Why Kitchens are Better Than Conference Rooms

September 3, 2013 — 3 Comments


Churning out homemade pasta for a shared meal in our Chicago studio

One of the first things visitors notice when they visit IDEO is the food. It’s everywhere. Some might look at our breakfast spread piled high with bagels, cereal, granola bars, and coffee and think: typical Silicon Valley gimmick providing free food to keep people captive at work. But food represents much more than an employee perk here—it’s a central part of our creative culture.

All of our offices have spacious kitchens rather than cafeterias. This is an important distinction. Employees eat food that’s prepared for them in cafeterias. Families and cooks make food together in kitchens. Outside of our tool shops, the kitchens are our most-used build spaces. We host cooking classes, brew homemade beer, and compete in food contents—Stuff-on-A-Stick, anyone? We even use our ovens and blenders to prototype new recipes and food experiences for our Food & Beverage clients, sometimes with the fruits and veggies grown in one of our rooftop gardens.

Our kitchens are hives of community activity. While most of the work happens in project rooms with dedicated teams, we’re always nudging people back to the kitchen to decompress and get inspired. We forgo the conference room and instead hold all-studio meetings around communal tables. And there’s a weekly Tea Time, where designers are encouraged to pair up with their mentors to prepare something tasty—bread pudding, popsicles, you name it—to share with everyone.

Just this morning, I was reminded how food has the power to bring people together. As I sat down to write this post, a delicious aroma came wafting through the studio. I closed my laptop to investigate. Nearing the kitchen, I saw a large group gathered around a simmering pot of homemade soup. Everyone had the same instinct I did—taking a much-needed break to joke around and get reenergized. After a few minutes, the group broke up and returned to work, creative juices flowing, excited for the meal we would soon enjoy together.

How do creativity and food come together in your life?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog) 

Tim Brown


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