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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