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The Self – Created Workplace. Concepts and tools for co-developing a high performance workplace.

Gabriel Maricich Thesis presentation May 3, 2010

Thesis Statement: Often organizations simply cannot afford to continually adapt to changing work styles and developing technology – yet workers need to be actively supported in their pursuit of a high performance work environment. The self-created workplace can provide this framework for support.

To orient ourselves, let’s take a brief journey through history to look at workplace development.

Taylorism the factory office (ca. 1904) This model was based on concepts including: • oversight • industry • workflow

Burolandschaft or Office Landscape (ca. 1960) This model focused on grouping people together by: • job function • division • work group • still utilized

The Action Office (1968)

This model is one of the earliest examples of a formally designed workplace. • exhaustively researched • early support of work modes • still relevant today

The Action Office. Courtesy of Herman Miller 2010. used with permission.

The Cube Farm (ca. 1980)

This paradigm was based on copying elements from the Action Office. • bridge between paper & digital • more is better - superlative • commonly used today

The Open Office - Chiat/Day (1994) Los Angeles office was created to support playing with ideas and concepts. • few assigned spaces • creativity support • reaction to cube farm • possibly too early

The Blended Office (current)

This model is based on blurring the boundaries between work and life. • support through policy and space • on-site services • flex scheduling • corporate campus concept • Nike, Microsoft, Mayo Clinic

Work Shift

In each of these previous models we observe a shift in the type of work being performed. These shifts seem to be closely linked to the physical changes in work environments.

We are currently experiencing a dramatic shift in the office environment. Much of this stems from recent economic turmoil, but it is also founded in a more subtle shift in work habits. These habit changes stem from the type of work and the worker who performs these task:

“The Knowledge Worker�

The Knowledge-Creating Company. Nonaka & Takeuchi.

Who are our current knowledge workers? Traditionals

age 64-81 • dedication • respect for authority • loyalty • delayed reward

Generation X

age 29-45 • informality • technology • detachment • entrepreneurship

Baby Boomers

age 46-63 • forever young • personal gratification • individuality • personal growth

Generation Next age 10-28 • optimism • confidence • civic duty • connectivity

The Pew Research Center 2007

The upward absorption of work ways.

Though each generation seems to develop their own way or style of working, for the most part, they quickly absorb and adopt mew modes of working.

What is a high performance workplace? A workplace that dynamically supports: • collaborating • learning • focusing • socializing







average performance



high performance Gensler workplace survey 2008

“A high performance workplace is not about prescribing a way to work. It’s about providing options and supporting all the different modes of working. It’s about learning from people and supporting the way they want to work.” – S. Slifka, Nurture & Steelcase

How can we support the needs of 21st century knowledge workers on their own terms? The new workspace is not just about space. It’s about supporting the needs of knowledge workers. Supporting their need to focus, collaborate, learn and socialize.

Opportunity: Currently there are many fabulous workspace solutions available throughout the industry. Yet, creating supportive workspaces still presents an enormous challenge to many companies.

Problem “Well, if there are four main objections, the first three would be money and the fourth would be company culture.” – B. Krebs, Principle MGZA Architects

The problem of cost: In traditional office redevelopment, individual workstation cost can vary dramatically. The cost of creating a high performance workplace can easily run many thousands of dollars per worker. Some estimates place this cost close to $10,000 per person.

The problem of company culture: Office development is still a top-down, prescribed way of working. This runs counter to the ideal high performance work model. This disrupts multi-generational work and learning. Is the current method of workspace development sustainable? How much longer will people continue to work in these spaces?

So, where do we begin? Field Work

Expert Interviews Field Work

Observation + Analysis Field Work

Realization: Change the nature of the task

Change the nature of the task. What if we just discover places that support these work modes?

We began by visiting workspaces along the East Coast: OpenSpace • Charlottesville Steelcase • Philadelphia In Good Company • Manhattan Nurture and Steelcase • New York IndyHall • Philadelphia MGZA Architects • Delaware Ferguson & Shamamian architects • SoHo University of Virginia NYU Jefferson University of the Arts a myriad of coffee shops






We conducted: Formal + Informal Interviews Ethnographic Analysis

Discovered: 3 categories cafe + coffee shop

university campus

coworking space

How do individuals actualize their work in these spaces? They self-create workspaces.

