Anyone familiar with the very successful AMC series Mad Men will know what I mean when I talk about 1960s office architecture. Uniform floors stretching from the heart in the middle (with the central organs like elevators and receptions) to the lower management employees in the next ring, ending at the windows where the real white-collar workers were seated in their closed offices. And the real important managers usually inhabited the squares of each floor.
It seems to make sense, providing prominent managers with the best spots near the window. Yet not according to the world-renowned scholar Richard Florida. In The Rise of the Creative Class (2012) he explains that a worse office architecture is almost unthinkable, especially in our modern economy.
Creative work today is almost necessarily co-creative work. Co-creation can take the form of crowdsourcing (Malone et al., 2010), but Saarijävi et al. (2013) argue that co-creation is a hard concept to grasp. The question is for whom, by whom and with what, which sort of value is in fact created. According to Florida (2012) one thing is clear: co-creation can be improved through architecture.
Why are the offices of the Mad Men era no longer suitable? First, because no interaction takes place. According to Florida, in almost all cases all interaction at work takes place with the people seated close to you. Closed manager’s office rooms, located far away from one another, kill every potential for co-creation. In fact, the design should be the opposite. Place the important creative minds in the middle of the floor and push the supporting activities to the sides.
While typing this, I suddenly realized that the same thing might be happening on a larger scale. Why is co-creation so in vogue at the moment? Florida (2011) talks about the reinvention of old city centers, that are quickly becoming hipster neighborhoods with gigantic economic potential. Importance is shifting back from twentieth century suburbs to city centers. Are cities larger illustrations of the office floor theory?
Forbes Magazine (“Why Co-Creation Is the Future for All of Us”, 2014) claims that co-creation is essential to solving the problems of our time. If that is the case – and inner cities enhance co-creation – than the re-discovery of inner cities is more important than ever. Despite internet, social media and globalization – phenomena tremendously important to co-creation – this would suggest that co-creation is perhaps not as foot-loose as has always been assumed. Perhaps co-creation only thrives in a co-location.
- “Why Co-Creation Is the Future for All of Us”, (2014, April 2). Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com
- Florida, R. (2011). The Great Reset. How the post-crash economy will change the way we live and work. New York: Harper.
- Florida, R. (2012). The Rise of the Creative Class, Revisited. (2nd ed.). New York: Basic Books.
- Malone, Thomas W., Robert Laubacher, and Chrysanthos Dellarocas. “The Collective Intelligence Genome.” MIT Sloan Management Review 51.3 (2010): 21-31.
- Saarijärvi, Hannu, P. K. Kannan, and Hannu Kuusela. “Value co-creation: theoretical approaches and practical implications.” European Business Review 25.1 (2013): 6-19.