desklessness and mindlessness

From Valley firms ditch desks to cut costs “Freeing workers from their cubicles has been touted for at […]

From Valley firms ditch desks to cut costs

“Freeing workers from their cubicles has been touted for at least two decades as a way to cut corporate real estate costs. Now, spurred by the sluggish economy and new technology, some of Silicon Valley’s biggest firms seem to be taking the advice seriously….
The noise of shared work spaces bothers many people, while others regard offices as status symbols. Some can’t get any work done without a regular place to sit.”

I’ve sat in open spaces, and cubes. I’ve never have had the pleasure of an office, but I can easily imagine the productivity it would provide… if I was an individual contributor. As it is, I’m a manager, and I don’t sit at my desk much. When I do, I love eavesdropping on the conversations around me. Tom Wailes, who sits next to me, and I have poked a hole in between our cubes, and have dozens of impromptu conferences a day about what’s going on in Search.

But if I was trying to do an architecture, or design an interface, this open and communal enviroment would be hell. As it is if I have to write a presentation, or do some thinking, I have to go home, find a conference room or take a walk on the nearby hill. Only part of design is collabortive; the other part is interanl. how can a space support both?

Open spaces encourage collaboration, but they smoother thinking. Perhaps it’s cube culture that has led us to a culture of copying… altavista copies google copies google copies microsoft copies aol copies yahoo…. expedia copies yahoo travel copies travelocity copies expedia… wells fargo copies bank of america copies wachovia copies wells fargo…. I’m sure you have your nemesis who you copy (instructed to, perhaps, but still.)

Perhaps simply finding a place quiet to sit and think a few days in a row would allow someone to come up with more original ideas. Then again, it also might only foster self-referential product design.

At least this article concentrates on the reality of seating arrangements– it’s about cost reduction, not about creativity enhancement. I guess I wonder what that easily measured savings in floorspace and electricity costs them in a loss in strategic advantage?


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  1. 1
    David Locke

    I remember when I was in the Air Force going into a building to go to a particular desk, so I could pick up the equipment. Well, the room I had to enter was the size of three football fields side by side. The room across the hall was the same size.

    There were no cubes. Just desks as far as the eye can see.

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