How do people self-create workspaces? Can we support 21st century knowledge workers by understanding how they organically self-create a workspace?

Simple analysis:

five steps 1. define ‘workzone’ 2. deploy tools 3. barriers Audio divider 4. portals 5. personalize

Individual identifier

Storage zone

These tend to be built in a circular fashion from the center out.

Core tool Central workspace

Define work + buffer zone

central workzone

buffer/storage zone

Deploy tools

Deploy barriers

Connect portals

Personalize customize + connect time + storage

Realization: workers replicate patterns and models observed in nature. Can we develop a paradigm based on organic behaviors?

Organic work models • bees • ants • wolves • beavers • spiders • bubbles

So, what does this mean? Conclusion

A New Paradigm. The self-created workplace.

This is not a new model. This is reality. This is how people actually work.

Concepts at work:

• portals • interfaces • connections • re-configurable • adaptable • customizeable • interlocking • flexible

Future Shift How do we take this natural and organic paradigm and deploy it in a more traditional workplace?

From history we know: Traditional, top down, imposed structures don’t work well and won’t last long.

From nature we know: A model must be flexible and adaptable to survive.

Case study analysis

By understanding successful case studies, we begin to see co-design tools and methods that have proven their value.


We can use concepts to engage employees and help facilitate the co-design of their space and work environment.

Uarts Finance.

From this practical application we have developed a process guide To support and help facilitate the collective self-creation of workplaces.

Self-created workplace guide. We developed a framework that can be used by office workers to begin redeveloping their existing space.

Who and how.

This guide is geared towards workers and managers who can use these simple steps and tips to begin re-developing their workplace.

1. Interview

Scott, Jen and Beth conduct an interview.

We begin by asking simple questions,

in an Interview. We ask questions like; what’s your name, job title, role, manager, what tools to you use… and many others.

The favorite

among many interviewee; would you

rather have a pet squirrel or drive the getaway car?

Be creative and have some fun, the

goal is to gather information quickly and accurately while also engaging the people you speak with. The goal

of the interview is begin developing a level of insight

A structured conversation to begin developing insight and a shared understanding about the people you are working with.


Tips: Sometimes it helps to think of an interview as a structured conversation. This can help create more of a two-way dialogue rather than just question-answer. It’s also helpful to have at least two people ‘team interview’. One person can lead the interview and the other can help record answer and ask follow up questions.


1. Interview

2. Survey

A structured conversation to begin developing insight and a shared understanding about the people you are working with.

4. Observation

3. User Profiles

5. Mapping

Is the quest for insight which can be used to fuel your concepts and understanding of how people work.

Highlight hopes needs and goals of the people you are creating for, user profiles can help keep you on track and focused.

A survey is a great tool to gather a broad range of information quickly and annonymously.


Is showing who is doing what and where these actions are taking place. And questioning why?

Is simply studying and identifying the relationship between different pieces of information. Simply begin by ‘connecting the dots’.

7. Common Threads

8. Brainstorm

Are key connection points between pieces of information. This can highlight areas for more research or an area of focus.

10. Scenarios

9. Filter Concepts

Is using your creativity to begin developing ideas to solve the problems you identified during the previous work.

11. Modeling

Let you test concepts in a storylike format, they help you understand how an idea might work in reality.

Lets you digest the ideas from your brainstorming session and begin to filter down to viable and feasable concepts.

12. Present

Allows you to make ideas physical. They give us the opportunity to play with ideas and understand how they will work in a risk free environment.

This is simply the concept of using your research as a mirror which you hold up for people to see how they actually work.

Future Steps • deploy complete guide • pursue further partnerships with stakeholders: -Steelcase -BCJ architects -MGZA architects -U.S. General Services Administration • develop consulting model based on guiding workgroups through this co-design process.

Thank you. The self-created workplace.

Final thoughts

We believe these concepts have value because they are complex enough to describe the dynamic nature of this environment, yet are simple enough to be useful. Secondly we believe this has great potential because it is built upon the actual habits and behaviors of people themselves.

Thesis Presentation  

Thesis presentation

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