Serendipity implies things happening due to forces beyond your control. Yes, but no. You can create serendipity in your workplace through office design.
I read Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, and a story that stuck for me was his involvement in the design of his offices. He demanded only one toilet block for the entire office, and that it be in the atrium. He wanted serendipitous meetings to occur between people who would not otherwise collide and connect.
Where’s The Washroom?
At a recent knowledge share session at work, I asked 30 colleagues where they would place the kitchen and washrooms for a blank canvas office. I found it instructive that half went for centrality, and half for extremity. A few went for the entranceway. I wonder if this reflects their individual collaborative style?
In our current office, spread over 3 floors, we have 3 kitchens and 6 washrooms – one M/F for each floor, each on opposite sides of the floor plan.
There is a very straightforward consequence of this: I bump into men from my floor fairly regularly; women from my floor less so; men and women from the other floors rarely. My conversational (and learning?) pattern is influenced accordingly.
The kitchen on my floor has the best coffee machine, and the most seating, so I get to see more people than those on the other floors. Such are the influences on how work (sometimes) gets done.
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