Imagine you’re tasked with designing a new educational space. It could be a kindergarten classroom, or maybe it’s a common area for an inner-city community college. Money is at this point no object (it is a hypothetical situation, after all). What do you see?
Large open spaces? Bright and airy and filled with clusters of seating and tables that foster and promote innovative thinking and collaborative idea generation? Smooth, organic surfaces and materials that feed the imagination? Maybe a fountain or a waterfall creating a gentle background white noise?
I think that’s what most people see. That’s the sort of space in which real, innovative and creative thinking can occur.
Or does it? In an environment of plenty do the seeds of new ideas plant themselves and grow into the mighty ideas they could be, or do ideas eat too quickly, grow sedentary, and eventually die of excess?
I’d argue that real innovative thinking doesn’t happen in environments that are too nourishing to such pursuits. I think that real, powerful innovative thinking happens in environments where every thought must fight tooth and nail with its peers to find purchase and drag itself above the fray, where the light can feed it and start making it stronger. Truly great ideas are born of necessity.
I’d wager more great ideas have been created in crowded classrooms and labs where there’s no air conditioning than have ever been incubated in chic open concept collaboration spaces.
I sure like those open spaces, especially ones with water features. Water features promote peaceful contemplation. I wonder how many great innovations were born in peaceful contemplation.