21
Feb

Open Offices: Fostering Creativity or Killing Productivity?

Open OfficeFor 60 years, the open office floorplan has been both the standard and ideal for office design. Mirroring economic changes since the 1950s and into the 1990s, architects have designed work environments for the booming “knowledge industries,” spaces where people create and produce ideas as part of their company bottom lines.

Symbolically speaking, people like to work in open office spaces, because they report feeling connected to the company’s organizational mission and to their fellow office mates. These spaces do well at creating “communities.” And while the intangible benefits are apparent, studies conducted by organizational psychologists on large corporations show mixed results on the measures of productivity.

Workers in open offices complain most often about noise, loss of privacy and constant distraction. What open floorplans do really well for creative industries is provide two key components: Collisions and Quiet.

* Collisions or happy accidents among workers can happen anywhere from a meeting to lunch, coffee or a chance meet-up in the hallway. Researchers have shown that these collisions can be methods to generate fertile conversations and move along ideas previously discussed.

* Quiet is incubation time. Many problems or ideas people are tasked to bring to market require vast amounts of time. This is because the creative process has many stages, one of which is when ideas go into hiding, or into unconscious activity and emerges again in a new context; in a meeting, for example.

Kevin Johnson has said “Chance favors the well connected.” By that, we think he means the office that is open in connectivity, but also open to the processes required for real creativity and innovation.

We cannot create without other people. We are social animals. Some philosophers and scientists argue that physical and sensorial evocative environments act like our scaffolding into the world, giving us humans opportunities to deepen our brain activity and expand into the world.

What is your office experience like? Do you think it fosters collaboration and ideation?

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