Reimaging Learning Spaces: Learning-Centric Office Environments

This blog is part of a series on reimagining learning spaces. Check out the other parts: Can Restaurants Stimulate Our Curiosity and Our Taste Buds? and Makerspaces & Private-Public Partnerships.

Open office seating encourages employees to meet and mingle.

We envisioned a space for Nimble Technologies, a company devoted to artificial-intelligence (AI) software—and to L3 Learning. Nimble Tech’s two overall guiding principles were imagined to be: 1) “A great idea can come from anyone”; and 2) “Everyone is a learner and a teacher.”

As we imagined this company’s headquarters, every design decision was influenced by the belief that collaboration and curiosity power learning. In fact, the entire Nimble Tech space was designed for flexibility and for multimedia. It was also specifically designed to bring people together, whether for planned team brainstorming ses­sions or serendipitous encounters. With this concept, it’s almost as if you can’t work alone. (There are individual workstations in the Nimble Tech concept, but they’re clearly not the priority.)

The imagined leaders of Nimble Tech know that the up-and-coming work forces of Gen Z and Gen Alpha demand open, coopera­tive environments that can be configured to the needs of the moment and then easily and quickly reconfigured yet again for a different need an hour later. Whatever project a team is working on, and whatever phase that project is in, there is an appropriate space at Nimble Tech.

Visit most corporate offices and you’ll see a standard layout, such as meeting rooms, kitchens and restrooms in the middle of the space, ringed by offices and workstations. The Nimble Tech idea takes a very different approach, in keeping with their learning-centric goals.

Individual workstations are basically positioned in the corners of the space, virtually forcing employees to meet and mingle in be­tween, facilitating that “cross-pollination” so important to innovation. Food stations are also placed throughout the space to encourage even more mingling, chatting and idea-sharing.

“Teaching pits” are multimedia-equipped and designed to accommodate large-group demonstrations and experiments.

Most of the Nimble Tech space is devoted to small-group col­laboration and play. Yes, play. The company understands that play not only frees the mind, stimulates ideas and reduces stress, but it can also strengthen the bond between colleagues and make for more effective teams.

One of the most intriguing imagined features at Nimble Tech is the “teaching pits.” These are mini theaters, of sorts, in which a “teacher” can share his or her wisdom while the “students” sit casually in one of three comfortable rows. The room is multimedia-equipped, and the teaching zone is large enough to accommodate demonstra­tions, experiments, group exercises and the like.

For companies truly interested in creating a learning culture, a space like Nimble Tech’s isn’t so much a nice-to-have as a must-have.

This content was originally published in our book “9 Billion Schools: Why the World Needs Lifelong, Personalized Learning for All.” Stay tuned for more in our series about reimagining learning spaces! 

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