Hyperactive groupie meet anxious loner

First, some facts. 70% of us work in open plan offices. However, 60% of us say we’re more creative in private environments. But then, once we’re in these quiet places, 30% of us choose to collaborate.


Here’s more. Open plan offices reduce personal interaction by 70% and increase email communication by 20%. We can see each other and hear each other, but we choose not to.

The trouble with facts is that they aren’t very illuminating. But let’s dig a bit deeper.

If you ever did a Myers Briggs personality test, you’ll know that you and your colleagues don’t share the same psychological characteristics. You’re INFJ, he’s ESTJ and she’s ISFP. The differences explain their odd behaviour. But that’s about all.

So, is there a more useful way to get the best from people?

A few years ago, creativity researcher Mark Runco, ethnographer Lizbet Simmons and data visualiser David Gurman (and later, ecologist Eric Berlow) developed a new way to understand creative minds. They identified 20 behaviour dimensions and then mapped the creative habits of 500 people from diverse backgrounds (artists, chefs, scientists, magicians, entrepreneurs) against each of these.

What they found were clusters of behaviour that linked people with little in common as far as careers go.

So, one cluster might be described as kinetic, multi-tasking, late night, perfectionist, self-confident doers.

What could you do with this information? Well, for starters, you could assemble a team of people with similar creative styles but diverse backgrounds in a brainstorming session or a project team that was high energy and tactile, that took place at night and addressed multiple tasks.

If in the recruitment field, you could incorporate this methodology into your candidate vetting process to find the very best fit.

If in the in-house training or education field, you could personalise curricula and course delivery to suit each personality type.

Another way you could use this is to design a better office. If you understand every team member’s creative style, you’ll know which of them thrive in a buzzy convivial space and which of them work best in peace and quiet.

Science is telling us that open plan offices don’t work as intended. The problem mightn’t be with the concept but with the people we force to work in it.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon via Unsplash

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