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Be Wary of Group Think in Design Decisions

Let’s face it, we live in a group-think society. Once a supposedly new trendy concept hit’s social media and/or trade press and gains steam, it is parroted throughout our culture. The concept may not be correct, but with the constant repetition of the narrative, it becomes the defacto conventional wisdom of our day.

The design-build community is no different. As evidenced by the recent Harvard Business School study, the open office plan (the common-knowledge design axiom to increase collaboration in your workforce for the last decade) has been debunked. In the study Harvard Business School and co-author Ethan Bernstein studied two Fortune 500 companies that made the shift to an open office environment from one where workers had more privacy. Using various “sociometric” measuring tactics, the researchers found that after the organization made the move to open-plan offices, workers spent 73 percent less time in face-to-face interactions, email use rose 67 percent, and instant messaging use went up 75 percent. A second study found a similar drop in face-to-face communications and a similar increase in electronic correspondence. Thus, the collaboration that was sought, was decreased significantly.

For myself, the research just restated what was already plainly obvious. But how could the #1 office design concept of the past decade be wrong? Two words – group think. These two words, while never spoken, can infect the design decisions and planning of your new or renovated office or production facility. Remember, no one knows your business like you do, and it is the owners duty to fully educate the design team on their organization, their processes, and their goals. Ideally, this should be facilitated by the design team, but if your design-build team is unwilling to make the time or effort to do this, you should move on to a new one.

We are constantly bombarded by the design concept soup-du-jour. Whether it be the latest color pallet for your interior design or the latest organizational concept, these ideas influence your decisions. And why not? They are the latest and greatest concepts out there, right? Well yes and no. While one should always be open to new ideas to increase productivity and collaboration, they should always be viewed with a discerning eye. Challenge your design-build team to truly understand your business. Immerse them in your day-to-day processes until they become a member of your team. Only then can they understand your vision.

At the forefront of your decision-making process should be the practicality of the option in question to your specific needs and goals. These decisions need to be based on your process or your product; not on the flavor-of-the-day. When in doubt, go with your gut impulse; it is usually right.

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