Yesterday during my afternoon tea break, I was finally able to take a look at the business section of this past Sunday's NY Times. In it is a fascinating interview with Doreen Lorenzo, the president of Frog Design. She talks about her company's approach to what sculptor Richard Serra calls the Four O'Clock Problem, when creativity hits a wall in the middle of the afternoon: at Frog Design studios all over the world, four o'clock is coffee time, when everyone takes a break.
"They might play a game of Ping-Pong, they might play a video game, and there are pool tables, foosball. Different studios have different toys. That’s a ritual and that’s just accepted. . . These are intense people. This is a time for them to take a break, to talk to people they might not work with, and to listen to things. That’s every day, Monday through Friday. We often joke that if we ever took coffee time away, we think everybody would quit."
I wish there had been coffee time at the companies where I once worked! It neatly addresses a couple of institutional problems at once -- the deep need for caffeine in the middle of the afternoon, the creation of a public space where employees who might not ever see each other can meet and share ideas, and the recognition that in order to nurture creativity, you must take a break sometimes!
Photo of Frog Design's CompostAll, finalist in the Greener Gadgets Design Competiton