Saturday, November 29, 2008

Collaborative Spaces




This fall to encourage our employees to actively collaborate, we built the Idea Factory. Our folks had gotten into the habit of working alone behind glass doors, so to encourage them to hold brainstorming sessions, kick-off meetings, and idea exchange, we turned a room in the heart of our office building into a place that fostered gatherings and creativity.

It was easy and inexpensive. We simply painted the walls in bold colors that complemented our corporate identity (gold, teal, orange), brought in couches, rugs, and incandescent lighting; and put in a Wii, shelves full of books, and other items to encourage engagement. In general, we used what we had, bringing items out of dusty corners or from lightly used rooms, so everyone in the company could rediscover them. It was fun, and physically manifested what we've been trying to accomplish with words and processes all year.

Sometimes the intentional arranging of space is the best thing we can do for our businesses. By creating central meeting spots and work places that invite entry and engagement -- rather than spaces devoid of color, texture, or personality -- we can begin to build cultures where people talk openly and honestly, care about their fellow employees, and think with open minds.

2 comments:

Rob said...

So it appears you made this post almost a year ago. If this is the case, I'd like to know how you felt this made an impact with your employees.

The other thought that comes to mind, with some companies embracing the "green" movement and allowing more of their staff to work remotely, how is collaboration affected? I myself work remotely and have for 4 years. At times I think working remote is the greatest thing in the world, but other times I think it limits how much can be accomplished.

For me, I'd like to see companies implement similar social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook inside the company (behind the firewall only). I know from personal experience on Twitter if I am having a problem, need input for opinions, or just a general question, an answer is usually moments away with a simple post.

The legal departments are usually the ones holding this type of communication back. Everyone is afraid it will foster unprofessional behavior or someone will take offense to something that has been posted. Maybe this is the case after a company reaches a certain size and you no longer are operating as a "small company"?

In closing, collaboration is a very important part of being successful in business. Like the saying goes, "Two Heads are Better Than One".

Marilyn Finnemore said...

Couldn't agree more, Rob. Our open, colorful work spaces have helped all of us at Mind & Media be more creative and collaborative. We gather to brainstorm in this space and everyone is always far more engaged and involved in that room than they are the more typical board room across the hall.

As more and more people work remotely, I think it's more important to find alternative ways to collaborate. Your idea about Twitter and Facebook inside the company is a good one, and I know many companies are using coworking arrangements to promote collaboration. Even if an employee only goes to a place like Bright Cowork (see http://www.brightcowork.com) once a week, they can get a tremendous amount from it (e.g. new ideas, new ways of seeing, new skills and approaches to problem solving).

In my opinion, collaboration is integral to personal and corporate success. And it's also fundamental to employee well being.