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The magazine of research, insight, and trends

February 2010

Work with me here...2 How designers are planning spaces to nurture collaboration – and how those spaces are actually working. Q&A10


Sustainability Spotlight15

Photo Essay16

Atoms & Bits24

About This Issue: Collaboration has become the holy grail of the business world, and every other organization for that matter. Whether you’re a V.P. of Operations, a surgeon or a pop star, you’re thinking about collaboration. Complex issues, stiff competition, insatiable demands for innovation are all driving the need for collaboration to come to the rescue by tearing down silos and speeding up knowledge work. But what does successful collaboration look like and how does it happen? Can space make a difference? In this issue we explore ways to give collaboration a boost — with insights gained from our research, what design experts are thinking, and a look at current collaboration trends.

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Table of Contents Behind the Cover

Collaboration happens in a variety of ways and places. It’s both analog and digital. Wouldn’t it be great if digital information could be used as easily as a Post-It note? If people could share their computer screens as easily as sharing a whiteboard and markers? Steelcase researchers captured a shot of workers gathering around media:scape ® to make their work visible and to gain a “shared-mind” around concepts and ideas.




10 Q&A IDEO’s David Kelley on lessons from the Stanford, team sizes, constraints, and radical collaboration.

Work With Me Here

We all know that most knowledge work is no longer an office version of factory work where tasks are broken down into an assembly line of reports and memos. Leading thinkers have been talking about collaboration since the ’90s. But after a roller-coaster first decade of the millennium, it’s an idea whose time has come. Steelcase researchers and leading designers share what they’ve learned from experiments and experiences in collaboration.

14 Trends360 A taste of collaboration trends in the marketplace.

15 Sustainability Spotlight Featuring Scott Harrison, founder of charity: water.

16 Rolling Collaboration – A Threesixty Photo Essay Tim Miller, a design student at IIT and Steelcase intern, wanted to understand the kinds of work mobile employees do when they come into the office. The discovery? Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. 24 Atoms & Bits Things to check out in person or online.

Threesixty is published bi-monthly by Steelcase Inc. or whenever the spirit moves us. All rights reserved. Copyright 2010. Material in this publication may not be reproduced in any form unless you really want to help people love how they work — just ask us first, ok? Contact us at


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Work with me here... How designers are planning spaces to nurture collaboration – and how those spaces are actually working. Today, collaboration is it.

Practically every business knows they need more of it, but few know how to get it. “Probably 75% of our clients currently are asking for it,” says Mark Adams, principal of Smith Group, in Phoenix. “Seems like every one of them is to some degree, and most to a great degree,” adds Stephen Swicegood, principal at Gensler in Atlanta. Companies look to collaboration to break down silos, help solve today’s more complex business issues, and drive the one thing that guarantees a competitive advantage: innovation. “Every business person I talk to, every designer I talk to, says collaboration has become the holy grail,” says David Kelley, founder of IDEO, the renowned design firm based in Palo Alto, Calif. “Collaboration leads to innovation, or new kinds of innovation. If companies continue doing things the same way as before, they’ll get an evolutionary improvement in their business, or evolutionary products. But collaboration, because it’s coming from new ways of working, with people you hadn’t worked with before — you know, cats and dogs living together 2

can come up with different kinds of ideas – collaboration can lead to a really interesting place.” That “place” is more than the land of innovative ideas, although that alone makes it worth exploring. Collaboration also inevitably leads to new wrinkles in organizational culture, interesting tools for knowledge work, and new physical spaces where the work gets done, which Steelcase explored first-hand during a year-long research and development project that resulted in a prototype ubercollaborative workplace. Did collaboration kill Dilbertville?

How collaboration became the darling of the business world helps explain its importance today. For much of the 20th century, knowledge work was seen as the office version of factory work, an information assembly line. In 1990, author Michael Schrage in Shared Minds — The New Technologies of Collaboration delineated three levels of knowledge worker interaction, ranging from basic coordination (correlating data or tasks) and communicating (sharing

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information) to the highest level, collaboration (working as a team with a common purpose). Organizations often mistook simple interactions such as coordination (“handing this work over to you”) or communication (“keeping you up to speed”) for true collaboration. Few considered that different kinds of interactions could be more effective in different types of spaces. Five years later in the seminal book, The Knowledge-Creating Company, Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi first described the four modes essential to knowledge work: focusing, learning, collaborating, and socializing. About the same time, Peter Drucker wrote that the modern organization was composed of knowledge specialists, that no knowledge ranked higher than any other, and that workers should be judged by their contribution to the common task instead of any supposed superiority. Therefore, companies should be organized as a team. But that was the ’90s. The booming global economy and burgeoning Internet diverted most attention from appreciating and refining knowledge work processes.


