1 In recent interviews and articles Greg Chappell has given a compelling account of his secret to becoming for many, the best test batsmen of his generation. He also provides a marvellous insight into effective knowledge work and working in the 21st Century.

In these interviews he describes what it takes to construct a test match innings and to stay at the crease for long period of time.

Many have asked him how he was able to maintain focus for such extended periods of time.

His secret! Well it was to break down his work and to recognise that one didn’t need to concentrate for the whole time. Rather one only needed to concentrate when one faced the bowler – the rest of the time he actually did the opposite of concentrate – he relaxed and actively practiced mindfulness.

In other words, the quality not quantity was important. And the quality of what was sought was dependent upon the quality of the time doing the opposite.

This too is also true of contemporary knowledge based work.

In an era where competitive advantage is transitory many organisations are beginning to understand that the only thing that their competitors cannot copy is their corporate culture – that means how one interacts with others matters. And that means place and space are important enables to this.

A corollary of this is that increasingly organisations are recognising the need to design workplaces that support collaboration and information sharing to drive innovation and productivity.

To apply the wisdom of one of the world’s best test batsman we all need to remember that to get the best out of people in terms of collaboration and information sharing it’s what occurs when you are not collaborating that determines it’s quality.

In other words, the quality of the time we spend reflecting and privately doing our focused work matters. Therefore, space and places for individual work matter equally to those that are designed for collaboration.

It is not either or – or indeed the lowest common denominator (as is often the case in a traditional open office).

It is about the proximity, availability and quality of a variety of spaces for both social, private focused work and collaborative activities. Ensuring there are separate and distinct spaces for these specific activities is also vitally important. Thus creating such a balance between these spaces and the freedom to choose when and how to use them is a key element to creating a high performing workplace.

With mobile and cloud computing this also increasingly means these activities can be done not within a single locality or office complex but dispersed across a second base or in third space environments.

Collaborative work is core to delivering value in the 21st Century. But it is not for everyone all of the time.

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1  the following recent article by Greg Chappell http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/greg-chappel/curing-crickets-attention-deficit-disorder/article4769944.ece  accessed 11/1/2014