Unpacking creative spaces: desk diversity

"Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success." - Henry Ford

There is an old adage that says two heads are better than one. Consider some of the great leaders and collaborators in the software industry: Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (founders of Apple), Bill Gates and Paul Allen (founders of Microsoft), or even Larry Page and Sergey Brin (founders of Google).

Collaboration isn't a new idea, but in the tech industry, high levels of collaboration are essential for delivery and collaboration is often at the heart of how companies like ourselves see the world.

As those ideas have cascaded outward, evolving and picking up new ideas along the way, the focus on high levels of more Agile collaboration is fundamentally changing the way companies work and behave - introducing radical new techniques, frameworks and approaches. Many organisations have adopted software development practices like pair programming, for example, and adapted them for non-technical teams - capitalising on the benefits and value that they bring in terms of rapid learning, communication, and continuous improvement.

Desk Diversity: creativity via shared workspace

Given my points above, it will be no surprise that collaboration is a key part of our working culture at TAB, and one of the key drivers of how we collaborate comes down to our effective use of our workspace - even if it means sharing our own desks. Whether we are developing products for clients or embedding internal ways of working, the way we collaborate plays a fundamental part in our creative and development process.

In this blog post, I want to draw upon some of my thoughts and ideas around how you can increase collaboration through different variations of workspace for your own teams, with a few scenarios and examples below. 

1. Laptop-heavy office? Time to change it up

If you work in an office environment where laptops are everywhere, don’t be afraid to change things up - especially when working in cross-functional teams. Remember, you’re untethered, so move around! Pair up with a designer, software architect, or product owner. Build a creative space for yourself - as and when you need to!

2. Desktops and iMacs? Share your screen

When you are constrained by having a computer that is way too heavy to move - i.e a desktop or an iMac - why not think about sharing your screen? In many Agile practices, for example, pair programming (where one person codes and the other reviews) plays a big part in collaboration. Why not apply that to any part of the team? Pair test or pair design? Or, why not go completely left field and pair test and design? This is a great way to increase collaboration, and enables learning, fresh thinking, unexpected viewpoints, and the evolution of ideas.

3. Exploring your thinking? Don't forget to go analogue

Awash with productivity and collaboration tools, sometimes, it's good to go back to basics. Why not try a whiteboard desk? These are great for brainstorming ideas, sketching out solutions and planning. If you are brave enough, you could even try liquid pens for writing on glass surfaces - remember to think about how you can use the space around you to be creative.

4. Need complete focus? Time to enter the war room

Every now and then, teams need space to focus to foster the creativity needed to bring about that ‘Eureka!’ moment - especially when under time pressures. So why not make camp in a meeting room, transforming it into a team ‘war room’? Something we do all the time at TAB, across every team - from product teams to marketing, HR to new business. Being in one space as a team dramatically helps with collaboration, collective thinking, and trust building - helping to achieve amazing outcomes in often short spaces of time. And that's not to mention it can be a lot of good fun building relationships and team culture.

A quick tip...

Working in modern offices or studios today is not about owning a particular desk, but having access to the right kind of facilities for achieving awesome, high value work. This might be a desk, or a quiet space in the corner of the office - or even a touchdown area. When teams and individuals help redesign the way they work, they start to understand the trade-offs, while developing a range of adaptable workspaces is key to achieving more flexibility and better outcomes.

If you have any questions regarding Agile space and working walls, tweet me @ctohanian, and watch this space for a closer look at free furniture. This post is also featured on The App Business blog, check it out and subscribe to our TAB Updates.