To create and innovate together, groups need spaces that nurture collaborative work. Twenty years, one dot-com bust, and a great recession later, collaboration’s time has come. Technology makes knowledge work more mobile and collegial thanks to Wi-Fi, cloud computing, Skype, etc. Gen Y brings to the office new attitudes about work and a natural inclination for collaboration. The ratio of individual work to collaborative work has shifted. Ten years ago, it was already 60% group work to 40% individual work, according to research by Gartner Dataquest. By 2007, individual work was just 30% of the equation. Knowledge work is collaborative by nature, so it was probably inevitable that companies would give up too-tall, too-private cubicles for spaces where collaboration can thrive.

Beyond communicating and coordinating

Collaboration is now the mac daddy business benchmark, but it’s not a destination. “It’s more like a braid of work experiences that take place in a series of face-to-face and virtual interactions throughout the day. They can happen at your desk, in the hall, in a café, in team spaces, even over the Internet,” says Julie Barnhart-Hoffman, who led the most recent Steelcase research on collaboration. There’s also a subtle but important distinction between collaboration by pairs and groups. “People frequently meet with others to communicate or coordinate, but it doesn’t always rise to the level of collaboration,” notes Barnhart-Hoffman. “When they do collaborate, for example when someone asks


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a real benefit for them, and they can choose who they need to work by on any given day.”

Organizations can mistake low-intensity interactions, such as coordination of tasks (“tossing it over to you”) or communication (“keeping you up to speed”) for true collaboration, which is about people working together for a common purpose and gaining new insights.

a colleague, ‘What do you think about this idea?’ and a mini-brainstorm session takes place, that kind of collaboration can take place in the hallway, at your desk, or in any number of spaces designed for collaboration. But a collective experience by a group of people working together to create something, that doesn’t happen in a hallway or at desk. To collaborate effectively, groups need spaces that nurture the process of collaboration.” Research shows that the collective intelligence of groups outperforms the individual worker because the group has access to a diversity of experience and skills, and benefits from people building on each other’s ideas. For example, Scott Page, author of The Difference, cites research that shows progress and innovation depend less on lone thinkers than on diverse people working together, and that “without collective intelligence, decentralized markets and democracies would have little hope of functioning effectively.” Steelcase researchers have studied collaborative work and workplaces for years across a variety of industries and countries, and they’re finding that knowledge workers aren’t waiting for executives to figure this all out. Workers are finding places to collaborate: working at client businesses, meeting customers in third places (coffee shops, co-working offices, etc.), meeting via telework, and leaving their desks. “A big part of it is people voting with their feet. Certainly some companies are on top of this issue, but there are some that are just realizing a mass exodus has taken place and there are all these empty seats,” says Swicegood.


Planning the collaborative workplace

At Steelcase, the company’s Marketing Communications group (MarComm) was becoming more mobile and distributed, and wanted to improve collaboration, speed their decision-making, and boost innovation. Using the six-stage Steelcase User-Centered Design Process led to insights and design principles developed by the WorkSpace Futures team and MarComm staff. That led to a behavioral prototype (a fully furnished space based on the research and evaluated as workers use it), which for MarComm meant a reconfigured workplace with unassigned workstations and collaborative spaces for a mix of resident and mobile workers.

So what’s the process for creating a go-to collaborative space for knowledge workers? Steelcase research and interviews with other designers and architects indicate that the first step should be to evaluate how the organization collaborates and to find their optimum balance between the four work modes. “No one collaborates all the time,” notes Swicegood. “In the ’90s dot-com era, there was a feeling that if you put everyone together in a loft with no walls or privacy, some sort of buzz would happen and people would be collaborating and creating all the time. We’re smarter now. You need workspaces for heads-down, focused work, and places to come together, and you need a greater variety and quantity of spaces for that to occur.” A menu of choices

Adams ticks off the collaboration spaces organizations should consider: “open project areas, focus rooms, more intimate teaming rooms, small and large meeting rooms, casual breakout spaces, large community hubs, and formal meeting spaces.” Each type of space, in some form, was included in the Steelcase MarComm prototype. “This wouldn’t work for every organization,” notes Barnhart-Hoffman. “Some companies are much more transactional in their work processes and want more individually owned spaces. Many companies are moving to a more collaborative environment where groups of two or more people are frequently developing content together. Then there are

The Steelcase User-Centered Design Process is a simple but rigorous, human-centered approach to research, analysis, and design development. The user is involved from initial observations through prototyping and measurement. This process was used in the MarComm project and ultimately led to the prototype space that the group now uses.

“The prototype space tests insights and design strategies we’ve been exploring internally and with other companies,” says Barnhart-Hoffman. “For example, benching applications of unassigned desks, which people traditionally associate with the layout of a call center or lab, increase eye contact and collaboration and have worked well in the MarComm space. Mobile workers typically thrive in these applications because they carry their files and materials wherever they go, and they come to the office to collaborate with others. Close proximity to colleagues is

those organizations, or even groups within organizations, who are much more distributed and mobile yet need to collaborate frequently, like the MarComm team. They have both resident and mobile workers and need a number of different shared settings, tools for conference calls and videoconferencing, places to display and work on information together, and some spaces for focused work.”

