Work Space Matters

I’ve long had a fascination with design – all types: architectural, graphics, products, interior design, all of it. I’ve also been a student of how work space affects our productivity and our creativity.

A few years ago, we decided to see what we could learn from other organizations about how to create spaces that would inspire our people and help them produce great work. We visited Pixar, Ideo, Lucas Films, the D School at Stanford (both their old and new locations), Google, HP, the Berkeley School of Design and more. It was an amazing journey of discovery! Since those initial trips, I’ve continued to visit places where leaders consider work space a critical part of the performance equation. Here’s some of what I’ve learned…
Space matters far more than most leaders understand. Winston Churchill said, “We shape our spaces and then they shape us.”
Space communicates what we value. Privacy? Collaboration? Rank and hierarchy? Agility? Teamwork?
Space is not neutral. We live in a world that demands collaboration and creativity – space either contributes to that end or it hinders it.
Space is no longer the primary symbol of status. The status of an office is being replaced with the status of ideas and contribution. I recently visited Zappos! Tony Hsieh, the CEO, sits in a standard workstation.
Space should not be an afterthought. What is your strategic plan regarding space? It’s far too important an issue to be a “when we get to it” agenda item.
Thoughts about space are changing rapidly. George Kembel, the Director of Stanford’s D School, describes a movement form Me Space to We Space.
Private offices are largely an artifact of a previous generation. Some people still need private offices – based on the work they do. But as a rule, most people will do better work without one. I talked to an interior designer recently and was told that only law firms still build offices. (Probably not an accurate statement – but clearly an indication of a trend.)
The younger generation understands collaborative space. I think it’s because my generation grew up doing individual work in school. I remember VERY FEW group projects – none in grade school or high school. Today’s generation was doing group work in Kindergarten!
Space is a powerful communications mechanism. We can send strong, unmistakable signals to our organization through the spaces we design.
Here’s a fascinating article about the current frontier of space planning from Forbes entitled, When Does it Make Sense to Kill the Cubicle? Great question, because Work Space Matters![GLS_Shield]
Is your space helping or hindering the accomplishment of your vision?
 
 
 
 
 

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Randy Gravitt

8 years ago

Great post Mark! This one makes me think about the way our organization works. Times are definitely changing when it comes to space, just like everything else.

dwain

8 years ago

Mark- you are exactly on point! Environment can either help or hinder creativity and collaboration. I enjoyed being with you as we toured some places that got it right. Thought that you and your readers, who might be interested in going a little deeper on this topic, would enjoy reading the new book from the guys at d.school and IDEO. It is called Make Space http://tinyurl.com/8xnft9z
I enjoy the blog. Keep writing!!

mark

8 years ago

Thanks Dwain! I haven’t seen the new book from IDEO yet – I’ll order it today. Thanks for helping Chick-fil-A better steward our creativity! Mark

Michael Nichols

8 years ago

Great thoughts! Thanks for sharing from this experience Mark.

mark

8 years ago

Thanks for the encouragement! Mark

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6 years ago

[…] about this before, and I’ll not repeat myself here. If you’re interested, the post is entitled, Work Space Matters. Today, I want to focus on just two […]

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