Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Space

“A cluttered desk is a cluttered mind” is an adage I’ve heard many times in my life. On a scale from one to twenty on tidy desktops, I’m happy to say that I would still be in the single digits, but have always been envious of those who are able to keep a desk at a 1 - perfectly neat and orderly. However, there is one thing I notice… (if I may use a broad sweeping generalization)... many people I know with absolutely tidy desks are great at efficiency, but often are lacking in the area of creativity and free-association.

Does space matter?


Robert Dillon and Rebecca Hare covered the use of space in learning environments in their book “The Space: A Guide for Educators.” If you’re a teacher, this is a must read. Whether you are a math teacher (who tend to have the tidy desk), or an art teacher (who may have a desk, somewhere under that pile over there), you will be challenged, stretched, and inspired to build learning spaces that reflect the learning and not a 1950’s idea of desk and rows.

But wait, business mogul… don’t check out yet. There’s something in it for you. If you are worth your weight in quarterly reports, you know very well that the best office is a learning environment. So check out these adapted tips from the book that can be applied to your workspace:

Shared office or cubicles? Tear down the wall! Most cubes have modular construction that do not have to be put together in the same fashion. Rather than a huge open space sucked up by rows of identical stalls, build cube spaces that reflect teams. It means that they won’t all look alike, but hey, at least it will be easier for visitors to find the right space. “I’m in the second pod;” rather than “I’m in the ninth identical cubicle, 14 before the end of the row.”

Need your teams to collaborate more? Economize your work space to create more collaborative centers. Convert that closet to a private room for those who need to make a sensitive phone call. Put a table in the center of room with a roll of butcher paper. Tape it down when you have a group session, and write down great ideas together. Capture with a camera and email those who were on PTO that day. Create a “Grassy Knoll” (taken directly from the book)... A space like you see on college recruiting brochures with students sitting together on the lawn in front of a beautiful campus building. Well, that might not be possible, but put a small coffee table and some bean bags in a circle in that unused space. Next, actually have a meeting there! For those whose stapler must be precisely at 90° to the edge of the desk between the pencil sharpener and Post-It®, it will blow their minds. For those who just found that form you asked for three weeks ago on the heap known as their desk, you may see where they truly shine… in an unencumbered space.

Change it up! Routine is a good thing for the most part. But, you don’t want to be in a rut, nor do you want to fish-tail all over the place (for those not from Minnesota, that’s when your car is traveling overall north and south, but your back tires are also traveling east to west on snow packed roads). Find your groove by changing it up when the project dictates, or just when you feel a rut being made in the road. Some businesses change their office space every 100 days, calling on employees to submit proposals on what the office should look like.

Keep it clean. Don’t go nuts by always being in flux or not having things where you can find them. A cluttered shared workspace can become a cluttered team mindset. If you have some creative and innovative work spaces, make sure it’s something that can be cleaned up easily. Respect the margins… some cannot work on a cluttered desk, just as some cannot be creative without things they need right in front of them. Acknowledge that people need to find the middle ground as well as challenge their own expectations and limitations.

We had the good fortune of shooting this video series with Robert and Rebecca. While it confirmed some of my assumptions and challenged others as a former educator, the project helped me realize that all of our collaborative spaces are learning spaces, and should be designed intentionally.

So challenge your own assumptions and think intentionally with colleagues on how you design your individual or shared workspaces.

Guest Author: Garrett Lathe, Alliance Manger - Atomic Learning

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