I am at my most creative when I’m in the same room with other people and we are bouncing ideas around. There’s a compounding effect that takes place. One person says something and that then triggers a new idea. I find the whole experience very rewarding and, for me, it’s a reminder that creativity can be a process. It is also a reminder that proximity is important for those of us who have jobs that deal in creativity.
We have spoken a lot about this on the blog, but here is an interesting and recent study that looked at knowledge transfers across different tech startups within one of the largest co-working spaces in the US. For context, the co-working space itself consisted of five floors, about 100,000 square feet, and housed 251 different startups. To measure knowledge transfer, the researchers looked at instances of a startup adopting a component of a peer’s technology stack.
What they found was the following:
- Knowledge exchange is greater amongst startups that are dissimilar
- Close physical proximity greatly influences the chance of knowledge spillovers; however, this effect quickly falls off
- After 20 meters or so, there’s almost no difference between being down the hall or being on a separate floor within the building
- One of the ways you can counteract this last finding is to create shared spaces; startups with overlapping common areas, such as a kitchen, saw greater distances of influence
In short: proximity matters.
If you’d like to download a full copy of the study, click here.