The key features that make for a collaborative office space:
An open plan and other design features (e.g., high-traffic staircases) that encourage accidental interactions.
More common areas than are strictly necessary—multiple cafeterias, other places to read and work that encourage workers to leave confined offices.
Emphasis on areas that hold two or more people, rather than single-occupancy offices.
Purpose-free generic “thinking” areas in open-plan spaces, which encourage workers to do their thinking in the presence of other people, rather than alone.
Ed Catmull, Cofounder of Pixar, shared with Harvard Business Review how to create a work environment that encourages creativity in everyone. The interview is long, and well worth the read, but his three main takeaways are:
Anyone can talk to anyone: Individuals from every department should have the ability to speak with each other without having to ask for permission. Keep the communication lines open so people can learn and be inspired by each other.
Everyone has ideas: Learn to give and receive feedback in a positive way on unfinished work. Early criticism provides the freedom to try new things because it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time. Ensure that every department, regardless of discipline, has the opportunity to comment.
Build subcultures: Break up formal departments by creating new ones. Pixar University offers classes for people to try a new discipline or something unrelated (like pilates or yoga). You never know what may come from a chance encounter with another department.
Barriers between people can easily spring up in any industry. Catmull warns that, “in a creative business like ours, these barriers are impediments to producing great work, and therefore we must do everything we can to tear them down.”