As the nature of work changes, particularly in the information industry, the traditional workplace is increasingly unsuited to the elements essential to work-life in the 21st century. The industrial model which has dictated the structure of organizations in the last century, partitioned work-life into roles, tasks, functions, and departments. This horizontal division of work was also vertically reflected in a hierarchical separation which saw the chief executive’s office occupy the top floor of the skyscraper.
Business leaders who see the value (make that the necessity) for deeply collaborative work are designing space and schedules to accommodate that vital collaboration… to take advantage of new interactive and collaborative possibilities.
Walter Isaacson describes how “Steve Jobs, despite his autocratic nature, insisted that the people around the table hash out issues from various vantages and the perspectives of different departments.” He quotes Jobs himself as saying, “Our method was to develop integrated products and that meant our process had to be integrated and collaborative.”
The description of the planning of the Pixar building shows the essence of 21st century work shaping the structure of the workplace. Jobs believed that creativity came from “spontaneous meetings” and “random discussions.” The design of the building affected the pooling and flow of people. It opened areas up to mingling and interaction among employees from different projects.
“If a building doesn’t encourage that, you’ll lose a lot of innovation and the magic that’s sparked by serendipity,” Jobs said.
John Lasseter, animator and chief creative officer at Pixar, had wanted a traditional studio with separate buildings and bungalows. “Steve’s theory worked from day one,” he later recalled. “I’ve never seen a building that promoted collaboration and creativity as well as this one.”
What implications do these trends have for the structure of school life and learning communities in terms of space and schedules? What might be modified in the way district work-life is structured to take advantage of the new interactive and collaborative possibilities?
For that matter, in what ways does MyBudgetFile create digital space for interaction and collaboration where separate budget bungalows have traditionally existed?
Note: Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson… an important biography and an insightful perspective on 21st century transformations in the world of work.