by Melynda S. Benlemlih, C2 Technologies, Inc.
As the new year unfolds, I’ve been thinking a lot about collaboration, innovation, and the communication required to achieve both. I’m thinking about how to make the most of time spent communicating with those around me, those I work and live with. Collaboration can be as easy as providing a space for everyone to “think out loud.” How about you? Do you find that the time you spend communicating with those around you is productive? Could it be more effective? Get better results?
In this post, we’ll explore what it takes to transform your everyday space into a space that enables brainstorming, creativity—dare I say, innovation—and, most importantly, understanding. With an investment of time, some planning, and a few dollars (or a lot!) , you can transform the way you work with colleagues, students, clients, volunteer organizations, even family members!
At C2 Technologies, Inc. we embarked on our own experiment with a Collaboration Space! We love it! And our clients love it too! We’ve hosted planning and strategy sessions, design and storyboarding sessions, with great results. We find that we get better results faster by bringing everyone together (physically and virtually—but more on that in the next post).
Here is our three-step process to creating a collaboration space:
1. Purpose: First, think about the purpose of spending time together. Do you design training or user interfaces, facilitate meetings or workshops? Do you use visual materials and encourage people to interact with each other to learn, create ideas, or plan? Do you chat with folks in the company cafeteria or break room (or wherever the proverbial “water cooler” is) and have those Ah Ha! moments when the light bulbs go on …seemingly impromptu and by chance?
2. Envision: After you have thought about the interactions you have with people around you, create a picture in your mind of what you would like the outcomes of those interactions to be…to look like. Do you envision walls full of storyboards? A company retreat or strategic planning session where everyone is sharing ideas in small groups? Or is your team planning your next project and writing out tasks and schedules on sticky notes on the wall, rearranging them when someone realizes something the group has missed.
3. Design: Too often we plan so effectively that we forget to plan in the “free thinking” space. That space, in both time and physical location, is where ideas happen, where details are remembered, where understanding occurs. It doesn’t take much: it can be as little as paint and markers, or as elaborate as moving wall partitions and modular furniture. Here are more design elements to think about:
Accessibility: Can everyone you talk with access the space? Is it located in a central room or spot?
Wall surface: We love those offices with lots of windows, but think about a wall or two to create “big thinking moments.” Think about color!
Writing surface: Large rolls of paper, sticky flipchart paper. Even better, whiteboard wall paint or boards.
Supplies: Dry erase and permanent markers, sticky notes, tape, stickers! How about Legos®, molding clay? (Okay, going too far?)
Seating: Encourage small-group discussions with clusters of a few chairs around small tables. Just cover the table with butcher paper or flipchart paper and go at it!
Save your work: Sure, you can save all those notes, but take pictures too! You’ll need them when you want to turn those big ideas into action!
Here are some pictures of an office library re-purposed into a collaboration space:
We Call It The Innovation Lab!