While it’s possible to innovate in isolation, the majority of people choose to work in enterprises whose very scale can be a barrier to peer-to-peer collaboration.

Innovation can only emerge after collaboration has taken place, so strategies to encourage collaboration should be implemented too overcome these challenges.

Many of the executives I advise honestly still believe that collaboration can be delivered via ‘ideas meetings’, by dedicating a specific physical location or by purchasing funky furniture. Wrong, wrong, wrong!

I have analysed research from leading design consultancies, academic institutions and large organisations and distilled their conclusions into six actionable take-aways that can be applied to any enterprise.

Tip 1 remember the thirty metre rule

MIT researchers discovered that two people in the same enterprise who sat over thirty metres apart were only as likely to collaborate as if they were located in different buildings or cities. Within the thirty metre range, those closest to each other collaborate more than those further away.

Takeaway

Consider moving to concentric seating patterns rather than a longitudinal ones to minimise average physical distance between employees.

Tip 2 physical objects obstruct collaboration

Research suggests that eighty per cent of collaboration is unplanned and that the majority of these un-planned collaborations happen when one person can physically see another person is available to speak.

Businesses which try to schedule time for collaboration are simply misunderstanding the unstructured nature of these interactions.

Takeaway

Cubicals and opaque walls interrupt lines of sight and make these unplanned collaborations significantly less likely to occur. Consider introducing glass divisions and stripping out cubicals.

Tip 3 people don’t use ‘collaboration zones’

The consensus of a number of office ‘traffic pattern’ studies is that employees collaborate most in hallways or at workstation entrances. They generally do not collaborate in kitchens or around printers – especially if it’s in the line of sight of a senior executive’s office.

Layouts with a defined central path through clustered workstations offer the best opportunity for collaboration and maze-like configurations of cubicles the least.

Takeaway

Consider locating printers and water fountains along a defined open central corridor to maximise collaboration.

To read the other three go to www.garethpryce.co.uk

This article is published in collaboration with LinkedIn. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Gareth Pryce is a Management Consultant: Digital Engagement & Strategy.

Image: A couple walk past “Filament Lamp”, an art work installation. REUTERS/Jason Lee