Food for thought…and collaboration! Googlelicious!

A few years ago, when designing our kitchen, my partner and I wanted to create a space where people came together, not just to eat our delicious food but also to part of the cooking experience. We wanted a space where we could talk, eat, drink, debate and be in each other’s presence.

The designer was finding it hard to translate the vision into reality but after some heated debate and challenge from both parts we got there…

Should organisations create such spaces for their employees to come together? If so, what benefits would they expect to see, other than just “we have the coolest canteen in the world”?

Everyone’s favorite search engine, Google, did just that. We’re all used to seeing and hearing about their cool funky work environment. After all, Culture and Climate are vital to their innovation, as Stephan Thoma, Google’s Director of Learning & Development pointed our this morning during his  CIPD HRD 2013 session on “Nurturing Creativity and Learning in the Workplace”.

Google however, took it one step further. In addition to their cool funky workspace, lots of colour and radical design (an HES Officer’s worst nightmare), they introduced FOOD! Not just food but great tasting, varied, FREE food! “Food is a place to bring people together” said Stephan.

Just like me and my partner, Google wants their “Googlers” – we simply call ours “friends” – to come together in this space over something that is important to them (and us) all – Food.

So, if you’re going to create this space in your organization, find out what brings people together, and what you want to get out of it.  For Google collaboration and team work are critical  and they use this spaced to do exactly that – promote dialogue, discussion, collaboration and learning.

What is important to your organization now and in the future and what spaces are you going to create to encourage and promote that “thing” you want?

I’m not suggesting everyone should follow Google or start offering free food. Do whatever work for your organization.  As Stephan said: “I’m not going to share best practices as it may not work for everyone”

More importantly, are you ready to fight for the space and climate you want, as we did with our designer or just settle for any “ magnolia kitchen/canteen space”?

Of course Stephan didn’t just talk about food – there was also reference to their “non-hierarchical and process free approach”, yet he referred to his boss’s boss and an overcomplicated performance management process.  Contradictory? Food for thought perhaps…

Want to know more about Stephan’s presentation? Have a look at Doug Shaw’s blog post this morning “Creativity and Learning –  the Google Way”  Doug summed it up nicely J

Oh, and there was something else too –  “Learning on the Loo”…yes, at Google there is something called “ Learning on the loo” (some people call it reading the paper). Even there, they “bring people together”.