Ann Austin

Session II: “Creativity Without Limits”

Lend Lease is responsible for some of the world’s most spectacular buildings. It is a company that creates environments. And Ann Austin is a woman who makes sure those environments – both external and internal – are safe, non-hierarchical, free-thinking, without boundaries, goal-oriented, and full of energy and joy. Those are the components Austin says must be in place for full and effective creativity.


During her break-out session, Austin outlined help and hindrances to innovation, and outlined five principles for encouraging healthy creative processes: support, trust, purpose, outlet, and stimulus. “We are completely empowered not because someone empowered us,” she said. “But because we empowered ourselves.”

Before her break-out session, Austin spoke with Fast Company about Lend Lease and creative environments:

Where do great ideas come from?

Creativity and implementation are not about gimmicks, basketball courts, or cute outfits. They are about building a culture of trust. There is a hierarchy of elements that you need to build if you want an organization feel free and creative.

Great ideas can come from anyone, anywhere at any time. I think the more I look into it, the harder it is to pinpoint where great ideas come from for any one person. We all have our sweet spots where ideas come from most. Organizations need to provide people with environments where they can feel comfortable being themselves, and that will enable them to bring out the best in themselves and will result in something really creative.

Where do you stand on the Built to Last/Built to Flip issue?


If everybody is Built to Flip, the world will become a very lonely place very quickly. If you are building a company just to sell it, that company will not help people grow or support the development of society. Lend Lease has the elements of building to flip in that it quickly flips and moves through organizational change. At the same time, it maintains strong relationships with the community and a strong sense of its community responsibility through a series of programs designed to educate new leaders and young people throughout society. I think you can do the two at once.

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