Jennifer Rice points to a Doblin Group article. The 10 types are: Business model, Networks and alliances, Enabling process, Core processes, Product performance, Product system, Service, Channel, Brand and Customer experience.
The task of the office, then, is to invite a particular kind of social interaction–the casual, nonthreatening encounter that makes it easy for relative strangers to talk to each other. Offices need the sort of social milieu that Jane Jacobs found on the sidewalks of the West Village. “It is possible in a city street neighborhood to know all kinds of people without unwelcome entanglements, without boredom, necessity for excuses, explanations, fears of giving offense, embarrassments respecting impositions or commitments, and all such paraphernalia of obligations which can accompany less limited relationships,” Jacobs wrote. If you substitute “office” for “city street neighborhood,” that sentence becomes the perfect statement of what the modern employer wants from the workplace.
To maximize the amount of contact among employees, you really ought to put the most valuable staff members in the center of the room, where the highest number of people can be within their orbit. Or, even better, put all places where people tend to congregate–the public areas–in the center, so they can draw from as many disparate parts of the company as possible. Is it any wonder that creative firms often prefer loft-style buildings, which have usable centers?
Another way to increase communication is to have as few private offices as possible. The idea is to exchange private space for public space, just as in the West Village, where residents agree to live in tiny apartments in exchange for a wealth of nearby cafs and stores and bars and parks.
A more direct approach is to create an office so flexible that the kinds of people who need to spontaneously interact can actually be brought together.
Jon Udell has an idea for RSS: institutional alerts.
My bank, for example, sends me email alerts when my checking balance falls below $500. To separate those alerts from my spam filters on the one hand, and from my interpersonal email on the other hand, I had to write a filter to catch them and route them to a folder. Many (probably most) people won’t go that extra mile. They’ll have to pluck the bank’s messages from a chaotic email stream, and will wind up missing some alerts.
The obvious alternative is a personalized RSS feed. Does anyone have this already? I’m hoping that, before the end of this year, at least one of the institutions that currently sends me email alerts will offer an RSS option.