LWI – Overview of Workplace Innovation / Making the Business Case Page 2

Structures, Management & Procedures Element

What about the organisational walls and ceilings that allocate people to departments, divisions, grades and professions? Do they constrain how people work together, creating separate silos that put barriers in the way of doing a good job? Or do people collaborate across different tasks to create a seamless flow of work?

Of course some demarcations may be necessary, reflecting different bodies of expertise and knowledge. But this shouldn’t lead to fragmentation: different groups within an organisation should intertwine naturally in ways that help everyone understand other people’s jobs, professions, specialisms, priorities, problems and vision.

The Austrian company inet-logistics GmbH has promoted creativity and communications by breaking down functional boundaries and designing spaces that create an alternative office culture, encouraging people to work together, share ideas and collaborate on different projects.

Colour coded zones designate silent areas for software developers, discussion zones identified by winged chairs, and communication zones with ‘ring chairs’ optimising sound for telephone calls. Movement between zones and random desk selection increase awareness of what other teams are doing and improve internal communication.

Likewise Innocent is an innovative UK company that produces smoothies, juices and vegetable pots sold in supermarkets, coffee shops and other outlets. Its success depends on a culture that values creativity, openness and the sharing of ideas at every level. Fruit Towers, the HQ in London, is spread over four open-plan floors but seating for everyone including senior management is allocated randomly. That way, everyone gets maximum visibility and interacts with people from different functions. They get a broader understanding of different roles and how Innocent works as a whole.

Nowhere is the need to erode walls and ceilings better illustrated than in the NHS. Patients with complex or long-term conditions achieve better clinical outcomes and quality of life when they are treated by multidisciplinary teams that transcend professional and departmental boundaries, rather than by separate specialists who only communicate with each other by means of the patient’s medical record.

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