Catalyst Ranch, Chicago’s first unique meeting venue, is designed to foster creative thinking. When some of our clients come to the Ranch for the first time, they see the bright colors, the mismatched vintage coffee cups, the whimsical décor, and they think, “People work here?!” The Ranch looks like such a fun place, some attendees are skeptical about how productive their meeting will be. However, when those clients end their sessions at Catalyst Ranch, their feedback is that the stimulating environment helped generate candid conversations and great ideas. A creative environment heightens productivity, so folks accomplish more here at the Ranch than they would in a typical conference room.


“The meeting was very productive and in a great environment. Most folks commented on how much they liked the venue – even those I had expected to be a bit cynical about it.”
– Paul Wolfe, GVP, Global Human Resources
Orbitz Worldwide

business meeting laughs

In her article, “4 Things Leaders Get Wrong About Creativity,” Kim Weisul interviewed Natalie Nixon, Director of the Strategic Design MBA program at Philadelphia University, about the challenges of bringing creativity to business. Many people think that creativity is a skill reserved for artists or people outside the traditional business world. In fact, creativity is inherent in everyone, and it can be honed and channeled to solve problems, introduce new products, and fuel innovation in all fields. As Nixon says, “Creativity is a practice. It requires structure.”

To illustrate creativity as a practice, Weisul says, “Think of jazz musicians. They know music theory, they practice religiously, they know chord progressions. They have moments in which they share in a cathartic way with other people, but . . . that’s very disciplined and requires a lot of rigor.” Sure, jazz musicians are probably naturally creative, but musicians have to study and practice the fundamentals just like accountants or attorneys or CEOs do to advance in their careers. People in every industry can tap into their creativity, couple it with hard work, and use it to improve job performance – not to mention increase profitability!

Polka Meeting foam swordplay


So, how do we find that creativity within ourselves? Think back to your childhood. Did you ever play dress up or invent a new sport or build a sand castle? Chances are you did all kinds of “creative” things without even thinking about it! As Weisul says, “Nursery school kids are very creative. They ask a lot questions. They prototype.” One part of the Catalyst Ranch philosophy is to use whimsical pieces to trigger what we call “purposeful play.” With games and toys from every era, vintage tables and chairs, and artwork collected from around the world, there is bound to be at least one object that conjures up nostalgic feelings of childhood in every meeting attendee. When you return to that childhood place where we were all naturally imaginative, it is easier to access your creative energy.

“As I walked through the doors, it was simply unforgettable. Bright colors, easels, paint, big comfy chairs, everything about it reminded me of stepping into my son’s Montessori school; that nostalgic feeling that I do not feel often in my busy days!”
– Nicole Martin, Founder
HRBoost, LLC
describing her first impressions of Catalyst Ranch


fun meeting breakout in Polka

Creativity has an important place in the business world, and the physical space you are working in can have a huge impact on creative thinking. If you’re looking to stimulate your imagination, consider painting a bold accent wall in your office or adding some playful office supplies to your workstation. Who knows what heights you will soar to when your creative juices are flowing?! Here are some ideas to get you started!

Is there something special in your workspace that inspires you? Maybe it’s a photograph, calendar, or a plant. Please share in the comments below!