Established companies hope interaction will spark collaboration
Taking a page from start-ups, some established companies are opting to share their workspaces.
In downtown Grand Rapids, Mich., workers from five large employers, including furniture maker Steelcase Inc., SCS +0.87% shoe company Wolverine Worldwide Inc. and food retailer Meijer Inc., share an open, lofty space in a recently developed building.
Employees are urged to wander from floor to floor, bounce ideas off one another and test out new products in the hope that such informal interactions will help spark collaboration, solve problems and generate new ideas.In some cases, companies are renting desks in co-working spaces, with an idea that workers from different companies, and with different skill sets, can complement one another. Some companies are also turning to shared workspaces as a way to save money on pricey leases or to house employees in areas where they don’t have other corporate offices.
While some companies say these co-working initiatives are too young to point to new products created from intercompany mingling, managers add the practice can help inject older firms with a start-up mentality and bring in new talent.
Initially popular among start-ups and freelance workers, co-working spaces are gaining traction among bigger employers who want their staff to cross-pollinate, or interact with employees from other firms.
“What’s appealing to the big businesses is they want to be near the places where the start-ups are,” says Steve King, a partner at Emergent Research, which researches workplace issues.
When workers are stuck on a tough problem, working outside of the office can help, Mr. Ware says. “Sometimes that change of scenery encourages you to think differently and that’s what we want.”
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Copyright © 2012 Dow Jones & Company. All rights reserved Rachel Emma Silverman. “Looking for ideas in shared workspaces.” The Wall Street Journal. Mar 20,12. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303812904577293853649106414.html