… three types of work: “I work,” which requires expertise, concentration and focus; “You & I work,” which involves relatively simple collaboration among two people; and “We work,” which embodies the highest level of content and context complexity, from multi-disciplinary expertise to multi-location and multi-technology platforms.
… Organizations can address this problem by redesigning their workspaces around the following principles:
Focus on four main activities. Employees need to have areas for concentrated work (such as unassigned individual workstations), emergent social exchange (free-flowing hallways), learning (rooms equipped with technology and tools), and collaboration (group spaces for co-creation). The key is to make sure the different types of spaces are integrated with each other and open to all, so people can freely choose where to be based on what they’re doing.
Vary the size of workspaces, and the technology with which they’re equipped. Collaborative work happens best in spaces that accommodate a group of four to eight people physically or virtually or in a larger team space with multiple small pods where people can still see each other. It’s also important to give everyone equal access to on-line and on-site information.
Provide collaborative tools. Effective collaboration involves knowledge exchange, brainstorming, the inclusion of diverse perspectives, and scenario building. Companies must therefore provide tools like whiteboards that allow employees to record ideas and create a visual, side-by-side review of alternative solutions. Such tools are key enablers helping groups reach a shared understanding faster and more effectively.
Give project teams a dedicated space. The concept of ‘distributed cognition’ suggests that thinking processes are embedded in the physical work environment. A team room can provide “cognitive space” to hold ideas and experiences. Returning to the same workspace each day, keeping meeting notes on the board, and leaving work samples and half-finished prototypes on tables between meetings can help teammates maintain a shared project mindset, sharpening their focus and speeding up the collaborative process.