Relationships Work

Physical proximity doesn’t necessarily result in collaboration

Bookmarked Collaboration, Physical Proximity and Serendipitous Encounters: Avoiding collaboration in a collaborative building (

In summary, employees reduced their openness to chance by focusing on existing collaborations, avoided searching for collaborators from other groups by reinforcing group boundaries, minimized flexibility by enacting legacy policies and restricted the obligation to interact by minimizing social interactions. Together, the four strategies resulted in the outcome of avoiding collaboration because they prevented employees experiencing the mechanisms of chance, search, flexibility and the obligation to interact that in combination led to serendipitous encounters.

A building designed to be collaborative actually led people to be less collaborative because there was no adjustment to their workplace cultural values, social structure and social norming to encourage collaboration and serendipity. Here, the space wasn’t enough on its own to achieve the goal — a collaborative space alone couldn’t overcome people’s behaviors.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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