As the new year unfolds, think about making the most of time spent communicating with those around you, those you work and live with. It can be as easy as providing a space for everyone to "think out loud". In this post, we'll explore what it takes to transform your everyday space into a space that enables brainstorming, creativity, dare I say, innovation, and most importantly understanding. With an investment of time, some planning, and a few (or a lot of!) dollars, you can transform the way you work with colleagues, students, clients, volunteer organizations, even family members!
Purpose: First, think about what the purpose of spending time together. Do you facilitate training sessions, design sessions, or workshops, where you use visual materials and encourage people to interact with each other to learn, create ideas or plan? Do you chat with folks in the company cafeteria or break room (or wherever the perverbial "water cooler" is) and have those Ah Ha! moments when the lightbulbs go off...seemingly impromptu and by chance? Are you at home with kids, significant other, friends and neighbors and want to really hear what's going on with everybody, plan time together, or just keep up with everyone's schedules?
Envision: After you have thought about the interactions you have with the people around you, create a picture in your mind about what you would like the outcomes of those interactions to be...to look like. Do you envision a company retreat or strategic planing session where everyone is sharing and planning out ideas, working at tables in small groups? Or your team is planning your next project or event and writing out tasks and schedules on sticky notes on the wall, rearranging them when someone realizes something the group has missed? Or you are at home, going over your kid's practice schedules, your work or travel schedule, those special events you are afraid to forget...get it on the wall for everyone to see. What are we missing? What's most important? What has to give? Who did we forget? Buster's vet appoitment! Better get the dog's appointment on there too!
Design: Too often we plan so effectively that we forget to plan in the "free thinking" space. That space, in both time and physical location, is where ideas happen, where details are remembered, where understanding occurs. It doesn't take much. As little as paint and markers to as elaborate as moving wall partitions and modular furniture. Think about:
Accessibility: Can everyone you talk with access the space? Is it located in a central room or spot?
Wall surface: We love those offices with lots of windows, but think about a wall or two to create ‘big thinking moments’. Think about color!
Writing surface: Large paper, sticky flip chart paper works. Even better, white board wall paint or boards (or chalk board paint if that is more to your liking!).
Writing supplies: Dry erase markers, sticky notes, tape, stickers!
Seating: Encourage small group discussions with clusters of a few chairs around small tables. At home, around the kitchen table works. Just cover the table with butcher paper or flip chart paper and go at it!
Save your work: Sure, you can save all those notes, but take pictures too! You'll need them when you want to turn those big ideas into action!
Here are some before and after pictures of an office library repurposed into a collaboration space:
We call it The Innovation Lab!
Learn more about creating a collaboration space and find tools, supplies and more ideas at
Share your story of creating a collaboration space!