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A New Take On Collaborative Space The prototype space for Steelcase’s Marketing Communications team incorporates insights from years of collaboration research. Group work for this distributed and mobile team happens best in a space that offers important tools of collaboration: o large display areas for sharing and building content o the technology to conference with far-flung colleagues o spaces where people can share digital information instantly

and with everyone in the group o glass walls and doors that help communicate what’s going

on to the rest of the team, yet provide acoustical privacy o flexible seating, worksurfaces, storage, and whiteboards

Conference room A (highlighted on plan) has all of these tools, making it the most popular group space on the floor.

The right mix of spaces encourages workers to stick around the office instead of leaving for third places, and that leads to random, unplanned interactions, one of the best kinds of collaboration. David Goodman, an architect and the senior manager of global real estate for Clorox, in Oakland, Calif., says “You want spaces where people can see and be seen, sort of being on stage but having some privacy as well, so when you’re in the building people know you’re there. When people meet in coffee shops or other outside places they’re removed from their co-workers, so there are no casual collisions, if you will, between groups of people that normally use voicemail or email but really need to talk to each other.” Impromptu collaboration is by definition unplannable – and invaluable. “When you have those casual collisions, there’s a lot of business that gets done just from walking the hallways,” says Goodman.

spaces (they typically demand individual, focused work spaces) “are covered with formulas and codes all over the glass. They use them as giant whiteboards, pounding out new software in an environment that is just so filled with energy you can feel it when you walk in the room.” At another company, “scrum rooms” are named after the rugby formation where players lock arms and meet head to head. Meetings in scrum rooms last 15 minutes, max, and everyone stands.

Designers say recognition of the value of collaboration is changing workplaces and the conversations about them. The language of “I” and “we” spaces is becoming more common in business, Goodman says. Clorox is one of many companies that intend to “get away from so much ‘I’ space and more to collaborative ‘we’ spaces.” Kelley notes that “everybody we talk to has been moving more and more to ‘we’ spaces because that’s where big things happen.”

Avoid precious, embrace flexible

Try this on for size

The physical environment always speaks volumes about how a company operates, and collaborative workplaces look collaborative, according to Kelley. “When you walk into a space, you can tell in the first 30 seconds whether it’s a collaborative space or not. We know that as humans because we’ve been in so many spaces in our lives. Prissy furniture you’re not allowed to sit on, high status for people who have big offices, and anything that says this space is precious – none of that is conducive to collaboration and innovation. The feeling that it’s not precious, it’s not clean and neat, it’s not owned by the manager – all that makes for a much more collaborative space.”

Even when they know what’s needed, executives sometimes are hesitant about investing in alternative workspace because it’s unfamiliar ground. The best strategy for change – big surprise – is to collaborate. Mark Adams had a client group interested in alternative spaces and took them on a “kick the tires” tour of several workplaces his firm had created so they could experience different collaborative spaces. “We came back to our space, did a debrief with whiteboards and markers, a very hands-on session with the whole group. It was just fantastic. By working in a different kind of space, having them experience a very interactive group work session, they got the message of what’s possible in a more collaborative space.”

The components of space are being used in different ways, too. Glass walls have long been used in offices to let in light and open up space, and now they’re often a means for creating content with others. Adams cites a technology company whose software developers’ glass-walled offices and team

Does the need for flexibility in collaborative spaces mean that standards programs are on the way out? “It’s more that workstations don’t have to be one size fits all,” says Adams. “You have the structure and within that a kit of parts that people can select from. It’s within limits so you can keep track of it, but you empower people to work most efficiently with the right components.” All of the elements of a collaborative workplace center on a need for flexible space and tools, and the means for people to connect in different ways. (See Lessons Learned, page 8.)

When you walk into a space, you can tell in the first 30 seconds whether it’s a collaborative space or not.


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“Change often requires an experiment,” says Kelley. “You involve people, and you say, ‘I promise we’re going to try this new change for six months and if the majority of the people are not happy, we’ll either go back to the old way or try a new experiment.’ If you can get them experimenting and they can see the value, then you have a chance to get them to change.” Management needs to be a part of the change. “Everybody’s got to be in this together in order to change things, or it just won’t happen.”

“We’re tweaking the space as needed, based on the feedback,” notes Barnhart-Hoffman. One change is to add technology in collaborative spaces initially planned as no-tech spaces. “Those spaces were used much less than areas with embedded technology, which in turn became less accessible because they were so popular,” says Barnhart-Hoffman. Another change: more display space. Like any creative communication team, MarComm constantly posts content and want more display space.

