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No proof that working in the office makes you more creative

by on28 June 2021

Harvard Business School rules out management fantasy

The belief that companies are more likely to be innovative if they drag employees into the office to hear managers use phrases like “kick the ball running” and “paradigm shift” in endless meetings has been dismissed by Harvard Business school.

The innovation argument is being touted by Apple’s Tim Cook as a reason to drag his employees back into the office after the pandemic.

Cook said: “Innovation isn't always a planned activity. It's bumping into each other over the course of the day and advancing an idea you just had."

JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon, said working from home "doesn't work for spontaneous idea generation, it doesn't work for culture".

Harvard Business School Professor Ethan S. Bernstein has warned that there was no evidence that working in person is essential for creativity and collaboration. It may even hurt innovation, they say, because the demand for doing office work at a prescribed time and place is a big reason the American workplace has been inhospitable for many people.

"There's credibility behind the argument that if you put people in spaces where they are likely to collide with one another, they are likely to have a conversation, But is that conversation likely to be helpful for innovation, creativity, useful at all for what an organisation hopes people would talk about? There, there is almost no data whatsoever. All of this suggests to me that the idea of random serendipity being productive is more fairy tale than reality", he said.

Professor Bernstein found that contemporary open offices led to 70 percent fewer face-to-face interactions. People didn't find it helpful to have so many spontaneous conversations, so they wore headphones and avoided one another.


Last modified on 28 June 2021
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