Human friction

The most creative spaces are those which hurl us together.
It is the human friction that makes the sparks.

This comes from an article in the January 30, 2012 New Yorker (I’m actually not behind in my magazine reading … just random) called “Groupthink.” The question for me has been: how does this happen when our virtual work environments keep us largely online and on Skype rather than face-to-face?

Urban theorist Jane Jacobs and Steve Jobs both recognized the importance of physical proximity and chance meetings leading to incidental conversations known as knowledge spillovers. Whether it’s walking in a neighbourhood full of front porches to the local shops or running into a colleague at the only set of bathrooms in the Pixar atrium, they both recognized that people need to randomly run into each other.

Ironically, both Jabobs and Jobs worked hard at creating intentional spaces for random spontaneity—places where people had to run into each other and let their ideas rub around. Some of the most exciting developments of our time have come about through chance conversations.

I’ve worked almost entirely virtually since 2000. While Skype has been a tremendous boon to maintaining conversations and connections around the world and across the country, it’s not enough. It’s why I am so drawn to good facilitation. A well-planned gathering is like a Jane Jacobs neighbourhood—a well-laid out space and process that opens the door to constructive group think.

Conversations may happen by chance, but not the environment that creates the random pathways that draw the most creative of ideas out of people’s heads. That’s the point of a well planned meeting for organizations whose people aren’t rubbing up against each other on a daily basis.

Let Kabisa help you plan your next gathering. We’ll get some sparks flying!