My current work lives here: Oddball Empire - Rock on.
Yes, we have snow. Like almost everybody else. The neighbors created an ice-skating track by flooding a small field. The ice is not perfect. But … it’s just perfect. People get together. The field of frozen water is just a good excuse to get out and have some fun.
It’s not that if there isn’t an ice-skating track you don’t meet. But this is just such a great opportunity. And a natural one. You don’t have to plan. You just go there. Show up. That’s it. The track is a catalyst for conversations.
Communities have more places like that. Libraries for example:
“For some, the building remains essential: engagement with the library is a ticket to – and a membership card for – a local community. Some say the building needs to be there, but not as “a warehouse of dead books”, but as a place to invent yourself, individually and socially.”
In some weird and twisted way, back in the days when I still smoked cigarettes, the smoking area in my company had a similar function for me: I was the most informed Project Manager around. I knew a lot of people that weren’t in the direct surroundings of my project. It’s not that the individuals weren’t approachable. It’s just that I am not the kind of guy that is randomly stopping people in the hallway to ask what they do.
Organizations have these natural places where people bump into each other.
Coffee corner. Lunch room. Places where you experience that you are part of a certain group, just by having the same rhythm. “Hey, we drink coffee in the same pace!”
Architects can actually design these places.
The best we can do is recognize the opportunities. Or make use of social objects:
“For a while I had a bowling bag to carry my papers and other work related stuff. I bought it, because everybody else was carrying the same black Samsonite briefcase. The bag was blue with white letters and oddly shaped. Colleagues and clients would say something about it. Complementing me on my fine exquisite taste. Making fun of my stupid bag.
The bowling bag created engagement. A conversation starter. Something to trigger a spontaneous moment of interaction. And never in a negative mood. The plastic bag from the supermarket I carried around for months after that triggered some different comments though.”
Image by Frau Shrink.