With the growing use of tools enabling collaboration at a distance, it’s easy to forget the value of same-room collaboration and the role of the physical workplace environment. Environment—both physical and virtual-- is one of the Ten Cultural Elements of Collaboration that I identify in The Culture of Collaboration book.
It’s essential to bring collaborative capabilities to people so that collaboration becomes integrated with work styles. Forcing people to walk down the hall or go someplace to collaborate falls short. Therefore, it may seem counter-intuitive that dedicated collaborative spaces not only enhance collaboration, but also are crucial components of collaborative organizations.
Our research at The Culture of Collaboration® Institute shows that the most collaborative organizations integrate dedicated collaborative spaces into work flow. The distinction is that these physical spaces are by no means the primary means of organizational collaboration. In some cases, dedicated collaborative spaces bridge physical and virtual environments by including geographically-dispersed team members through telepresence or videoconferencing.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to explore one such dedicated collaborative space. From the outside, Kaiser Permanente’s Sidney R. Garfield Health Care Innovation Center looks like a warehouse. In fact, it’s a former check processing center in an industrial park in San Leandro, California. On the inside, the Garfield Center is anything but ordinary. The future of healthcare delivery is unfolding in this 37-thousand square foot laboratory. The Garfield Center includes multiple environments ranging from patient room prototypes to homes outfitted with monitoring and telemedicine technologies.
There are lots of gee-whiz technologies and environments including a concept operating room in which researchers are testing tools including augmented virtual reality. But what’s most significant about the Garfield Center is that people from across Kaiser regardless of level, role or region come together to brainstorm, innovate and collaborate. Doctors and nurses partner with architects and technologists to create prototypes for patient care in this “touchdown location for innovation work” as Sherry Fry, operations specialist for the Center, describes it. Anybody at Kaiser can use the facility as long as the activity is interdisciplinary. “The Garfield Center has become synonymous with innovation at Kaiser,” notes Dr. Yan Chow, associate director of innovation and advanced technology for Kaiser Permanente.
In developing the 3-year-old Garfield Center, Kaiser researchers studied models outside healthcare, notably the McDonald’s Innovation Center near Chicago. Kaiser also studied Mayo Clinic's S.P.A.R.C. unit, which I describe in my book. S.P.A.R.C. stands for See Plan Act Refine Communicate. Through S.P.A.R.C., Mayo assembles cross-functional collaborators to conduct live prototyping of healthcare service delivery.
The value of dedicated collaborative spaces is that they help break down barriers among silos. As doctors engage architects and facilities people brainstorm with technologists, ideas become prototypes which ultimately deliver measurable value.