Working environments

Idea room

By Meredith Bostwick-Lorenzo Eiroa

Background

In the times of Thomas Edison, ideas came from individuals. Today through iterative creativity (Resnick, 2007) ideas are spawned from group thinking and collaboration as well as from a combination of individual and group thinking or synchronic interaction (Sawyer, 2003).

Entire workplaces have become ‘idea rooms’. Groves & Knight (2010) look inside what they call the most creative spaces in business: the research environments in organisations like Google, Lego, Dreamworks Animation and T-Mobile. In academic institutions, places like Georgia Tech’s Problem-Based Learning suite and Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner School of Design (d.School) are leading the way.

In the idea room, researchers engage in an idea-logue or Bohmian dialogue (Bohm, 2004). This implies the collective intelligence of the group (dialogue means through the word, not two people talking), or of an individual reflecting by themselves. In an idea-logue an initial idea morphs into a series of overlapping ideas, informing one another, building momentum and creating a richer, more developed collective idea – a larger idea or concept which no longer can be traced to a single individual, but is now owned by the larger collective.

An idea room is a concept and at the same time is both a physical space and a process: if the process is for visually sharing and building ideas, then the space needs to be whiteboarded. If the process is for talking in a Bohmian dialogue, then it’s best to have comfortable chairs in a circle.

The idea room exists within the cracks of an institution or department – on the edges, on the borders of the primary classroom, lab, or seminar space. It can be physically configured as an ante-room or a posterior space in relation to a larger event. It functions as a precursor or posterior space that holds the projection of activities or hypothesising; and the space which holds conclusion-making, deductions, summarizing or findings. The idea room is free of cliché, devoid of assumptions or motivations which can obscure the truth or real meaning within an exercise. It is a place that clears the mind, and allows for the open exploration of questions about what went wrong or the specific steps that led to finding a solution. It is equally a place which eliminates anxiety, tension, or projected assumption before approaching a set of problems.

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Working environments

Workshop Space

By Meredith Bostwick-Lorenzo Eiroa

Background

Unfinished space has the potential to be creative because it gives ‘permission’ to users to use it in ways that finished spaces do not. Workshop space waits to be defined – an undecorated room, machine shop, hangar, or warehouse space – left rough around the edges.

Its unfinished quality encourages a dynamic fun space in which to tinker, fail, and figure things out. It is a space where experimenting is allowed (and expected). It is a space where it is OK to be messy.

Workshop space can function like a ‘popup whitespace’and can form itself on-demand when there is a critical mass and the need to solve a problem.

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Working environments

Meetings in the great outdoors

By Judy Robertson & Alison Williams

Background

If you need to work with other team members, but you don’t want to disturb your colleagues in the office, why not take your work outside?

Changing the environment gives a new point of view. Moving a regular meeting to the garden, park or forest can help the group to establish new ways of thinking. There is considerable research into the beneficial effects of biophilia, the psychological attraction to life, aliveness or living systems (Fromm, 1964). It is also known and studied as naturalness  (Ulrich, 1984; 1993; Barrett & Barrett, 2010) and as connection with the outside context  (Kelly, 2001; Roessler, 1980; Wyon & Nilsson, 1980).

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Working environments

Work that space

By Siân Robinson Davies and Evgenij Belikov

Background

We often take the arrangement of elements in our research space as fixed. Though we might rearrange the space when first moving in, after this first period we might not think again as to how our spatial needs change with our changing activities and environment, such as the changing of the seasons.

Some recipes in this book are based on the principle that changing spaces affects one’s creativity and aim at moving away from your workplace to a new space to induce creativity. This complementary recipe suggests rearranging the elements of the workplace itself to achieve a similar effect and to better reflect the requirements arising from the current activity.

By changing your environment you are expressing agency in that space – that you can effect change in your own immediate environment. This can be quite important in generating hope for creative thinking (Rego et al, 2009).

Similarly, change in and of itself has a few beneficial side effects for your thinking – basically, it makes you think, which in turn makes you come up with new thoughts.

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Working environments

A recipe for mediocrity

By Judy Robertson and Derek Jones

WARNING: This is an ‘anti-recipe’ (read with an ironic voice-over in your head).

Background

Do you want to stifle your researchers’ creativity? Stunt their intellectual growth? Foster apathy where possible? Follow these few simple steps and mediocrity will be yours.

The principal aim of these ingredients is to remove agency from the users of a space – you don’t want agency if you want a predictable, controlled environment (Bandura, 2000). This also avoids any possibility of interesting adaption of space to suit users’ purposes or to enrich their relationships with a place (Brand, 1995).

We concur wholeheartedly with Tschumi’s (1994) statement: “There is the violence that all individuals inflict on spaces by their very presence, by their intrusion into the controlled order of architecture. Entering a building […] violates the balance of a precisely ordered geometry (do architectural photographs ever include runners, fighters, lovers?).   […] The body disturbs the purity of architectural order” (1994, p. 123).

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Working environments

Thinking Den

By Judy Robertson

Background

Sometimes, you just need a bit of time and space to yourself to focus on something. Researchers, when reflecting on their practice, often refer to some means of focusing the mind and there are many ways to achieve this, depending on your own personal preferences and situation.

This recipe encourages you to make space for yourself by getting together with others to create a private ‘thinking den’ for just such a necessary, convergent thinking place.

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