Archive for June 27th, 2012
“We often speak of the violence of the river, but never of the violence of the banks that confine it.”
Unlike the current UK Government (see the utter car crash of an interview with Chloe Smith) – I am happy to admit that I have changed my mind!
For years I have always thought that “open plan” was corporate speak for “crating the workers”. In fact, even Robert Propst, father of the ‘cubicle’ later reflected on his legacy as a “monolithic insanity”. In fairness to Propst, his original concept of the “Action Office” that would give people more space to spread out over, increasing productivity in place of closed off offices with stacked in-trays.
As with so many visionaries, Propst had failed to foresee the opportunity his system offered to corporates to dramatically reduce and depersonalise working space.
The second problem, historically, with “open plan” is that it does not promote intended challenge to traditional hierarchy as those with the power to choose, have chosen the office as a corporate status symbol.
Well, I was wrong. Yes, the corporate penchant for “packing ‘em in and paying ‘em cheap” remains abhorant……….but the basic principle of Propst remains sound. Mitchell Kowalski’s “Avoiding Extinction” makes a compelling case for open, flexible working spaces to promote energy, interaction, co-creation, good governance, team working, knowledge share, etc.
A quick survey on Twitter and LinkedIn suggested that most people felt the benefits outweighed any downsides. However, as you may expect, I think there are some golden rules:
- It has to be for all, no hierarchy;
- Rooms for group calls or smaller team sessions should be available;
- No cubicles;
- Seating flexible so that teams form and sit together for particular legal projects;
- IT to support mobile and cloud based team working;
- No desk phones;
- Decent coffee machines (compensation);
- Light and open spaces; and
- Encouraging working from home for head down type work.
Walls are like the banks of the river, they violently constrain creativity.