David Attenborough meets office design


Have you've ever watched a corporate drama unfold in the office? I can hear David Attenborough's melodic tones in my head as he tells us about the mating ritual of the (insert name of exotic species). Think about this famous naturalist watching on as a senior executive fights back when told he won't have an office in the next refurbishment. The naturalist is examining plants and animals - in our losing-the-office-scenario, we are interested in the behaviour of people in the office environment.

 Here we are making a cross over to anthropology, but just as the naturalist does, I think we need to be paying particular attention to the environment in which people behave. What similar 'expert' roles can we think of here? A corporate anthropologist is looking at the behaviour of people culturally in the organisation. A corporate psychologist thinks more about the individual. An environmental psychologist should span the behaviour of individual and groups within the organisation. In each step to another role, the idea of the context - the natural 'setting' for activity in the organisation, for business, changes to something else.

Now lets add an architect as observer to the situation. She might see an opportunity to shift the design of the built environment to one which would be more acceptable. An HR manager might wonder how a perceived change of status is handled within the frame of conditions of service (real or implied). A project manager might just want the decision accepted, after all, the lease is running out and the new one has no space.

My point is, at what point, since we don't have the full range of 'experts' involved, do we say that we have enough observations to make a decision and move on? How many naturalists or anthropologists do we need to have and do they understand the realities of the operating environment? Which are the best roles? Is the intent to observe the natural environment and its inhabitants in order to better manage? I think so. Love to hear your thoughts.