Does A Collaborative Workspace Cultivate Cutting-edge Creativity And Innovation?

Does a collaborative workspace cultivate cutting-edge creativity and innovation?

Does a collaborative workspace cultivate cutting-edge creativity and innovation?

By Dianne Dunnell, IIDA, LEED AP, NCIDQ.

Today, collaboration is still all the buzz. But does a collaborative workspace support cutting edge creativity and innovation? More and more companies are rethinking their existing office layout and seeking ways to create a more open office area for increased collaboration. Currently, offices are typically designed with 2-3 zones, subdivided into neighborhoods:

  • highly collaborative and mobile areas
  • open collaborative/mobile areas mixed with non-mobile work settings – most often adjacent to small 6’x7’ phone rooms/enclosed meeting rooms for small team work
  • focused work/non-mobile areas – this zone is often overlooked

Grouping work settings into “neighborhoods” means that large expanses of open work settings can instead be grouped into smaller clusters. This allows teams to establish a comfort zone and to locate support spaces, collaborative spaces, and focus/phone rooms adjacent to each neighborhood.

The challenge to the design and real estate team has been finding and providing an appropriate balance of collaborative and focused work settings to accommodate the mobile work force versus the non-mobile work force. While designing a highly open plan office space is desirable for increased efficiency and collaboration, many times areas for focused work, is limited or excluded within the final office design. In a recent Steelcase study, 95.3% of workers said having “access to quiet, private places for concentrated work” is important, but 41% say they don’t have them. People and work requiring a quieter surrounding are asked to work in the open office work environment, which is counterproductive to their effort to have deep thoughts, be creative and focus.

So is an increase in the quantity of collaborative areas in your office environment the right answer? Extroverts may well thrive in these collaborative environments. However, according to Susan Cain, author of “Quiet”, 1 out of 3 people are introverts, as are many of today’s leaders. For introverts, solitude is needed prior to collaborating with a larger group. A quiet space allows them to reflect and develop their thoughts. Other studies have shown that those in group sessions are apt to follow the opinion of others in the room even, if it is not the best idea. By only maximizing collaborative spaces in your office environment, you prevent 1/3 of your workforce from easily participating, or offering cutting edge and innovative solutions. If you are looking to maximize a productive workforce, office layouts need a balance of space types catering to the different ways people become creative.

Spaces for Introverts & Focused Work







Those businesses understanding this concept encourage and provide opportunities for individual thinking, and see an increase in creativity during their collaborative discussions. Today’s workplace needs to be designed for varying degrees of a mobile or non-mobile workforce in an open plan/collaborative layout, and must also be more sensitive to the ways individuals work in order to maximize their contribution.

As a result, I believe we will continue to see more dynamic office designs and office product solutions. Layouts will include a design solution offering collaborative areas and quieter spaces, possibly reflecting quiet living or outdoor spaces, and fostering original and progressive business solutions.

To learn more about the changes in the design of today’s workplace feel free to email me, or call me at 617.482.3232. And definitely check out the TED Talk video “Susan Cain: The power of introverts.”