It is workplace (too) that makes us exchange information and knowledge

Submitted by Isto Huvila on Wed, 10/08/2014 - 15:10

Harvard Business review published recently an interesting piece by Ben Waber, Jennifer Magnolfi and Greg Lindsay on Workspaces That Move People. The authors describe and discuss a number of examples of new types of workplaces that make people to interact with each other, unexpectedly to bump into other people and to break the routine. Authors discuss concepts of real-time office, permeable office, office networks, office neighbourhoods, office-as-a-service and new guilds. 

The fundamental observation of the authors on the crucial influence of the workplace setting is easy to agree with when thinking about the plethora of workplaces I have visited and studied. Archeological site and its configuration and how people are placed in the space have an impact on what archaeologists observe and how, and how they document their observation and consequently, what we know about the past. The same applies to public and private organisations. The most common source of information is the people sitting next to you and depending on where and how he or she is available, influences our possibilities to interact with him/her.

The observation is highly actual also with students and studying as I recently discussed in a presentation on how students conceptualise their courses (abstract in Swedish) at the NU2014 conference in Umeå. The ways how courses and programmes are organised in the space and place have a major impact on how students conceptualise their learning and interaction with others including fellow students and their teachers, coaches, facilitators and advisors. Instead of trying to make people not to think their physical surroundings there is much to do in designing workplaces that afford particular types of work and knowledge and information exchange as Waber et al. aptly describe.