Photos by Aline Shkurovich
We are at the Elizabeth Foundation For the Arts, kicking of The Hive: Empathy Corporation. Our office space is finally ready: the Herman Miller cubicles are installed and decorated. Forrest Lewinger planters are in place. MRG posters are hung and ready to motivate. The participants arrive and we commence.
Intro - Piero Passacantando gives a brief introduction on the origin of the project. He recounts how getting a day job for a healthcare related software company lands him in his first cubicle and prompts him to question its history. Piero begins researching and laying the foundation for MyNerva.
The Cubicle - Passacantando continues by giving a PowerPoint presentation on the history of the cubicle, outlining its historical development, underlying concepts and social implication in the workspace. He draws the trajectory of the cubicle: its origins as a revolutionary structure built in contrast to the open plan with rows of desks typical of the 50's office; the internal wars at Herman Miller between designer George Nelson and engineer Robert Propst; the development of cubicle farms; the Silicon Valley revolt against the cubicle, co-working spaces and alternative new directions.
Team Building exercises with Sally Szwed. After Passacantando’s presentation, Szwed engages the new participants of MyNerva in a series of team building exercises aimed at developing group trust and identify individual skills and collective strengths. She starts by articulating the elements which make up a "Dream Team", prompting all participants for input and writing the main points on the whiteboard. Then she leads the group through three exercises.
· In the first exercise, participants form circles and ask each other increasingly probing questions, keeping silent while the other person is speaking. This serves simultaneously as an ice-breaker, a way to get to know each other and a way to develop connection in a limited amount of time.
· In the second exercise, Szwed asks participants for money and then reallocates it to other participants. Every time the amount of money asked increases. The money ultimately gets returned to the original owner but during the exercise the participants are unaware of this. This allows them to evaluate their own levels of trust.
· In the third exercise, the participants must elect a leader, which in turn elects a "manager". All participants except the leader and the manager are blindfolded. A wine bottle, a glass and a corkscrew are hidden around the room. The goal is to serve the leader a glass of wine. The leader must communicate to the manager who of the blindfolded participants must search for the items. The manager then gives instructions to the chosen participant to locate the item. After a very engaging series of commands, mishaps and laughs, the leader is finally rewarded with a nice glass of wine
Collective Brainstorm and Office Pantry Potluck. The sound of the popping bottle nicely leads to the final section of the workshop. Participants engage in a brainstorming session while eating, drinking and informally talking around the table. They are encouraged to write their ideas about the possible transformation of the cubicle for the following day on Post-It notes. These are then affixed to the white board. Finally the participants vote on their favorite ideas.
The following day Piero Passacantando meets with Brian Balderston implement the new ideas for the Transmigration of the Cubicle gathered during the brainstorming session. They build an addition to a cubicle placing another cubicle made of cardboard and wood on the top (a "bunkubicle"). They also create a personal garden.