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BioCommunique Article

The Science of Workplace Collaboration – a thought leadership breakfast hosted by Cultura, Haworth and the Biocom Purchasing Group

The Science of Workplace Collaboration

  • 2018-11-08T03:11:00.000+0000
  • San Diego
  • Author: Mandy Yeganegi

On Wednesday, October 10th, Biocom members joined endorsed Biocom Purchasing Group suppliers, Cultura and Haworth, for a thought leadership breakfast on "The Science of Workplace Collaboration", presented by, Dr. Gabor Nagy of Haworth’s research team. Dr. Nagy focuses on client advisory engagements targeting innovation, collaboration and organizational culture to develop high performing workplaces.

His research has investigated how to best design for focus work, how to accommodate for various generational differences, how workers’ health and well-being affects organizational performance, and how national and organizational cultures affect workplace design. He has also conducted global research on how organizations can leverage corporate co-working as innovation driver.

During the presentation, Dr. Nagy explored the ways we can measure face-to-face collaboration through high-technology, big data and organizational network analysis techniques. Such analyses can reveal how work actually gets done, and how groups or departments are connected, contrary to formal organizational charts. This presentation also addressed a concept called 'innovation potential," where looking at network attributes can reveal a groups' potential for innovative strategy in enterprise development.

Some key takeaways from Dr. Nagy’s research presentation:

  • The sum of individual performance is not necessarily equal to organizational performance
  • Quantifying collaboration involves analyzing organizational performance, innovation potential and space configuration
  • 60-90% of face-to-face interaction at a workplace is non-verbal
  • The evolution of the "Kevin Bacon" game identifying connections has decreased from 7 to 5 due to growing social networks
  • An org's "collaboration rate" can determine innovation potential based on an algorithm derived from a function of an org’s size, density & centrality
  • According to meeting cluster detection and heat maps, you want things farther away in an office.
    • It’s healthier, and the odds of bumping into coworkers are more likely, enabling more idea sharing and essentially, increasing innovation
  • Innovation is ‘connecting the dots’ and finding and then filling the structural gaps in an organization
  • “Propinquity” is the tendency to have more ties with those you’re geographically closer.
    • There are long term effects of separating an organization by floors
    • “Projects get more funding because they're on the same floor as the executives making the decisions”

Dr. Nagy and his team have identified a few principles to keep in mind if your company is interested in exploring corporate co-working.

Be clear about your goals at the outset. Is it a Trojan horse for corporate culture, a cross-firm skunkwork, or a public branding exercise and serendipity engine? This decision will drive every facet of the project going forward, including participants, design, sponsorship, and ROI.

Community managers are the key to success. Hire carefully at the outset, involve them at every step of the design and recruitment process, and give them broad latitude in shaping the culture and programming of the space. Your project will likely fail without a strong community manager, and learning how their role could scale elsewhere in the organization is an incredible opportunity.

Don’t overthink the design. Focus less on foosball or Ping-Pong tables, and more on good overall layout principles. Co-locate teams in adjoining spaces for easy conversations; centralize amenities such as kitchens to increase serendipitous encounters (yes, even the unplanned can be planned for!). Empower users to make the space their own, and cut through red tape during construction — no one wants to spend nine months in just another project team room.

For more information and help on your upcoming move or space planning project, visit or feel free to email me at