Open Space, Culture and Creating Collisions

I’ve said it before – I just don’t agree with this trend for an open office. It’s unproductive.

This article in Inc. Magazine, talks about Tony Hsieh and his comments on collisions, serendipity, or whatever. It’s a way to force people to interact with one-another by forcing them to enter, leave, or go to the bathroom by taking a different route past someone’s desk. Usually the desk of an individual with which they don’t have anything relevant to discuss – thus creating a collision that is, in my world, a disruption.

Or worse, a real annoyance. There’s got to be some balance here.

I don’t believe in collisions – you either have something to say to someone – or you don’t. Creating collisions it is like going to a mixer to find a date. That isn’t serendipity. It’s pre-meditated.

Although one comment in his article horrified me about Zappos – they lock all but one entrance, so they create collisions. I’m thinking that Mr. Hsieh made a misstatement. At least I hope so.

Anyway, serendipity is, in my book, a moment that cannot be contrived. Most people simply aren’t going to talk to one-another unless there is some compelling reason, like, “Wow Zach, that fedora really goes with those crocs.” 

At some point we just walk past a coworker, exchange ‘hi’s’ and head to the kitchen or kegerator.

I think the bottom line of what Mr. Hsieh is saying is – if you put people in close proximity to one-another, they will interact. Yep, I get that. And rebuilding our city core can create an awesome environment for serendipity. He wows me with what he has taken on.

I give him props for working to build another Austin or Portland, because I love them both - great creative cities. Heck, I grew up in Portland and I get it.

But please, unlock the doors and let me concentrate – because serendipity has occupied all the ‘quiet’ rooms.