Who Moved My Cube?

Source: Anne-Laure Fayard and John Weeks , Harvard Business Review, Vol. 89 nos. 7 & 8, July-August 2011
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…Managers once discouraged, even forbade, casual interactions among employees. To many bosses, chitchat at the watercooler was just a noisy distraction from work. Today we know that chance encounters and conversations on the job promote cooperation and innovation, and companies craft their floor plans and cultures with this in mind. The results have been surprising–and often disappointing….The most effective spaces bring people together and remove barriers while also providing sufficient privacy that people don’t fear being overheard or interrupted. In addition, they reinforce permission to convene and speak freely. These requirements, we’ve found, apply just as readily to virtual spaces as to physical ones, although their virtual manifestations may be quite different. In either setting, getting the balance wrong can turn a well-meant effort to foster creative collaboration into a frustrating lesson in unintended consequences. Although no formal studies of the reasons for the design failure at SAS were done, it has all the earmarks of such an imbalance–and should serve as a cautionary tale for any company contemplating a redesign….

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