Spatial Layout and the Promotion of Innovation in Organizations

  • Jean Wineman University of Michigan
  • Felichism Kabo University of Michigan
  • Jason Owen-Smith University of Michigan
  • Gerald Davis University of Michigan
Keywords: organization theory, innovation, spatial analysis, workspace design


Research on the enabling factors of innovation has focused on either the social component of organizations or on the spatial dimensions involved in the innovation process. But few have examined the aggregate consequences of the link from spatial layout to social networks to innovation. This paper reports preliminary data from a larger study that explores the role of spatial layout as it interrelates with social networks to promote innovation among scientists and engineers working in two very different research-intensive organizations, a non-profit life sciences institute dedicated to translational research on cancer and at one of the research labs of a multinational software corporation. The study applies space syntax analysis to map and characterize physical space in conjunction with survey data capturing social contacts among researchers at the two organizations. Social networks play important roles in structuring communication, collaboration, access to knowledge, and knowledge transformation. These processes are both antecedent to and part of the innovation process. Spatial layout structures patterns of circulation, proximity, awareness of others, and encounter in an organization. These interrelationships become fundamental to the development of social networks, especially those networks critical to the innovation process. This paper focuses on the role of spatial layout as it affects innovation volume and impact at the individual level. Our methods of spatial analysis provide the opportunity to examine potential effects of spatial layout at both the local and global levels. This study extends our understanding of the complicated organizational, social, and physical correlates of innovation. Results support our understanding of the effects of spatial layout innovation outcomes. We hope to identify opportunities to guide the social and organizational structure and spatial layout of workspace to create more effective, efficient, and innovative organizational processes.
How to Cite
Wineman, J., Kabo, F., Owen-Smith, J., & Davis, G. (2014). Spatial Layout and the Promotion of Innovation in Organizations. ARCC Conference Repository.