Fair warning. Once you start watching videos on Chicago Creative Space, you might be on their site awhile. I’ll admit. I spent more time than was necessary prior to my interview with its founder, Max Chopovsky.
Their videos are a little longer than what marketing professionals will tell you is optimal, but it’s completely worth it. Max takes you inside some of the coolest spaces in Chicago from Groupon’s enchanted forest to Red Frog Events’ zip line. (Yes – They really have a zip line in their office…) After just a few minutes, you’ll wonder how you ever got any work done in a traditional office space.
The idea for Chicago Creative Space is quite interesting, too. Despite Max’s start in commercial real estate, he’s really a storyteller, which is how he came up with the idea. “Well, it was partially necessity, partially frustration,” said Max.
“Like most people, I sort of accepted that you just keep those two lives separate. But a year and a half ago, I started to think that life is too short to not do what you love,” explained Max. “And so I wanted to infuse what I love, which is ultimately telling stories, and what I was doing for a living, which was commercial real estate. Then I would hopefully, you know, not feel like I was wasting my life doing something I wasn’t passionate about.”
What Max has started with Chicago Creative Space, though, is about more than just cool videos. It’s really the epitome of a bigger cultural change taking place; a change in how we work.
“All companies need to get onboard with this, because no one can stop the demographic change,” said Max. “Baby boomers are retiring and millennials have a different perspective of what a work environment should be. They need to have a different kind of space.”
To prove his point, Max went to the University of Illinois, which is home to a great computer science program, to talk with students and learn more about what new graduates look for in choosing a company and what might make them move to Chicago. “One girl said you’re telling us you have this creative amazing space,” said Max. “That’s great, she told me, but we expect that. What you’re saying is like saying we have health insurance.”
Of course, having a creative space is not a new concept to startup culture, but here in the Midwest creative office spaces are few and far between. Max argues that even traditional companies need to start thinking about how their environment reflects on their corporate culture. “For all these companies saying they don’t need to worry about this, they do have to worry about it. Where are your next employees coming from?” explained Max. “There are two trends that will change absolutely everything, technology and demographics. Literally, my phone can be my office. If I have a laptop and all other tech available, I literally never have to come into the office. I come in because of ideas, collaboration. That’s where creativity happens. Your open space should reflect your culture. It’s an intangible, yes, but a tangible manifestation of the intangible culture.”
Of course, having a cool office space is not going to suddenly make you more successful. It doesn’t quite work like that. Your office space should reflect the culture of your company, and it starts with hiring the right people. Max has some advice for those wanting to create a better work environment. “Never start with the space. The space gets addressed when you understand who you are as a company,” said Max. “In general, your single biggest challenge is hiring the right people. When you hire those people, they’ll create that culture for you. But, in general, the second most important thing for those leaders is to remove all possible obstacles for those people you hired. If you do this, you’ll have a really successful organization and your space will become a function of your culture.”
As for what’s next for Chicago Creative Space, he’ll continue to release new videos, but he’s not solely focused on Chicago. “I want to grow to New York and West Coast in 2016,” shared Max. “I want to create a global organization that celebrates company culture and unique work spaces that are created as a result of company culture. We’ve got big dreams. I want to take this global!”
If you’re looking for ideas on how to transform your office to fit your culture, there are several great spaces in Chicago to inspire you. From tattooed-like floors and a speakeasy to enchanted forests and tree houses, there’s something for everyone on this site. But don’t blame me when you’ve spent too much time watching these videos.