Fuel Better Ideas:
Get Active.

Everybody knows collaboration fuels innovation — you can’t create good ideas without it. Leaders recognize this and are expecting teams to step up. While many people truly want to collaborate and are trying hard, they face some very real barriers (barriers that leaders don’t face to the same degree).

The 2019 Steelcase Active Collaboration Study revealed some of the biggest issues workers face are the spaces they work in and the technology that’s available to them. Seventy percent of people are stuck with traditional conference rooms, that are creativity killers — the design of the room and cushy chairs actually prime people to sit in a more passive behavior, which quickly leads to disengagement and even negativity. People don’t get up and actively engage in conversation and idea generation. The majority of people (72 percent) want to be able to move but only 53 percent can.

4 Barriers to Collaboration

  • 1. Access to People
  • 2. Access to Information
  • 3. Outdated Technology
  • 4. Distractions

Access to People

73% of study respondents are unable to get access to the right people

Access to Information

70% can’t access the information they need in real time, slowing down the creative process

Outdated Technology

66% cite the lack of the right technology to visually display work as a barrier to their creativity


68% struggle to stay focused amid visual distractions, interruptions and noise

Roam Where You Want To

Collaboration takes multiple forms, all of which are important to innovation:

Informative - keeping you in the loop
Evaluative - getting feedback
Generative - co-creating something new

Generative collaboration is the most difficult and elusive. “Eureka!” moments require a different approach. The right set of tools and environment can help teams do the mental heavy-lifting required to come up with new ideas.

The Science of Collaboration

Passive Collaboration Active Collaboration

Neuroscience has found a well-established relationship between physical activity, creativity and learning, which are key ingredients to innovation. Active collaboration is a new concept, inspired by our research into active learning and embodied learning from the classroom. It’s all about encouraging people at work to get out of passive behaviors and become more physically and emotionally engaged in the creative process.

Physical movement engages cognitive-processing areas in the brain, which research has shown to help offload working memory. This allows people to free up energy in other areas of the brain to develop novel ideas. Static sitting sabotages our ability to concentrate. Standing or moving throughout the room boosts attention by pumping oxygen and fresh blood through the brain. Research has also shown using our hands to gesture, draw or write, engages our sensorimotor systems not tapped when inactive. Environments that allow for a range of postures and positive stimuli also encourages engagement.

Stanford researchers found that walking boosts creative inspiration: It increased a person's creative output by an average of 60 percent. In another Stanford study conducted by the d.school and reported in the book “Make Space,” researchers looked at four prototype spaces to understand how working environments impact collaboration. The space that encouraged students to stand and move around “facilitated a hearty crop of ideas.” Conversely, “students comfortably seated on couches often settled back into criticizing others ideas rather than jumping into creating new ones.”

Microsoft Surface Hub 2S and Steelcase Roam support active collaboration by encouraging physical activity to promote better cognitive outcomes and emotional engagement. Teams feel a sense of shared purpose and encouragement to explore and build on each others ideas.