The Steelcase MarComm prototype is one such experiment. Worker feedback and survey data measure how well the different workspaces are used, worker attitudes about the space and tools, and other performance measures. Some of the results from postoccupancy surveys:

At Clorox, Goodman has worked in unassigned, collaborative workspaces for the last six months, to great benefit. “My calendar is a little more open, because people can come up and approach me. I can jump into things that I hear people are working on and I know a piece of information that I hadn’t passed down, and so they’re running with something that has changed. We catch a lot of things more quickly. We’re also able to mentor better. I hear a conversation and say ‘Oh, I’ve dealt with that before.’ I can help people in real time.”

o 95% of the MarComm team find the

workspace enables communication between workers o 95% say they now have access to spaces

for impromptu collaboration o Over two-thirds of the workers (68%) report

they spend less than five minutes when seeking a place for a group to meet o 82% say the workspace enables them to

make effective decisions


Not every worker will operate from unassigned workspace, nor will private offices go away. People and organizations will choose to become more collaborative when they need to. It can’t be forced. “We’re trying to create a very cool program that people want to be a part of. They opt in, it’s not compulsory. I don’t think it’s going to work for someone who really doesn’t want to be in the program,” says Goodman.


Increasingly, workers and companies want in. “Top performers are coming to these environments because they’re seeing how they function, they see these dynamic teams that look excited to be there, they’re doing all this completely cool stuff,” says Adams. “I get in trouble with people when I’m in a good team meeting and it looks like fun,” says Kelley. “People say, ‘Geez, when are you going to stop having fun and get to work?’ But I think work and fun can be the same thing.” Run down the list: flexible workspace, social hub, convenient technology, collegial work, collaboration for innovation. Yeah, it does sound like fun.

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Where groups get stuff done The biggest problem when people want a space for collaboration is that most meeting spaces are designed for a leaderled meeting. Conference and meeting spaces are often designed for sit-downshut-up-and-listen meetings, or at least group sessions where one person presents information and the rest mostly take it in. “In most conference environments a screen is placed on a wall, people sit at a table and what ensues is kind of tennis match. You look at the person speaking, you look at the information down there, someone speaks again, and you look at the information again,” says Lew Epstein, director of Advanced Marketing at Steelcase. “Nothing is in close proximity where it’s really easy to look at the speaker and the information with just a glance, which make it much more comfortable, keeps your focus and ultimately makes things much more productive.” In collaborative work everyone has information to offer and often that content is on a laptop. There are as many laptops as people in most meetings today. Yet sharing information from those laptops is typically an exercise in untangling cables and guessing how to connect: Which key do I hit to get this on the projector? Is that thing on? The meeting flow is gone and

information gets lost amid wistful comments about how helpful that file would’ve been. “Through our observation research it became clear that most meeting environments weren’t keeping pace with the needs of people when they were collaborating,” notes Epstein. “So the question became, how can we reposition the relationship of information to people to maintain eyes-to-eyes between people and eyes-to-information, which is typically a screen?” Based on these insights, Steelcase researchers and Design Studio, together with IDEO, recently designed a new approach to helping groups leverage technology to improve collaboration. It’s called media:scape ®, and it’s as much an experience as a product. It’s a shared space that merges furniture and media specifically to help teams access and share information. People simply belly up to the table, plug the provided USB cable into their laptops, and everyone shares what’s on their computers on the flat screen monitor at the table. To switch between laptops, you just touch a button (called a “puck”). It’s basically a “walk up and connect” experience that results from a merger of furniture and technology that makes it simple for groups to get stuff done. “It needed to be dead-on simple. The kind of environment that you didn’t have to be trained for, you didn’t need to use your manual. And it had to be very impromptu,” says Epstein.


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Lessons Learned

Steelcase researchers offer insights they’ve learned from studying collaborative workplaces: oP  rotot ype

Take a page from serial innovators: try stuff, early and often. Prototype alternative spaces and let people use them. Measure how often they’re used, what kinds of work they do in the spaces, what spaces work best, etc. Keep fine-tuning things.

o Let  it roll Collaboration

isn’t a destination – it’s a braided progression of face-to-face and virtual interactions throughout the day at desks, in the hall and café, on the internet. Help employees to stay “in flow” while staying in motion by providing a range of casual environments and visual tools for sharing ideas. oB  uild buzz People

collaborate more when they’re in proximity to others. They want to see and be seen. Encourage mobile workers to stay near the team but move around so they build stronger networks. Easy eye contact between people, and between people and information, make idea


sharing more likely. Hearing others allows for mentoring through “eavesdropping” and sharing information informally throughout the day. And keep things close: beyond 50 feet, stuff doesn’t get used, whether it’s a meeting room or café. Places where people can post content help build a “shared mind.” o C reate zones Workers

need choice and control over where they work, so provide a range of settings and acoustics for collaborative, social, learning and focused work. Consider a range of “I” to “we” settings in open and enclosed areas. Don’t forget that more-open spaces also need enclosed spaces for focused work, conference calls and telepresence meetings. o Ma ke technology useful

