Make Room for
Modern Tribes

As companies look to move faster, generate original ideas and be more innovative, they require the diverse thinking and creativity found only in teams — no one person can do it alone. These hyper-collaborative teams are today’s modern tribes — a close knit unit with a shared mission, charged with tackling complex problems.

They work in rapid cycles, inspired by practices such as agile and design thinking. No longer for early adopters, these methods embrace iteration, mobility and flexibility. They are in a constant state of change and they need their workplace to keep up. Yet, most workplaces are unable to easily adapt to their changing needs and become a barrier.

Spaces on Demand

Steelcase designers went out to observe this new breed of team and saw them struggling in spaces that didn’t fit their way of working.

To learn more about how teams work today, read: New Work. New Rules.

“Teams need flexibility to change their day-to-day activities. Particularly, teams using agile and design thinking practices need to be able to change how they work over time. So, we thought about this through a new lens,” says Bill Bennie, design director. By studying the diverse behaviors of these teams, the designers hit on the idea of creating an interconnected system that supports the activities of the larger team as well as individual work. They created the Steelcase Flex Collection — moveable desks, tables, whiteboards, carts, space dividers and accessories that can be rearranged on-demand by anyone to create environments for teams and individuals to do their best work.

“Instead of one new thing, we ended up creating pieces that all move and work together to let people reconfigure their space in a matter of minutes. The pieces work well on their own, but just like a team, they work better together.”

Design Thinking


Steelcase Flex
For New Ways of Working

The Steelcase Flex Collection helps teams adapt their space as their work changes. See how teams practicing design thinking and agile can quickly and easily reconfigure their space.

An Office Rebellion

  • 1. Staking Claims
  • 2. DIY Workplace
  • 3. Sticky Note Invasion
  • 4. Making It Mine
  • 5. Can’t Take It With You

Staking Claims

Teams built barricades to claim a territory for themselves and also keep out distractions. They moved display boards, wastebaskets — anything they could find — to create boundaries. People also used signs to communicate what behaviors are acceptable among the team (e.g. “We observe silent Thursdays”.) They found noise from their own team valuable, but noise from other teams disruptive.

DIY Workplace

Teams resorted to moving or repurposing objects to create the settings they needed for their diverse activities. One team took a door off its hinges to build a communal “table.” Another commandeered a couch for a casual gathering space. This DIY approach forced people to string cords to these makeshift spaces for power, which quickly became a cumbersome spiderweb and made it tough to move around.

Sticky Note Invasion

Teams covered surfaces with sticky notes — whiteboards, walls and even the ceiling — out of desperation to share ideas and information. Whiteboards littered hallways and took over entire conference rooms, leaving a trail of lost notes behind them. What started as a way to make their ideas visible became cluttered and information got buried.

Making It Mine

People went to great lengths to personalize their space and control their individual privacy. They used random items like pizza boxes and plants to limit visual distractions and communicate “leave me alone.” Large headphones and “quiet hours” signs signaled their need to focus.

Can’t Take It With You

Team members balanced laptops in an effort to share ideas with co-located teammates or used selfie sticks to try and help remote teammates feel a part of the group. Unable to lug display boards everywhere or access large-scale technology, people struggled to interact with the content and eventually disengaged.