Jonah Lehrer on the value of hurling people together told through a story of MIT’s Building 20 [referred to by MIT people as “the magic incubator”]:
The lesson of Building 20 is that when the composition of the group is right — enough people with different perspectives running into one another in unpredictable ways — the group dynamic will take care of itself. All these errant discussions add up. In fact, they may even be the most essential part of the creative process. Although such conversations will occasionally be unpleasant — not everyone is always in the mood for small talk or criticism — that doesn’t mean that they can be avoided. The most creative spaces are those which hurl us together. It is the human friction that makes the sparks.
Southwest at Carnegie Mellon, you can tour around the still-new Mack Scogin-designed computer science buildings. Surely, you’ll find heaps of zinc and glass, pathways haphazard and intentional. For me, one thing has stayed with me: the offices have unexpectedly large doors. It turns out that when the architects were interviewing future users, they found that meetings often took place from the office doorways. Drivebys. Unplanned conversations. So how could the environment encourage them? Apparently, something as simple as making space for spontaneity.