Technology should be easy to connect to, intuitive to use, and let each person display information without a lot fumbling with cords and connections. “Collaborative spaces with access to

power, Wi-Fi, and projection, where everyone can see the information and interact with it, are more effective for collaboration, and will be used more often,” says Barnhart-Hoffman. o B olster both analog and digital work Help teams move seamlessly between digital and analog materials, from content on laptops to drawings, stickie notes, photos, etc. Groups co-create by displaying content, reviewing it over time, and adding to it. Provide for layering of analog and digital information such whiteboards, tackable walls, easy-to-use projection tools, and tools that help workers transition analog work to a digital format. Provide ways for workers to share information from personal devices in a larger format to encourage group participation.

o I nclude a social hub

Leverage social networks and break down silos by offering a centrally located casual space, such as a

café or coffee bar. Food and beverages are a draw, but collaborative tools make the space more effective. Settings where people can work in the open makes them accessible to others. A social hub often becomes the psychological center of the workplace. o S upport Coll aboration

Plan every setting as a collaborative setting to maximize the opportunities for people to come together. Provide data, power, shared vertical elements (screens, whiteboards, tack space) to enable the exchange of tacit knowledge. Allow groups to adapt the space to their work. Let workers adapt group spaces: if an area doesn’t support team collaboration, they will find another space. Every where

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with David Kelley On nurturing collaboration

David Kelley has been called the poster child for innovation in America, and Time Magazine says he’s done more than anyone else “to bridge the gap between modern design and modern business.” The design firm he founded, IDEO, designed the first computer mouse, the Palm V, the Leap chair, and many other iconic products. Kelley is a professor at Stanford University, and the winner of numerous awards for wide-ranging accomplishments in teaching, engineering, and design. He founded Stanford’s new Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, known as the “,” with a manifesto to use “design thinking” to inspire multidisciplinary teams, and foster “radical collaboration” between students, faculty, and industry. Threesixty caught up with Kelley in his office at IDEO via teleconference.


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What have you discovered at the about fostering collaboration? The main thing we found to make collaboration and innovation work well in the educational system is to level the status between the students and the professor. Normally the students come into a classroom with the instructor standing at the front of the classroom, the sage on stage approach. It’s as if students are visiting some important place where they have to behave and sit in rows and be quiet. We all grew up doing that, sitting in rows. But that makes the students feel intimidated and less willing to collaborate.

How have you made it less intimidating? Basically, nobody owns the space, and there’s no hierarchy with respect to the space. The professors come into the student’s project space, which is chaotic and reconfiguring all the time. They feel comfortable enough in the space to put their best ideas out there, and aren’t afraid to do strange things. How does that translate to a corporate environment? By doing the same things. You eliminate status, make it open and collaborative and flexible, and get the feeling right in the space. Can people working in different places actually collaborate? On some level there’s no substitute for in-person interaction. You have to have enough face-to-face time, which means you spend the money to get everybody together. Technology can help too. I talk to my buddy in Brazil all the time on Skype, and I have a much stronger relationship with him than I did when he lived in Italy and I couldn’t talk to him as much. Then there’s the wormhole concept, which is the most exciting technology in my life. (See photo, p. 12)

How do you get people comfortable enough to engage in close collaboration? Trust relationships are a big part of the equation. You have to build up a level of trust to be able to communicate effectively. Think about the difference between somebody that you talk to by teleconferencing but you don’t have a personal relationship with. It’s a business meeting and you’re on guard, and you don’t show anything that could be considered clever or controversial, right? Because you haven’t met face-to-face. Has the process of mentoring changed? When I was a young engineer at Boeing, my boss didn’t really want me to go out into the factory because I was such a young punk, and he didn’t want the people in the factory to know there was somebody who didn’t know what he was doing designing this airplane. So the notion of leaving my desk was not really allowed. Today, in the best companies, people are mentored by everybody in the world. They feel entitled to go find some information from experts, from users, a mentor at the university, or whomever. People can use the whole world to help them be successful rather than expect that it’s always going to come from inside the company.

You often speak of reverse mentoring. What is it? When I was a kid growing up, I don’t think I knew anything that much better than my father did. Now, my twelve-year-old’s much better at a lot of things than I am, especially around the computer and technology, and she’s teaching me all the time. That’s reverse mentoring, and it’s bled into the corporate world. We’ve learned, although it’s been true for a long time, that bosses, the people in the hierarchy, don’t have all the good ideas. I think young people in particular can be great mentors, especially coming up with ideas. They’re not as good at deciding which ones are the good ones, because they don’t have as much experience. It’s a give and take to get the wisdom of the older person and the insights and vision of the younger person. What do you mean by “radical collaboration?” It’s our way of saying that it’s not the same way as you did it before, which was “Oh yeah, I know George in accounting.” That was the old style. The new approach is collaborating with different cultures, different ages, people in different disciplines. And it’s using a different methodology. It all feels radical because it’s so different from the way we’ve worked before.


