Designing Work Spaces the Google Way: Driven by Data

by | Feb 26, 2013 | Usability, Web/Tech | 0 comments

After years of being among “the world’s best hermit crabs” 1 by repurposing others’ leftover bits of real estate, Google is considering building its own Googleplex “from scratch”. How to design such a space? By accumulating data, of course.

Google studied, and tried to quantify, everything about how its employees work, about what kind of spaces they wanted, about how much it mattered for certain groups to be near certain other groups, and so forth.

The layout of bent rectangles, then, emerged out of the company’s insistence on a floor plan that would maximize what [Google civil engineer David] Radcliffe called “casual collisions of the work force.” No employee in the 1.1-million-square-foot complex will be more than a two-and-a-half-minute walk from any other, according to Radcliffe. “You can’t schedule innovation,” he said. “We want to create opportunities for people to have ideas and be able to turn to others right there and say, ‘What do you think of this?’”

I made a pet project last year of digging deeply into how work spaces shape collaboration and communication in the office. I’ll be following this Google effort with interest.

  1. Cliff Claven might note that while hermit crabs famously live in second-hand shells, it’s a little known fact that having a shell that fits is deterministic: crabs in shells that are too small can’t grow as quickly as crabs that aren’t so constrained. I bet Google is aware of this.

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