Shake It Up: Creating Collaborative Spaces

Lifts are small spaces. Maybe that’s why we look at anything in the confined environment but each other. If not our phone, then it’s the floor numbers as the lift climbs, the ads on the screen, the emergency number we hope we never have to call or our shoes.

Ever been in a lift when the person standing in front turns around and faces ‘the wrong way’? Maybe you’ve done it.

It’s disruption in action. Lo-fi and high impact.

It usually starts a conversation. A welcome one for some, uncomfortable for others. It has definitely shaken things up. It opened up the possibility for connection and interaction in an otherwise quiet lift ride – because it’s unexpected. What do we not expect when we walk into a space that we are getting together to collaborate? How about:

  • Empty space

  • No tables

  • Drawing materials and paper

  • Music

  • Chairs facing the ‘wrong way’, like the disruptor in the lift.

The physical space affects collaboration as much as the people in it. It’s amazing how a tweak to the space can impact on our expectations if we walk into a room with no tables and the chairs set up in any way but lines facing a wall or a stage.

“No tables?” Some gulp, faltering at the door and wondering where we put our ‘stuff’. (Why do we bring so much ‘stuff’? A topic for another blog). If I had a dollar for everyone who has ever asked me that, I’d have enough to get coffees for a year.

“Where will I write?” Use wall space, flip chart stands, clipboards or the floor to write, draw or document.

If a group usually faces one way, turn the chairs around.

If there’s a huge table in the room, go somewhere else. Go outside.

Is the group expecting a workshop? Lead a walkshop.


Don’t let the space derail all the preparation you’ve done – on purpose, structure, who is in the room and the content they might need.

Shake it up. In the words of legendary American street photographer, Garry Winogrand:

“If I saw something in my viewfinder that looked familiar to me, I would do something to shake it up.”  

If your projects or partnerships are feeling a bit ‘familiar’ how might you shake things up a bit?

I love talking about collaboration. Get in touch here if you do too. If you like this blog, please sign up to get it weekly .