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Face to face, 2,000 miles apart A wormhole is a hypothetical shortcut through space and time. Wormhole technology makes that idea real, using linked, high definition cameras and monitors to jump across geography and make long-distance collaboration possible. David Kelley (on screen) in California and Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett in Michigan use the system at a moment’s notice to bridge the distance between their offices. (Steelcase is part-owner of IDEO.) “Instead of scheduling a meeting or hoping to catch each other, I can watch and see what Jim’s doing on the other end, and if he’s free, I can talk to him right then. I don’t have the stigma of making a call and wondering if he’ll be there, or waiting until next Tuesday because we can’t set it up. I can get the answer to my question, or touch base, or whatever I’m trying to do, right then, with no social anxiety, and keep building the relationship.”

What’s the optimum size of a team? Around a table, eight seems to be an optimum size for a brainstorm because you can focus on the topic and everybody’s together. You want to get away from anything that appears bureaucratic. What’s really effective sometimes is to have multiple teams and have them compete, or give them different assignments and then trade assignments. Get really different people, get some who are experts at what you’re focusing on, and people who are naive, and people who are the clients, the users. Who’s on the team is more important than its size. How does a mind map help collaboration? It’s a methodology for thinking. You start in the center, and the first layers of ideas are the clichéd ones that I’ve had in my mind already and probably anybody would come up with. Then you talk to more people about it and add another layer. You talk and collaborate with other people, pretty soon you’re way out on the edge. Basically you get to new places in a combinatorial fashion by collaborating with people that you’re not used to collaborating with. I like to banter with others to see what the combination of their ideas and my ideas looks like, because it just feels so good to have one of your ideas picked up by someone else and batted around and then it comes back to you and it just keeps getting better.

Kelley uses a mind map technique to layer and build ideas with colleagues.


What do you think about the notion of never giving a team enough time or money for a project? I think it’s right, because people are motivated by constraints. They help people become creative and wildly innovative. I’m a believer in giving teams multiple times to do something, rather than a realistic schedule. Let them go all the way to the end, and then let them start again, now being experts to some extent. We find that multiple times through a process with difficult constraints leads to a better solution than a kind of careful, systematic, planned out approach. Because the difficult parts in a problem are often not obvious, and may be at the end of the project. So if you don’t get to them until right before you have to be to market, you’re in trouble. If you set a kind of a pseudo-deadline a quarter of the way through, then you become experts on all aspects of the project. Then you start again and that experience allows you to do a better job.

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Smaller Groups Better As collaboration gains ground in the workplace, there’s a trend toward smaller groups. At Amazon, Jeff Bezos is said to limit team size to the number that two pizzas can feed, i.e., 5 - 8. At Google, self-directed teams scale from 2 – 5. Twelve used to be an acceptable team size, but Steelcase research shows that now 4 - 8 is ideal.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day – employers who want to keep their people happy take note: employees want their workplaces to show a little love. An overwhelming 82% of employees say the single most important goal for a workplace is to attract and retain workers. But over half – 54% – said their workplace wasn’t making sparks fly, so to speak. (Source: Steelcase Workplace Satisfaction Survey)

Office Romance

Living in a world of budget constraints and pressure to perform takes its toll on workers. Having a casual place available to re-energize is important to the vast majority of employees – 86%. Too bad that 56% of workers say they don’t have spaces like that at their workplace. (Source: Steelcase Workplace Satisfaction Survey)

Give me a break!

The More We T weet Apparently, the more we Tweet, text, Google and poke online, the more likely we are to meet up with people offline. According to, technology is pulling people toward more face-to-face engagement versus less. The phenomenon has even been given a name: mass mingling. “People actually enjoy interacting with other warm bodies, and will do so forever,” the social observers say. What a relief.

Until recently, benching applications were extensively and almost exclusively used for call centers and labs in the U.S. But they’re gaining ground as workstations for collaborative settings because of the good visibility they provide for knowing who’s around and the “buzz” that comes from being close. In Europe, benching applications have earned a solid track record as efficient, effective settings for a broad range of work.

Bench marks

My th of Lone Genius is Over As the reach of architecture and design broadens into society, the idea that one person behind a drafting board can come up with brilliant solutions on their own is outdated, according to IDEO Design Strategist Bob Adams, who was one of seven panelists participating in


a Steelcase/Metropolis-sponsored symposium in September about the future of design and the ongoing relevance of Frank Lloyd Wright. “We need diverse thinking to inform the way that we work as designers, whether it’s from biology, anthropology, sociology. These disciplines need to come together,” said Adams. “Our reductionist approach to science, where we isolate one variable and tweak it to find one result, doesn’t speak to the reality of dealing with complexity and chaos and the things that we need to be able to deal with to solve these larger problems....We’ve got to get all of our systems into place to do it, which is daunting but, on the other hand, it’s very exciting.” Virtual Employees Increasing During 2003 – 2008, there was an 800% increase in the number of “virtual” U.S. employees, according to a report by Nemertes Research cited recently in Fortune magazine. The need for meaningful digital collaboration is at an all-time high. First, do no harm. Next, team up. Even health care is becoming more of a group effort, says the author of the new book, Design Care: Aligning the Nature and Management of Healthcare. A physician and Harvard B School prof, Richard Bohmer told The Wall Street Journal recently that healthcare has evolved from a solo practitioner model to a “team-based sport.” He notes there are teams of caregivers “who work together really effectively to make sure an individual patient gets cured.” At the same time, just like knowledge workers in other industries, doctors have been trained to be individually accountable and struggle to take a team-based perspective. This Job Sucks Employees in the U.S. are more unsatisfied than ever with their jobs, according to a recent survey conducted for The Conference Board, a global association that provides knowledge about management and the marketplace for its members. Only 46% of the 5,000 employees surveyed said they were satisfied with their jobs, down from 61.1% in 1987, the first year the survey was run. “Widespread job dissatisfaction negatively affects employee behavior and retention, which can impact enterprise-level success,” says John Gibbons, program director of employee engagement research and services at The Conference Board. Worse yet, 22% said they don’t expect to be in their same jobs a year from now.

