Thinking Spaces: the good, the bad (& the totally mad)

I’m getting more and more interested in how physical environments influence how people think. I see this every other week doing talks, sometimes in good venues, sometimes in bad. I also get to see the impact of different types of physical space on workshop outputs on a fairly regualr basis. Takeaway? Not enough thought (or budget) is given to where people think, both individually and collectively.

Some recent examples:

Picture 1 (above): Windowless training room inside a company in the Middle East. Perfectly standard room, nothing wrong with it in a sense. But in no way inspirational.

Picture 2 (below): Same building, but the view from a rest area 10 metres outside the training room. An expansive view seems to open the minds of people to future possibilities in my experience.

Picture 3 (below): Windowless basement at a panel discussion that I attended for some architects of all people. You’d think these, of all people, might be thinking about this.

Picture 4 (below): A view, natural light and fresh air at Imperial College. Decor a bit old fashioned, but I’ve seen far worse.

Picture 5 (below): Another basement (at Imperial College). I’m still not a fan of basements, but this one worked quite well because of natural light simulation that changed by time of day. The colour white can work well too.

Picture 6 (below): This was a great venue. A private room in an historic pub close to Canary Wharf. Water again!

Maddest venue? I once organised a workshop on a boat (HMS President on the River Thames). It worked a treat, partly, I think, because we weren’t on land, but we weren’t really on the water either (it didn’t go anywhere). There was movement (the river plus the tide) and a slight rocking motion, although that might have been the wine. Weird, but it worked.

PS…always use tables with round edges. Never square tables!

The answer is in the cards

As regular readers will know, I’m a fan of using cards as a way of pushing peoples’ thinking along. I developed a set for KPMG (above) many years ago and another based on Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategy cards with Imperial Tech Foresight a few years back too (see below). Nick Turner at Stratforma uses the format too. Here’s another lovely example, as described by Paul Armstrong on the Forbes blog.

Forbes article.