Open Space And My Quest To Buy A Book From Barnes & Noble

Click on the image to go to BuzzFeed and read  24 Reasons Your Open-Plan Office Sucks.

Click on the image to go to BuzzFeed and read 24 Reasons Your Open-Plan Office Sucks.

Yesterday I wrote a [meandering] post about moving people around in an agency in the effort to encourage collaboration with folks you probably see every day, but you usually don’t talk to.

The logic is that more collaboration and creativity will spark if you engage in spontaneous conversation with someone you’ve seen around the place, but just don’t chat with regularly.

Then, in the midst of searching for just the right photo for my post, I got caught up in another topic that gripes me and it is the concept of Open Space – via a lovely piece in the National Post about a book called Cubed and how the lame concept of no walls fails to make anyone more collaborative.

Sorry for the tossed salad of topics yesterday. So to clarify: 1.) moving people around is dumb and a waste of time; and 2.) open space is worse.

So today is about Open Space – and a couple other things.

There’s nothing like reading something that validates one’s opinion (based on having actually experienced it, mind you) in a respected journalistic setting. And Canadian to boot.

As I said yesterday, yes I actually had to listen to a coordinator explain Fireball shots to her mom over the phone. I had work to get done. I only wish I could have been in on the call because this woman just wasn’t gettin’ the whole gist of Fireball shots.

I wanted to crawl through that iPhone and say, “Fireball is cinnamon-flavored whisky – that’s a form of alcohol, honey, you drink it in one gulp – and by the way, you’re making me crazy. Understand fast because this call is OVER.”

But I didn’t. I did what every other person in any Open Space Agency does. Put on headphones, logged into Pandora and listened to Tom Petty.

By the way, Fireball is Canadian too.

Barnes & Noble Tangent

So, I read the article, I went online and ordered the book to pick up at my local Barnes & Noble. I planned to read as much as possible last night and wow you with enhanced knowledge, but alas, my $17.38 purchase came through, confirmed via text, that the price in store is actually $26.95.

Oh, mon dieu. I went to B&N, asked for my book at the counter and said, “I have a question.” The clerk responded immediately with, “We charge the full price, not online price” . . . as she put the book back on the shelf. They have my name, email address and phone number. Good Job. I retraced my online steps, and sure enough, missed it. The real price was there in the final step. I was just so thrilled to validate everything I know about Open Space I was blinded.

So I came home and ordered Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace from Amazon, free shipping and it was even cheaper than B&N - $17.04. Ha!

Back to Open Space The Saga

Since I didn’t read-up on everything I know to be evil and true about Open Space, I’ll share some of the highlights of the article.

About cubes

“The irony of the cubicle is that it was designed to save workers from the kind of chaos of what was essentially an open-plan setup,” Mr. Saval said in an interview . . .

About the return of Open Space

“The first time it’s tragedy, the second time it’s farce,” [Saval] said of this concept, which was prone to complaints about noise and distraction. “They’re repeating the same mistakes they made in the 1950s when the Germans introduced the more open flexible landscape. It’s sort of silly that that’s happening… there’s some dishonesty and bad faith in it. It’s obviously cheaper to cram more people into less space.”

The problem with Open Space is that everything is a distraction. Collaboration happens either in meeting rooms or collaboration spaces – which are usually booked – or off-site at Coffee Bean (okay, Starbucks too).

So why build all those meeting areas and collaboration spaces when you can just create real office space so people can get work done? As my experience in an old-fashioned agency back in the ‘90s clearly demonstrated – everyone had an office. With a door. And there was constant collaboration going on within those offices. Just because an individual has an office doesn’t mean he or she is going to sit in there and work alone. It’s just not the nature of the agency business. We collaborate and then we get some alone time.

We need that time alone. Great creative ideas do emerge when we can just sit and ponder on the problem. Awesome solutions don’t happen when you’re distracted by your desk-mate getting their voicemail on the speaker phone. As noted in the heavily commented piece in the New York Times, “Headphones are the new wall.”

There is one thing worse than Open Space. That’s hotelling. I’ve done that too. Bad idea devised by cheap bastards.

Bottom line, it’s either management’s brilliant idea to create serendipity, or an effort to cut the cost of overhead. Perhaps it’s one in disguise of the other. Creepy.

But you know, we still get the work done anyway.

Hooray for you guys! Now let’s shove-off with some Tom Petty – who isn’t Canadian.