I’ve recently witnessed serendipitous meetings that have resulted in some great stuff — from programming enhancements to new innovations. Parallel to this I’ve been looking at facility designs and studying those that bear the qualities organizations like ours look for in layout and purpose. Steve Jobs was instrumental in the design of Pixar (cool pics of their space here) and intentionally allowed for serendipitous engagement between employees with vast common areas.
Can spaces on purpose catalyze the behaviors we are seeking?
Not my specialty, but I believe so — even coffee shops are now being furnished with large shared family style tables. Hard not to interact seated at one of those tables, even an introvert like me has to elicit greetings and pleasantries. It’s also why in Arizona I’d escape the confines of my office and would work at Gangplank (link here) in Chandler where I learned a great deal, developed new and executable ideas and made friends for life.
So we have spaces leading to serendipitous moments as leaders we too can engineer such moments. This may just be the future of networking — the “be a helper, connector, worker-of-the-room, igniter, supporter, endorser, grower” practice we’re often told we do wrong or not enough. As leaders it can be as simple as bringing staff from different areas together to tackle an organizational challenge that falls outside of their regular purview.
Engineering serendipity — spaces are doing it, time for leaders to do it.