Productive Workplace: Design Mindset Spaces

The design mindset is the latest skill in our series on the future productive workplace.

Sometimes the simplest words are the most problematic to define; design is one of those words. It is used as a verb and a noun; on it carries 17 different definitions.

To try and get an understanding people use a quotation by the art director and graphic designer Paul Rand:

Design is the method of putting form and content together. Design, just as art, has multiple definitions; there is no single definition. Design can be art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that’s why it is so complicated.

Steve Jobs is also quoted:

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

Mindset is perhaps a little easier to define as:

The established set of attitudes held by someone.

In other words, a mindset is a way of thinking, so perhaps design thinking is a better phrase, partly because its use has increased in recent years:

If you go to the design thinking article on Wikipedia you get this definition:

Design thinking has come to be defined as combining empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality in analysing and fitting various solutions to the problem context.

(You’ll also notice that the Wikipedia design thinking article has a number of issues flagged against it)

One of the leading proponents of design thinking are the at Stanford University. They talk about design thinking as a process which moves iteratively through: empathise, define, ideate, prototype, test.

No process would be complete without a set of methods to make it work and they have define many, including: brainstorming, storytelling, why-how ladders, point-of-view madlib and empathy maps, to name a few.

(If you are interested in design thinking the makes a 90 minute crash course freely available)

You might like to take a few seconds to look around the space as it was in 2009:

Does that look anything like the place where you normally work?

New methods clearly need new types of spaces, but what are the characteristics of those places?

There are multiple different pieces of research about the impact of a space on the way that people behave in relation to creativity alone.

One study, for instance, highlights the impact of a messy desk:

Working at a clean and prim desk may promote healthy eating, generosity, and conventionality, according to new research. But, the research also shows that a messy desk may confer its own benefits, promoting creative thinking and stimulating new ideas.

Tidy Desk or Messy Desk? Each Has Its Benefits

Another study points to ceiling height having an impact:

“When a person is in a space with a 10-foot ceiling, they will tend to think more freely, more abstractly,” said Meyers-Levy. “They might process more abstract connections between objects in a room, whereas a person in a room with an 8-foot ceiling will be more likely to focus on specifics.”

Ceiling height can affect how a person thinks, feels and acts

The effect of the environment on all of our other senses has an impact to.

We’ve now discussed many space types each enabling different methods for enabling: sense-making to social intelligencenovel and adaptive thinking to computational thinkingnew-media literacy to trans-disciplinarity working. Some of them requiring similar spaces, but some needing quite different space. The question is, how do these all fit together into a working space? What would a design thinking approach to that problem be?

One of the trends in building design in recent years is known as Activity Based Working (ABW). Activity Based Working designs many different activity spaces into an environment where people can work in a way that is ideal for what they are doing, rather than creating a set of identical personal spaces where people always work. These are predominantly flexible shared spaces. That change in working is one of the things the GlaxoSmithKline were looking for when they redesigned their headquarters:

Some video’s you might find interesting:

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