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Scott Harrison of charity: water

charity: water’s mission is simple: bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations.

Photo courtesy of charity: water

“It’s hard not to think about water today. In the western world, we face growing concerns about our stewardship of the world’s most precious resource,” says Scott Harrison, founder of charity: water. “There’s talk of shortages, evidence of reservoirs and aquifers drying up, and, of course, plenty of people who simply don’t care. But forget about us. Most of us have never really been thirsty. We’ve never had to leave our houses and walk five miles to fetch water. We simply turn on the tap, and water comes out. Clean. Yet one in six people in our world don’t have access to the most basic of human needs — something we can’t imagine going 12 hours without.” Harrison founded the nonprofit after leaving New York City in 2004. “I’d made my living for years in the big Apple promoting top nightclubs and fashion events, for the most part living selfishly and arrogantly,” reflects Harrison. “Desperately unhappy,

I needed to change.” The first step on Harrison’s journey was as a volunteer photojournalist aboard a floating hospital with a group called Mercy Ships, a humanitarian organization that offered free medical care in the

Many people in the developing world, usually women and children, walk more than three hours every day to fetch water that is likely to make them sick. Children are especially vulnerable to the consequences

In the United States, we use 150 gallons of water per person per day, compared to the billion plus people who don’t even have five gallons. world’s poorest nations. He saw people suffering from horrible diseases, many of which were waterborne. Harrison decided he wanted to tackle what he saw as the biggest issue impacting the poor – unsafe drinking water – and so he founded charity: water. According to Harrison, unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation causes 80% of all sickness and disease, and kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.

of unsafe water. Of the 42,000 deaths that occur every week from unsafe water and a lack of basic sanitation, 90% are children under five years old. In almost three years, charity: water has raised over $13 million and funded 1,548 water projects. The wells they’ve dug can be found on Google Earth.

They didn’t choose to be born into a village where the only source of water is a polluted swamp. And I didn’t choose to be born in a country where even the homeless have access to clean water and a toilet. I invite you to put yourself in their shoes. Follow them on their daily journey. Carry 80 pounds of water in yellow fuel cans. Dig with their children in sand for water. Line up at a well and wait eight hours for a turn. Now, make a decision to help. We’re not offering grand solutions and billion-dollar schemes, but instead, simple things that work. Things like freshwater wells, rainwater catchments and sand filters. For about $20 a person, we know how to help millions of people. Start by helping one.” To learn more about Scott Harrison and charity: water, visit

“We’d like to introduce you to a few of those billion people,” says Harrison. “They are very real, and they need our help.


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Rolling Collaboration How do mobile workers work when they come into the office? Tim Miller, a student at Illinois Institute of Design in Chicago, was part of a Steelcase WorkSpace Futures team studying collaboration and the impact of mobile work. Miller followed Steelcase employee Kathy Woronko through her day, documenting interactions with co-workers, the she tools used, and creative ways she got her work done. “Kathy is typical of a lot of leading edge, mobile workers,” noted Miller. “She not only has fully embraced mobile work but is pushing its boundaries physically and technologically. It was quite interesting to observe her constant and rolling collaboration throughout the workday. Figuring out how to fit everything in, how to reach out to people outside the office, how to tap into the collective thinking of all these different groups, these are the kinds of activities our research group sees time and again in many organizations today.” Tell us your stories. Each issue of Threesixty Magazine will feature a photo essay about issues in the workplace, design thinking, causes you support – you name it. It doesn’t matter if you’re an amateur or professional, we’d love to see your shots. Please share your ideas with us at


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Kathy starts her day in a collaborative space and shifts often between analog and digital tools and formats. Needing to draw on diverse team members, she uses a centrally located space that supports a “mixed presence team,� people working together in physical and virtual space. After the meeting clears, (lower right) she takes advantage of the enclosed space to grab a few minutes for focused, individual work.


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While Kathy focuses on her laptop nearby, team members use the vertical surfaces to post work to share with other workers in the department (left). Impromptu meetings happen in hallways, (above) or with a colleague using another nearby unassigned workspace.


