Is a “Standing” Meeting the Key to Team Creativity?


When someone tells you to “think on your feet,” they generally want you to be able to think fast, reacting quickly and effectively, especially in high pressure or fast-paced environments. You do not typically think of physically standing on your feet and thinking to increase creativity and collaboration.

However, research from Brookings Executive Education faculty and Washington University in St. Louis Olin Business School professors suggests that there may be more to the popular term than you think.

There are currently two general philosophies around the best way to best way to create a space that helps induce creativity and innovation among teams.

Thought 1:

Sedentary Space Design – suggests that a room should be made as comfortable as possible – a calm environment with soft chairs. A sedentary space allows group members to feel unrushed and safe to explore a variety of new ideas.

Thought 2:

Non-Sedentary Space Design – Advises removing all chairs to encourage group members to stand during meetings. Standing activates people and encourages a more vigorous exchange among them.

As the need for more creativity and innovation in the workplace continues to grow, the best way to bring creative energy out of teams is even more important. But can inspiring creativity be as simple as standing up? In their study, Associate Professors Markus Baer and Andrew Knight tackle these two traditional schools of thought on how the design of a room can promote an innovative work group.

Baer and Knight’s research suggests that less furniture in a workspace – specifically, the absence of chairs – fosters more creative performance by teams. It was expected that the groups standing would be more collaborative, but what was a bit more surprising was that the environment with no chairs also reduced the territorial ownership of ideas. What exactly does this mean? Without chairs people moved about freely, were more collaborative, open and less possessive of ideas generated during the session.

The next time you’re tasked with coordinating a team meeting to come up with the next big creative innovative idea for your agency, remove all of the chairs from the room. Your colleagues will undoubtedly be a little surprised by the move, but sometimes you need to try something new to get new and better results. It will be a little different and could very well be one of the best solutions to increase the creativity level and openness of the team (just remind everyone to wear comfortable shoes).

Key takeaways from the authors to those seeking to ramp up the level of creativity and innovation their offices:

  1. Workspace design mattes. Layout and types of furniture can encourage collaboration and drive creative output.
  2. Non-sedentary workspaces reduce territoriality, encourage group members to collaborate with each other, and, as a result, drive creativity.

The full article, “Get Up, Stand Up: The Effects of a Non-Sedentary Workspace on Information Elaboration and Group Performance”, appeared online in Social Psychological and Personality Science, June 12, 2014. Information is from Olin Faculty Research pages.

Markus Baer is an Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior, Olin Business School, Washington University and a Brookings Executive Education Instructor for Inspiring Creativity.

Andrew Knight is an Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior, Olin Business School, Washington University and a Brookings Executive Education Instructor for Creating High Performance Teams.

Kimberly Hall is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Kimberly Hall

I did, but it was for a small group (3). We gathered around the whiteboard and tossed out ideas for an upcoming campaign. It was definitely different and more engaging. However, that may have also been because we were all aware of the experiment. I will let you know when I have a chance to try it on an unsuspecting group. Or if you try it first, please let me know how it goes.

Juana Williams

Question. Once you remove the chairs, do you add tall “cocktail style” tables to encourage the ability to document ideas?

Kimberly Hall

Add cocktails? Great idea! Although the level of creativity may suffer. Or should I say useful the level of useful creativity may suffer.

We used a couple of white boards to capture ideas, but no cocktail tables to keep the space open.