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Chance encounters: Where do they take place and what is the benefit?

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Abstract

Buildings facilitate or inhibit physical movement and also foster or hinder communicat. The designof a building influences the interactions between the employees and thus supports ohinders the flow ofinformation. Therefore it enhances the trust between the employees, promotes the coordinationof work, facilitates projects within an organization and supports knowledgtransfer and knowledge creation. All of thesefactors are particularly essential for innovatidriven research oriented companies. Places where chanceencounters and discussions can take place are crucial for communication between employees. By creating suchplaces in a thought-out manner, creativity and innovation activities can be increased. Based on a single casestudy research, we examined the behavior of the members of a research team (n=20) before and after moingfrom a traditional cell space research and work environment into a modern multi-space research environment. Onthe one hand, we tried to determine where creative ideas come from and on the other hand, we explored theevents and places where chance encounters occur. In this context, chance encounters were defned ascoincidental meetings between people who do not work in the same research group. The results show that newideas in a research environment emerge from an iterative process: both discussions between researchers anddeep individual reflection are important for innovative ideas. Chance encounters mostly occur during coffeebreaks or lunch. The new multi-space work environment has led to more chance encounters, because first, theemployees use the same infrastructure and second, the walking paths of the employees intersect more and lastbut not least, the employees are often forced to pass by the infrastructure used by the employees of otherresearch groups. The findings imply that a stimulating work environment provides both an area for the employeesto be social and spontaneously engage in unplannedmeetings and an area where they can retreat, be alone andconcentrate. The design of research buildings and workplaces is a significant factor in increasing chanceencounters. But architecture alone is not enough. The proposed framework is a useful tool for businessprofessionals like knowledge managers, innovation managers or architects when designing a creativity andinnovation promoting environment.

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