Yesterday I had a very interesting and inspiring discussion with two researcher from the d.school Stanford about the AppHaus in Heidelberg regarding usage of space and the importance of space for collaborative and creative (team) work.

As we all know the right space is one important ingredient within our Design Thinking work and we talk all the time about flexible rooms, movable furniture and the need to adjust the room setup based on the changing needs of a team.

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During the discussion one interesting observation came up: although the flexible space is always mentioned as important we see a lot of spaces where this flexibility is not used in the possible way – some (a little bit provocative) examples:

  • Changing the setup of a workspace based on changing projects and setups does not happen normally. Nobody is moving desktops every week or every month due to a new project.
  • Setting up a workshop space everytime in a different way does not happen (although every workshop has different goals, team sizes and agendas).
  • Adjusting a workshop space during a workshop does not happen and teamwork, presentations and feedback rounds are done in the more or less same room setup.

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These example are for sure too black and white but I definitely  see a interesting contradiction in how “flexible space” is always mentioned as important and how it is used in the end in the reality.

What is your opinion about that? How do you use flexible space in your daily work? How much time do you invest in the right workshop space setup? How often do you change it? What are your learning and recommendations regarding flexible space?

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Looking forward to your comments 🙂

Best regards

Jochen

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10 Comments

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  1. Simon Posch

    I think people might just not yet be used to this way of owning their own space and might not know which room setting supports their mindset the best way. I think it is part of the facilitators job to encourage and support this with specific suggestions and explanations why people should choose which set up.

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    1. Jochen Guertler Post author

      Hi Simon,

      thanks for your feedback and in general I agree that we can not expect the people to use the flexible space by their own. But this brings me back to my question: how do YOU use flexible space for your workshops or DT activities? How do YOU motivate the people to do so?

      Best regards

      Jochen

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  2. Heike van Geel

    during this week’s InnoJam at CeBIt Foo said to the students “this place is yours!”. And they took it as theirs. The lived in it for 33 hrs, worked and slept. Yes, of course, having some coaches probably helped to turn a table into a whiteboard, going outside not just for fresh air but also to boost the idea generation or boost the team spirit. one team started to use the floor and “infected” other teams to do the same.

    i think it’s also a combination of space and materials that are in the space. Materials that emboy ideas as they say at d.school 🙂 .

    in the corporate world, it’s important to have the creative minds around that don’t need to be told but simply do it, move and adjust as needed while ensuring that a whole team is still comfortable with it.

    /wp-content/uploads/2014/03/space_n_materials_411149.jpg

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    1. Jochen Guertler Post author

      Hi Heike,

      thanks for your answer and your impressions from the CeBIT.

      Regarding your sentence

      “In the corporate world, it’s important to have the creative minds around that don’t need to be told but simply do it, move and adjust as needed while ensuring that a whole team is still comfortable with it.”

      what do you think is important to do or to provide from a coach / moderator perspective, if this does NOT happen and nobody make space by him or her own?

      Best regards

      Jochen

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      1. Heike van Geel

        as a coach (if the team is ever so lucky to have a coach) or team member take the initiative and ask the team on a regular basis (once every 1-2 month) whether the space is working or if they like to consider changing something. I’d not push a “keep changing the space” just because, as the space might be working perfecly fine for them i.e. no need to touch a working system  🙂

        eventually other team members will pick up on the habbit to possible considering changing the space.

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  3. Fred Verheul

    Hi Jochen,

    Good observation! And my take (not based on any evidence whatsoever 🙂 ) is that it’s more important to have a space that is different from the default corporate environment than to have a flexible space. Having a space that’s different already spurs so much creativity and collaboration that there’s no perceived need to do much adjustment during workshops.

    Just a guess of course, but this would work for me: an out of the ordinary space, with minor adjustments according to the actual workshop, number of participants, etc.

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    1. Jochen Guertler Post author

      Hi Fred,

      thanks for your feedback – this is a good observation and a “different” space is for sure a good catalyst for creativity and collaboration. One more reason, why I am so happy so be part of the AppHaus team in Heidelberg.

      By the way: how explicit do you discuss the topic “space” during your workshops? To enjoy a workshop in a cool and different workshop environment is the one thing, the other part of the game is the question how to transport this “spirit” back to the daily work. Do you discuss such topics e.g. during feedback rounds?

      Best regards

      Jochen

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      1. Fred Verheul

        Hi Jochen,

        Sorry for the delay in answering. I would love to be able to answer your question: it would mean I actually have done workshops. Too bad I haven’t to date…

        Looking forward to visiting the Apphaus Heidelberg sometime in the future. Still waiting for an invitation 🙂 .

        Cheers, Fred

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        1. Heike van Geel

          Hi Fred,

          Consider yourself officially invited to come visit AppHaus Heidelberg any time. Let’s catch-up soon to find an activity where you can join in 🙂

          Best,

          Heike

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