It may sound counter-intuitive, but designing an “inconvenient” workspace can encourage productive collaboration.
No less than Steve Jobs1 understood this when he took a break from creating the iPhone and iPad to plan a set of centrally-located restrooms at the Pixar corporate campus in Emeryville, California, rather than a series of private, more convenient restrooms.
Even Zappos,2 famous for their customer service, has taken steps to foster workplace collaboration through inconvenience — deliberately closing off a skyway and entrances from a parking garage to force its employees to walk through a central plaza. The goal, according to Zappos Project Manager Zach Ware, is to “create a collision point where people are more likely to connect to each other, rather than having them be isolated and never see each other.”
But encouraging productive workplace collaboration in today’s fast-paced world of work takes more than unplanned encounters in a common work area. Successful organizations must look at workstyle innovations that empower their changing, more diverse workforce to use information better, and to more easily connect and share information with one another.