Here’s just one example:

Andrea del Verrocchio (1435–1488) was a sculptor, painter, and goldsmith, but his pupils weren’t limited to following his preferred pursuits. In his workshop, younger artists might pursue engineering, architecture, or various business or scientific ventures. Verrocchio’s workshop gave free rein to a new generation of entrepreneurial artists — eclectic characters such as Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), Sandro Botticelli (1445–1510), Pietro Perugino (c. 1450–1523), and Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449–1494).

Not bad for a day’s work, eh what Andrea?

Critically, these bottega were the furthest thing from abstracted academic think tanks or rich boys’ playgrounds: Their raison d’etre was to conceive new artistic and engineering forms and deliver them into the marketplace.  (The long arm of patrons, after all, was omnipresent.)

There’s a wonderful and sadly archaic characterization of markets as “conversations.”  Indeed they are.  A product or a service offering is never ejected from a firm like a disembodied pod into the judgmental stream of commerce, never to be seen or heard from again.  Just to state the premise reveals how disconnected from reality it is; yet many people I know, in their heart, think this is how markets work.

Instead, think of entering (or continuing to intersect with) a market as a true, vibrant, open-ended conversation.  Imagine yourself at a cocktail or dinner party if it helps; you often have no idea where an opening gambit is going to lead.  All I’m really suggesting here, as to how you design and organize your physical office space, is that you do so on the principle that it should do everything possible to facilitate and enable those conversations and not put unnatural hurdles and barriers in their way or put a lid on them before they get good.

Soon, all of us will be able to work any time from anywhere, so long as we can be in front of at least one screen; the Millennials may have gotten there first, but we’re all well on our way. Let’s just make sure that if the time we spend together is less than it is today, we make the most of it.


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