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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Change the Room Around!

I downloaded this menu of standard meeting room layouts from a hotel where a strategic thinking session had been scheduled. Quite frankly nearly all of these layouts could be big inhibitors to innovative thinking. Put people in a conventional room arrangement, and you foster conventional thinking.

What can you do? Work with the hotel (ahead of time, ideally) to come up with a room layout that's anything but standard:

  • Avoid lines of tables & chairs, especially parallel and perpendicular to walls
  • Get round or square tables and arrange them randomly
  • Scatter work areas
  • Get a room that has way more space per person than the hotel recommends
All of these steps create a space for people to think, interact, walk around, and innovate!



Time to go a little "Dead Poets" and stand on the tables - see the world from a different place!

Anonymous said...

absolutely agree that room set up shapes experience, dynamics and the way particpants react to and interact with each other.

Anonymous said...

Our physical surroundings affect our mind. i've never thought about it but the way a meeting room is set up definitely sets the tone for the meeting! I personally think roundtables create an intimate, open, and creative atmosphere where everyone is essentially equal (who can sit at the head of a round table?). :) Thanks for posting this diagram!

Mike Brown said...

This post goes in the "You Never Know" files. It's been kicking around since November 2008 and has kept getting bumped for other content because it seemed like it would match up with a narrower audience actually doing ideation sessions.

Lo and behold, here are a number of comments, plus other comments & RTs on Twitter. Cool!!!!

I really appreciate your thoughts/tweets. It's inspired me to brush off some other posts that have been sitting around to see if they can generate the same impact! You never know.


Jeff Hurt said...

As someone who plans meetings & events for a living, I totally agree! I do unusual, learning-centric, audience focused new layouts all the time. The environment is so critical to attendees learning success.

I typically draw room layouts to scale for my venues & then check the rooms 1-2 hours b4 starting in case it's set wrong. Want to really mix it up? Rent couches, chairs and mix different tables from cocktail to rounds & even put large throw pillows & beanbag chairs in the room. Watch how people gravitate to their most comfortable & preferred style of sitting for learning.

If you're even in Chicago, visit Catalyst Ranch, one of the best venues for unusual, innovative and creative meeting spaces. I've used it for several years with great success when I plan an event in Chicago.