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Journal #8

Jonah Lehrer and his article “Groupthink” briefly explore working with groups – i.e., what makes a successful group successful, and shared worked spaces in terms of how they inhibit creative thinking and shared ideas.

He brings up Pixar’s headquarters, and muses on the process of constructing this building so that as many people as possible will run into each other on a daily basis. Jobs (who was involved in the planning of the building) wants the building plan with as many shared rooms as possible because he has previously concluded that more shared spaces and more forced meetings via one restroom, for instance- will bring an infinite number of brainstorming, new inventions, and shared information activities. I think this is absolutely ingenious, and I do believe it is accurate as well. When you think about it, shared layout plans in the very least,  could not do any harm. When you have one shared restroom, one shared mailroom, one shared entryway, one shared lunchroom- this provides more opportunities for everyone (the CEO’s, the secretaries, the management staff, the designers, etc) to co-mingle. I believe this also allows for the staff to be seen more as ‘one’ as well – i.e., to not place importance on who’s upper-level vs. lower-level staff…this generally makes everyone more comfortable, or comfortable enough to talk to one another.

Similarly, Lehrer also mentions an MIT building in which many different departments were initially ‘thrown’ together into what became a ‘hodge-podge’ mix of odd groups. This stimulated conversations between departments that normally would never come into contact with each other – and therefore, started many new ideas and new products to be formed. Having one shared building where people again, are forced to run into each other sparks new conversations and relationships. Further, one could conclude this is why people like Bloomberg has changed his layout plan to ‘the bullpen’ and not separate offices, and why in general, open floor plans are so popular now.

I wish more companies would pay attention to these ideas. Is it annoying? Slightly. You do overhear every conversation in the workplace and have very little time to yourself – but I suppose you’ll adapt. Will the boss love it? Not likely – most bosses I’ve had enjoy their corner offices with sprawling views of Manhattan and enjoy their own ‘space’. But does it promote more ideas, better communication, and increased ability to work well together? Absolutely it does.


Posted in Journal Entries - Wed 6pm.

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