The Coffee House Work Environment

August 12th, 2011 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on The Coffee House Work Environment

Every company needs good ideas. And good ideas need the right environment in order to incubate. In the video below, Steven Johnson (who writes about the intersection of science, technology and personal experience) makes the case that our work environments should be designed much like a coffee house, where folks can congregate, chat, bounce ideas around, and engage each other in relaxed conversation. Historically, places like this have been breeding grounds for some of the most creative and useful innovations of our time. Mr. Johnson refutes the notion that most good ideas come from a “light bulb” moment or from an epiphany, as we are often led to believe. He argues that most really good ideas come into being like a soup that’s been stewing all day with lots of different ingredients constantly being added.

This makes sense. Most ideas come about from a hunch. And in a group we have a collaboration of hunches that when brought together can generate an exciting, dynamic and innovative idea. It’s typically the moment when all of those hunches come together and we recognize how they form the idea that we call it an epiphany, but the ingredients of the idea came from several different sources who didn’t have the entirety of the thought, but had a sliver that was crucial to make the idea whole.

Too often we try to organize our work environments, making them extraordinarily efficient, thinking that we’re creating an environment that moves our company forward. And while there is no doubt that chaos does not win the day, and we need organized environments, we also need to be careful that we’re not so set up for efficiency of operations, that we bury our true asset of innovation – great ideas. We could all probably loosen up our work environments a bit, at least to the degree that we enhance our capacity for interactions. Let the ideas flow. Don’t be afraid of conversation! The best ideas come about from straying off topic. It’s an outdated notion that conversation is what goes on in between working, or even worse, that it’s what keeps us from getting our jobs done. Conversation breeds innovation. And innovation is what makes your company a leader.

Enjoy the video and have a great weekend.