Table of Contents

International Perspectives on Business Innovation and Disruption in Design

International Perspectives on Business Innovation and Disruption in Design

Edited by Robert DeFillippi, Alison Rieple and Patrik Wikström

The third volume of the International Perspectives on Business Innovation and Disruption book series focuses on the role of design innovation in transforming industry practice. An international cast of scholars and practitioners examine how design innovation is impacting the creation of new business models, innovative forms of service delivery, multinational innovation practices, the role of aesthetics and psycho-spatial dynamics in fostering innovation, and the types of design capabilities found in the most innovative businesses worldwide. Theoretically, many of the chapters focus upon design thinking and conceptualize design as a user centered, empathic and participative practice that allows diverse stakeholders to creatively contribute to business innovation.

Chapter 10: The psycho-spatial dynamics of workplace designs for creative disruption

Laura H. Malinin, Alison Williams and Katharine Leigh

Subjects: business and management, knowledge management, organisational innovation, innovation and technology, knowledge management, organisational innovation


Workplace design is often driven by considerations of budget and people-to- space ratio with facilities management seen predominantly as a cost; however, organizations are beginning to recognize the ‘office space as not just an amortized asset but a strategic tool for growth’ (Waber et al., 2014). There is now an emerging perspective where the economic pressure on companies to capitalize on every square foot of floor space is embracing space’s potential to add creative value (de Paoli et al., 2013). ‘Companies are seeing real estate – and the work environments therein – as enablers of strategic action, and strive for transforming them into centers of creativity and innovation’ (Haner, 2005, p. 288). Office planning strategies, however, are largely based on current design trends with organizations rarely examining impacts on employee innovation and performance (Waber et al., 2014). In this chapter we explore the role of workplace design in supporting creative disruption. Disruption, we argue, is an integral component of team creative process providing opportunities for new (and often surprising) perspectives on creative situations to encourage innovation and potentially add value to organizations. We define it in this context as unanticipated misalignment between perceptions of a situation (by individual or team) and expectations of how the situation would (or should) be. Our primary contribution is a dynamical systems model of creativity describing the relationships between (a) disruptions (external and internal misalignments) to organizational processes; (b) group creative processes responding to those disruptions; and (c) the organization’s psycho-spatial environment with respect to workplace creativity. First, we use the theoretical framework of the disruption-empowerment model of creativity and performance to illustrate the complementary relationship between disruption and creative flow, describing team social dynamics when disruption (or perceived ability to respond to disruption) is lacking. Then, we extend the disruption-empowerment model through the concept of psycho-spatial dynamics, describing ways teams think-in- action by interacting with features and artifacts of their environment. Research in the cognitive and neuro-sciences lends empirical support for psycho-spatial dynamics and helps explain how disruption and flow are supported by different environmental settings. We then present data from the SPIRES case study examining workplace designs and identify ‘play’ as a term people commonly use to describe one key behavior driving creative disruption, promoted or inhibited through social and physical qualities of the workplace. Finally, we propose the psycho-spatial dynamics model of organizational creativity to describe how workplace designs, by providing opportunities for visual, auditory, kinesthetic and social engagement, play an instrumental role in team cognitive and behavioral processes during workplace creativity.

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