In his book ‘Where good ideas come from: The natural history of Innovation’, Steven Johnson talks about 18th century teahouses and 20th century Parisian cafes as physical environments that hosted the birth of great ideas from the science of electricity to democracy through the meeting of great minds, and coffee. Although we are able to connect with countless people at any time through the web today, Johnson mentions research that notes “the most productive tool for generating good ideas remains a circle of humans at a table, talking shop”. Johnson talks about great ideas starting out as ‘hunches’ that people carry that have the best chance of becoming ideas through serendipitous encounters with others.
Most of us spend our days in office spaces trying to solve problems innovatively or focussing on detailed tasks. How can the design of an office space facilitate both, allowing for fruitful encounters that could generate big ideas, without just creating another distraction? GenslerOnWork, a company that studies the modern workspace, suggests a fluid space that allows workers to have the choice to move between open collaborative spaces and private focus areas.They outline four key activities that should be available to any modern office worker, the ability to focus, collaborate, learn and socialise.
In design terms these strategies include private nooks near common areas, using glass in conference rooms to keep private meetings connected to the larger office, creating shared ‘sketch-zones’ for project work to be visible to the greater team, and creating social areas where people can relax with those who aren’t part of their usual teams. Office snapshots provides more practical ideas to apply to your new office layout.
Many companies around the world have started designing offices with this flexible approach to stimulating, collaborative, focussed environments. Here are some examples:
Selgas Cano Architecture Office creates an inspirational space through it’s environmental integration.
At the TBWA New York offices employees can sit in a different place everyday allowing for chance encounters and fresh perspectives.
Runway, a community of entrepreneurs uses, amongst many other things, Igloos as smaller areas of focus in it’s diverse and stimulating offices.
Dreamhost uses public wall space as notation areas for group meetings.
Allowing sharing and learning to move beyond project groups.
Google offers some very creative spaces for their teams to socialise and break the ice.
Quirk recently moved into new offices and we took some of this advice to heart, we have wooden project houses and small working pods, glass boardrooms link meeting spaces to the office and skateboards meander between creative hubs. Check it out here and view more photos of our move to the #QuirkStation.