Thesis

Fostering Innovation: Designing Technological Solutions to Proactively Encourage Informal Communication in the Workplace

Salzberg, S. "Fostering Innovation: Designing Technological Solutions to Proactively Encourage Informal Communication in the Workplace"

Abstract

I have designed, built, and evaluated three devices to encourage informal interactions in the workplace. Previous research has found that such interactions can lead to increased idea cross-flow, creativity, productivity, and innovation at large, though few attempts to design architectural, organizational, or technological solutions have succeeded in achieving this. I believe this is because these approaches tended to focus too much on fostering an "ambient awareness" of fellow coworkers with hopes that it would indirectly lead to increased informal interactions. My hypothesis is that proactively creating such interactions as intermediated by a smart artifact in the office space would be more effective. For this thesis, I have built two versions of a device called Food Groups, as well as another one called Media Lab Mixer; Food Groups matches coworkers up to get lunch or dinner together, while Media Lab Mixer uses game dynamics to encourage them to spend more time socializing in a common space. After an initial study, the Food Groups devices received little use and were largely ineffective at fostering informal interactions. Media Lab Mixer, however, showed greater engagement and was more effective at creating the desired results, though it did not have a lasting effect after it was removed.

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