A recent study suggests that individuals who work collaboratively are more engaged and less territorial when they work standing up.
Professors at the business school at Washington University in St. Louis had students work for 30 minutes in groups of three to five to come up with ideas for a recruitment video. Half worked in a traditional office setting, sitting around a table. The other half worked in a similar room but without tables or chairs.
Their level of engagement was measured by wireless monitors; their level of protectiveness of their own ideas was assessed by surveys administered when the sessions finished.
A report of the study in the New Republic states, "Being possessive over your own ideas is one of the least helpful things you can do when working with others." The implication is that groups in which individuals are not possessive will come up with better results. The article even suggests, "if a simple change of furniture could make people more inclined to prioritize the group goal, it’s probably something companies should consider."
THE RESULT IS CLEAR...
A press release from the University states that the standing groups' reduced territoriality resulted in "higher-quality videos."
...OR IS IT?
However, the New Republic article states,"It turns out they didn’t see much of a difference in the end products."
If that's true, it's not clear that it's a good thing that the study participants were more engaged and less defensive. In fact, one could argue that zoning out of a group activity from time to time (being less engaged) might give participants a chance to be more reflective. It's also possible that defending your own idea can lead to better results if your idea is better than what others are coming up with.
I'd rather not spend the $30 it would cost to read the full text of the study in the journal (Social Pyschology and Personality Science, June 12, 2014) so I've left a comment for the author of the New Republic article, requesting that she go into more detail about any difference in the end products. Stay tuned.