Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Steelcase CEO on Office Design

George Bradt has a good article at Forbes in which he describes his recent interview with Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett.  Steelcase, of course, designs excellent office furniture and workspaces.  Hackett explained that modern offices need a "range of settings to accommodate focused, collaborative and social work in both open and enclosed environments."    Hackett emphasizes the collaborative "we" spaces a great deal, because many offices lack those types of environments conducive to bringing people together to accomplish a group task.  Here is an excerpt:

Now, instead of designing traditional offices, Steelcase creates “we” spaces around the three-four most important meta issues. According to Hackett, executives don’t need homes, “command-level projects” do. So there might be a project room for a team working on a merger, product launch or a recall. Instead of people bringing information into meetings with executives, the information stays in the project rooms and executives travel to it. As Hackett explains, they made this shift because:
Innovation requires collective ‘we’ work. To this end, it’s critical to design spaces that not only support collaboration, but augment it (with) spaces that promote eye-to-eye contact, provide everyone with equal access to information, and allow people to move around and participate freely.
The idea of "war rooms" is very appealing to me.  I think they create a powerful sense of group identity,  as well as proving that all-important equal access to information.   I think executives do need personal "homes" too... there is some focused, solo work that still needs to be done.  People sometimes need time without distraction, as Susan Cain has argued.  However, collaborative work often can be done much more effectively if "war room" type space is available.  

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