gambel

Gambel Communications has a great office space. When guests enter, their first reaction is how much the setting reflects who we are: bright and inviting, sharp and contemporary, stylish and accessible. Our office is truly a personification of our employees and company philosophy. Located above a coffee shop, spa, dress shop and shoe store, Gambel Communications could not ask for more perfect neighbors for its all-female staff.
So when we found ourselves outgrowing this space, we resisted moving. At twenty minutes tops from anywhere in New Orleans, we are spoiled. But the challenge remained. Ten women in 1,000 square feet is a bit cozy. And even though we are all rarely here at the same time, the constant phone calls, desk chats and "newsroom" environment left little "think" time. We needed at least occasional access to peace and quiet.
So the hunt was on. Do we move to larger quarters? Do we consider an annex in New Orleans? Do we open a satellite office? We rather quickly ruled out the first two after referring to our business growth plan which positioned us as a regional public relations firm. So now geography became an issue. With clients from Houston across the Gulf States to the Florida panhandle, what made the most sense?
We surely had to consider our company culture. The Gambel Girls really are a team, counting on each other for advice, second opinions, media and community contacts, and even what to wear. It amazes people how collegial we are. Never a cross word, exuding harmony to rival the Dalai Lama - we get our mojo from our peers. Breaking up the team did not feel right. But as comfortable with each other as we are, the request I heard most was the need for quiet time.
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That's when we decided to kill two birds with one stone. We found the perfect space just 30 minutes north from our office, across Lake Pontchartrain's iconic Causeway, the longest continuous bridge over water in the world. Mandeville, Louisiana, is far enough away for us to penetrate a new market but close enough to allow everyone a short commute. Situated on the banks of the lake, and across the street from a marina, the setting is green and serene, the ideal quiet place!
Thus were born Serenity Days. With a Northshore strategist manning the second office, everyone else rotates to the Northshore for a Serenity Day once a week. This schedule relieves the congestion of the New Orleans office while providing solitude, which, according to many experts, is the number one habit of highly creative people. Indeed, Einstein, Picasso, Mozart and Sandburg all embraced solitude.
The results so far have been positive. Reports of stress melting away while making the 24-mile car trip across the lake are frequent, productivity has surged, and creative ideas have enhanced strategic plans. And since our new office is near the convergence of three major interstate highways, new business and travel opportunities abound.
My challenge to my staff is to be thought leaders. Serenity Days afford them the opportunity to think out of the box, to study client industries, and to really participate in the world around them. Existential psychologist Rolly May says, "In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone."
Our busy New Orleans office serves us well. Now with a second location, we have opened the doors for solitude and serenity to boost our creativity.
On Solitude and Creativity:
"... I take time to go for long walks on the beach so that I can listen to what is going on inside my head. If my work isn't going well, I lie down in the middle of a workday and gaze at the ceiling while I listen and visualize what goes on in my imagination." -- Einstein
"Without great solitude no serious work is possible." -- Picasso
"When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone, and of good cheer - say, traveling in a carriage or walking after a good meal or during the night when I cannot sleep - it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly." -- Mozart
"One of the greatest necessities in America is to discover creative solitude." -- SandburgThis blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.

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