I was home for Thanksgiving break last Tuesday through Sunday.  On Sunday morning I came downstairs for breakfast and the kitchen table was covered in sections of the Star-Ledger newspaper.   I passed the table with no intent to pick up any of it to read, but one headline caught my eye.  It read, “Thinking outside the cubicle”.  If you know me, then you know I immediately picked it up and read the article.

It discussed the redesign of Siemens Financial Services’ offices.  They rid the office of cubicles, replacing them with low, opaque glass walls to separate working spaces.  They also added an open kitchen, informal meeting rooms, and couches to promote interaction among co-workers.

Part of the deal is that employees are not assigned a permanent desk.  At the end of the day they must pack up their papers and personal belongings and put them into a locker and the next day set up shop again at a different desk.  One of the employees that the article references is one that says this is the most difficult part about it [the new office redesign] is packing up and moving desks each day.  I think it would be quite difficult and even irksome.  But I also think it forces employees to reorganize and reprioritize their daily tasks and that would foster efficiency.

I always thought I’d never end up in an office job because I have a strong aversion to pantyhose and cubicles, but maybe now I don’t have to rule it out with these new designs that foster the collaboration and human interaction that I value so much.

I remember watching a TED talk a while ago about the way we design school buildings and office spaces.  It was given by someone who studied nature and the way animals interact within it.  What she and her team of researchers found was basically that animals socialize and work together to live a better life.  She suggested that school buildings should be designed with this in mind.  For example, more spaces for face-to-face interaction to promote collaboration and therefore better learning.

I think that this is a wonderful idea considering the problems we face as a country and as a world.  Can you imagine how much more efficient we would all be in solving problems if we were more adept at talking and listening to one another?  Perhaps the collaboration in our early years due to the designs of schools would cause us to have skills such as the ability to compromise when we are older.  I think most people would agree that would aid us greatly politically as a country and also in our personal lives.

Design can change behavior.  That is probably one of the most exciting things I’ve learned this Thanksgiving vacation.  I think in the back of my brain I knew that to be true, but realizing what those words mean gets me excited.  The implications of those words not only give me faith for our future as a country and a world, but also for the rest of us on a micro-level.  Move your furniture, exercise your body, take a new route to work—to put it simply, if something’s not working, redesign it.