Espacios Creativos

Ahora mismo estoy combinando dos lecturas bien diferentes. Por un lado, Wise Man's Fears de Patrick Rothfuss, un libraco de ficción que no me puedo llevar a todos lados, y el que nos ocupa, mas manejable, donde se analiza los diversos procesos por los que las ideas surgen. Aunque en momentos se puede hacer algo engorroso, estoy disfrutando de la lectura enormemente, y este pasaje en especial me ha parecido de lo mas interesante, así que he decidido compartirlo por aquí.

Dunbar's generative conference room meetings remind us that the physical architecture of our work environments can have a transformative effect on the quality of our ideas. The quickest way to freeze a liquid network is to stuff people into private offices behind closed doors, which is one reason so many Web-era companies have designed their work environmerits around common spaces where casual mingling and interdepartmental chatter happens without any formal planning. (In a New Yorker essay, Malcolm Gladwell wonderfully described this trend as the West Village-ification of the corporate office.) The idea, of course, is to strike the right balance between order and chaos. Inspired by the early hype about telecommuting, the advertising agency TBWA/Chiat/Day experimented with a "nonterritorial" office where desks and cubicles were jettisoned, along with the private offices: employees had no fixed location in the office and were encouraged to cluster in new, ad hoc configurations with their colleagues depending on that day's projects. By all accounts, it was a colossal failure, precisely because it traded excessive order for excessive chaos.

Slightly less ambitious open-office plans have grown increasingly unfashionable in recent years, for one compelling reason: people don't like to work in them. To work in an open office is to work exclusively in public, which turns out to have just as many drawbacks as working entirely in your private lab. A better model might be MIT's legendary Building 20, the temporary structure built during World Wár II that somehow managed to last fifty-five years, in part because it had an extraordinary track record for cultivatng both breakthrough ideas and organizations like Noam Chomsky's linguistics department, Bose Acoustics, and the Digital Equipment Corporation. As MIT wrote in a press release commemorating the building's remarkable history: "Not assigned to any one school, department, or center, it seems to always have had space for the beginning project, the graduate student's experiment, the interdisciplinary research center."

The magic of Building 20, powerfully eulogized ni Stewart Brand's How Buildings Learn, lay in the balance the environment struck between order and chaos. There were walls and doors and offices, as in most academic buildings. But the structure's temporary origins —it was originally built with the expectation that it would be torn down alter five years- meant that those structures could be reconfigured with little bureaucratic fuss, as new ideas created new purposes for the space.

Because they are fixed physicail structures, most offices have a natural tendency to disrupt liquid networks of information. They themselves are, quite literally, made out of solids, and they often map out the conceptual solid of a formal org chart, with its neatly defined departments and hierarchies. Building 20 resisted those calcifying forces for a simple reason: it was built on the cheap, which meant its residents had no qualms about tearing down a wall punching a hole in the ceiling to adapt the space to a new idea. But architects and interior designers are learning how to build work environments that facilitate liquid networks in more permanent structures.

In Novrrnber of 2007, Microsoft opened the doors to the new Redmond, Washington—based headquarters of its research division: Building 99. Created by a Microsoft designer named Martha Clarkson after deep collaboration with the tinkerers and multidisciplinarians of the research division, Building 99 was created from the ground up to be reinvented by the unpredictable flow of collaboration and inspiration. Al the office spaces are modular, with walls that can be easily reconfigured to match the needs of the employees. Larger "situation rooms" house groups working on high-priority projects, with a mix of private workstations, conference tables, and sofas. Most walls are write-on/wipe-off, so if inspiration hits on the way to the restroom, you can quickly sketch out an idea for your colleagues to see. The traditional kitchenette with a coffeepot and refrigerator is replaced by open "mixer stations" where employees gather to share ideas or gossip. In a sense, Clarkson built the watercoolers first, and then designed an office building around them.

Two decades ago, the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi proposed the concept of "flow" to describe the internal state of energized focus that characterizes the min at its most prodnctive. It's a lovely metaphor, precisely because it suggests the essential fluidity that good ideas so often need. Flow is not the singular intensity of focusing "like a laser," as we often say. And it is not the miraculous illumination of a sudden brainstorm. Rather, it is more the feeling of drifting along a stream, being carried in a clear direction, but still tossed in surprising ways by the eddies and whirls of moving water.

But standing in the atrium of Building 99, it's impossible not to think that this space was designed to conjure up a different kind of flow: the collective flow of energized minds forming liqnid networks in their mixing spaces and situation rooms. Building 99 -like Building 20 before it— is a space that sees information spillover as feature, not a flaw. It is designed to leak. In this, it shares some core values with the liquid networks of dense cities. No, a closed oflice at one of the world's richest corporations will never have the open-ended collisions and vitality that a city sidewaik has. But those are extreme points on a continuum. What is important in a structnre lie Building 99 is what it has learned about flow from those urban environments, and from temporary structures like Building 20. A corporate office building will never re-create fourteenth-century Genoa, or even twentieth-century Greenwich Village. But office design is moving in that direction, away from the crystal palaces of Organization Man, with their corner offices and anonymous cubicles. And with that increased fluidity —all those new ideas jostling against each other, in rooms expanding and contracting to meet their needs— it's not hard to imagine the space generating a reliable Flow of innovation in the years to come. Exploring the adjacent possible can be as simple as opening a door. But sometimes you need to move a wall.

--- Extracto del libro "Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation" de Steven Johnson.

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