Becoming an Agent of Change through Collaboration: How do you use space to Encourage Collaboration?

“We are all extraordinary.” DJ DePree

In past “Agents of Change” blogs, we have discussed topics such as Inspiration, Flexibility/ Adaptability, Vocabulary/ Communication and Sustainability.  These topics are fundamentals to a current market transformation in workplaces – a Culture of Collaboration.  The days of high panels, private offices, sedentary furniture and designing in a way that doesn’t account for change are quickly diminishing. Sharing ideas/ transferring knowledge/ leveraging strengths/ working together…even sharing daylight…seem to be commonplace in today’s working, learning and healing environments.

Informal Meeting Spaces with Herman Miller Swoop Furniture and Classics

There was a time where it was prophesized that technology would make us more isolated and removed from society.  Now, technology is enabling us to meet in ways we never before thought possible.  There was also a time where it was thought that everyone would be working from home and living in a virtual world with limited access to people, outdoors, reality, etc…   The reality is that social networking (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Skype), IPads, cell phones, laptops, apps, wireless internet, cell phones… – have enabled us to work anywhere and everywhere and have made us more interconnected than ever before.  Information is everywhere.

Daytime Living Room with Herman Miller Swoop Products

On a recent visit to Intereum, Brian Walker (CEO of Herman Miller) mentioned some trends related to this new “Collaborative Culture”.  He mentioned that it is a priority for Herman Miller to understand this new culture of collaboration and collaborative spaces.  He also mentioned that without understanding collaboration – many industries will suffer from succession issues.  How do we transfer knowledge and experience from a generation that is retiring to the new, emerging workforce?  How do we create spaces that support the goal of sharing knowledge?  What role do things like inspiration/ flexibility/ adaptability/ communication and sustainability play in a truly collaborative space?  How do we reinforce new behaviors and work toward excellence without addressing fundamental issues of how collaborators behave and interact?  He even posed seemingly simple questions – like, how do we get workers to prefer working in their office – rather than the coffee shop down the street?

Technology-Enhanced Informal Meeting Spaces with Herman Miller Canvas Products and Setu Chairs

A recent Herman Miller white paper named Why and How We Meetdiscusses costs and benefits to time spent in meetings.  “In every case but three,” he writes, “more than three-quarters of each group indicated that half their time spent in meetings is wasted. Still, little would get done without getting together in the same space, real or virtual.”  With respect to technology there are also costs and benefits.  “Although technology has made great strides, it’s too soon to tell if all else really is equal.  Meetings held via e-mail or instant messenger or conference calls combined with screen-sharing via the Web are fine for conveying information.  In situations where team members need more than just content, however, face-to-face meetings are still most effective because cues like enthusiasm, commitment and understanding are revealed in a way that cannot be electronically…(it goes on to say) As the level of intimacy decreases, so does perceived accountability, responsibility and perhaps full honesty.”

Technology-Enhanced Informal Meeting Spaces with Herman Miller Canvas Products and Classics

This culture is a fundamental in any LEED Project where creating an Integrated Project Team is part of the process.  The expertise of not only the owner and architect are leveraged…but also the building operations team and the contractors are also factored into the equation from the project’s inception.  This expertise allows for possible synergies and optimizations to take place from the very early phases of a project.  As for how this process is applied to
healthcare, the integrated project team does not only include the architect, owner, facilties and contractors – but also includes nurse administrators and infection prevention/ safety professionals.

Collaboration is not new to Herman Miller.  Since the beginning, Herman Miller has always outsourced the design of their products.  This is because Herman Miller as a company acknowledges the strengths of every member of an essential and effective team. Herman Miller products are the result of an outside design team observing a problem, condition or challenge and then responding to that challenge. The creation process of Herman Miller’s Products is an extraordinary one.

Scale model of George Nelson’s Daytime Living Room

The introductory quote to this blog is actually from an interview with DJ DePree – the creator of Herman Miller.  This interview took place in 1986 where he told a story about a Millwright who died on the line while working.   The experience of the funeral and meeting this Millwright’s family changed how DJ DePree thought-about and treated his workers.  At the funeral, he found out that this particular Millwright was a poet.  Deeply moved by this revelation, he eventually comes to the conclusion that “We are all Extraordinary”.  The collaboration between the owner of Herman Miller and the family of a deceased worker transformed how this company “dealt with workers”.  As a result, Herman Miller is a leader in how workspaces are created and how environments can make workers feel valued and engaged.

See the Video here!

George Nelson – one of the original collaborators to create Herman Miller (not to mention a great observer of human nature and behavior) came up with many revolutionary philosophies on how to deal with space.  The one that dealt specifically with collaborative spaces has found renewed relevance with this market transformation.  To George Nelson, Collaborative Spaces should feel like a Daytime Living Room.  This concept has inspired new, modern products and is finding renewed relevance with this collaborative culture.

Tune in to our next blog that will deal with 2 of issues:

1)     Applying performance improvement precepts to create more productive and meaningful meetings,

2)    How can we tie the concept Daytime Living Room to productive and effective meetings?

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