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16 Aug 2012

Creative Innovation (Pt 5): Employees Running into Each Other

This entry is part 5 of 18 in the series Creative Innovation

Since planning is so engrained in a business mindset, it’s easy to become frustrated when we hear we can’t pressure or force creativity and innovation. It seems all that we can do is tolerate the spontaneous conversations, which we have traditionally seen as wasteful.

However, using Steve Jobs and Building 20 as examples, Jonah Lehrer explains in “Groupthink – The Brainstorming Myth” (The New Yorker, January 30, 2012 edition) that we can create conditions for employees running into each other. In essence, while creativity doesn’t flourish under forced meeting agendas, we can subtly “force” mingling. We not only can do this culturally by not stifling the spontaneous conversations we observe but also by adjusting physical surroundings:

  • Favor fewer floors over more floors, horizontal over vertical
  • Centralize meeting rooms and common areas (i.e. coffee, kitchen, restrooms, supplies)
  • Funnel traffic through a few key hallways
  • Establish a designated employee parking area (not areas)
  • Allow creative, individualized use of offices, meeting rooms and common areas
  • Set aside temporary personal spaces, especially for those on the road often

Elevators tend to shorten conversations versus hallways. Put people on one floor and common areas on another rather than split people. Perhaps change some central offices to meeting rooms. Reduce common areas and “encourage” people to travel; Steve Jobs even restricted the number of restrooms. Establish parking areas so employees walk to their cars together.

Even though our structures are likely more permanent than Building 20 was, we can still grant flexibility in selecting the tools for offices and meetings rooms. If some travel much, give them access to temporary or “hotel” spaces scattered throughout the structure.

Ultimately, it’s about creating conditions under which people figuratively . . . and literally . . .  run into one another.


Series Navigation<< Creative Innovation (Pt 4): Spontaneity & FrequencyCreative Innovation (Pt 6): People Mix >>

2 Responses

    1. Thank you, Lynne. What I find fascinating is the influence our environment has on us often without our knowledge. You also bring up an important point that I didn’t touch on: time. People need to have time to have these spontaneous interactions. Thank you for visiting. ~Mike

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