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Joining the rest of the department for an informal project update meeting in a central cafĂŠ area, Kathy multi-tasks between checking text and voice mails (background) and catching up with others over lunch.


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Kathy joins a group for an informationintense meeting using a media:scape ® setting with technology embedded in the furniture. Everyone plugs in their laptops and shares content on the screen by pressing their own button or “puck” (between the laptops). Before driving to her next meeting, Kathy pauses in her car (lower right) to make notes and mentally switch gears.


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Atoms & Bits 100 years old and not dead yet

If you didn’t make it to the Steelcase/Metropolis-sponsored symposium “The Next 100” in September, see it on video at The symposium launched the 100-year anniversary of Steelcase’s Meyer May House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Engagingly moderated by Metropolis Editor-in-Chief Susan Szenasy, the event featured seven riveting panelists from a cross-section of disciplines engaged in lively debate about what’s shaping 21st century architecture and design, and the ongoing relevance of Frank Lloyd Wright. And while you’re at the website, join the conversation by posting your ideas. It’s a topic that matters, and it involves us all. The celebration continues throughout this year with symposiums hosted by Steelcase in these cities: New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco.

Wright stuff at 4CC in NYC

If you’re in New York City between now and mid-April, add this to your list of things to do: check out the exhibit about the Frank Lloyd Wright and Steelcase connection and the remarkable restoration of the Wright-designed Meyer May house, now 100 years old. The exhibit is open to everyone in the main lobby of 4 Columbus Circle, the building that’s home to the Steelcase WorkLife Center in Manhattan. “The Next 100” Symposium April 06, 2010 6:00-8:30 PM Steelcase WorkLife Center 4 Columbus Circle, NY, NY 10019

Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in Manhattan, presents its fourth exhibition of the National Design Triennial beginning in May, which will explore the work of designers addressing human and environmental problems across many fields of the design practice. The exhibit includes the cobi® chair, designed to support collaboration, which, interestingly enough, was the outcome of a collaboration between the Steelcase Design Studio and PearsonLloyd Design Ltd. The Triennial program seeks out and presents the most innovative designs at the center of contemporary culture.

New Way to Work in LA


BLANKSPACES is a community environment where independent professionals can foster collaboration and new business opportunities. You can work there for an afternoon or a year, depending on what you need. The spaces range from open, collaborative areas, to private, focused areas. Blankspaces also offers a community and free events for people to network, and a blog to share ideas and insights. Take a look at:

The cover story of next month’s March/April issue of ASID ICON, published by the American Society of Interior Designers, will discuss the work attitudes and behaviors of the newest members of the workforce, Generation Y. Based on a study led by Steelcase with representatives from Penn State University and Georgia Tech. Why Y matters: their workstyles are being adopted by people of all ages.

5405 Wilshire Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90036 (323) 330-9505 24

Planning Ahead — National Design Triennial: Why Design Now?

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Schedule a Breakthrough

If you’re in Chicago and need to kick-start your collaboration, check out Workspring, which offers a new way to work away from work. Reserve sessions in bright modern studios, high-performance meeting rooms where ideas flow and technology works like the breeze. A true Chicago productivity retreat — infused with local flavor, equipped with collaborative tools, and designed with your goals and your comfort in mind. Make yourself at home in private conference rooms. Take a break or gather together before your meeting in open spaces that provide refreshment and inspiration. Special winter offer – if it’s your first meeting, the fee for every other person is on the house! 12 East Ohio Street Chicago, IL 60611 (312) 664-0525

media:scape ® Buzz

workalicious ™

One architect blogger recently described media:scape as “a new type of furniture aimed at facilitates collaboration of our work tools via the laptop and display integration....” A student at Drexel University using media:scape in the atrium of the main library said simply: “I think it’s really cool.” See these stories and share your ideas about collaboration at the media:scape Facebook page, mediascape-by-Steelcase/244601641887

workalicious is a weblog featuring workplace design, furniture, implements, and culture. Blogger Gregory La Vardera, from Merchantville, NJ (just outside Philadelphia), is an architect and enthusiast of modern workplaces, furniture, and design. We saw his post about media:scape and ended up staying to read a half dozen other posts. Like his ideas that work activities “might even include enjoyment, and satisfaction, and inspiration. What a concept for work!”

Come Together

Missed the last issue?

Your workspace can work harder by working smarter – but how? Stop by the Come Together site for practical ideas and insights about how companies are reducing individual workspaces and adding collaborative spaces that support how work is really happening today. Includes floorplans, photos and videos featuring the new c:scape ®, media:scape and collaborative seating products. ComeTogether/index.htm

Check out the all new Threesixty Magazine inaugural edition: It’s a branded world. In this issue we explored how the workplace can influence brand, what leading designers are saying about brand and space, and some of the latest trends about brand and culture. View the digital edition at

25 The magazine of research, insight, and trends

Steelcase 360 Magazine - February 2010  
Steelcase 360 Magazine - February 2010  

Work with me here...2 How designers are planning spaces to nurture collaboration – and how those spaces are actually working.