Inspiration: Work Environments

From time to time I would like to share with you all things that are inspiring us here at Campfire Apps. I can’t promise how regularly you will see posts like this, but I definitely want to take time to share what motivates and inspires us every once in a while.

This week I have been flooded with information about work environments. Actually, I guess it started a few weeks ago when we attended the 360iDev Conference in Denver. One of the morning general sessions was a talk given by David Whatley entitled “Can You Really Make an iPhone Game When No One Has to Show Up to Work?” This whole talk was aimed at shedding light on the workplace management system that David had recently began using with his employees. This system is called ROWE, or, Results Only Work Environment. The type of work environment is based on the fact that employees are evaluated on “performance, not presence” (directly from the ROWE website). Whatley shared interviews with his employees on the value of their ROWE environment and the responses were incredible! Everyone was so happy and content, and actually, they were more productive than before.

So the take-away from that session really stuck with me. Being a former teacher, even though this sounds pretty close to what we should want from students (great results) it’s very far from any environment I have ever worked in. It just seemed so simple, but sort of profound.

This weekend, in doing some blog reading and catching up, I came across this article called “What Schools Can Learn from Google, IDEO, and Pixar“. The article looks at the work environments of these big name companies and proposes ways that schools can use the same approaches when creating environments for students.

Pixar's open, spacious, work environment

This article was so inspiring and eye-opening. It left me with lots of “What if…” types of thoughts and “Isn’t that the way it should be?” types of feelings. The article focuses on play and creativity as driving forces behind innovation and the ways that these three companies have kept that in mind and designed work environments to foster those attributes. Their workspaces have been inspired by lessons from childhood. The article states, “In many ways, what makes the Googles of the world exceptional begins in the childhood classroom — an embrace of creativity, play, and collaboration.” So why, then, do you find less and less opportunities for creativity, playing, and collaborating in our schools?

Pixar’s building layout was designed to create “forced collisions of people” according to Steve Jobs, because “the best meetings were meetings that happened spontaneously in the hallway.” Here in these spaces you can have people from all different areas of expertise meeting to collaborate on something potentially amazing. An environment like this offers opportunities for photographers, designers, developers, writers, and many others to see one another and meet one another and have conversations about the projects where they may be able to offer something. What if schools were designed this way, classwork that overlapped so that students were able to work together on projects across the disciplines? What if schools created a culture focused on design thinking and interdisciplinary projects instead of individual independently addressed subjects?

I have read this article over and over this week. I can’t get enough of it, actually. It just makes so much sense. There’s not a lot from the article that I can apply to my real-life situation as it is right now, it’s just my husband and I on a daily basis, but this has given me lots to think about regardless. The last thing I want to share from this article is a video about a school, High Tech High. This school focuses its curriculum on interdisciplinary project based learning, and the resulting environment seems pretty amazing. I can only dream that I went to a school like this. Again, this was completely inspiring to me.

To quote the authors of the article, “It is time to re-imagine and invest in schools and spaces ripe for creativity and cross-pollination.” I couldn’t have said it any better myself. What about you all, have you encountered any inspiring work environments? School environments?

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3 Responses to “Inspiration: Work Environments”

  1. Tracy Conway September 28, 2011 at 2:31 am #

    I worked for a startup magazine in West Virginia years ago. It was a small operation but I think what I appreciated about it most was everyone was involved in all aspects of the magazine, so I was getting design recommendations from the salesman, which weren’t always great ideas, but at least the environment was conducive to allowing their opinions to be heard.

  2. Vicki September 28, 2011 at 4:45 am #

    I agree, there is no reason why our type of “creative work” (and yes I mean programming too!) should be measured by hours. It is just the results that matter, and making it more fun makes our completed products a better quality.

    The elementary school I went to was a Montessori school, and one thing sticks with me from those days: I never realized I was “learning” anything. I was just having fun. They put you in an environment where you like to do things and explore life.

    That is how the best work environments are, I think: they encourage play, and creativity. They make it fun to work hard, to see what your efforts can create.

    Anyway. I like the whole “forced collisions” workplace design concept from Pixar – it would be so nice if I could just run into my friends and say “By the way, what do you think of this?”


  1. Bringing Technology into the Classroom, Part 1 | Campfire Apps - October 3, 2011

    [...] the curriculum” I couldn’t help but think of the post that I wrote last week about work environments which discussed students working in interdisciplinary, project-based learning environments. Other [...]

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