Matt recently returned to All Makes after 13 years of managing his own company and has 20 years’ experience. Read his bio here.
It’s easy to dismiss collaboration as another buzzword, calling to mind images of open offices and distraction. But, collaboration is fundamentally, workspace collaboration is operating with one or more people to achieve a goal, such as collectively creating content, brainstorming, problem-solving etc. Ideally, all perspectives are equally respected, brought together to leverage the group’s shared mind.
Planning and Designing for Collaboration
As organizations and designers plan collaborative spaces, researchers identified several planning considerations. Each calls for different space considerations and new best practices to successfully engage employees to work together.
Rolling collaboration – Sharing tacit knowledge in real time
- Enable staying “in-flow” while in motion; leverage segues throughout the day with meaningful encounters via effective settings in casual environments.
- Support a “braided” collaborative experience — formal/informal, planned/impromptu, face-to-face/virtual.
- Encourage dynamic/iterative exchanges by providing visual tools for sharing and building ideas.
Density – Creating an energetic buzz
- Leverage the natural energy caused by density of occupants.
- Consider multiple uses of space.
- Provide visual/acoustical connections so workers can mentor and be mentored, learn through “eavesdropping,” and share knowledge informally during the flow of the day.
Layering – Accommodating multiple resources
- Provide for the layering of analog and digital information.
- Leverage vertical surfaces as communication/collaboration tools inside/outside of project team spaces to encourage knowledge sharing beyond the team.
- Enable real‐time updates of the evolution of project work.
- Support the transition of analog work into digital documentation.
- Provide ways for workers to share information from personal devices in a larger format to encourage group participation.
Zoning – Providing the appropriate range of settings and acoustics
- Be mindful that more-open collaborative environments require a balance of enclosed spaces for focused work, conference calls and telepresence.
- Consider zoning the overall environment into quiet, social, collaborative and speakerphone areas.
- Enable workers to have choice and control of where they work by providing a range of settings to support multiple work modes: focused, social, learning and collaborative. Consider a range of “I” to “we” settings in open and enclosed areas.
Proximity – No longer bound by ‘”assigned seating”
- Encourage workers to switch where they sit on a regular basis to build stronger networks between people, projects and ideas.
- Provide vertical surfaces close to collaborative neighborhoods to encourage interaction with content and to group-build a “shared mind” around ideas. Design shared information walls close to resident workers as reference points for ongoing work.
- Consider that any space that’s more than 50 feet away from the work-space will typically not get used. Design meeting rooms, enclaves, project areas, etc., within close proximity of teams.
Tools – Critical for collaboration
- Plan every setting as a collaborative setting to maximize the opportunities for collaboration. Provide data, power, shared vertical elements (screens, whiteboards, tack space) to enable the exchange of tacit knowledge.
- Keep in mind that brainstorming tools that allow workers to democratically participate will best support idea-building.
Social – Leveraging informal networks
- Consider breaking down silos between teams by providing shared casual space for information encounters and sharing work.
- Consider food as a way to bring people together.
- Provide for support of shared spaces, collaborative tools and work behaviors.
- Consider assigning an “owner” to help facilitate adaptation to the space and cultural changes.
- Provide open settings where people can work while making themselves accessible to others.