Here's Why Office Layout Was So Important To Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs of Apple, Next, and Pixar IllustrationMike Nudelman/Business InsiderSteve Jobs’ attention to detail didn’t just apply to gadgets.

Anyone who’s heard even a little bit about Steve Jobs and Apple already knows that attention to detail is extremely important. That mindset is very evident in the way Apple designs its products.

But what you may not realise is that Jobs held the layout of his work place’s office to the same level of detail, Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson writes in his new book “The Innovators: How A Group Of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution.”

When he designed a new headquarters for Pixar, Jobs obsessed over how the atrium should should be structured, Isaacson wrote. Jobs was very particular about where the bathrooms were placed in Pixar’s office because he wanted “serendipitous personal encounters” to occur.

Isaacson posted a specific passage from the book on LinkedIn, detailing why office layouts were so crucial for Jobs and other executives. One of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s first moves in the role, as Isaacson pointed out, was to discourage employees from working remotely.

The general point that Isaacson is trying to illustrate is that many influential companies, from Apple to Yahoo to Bell Labs, realised that bringing different types of people with various skill sets together on a daily is important for growth.

Here’s how Isaacson explains their rationale in his book:

Even though the Internet provided a tool for virtual and distant collaborations, another lesson of digital-age innovation is that, now as in the past, physical proximity is beneficial. The most productive teams were those that brought together people with a wide array of specialties. Bell Labs was a classic example. In its long corridors in suburban New Jersey, there were theoretical physicists, experimentalists, material scientists, engineers, a few businessmen, and even some telephone-pole climbers with grease under their fingernails. Walter Brattain, an experimentalist, and John Bardeen, a theorist, shared a workspace, like a librettist and a composer sharing a piano bench, so they could perform a call-and-response all day about how to manipulate silicon to make what became the first transistor.

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