How To Outperform Experts With Creative Collaboration

Great collaborative workspaces achieve a balance between social and individual needs.

Photo: Steelcase

Put an expert up against a group of non-experts working together, and who’ll come up with the better idea? You might be surprised.

Terry West, director of research at office-furniture company Steelcase, says a lone expert will produce a quick, “adequate” solution, whereas a group of average workers “will take longer … but they’ll outperform the expert every time.”

Progressive companies are reaping rewards from creative collaboration—people of different disciplines working toward a common goal. Maximizing their productivity requires a basic understanding of workplace interaction and human behaviour.

The Social/Private Balance

The best collaborative models balance group with individual work. Even the most social employees need privacy, whether to think or just to have some alone time.

Julie Barnhart-Hoffman, interior design researcher at Steelcase, believes space that’s clearly defined can help. “When I walk into a space that is zoned as a ‘library,'” she says, “the space should communicate that it’s a place for quiet and reflection. … Then when I walk into a collaboration space, it prompts me about how open and collaborative the space is going to be.”Flexibility And Choice

Standing-level tables can promote a democratic environment, as can surfaces that facilitate working side by side. Yet executives should also encourage teams to “own” their space by repurposing or customising it to their needs.

Creative collaboration represents the best way to harness employees’ collective inspiration. By configuring workspaces for both interaction and privacy, companies create the opportunity for the collaborative whole to be greater than the sum of its parts.

For more on getting the most out of creative collaboration, read Steelcase’s article “Future Focused.”

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