Web conferencing connects geographically dispersed teams. Image: ©Slyworks Photography
architecture really matter?
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socializing as a way of getting closer to
that eureka moment.
While chance encounters and informal
conversations often inspire innovation, collaboration in science is structured. In their
study on the impact of collaboration on
scientific productivity, citing a paper written by Beaver and Rosen in 1978, Bozeman
and Lee noted over half of the motives for
collaboration were related to the practical desire to enhance productivity. There
are intangibles associated with any team
endeavor that contribute to its success.
Jerry Hirschberg coined the term “
creative abrasion” while leading design teams
at Nissan. His theory was the friction and
messiness of mixing a highly creative,
talented and passionate team produced a
far more refined and perfected product in
less time. One motive I think Beaver and
Rosen missed in 1978 was shared passion
for an idea. Ultimately, we want to find
something that will make people’s lives
better and/or make some money.
WHAT ARE THE MAGIC INGREDIENTS FOR
FORGING THESE RELATIONSHIPS?
A 2012 Univ. of Michigan study led by
Jason Owen-Smith examined the relationship between office and lab locations,
and the associated walking patterns to
establish whether proximity promotes
collaboration. They found 100 ft of
zonal overlap increased collaborations
and funding by over 20%, and scientists
were more likely to meet face-to-face
and engage in unscheduled, impromptu
A more recent National Academies
study on “Team Science,” identifies five
beneficial features to achieving scientific
and translational goals: high diversity of
membership, deep knowledge integration,
permeable boundaries, geographic dispersion of team members and high task
Gensler’s design research, “How does
space drive innovation?”, roughly cor-
relates with the findings of the Academy.
Our research team of Cindy Coleman,
Mandy Graham, Tom Mulhern and
Amanda Ramos found places that support
• Interrupt siloed structures to create
stronger knowledge networks.
• Build awareness between people and
departments to better support the productive flow of ideas.
• Consider proximity between people and groups to support planned and
• Create connections that increase
communication and encourage the active
sharing of information.
WHAT WILL THE FUTURE BRING?
The scientific workplace has already
changed as a result of technology.
According to our 2014 study on factors
that will have a high-level impact on the
future of real estate, 77.8% of the CRE
respondents believed changing business
models would have a high-level impact. As
the home, the commute, the coffee shop
and the workplace convene, our traditional notions of what collaboration looks like
are being subverted by the lifestyle we have
created for ourselves through urbanism,
mobile technology and global awareness.
We Work has already started to disrupt
how small businesses see real estate. A Fast
Company top 50 Innovator, their model
brings together all the resources startups
need through a seamlessly integrated
physical and digital workplace package.
“Members” can use physical space and
book conference rooms in any city, and
take advantage of shared human resources,
benefits and payroll services. The physical
space and administrative benefits pale
compared to the “community of creators,”
a virtual network of members that serves
as part internal B2B for collaboration, part
In more established organizations,
social networking software like Facebook,
Jive and Yammer are increasingly connecting teams through a convenient and
familiar interface. Connectivity has broadened the reach of networks for research
collaborations beyond organizational and
disciplinary boundaries, and spans oceans
and continents. Software companies are
taking note of the interest in mobile platforms that securely combine social media
with software that makes exchanging ideas
and information easy.
Reliable video conferencing and Web
meeting technology is a major contributor
to connecting geographically dispersed
teams and, in some cases, is even making it
to the bench. Halo and Telepresence rooms
are already connecting geographically dispersed teams in large organizations, and
as the technology becomes less novel and
more affordable, will also connect them
with their partners in higher-education
and institutional settings.
Automation of lab processes has enabled
scientists to test ideas at a faster pace than
any time in our history. A single scientist
today can process more samples than
whole labs produced in the not-so-distant
past. The amount of data that automation
produces, however, far out paces the speed
scientists can analyze and interpret it.
Bioinformatics has grown from emerging
trend to ubiquity in just a decade. While
automated software is being developed
to get ahead of the data avalanche, screen
technology has been making impres-