Robert Wright for NYTimes.com, March 6, 2013

I visited ?!WhatIf Innovation Partners’ NYC office yesterday, an innovation consultancy whose space has been written up in the NYTimes section more than once. For those of us wishing for a workplace revolution that fosters greater creativity and innovation, I offer up this short list of principles observed in their native habitat:

– Room to move: open seating and a variety of seating areas compel staff to move around during the day encouraging spontaneous conversations, sharing, collaboration on many levels.
– Show and tell: recent work is communicated visually, through slide printouts hung around the office to keep everyone up to date and spawn conversation and commentary.
– Stimulus Shelf: ?!WhatIfers are encouraged to collect and share interesting consumer goods they find on a series of shelving where colleagues can view and play with them.
– Location: ?!WhatIf’s NY office space is located in a residential neighborhood in which staffers are interacting with locals at every level: out the window, you’re more likely to see laundry on the line than a glass façade or a bunch of suits.

?!WhatIf will be the first to admit that an innovative space can’t be foist upon those who work there. It’s an organic process that grew out of discussions about what makes for a creative office culture. The NYTime’s article from which the top image is taken is entitiled, “In defense of Collisions in the Office“, a great title because, in fact, you can’t walk down the hall without making eye contact with someone coming from the other direction. The company does everything to prevent silos and promote collaboration and knowledge sharing through space. I couldn’t help noticing that the kitchen is huge: and if you want coffee, you have to go there, to the first floor to get it. And water. And snacks.

On the sustainability side of the equation, ?!WhatIf’s office uses 33% of what would be allocated per employee if they had opted for a more traditional lay out of designated space per staffer.