What’s the value of seeing co-workers daily, exchanging ideas, and interacting on projects in real time, and face-to-face? Many experts believe the type of activities that result from working closely together is at the heart of innovation – and an important factor in the “where to work” debate.

Why is being near so important? Because it builds social capital – the social relations between workers that produces trust. Social capital is developed and fed by the type and frequency of workers’ interactions. The more they have, the greater the social capital and level of trust. And trust is essential to developing, sharing and expanding ideas that can lead to innovation.

It’s like the social capital between good friends. We’ve all had the experience of running into an old friend whom we haven’t seen in a long time. The friendship is immediately rekindled and the time flies as you relive the memories and experiences of your shared past. However, the stories soon lose their interest and the conversation goes stale. Why? Because you have no new shared experiences to fuel your conversation. Social Capital is like a bank account. If you continually make withdrawals your account dries up; unless it’s replenished, you wind up broke. We need fresh, shared experiences and face-to-face interactions to keep Social Capital alive.

 

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We’ve learned from Dr. Karen Stephenson, a corporate anthropologist and noted expert in Social Network Analysis that Human Capital, the education, experience and abilities of an employee +Social Capital, the social relations between workers that produces trust =Knowledge Capital, the ability for an organization to Innovate and create new value.

 

HUMAN CAPITAL + SOCIAL CAPITAL = KNOWLEDGE CAPITAL

 

While virtual proximity does exist, we believe that innovation occurs best through face –to- face interaction, through the chance run- ins that spark new ideas and the trust that is built over time as people share their knowledge and grow together. We believe that environments specifically designed to enable collaboration and the sharing of ideas — as well as encouraging informal social interaction — is at the heart of great workplace strategies. When employers and employees share in the “where to work and collaborate” decision they build even greater commitment, engagement and trust.