The Epic Move: Collaboration Room Design Part 5

In the last article of our Collaboration Room series, we looked at two significant trends in the development of Collaboration Spaces – Workplace Mobility and The Millenial Factor. In this article, we will cover another trend: The Collaboration Space catchphrase.

A commonly held view is that collaboration facilitates the sharing of knowledge. This in turn increases productivity and innovation within the organization. At least that is the theory. I have a slightly different view on this point. I believe that collaboration is essential for organizations in order to survive the death of interruption marketing and impending outgrowth of client facing, conversation marketing.

These concepts are familiar to anyone who has read Seth Godin, David Meerman Scott, or the many others in this vein. For those who have not, a short explanation may be in order. The perspective is that the Internet has made knowledge readily accessible to all, and thus, led to the death of the salesperson as the sole provider of information. As a result, client conversation is now a two way dialog, rather than a one way street. One of the central tenets of this new school is that products and services should be designed with the most direct pipeline possible to listen to and consider the needs of the end-user.

The way that this is best accomplished tends to be open communication with the “boots on the ground”. In my humble opinion, this is an underreported and important trait of the open floorplan concept. The reduction of all of those walls can have the tenancy (if done properly) to reduce hierarchical structure in an organization. This is essential to the transversal of information up the management chain.

Collaboration also has the effect of making employees feel engaged. As I mentioned earlier, engagement is a key criteria for organizations to consider. Yet, the data suggests that we are doing a rotten job. According to 2013 Gallup data, only 13% of employees feel engaged in the workplace. This is of huge statistical importance. Employee engagement has shown strong statistical links to several measures of productivity in the workplace. I could cite several additional statistics here, but I will try to save some time with an anecdotal reference. The Gallup 2013 Report entitled State of the Global Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for Business Leaders Worldwide is 122 pages. You don’t spend this much ink on a topic that is not of enormous importance.

A simplified view of collaboration spaces held by many appears to be that these are simply the opposite of office spaces – just several seats facing inwards for group discussion. We need to go further in defining how each of the 4 work modalities can more effectively be supported. I have seen several statistics that suggest that the formal conference rooms in many organizations tend to get less use, while the informal and open meeting spaces achieve higher utilization. The commonly held belief appears to be that these spaces are more comfortable, particularly for millennials, who favor this less formal environment. I propose a second hypothesis. I believe that this is because these formal conference rooms tend to be designed in a traditional fashion that reinforces a presentation, rather than a collaboration modality. The problem is that sociologically and practically speaking the Internet and the dissemination of information are pushing us towards collaboration and away from presentation.

Over our next few articles, we will look at examples from other types of spaces to see how we can better foster collaboration in the workplace. As always, I’m interested to hear opinions from others about this topic. Please feel free to comment and sign up for blog notifications, so that you can stay abreast of the conversation.

Here are links to the previous articles in this series, if you want to catch up:

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