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When it comes to innovation, follow the bouncing ball

March 2, 2007, 6:15 AM

Creativity_balls_1 There's a tendency in certain circles to think of creativity and innovation as something that can be artificially created by introducing all kinds of cool-looking toys and doodads into the office. It all started with foosball tables, lava lamps and scooters in Silicon Valley, but now it looks like "staid employers" are also embracing some of these toys and gimmicks. As the Wall Street Journal explains, the latest creativity fad is the use of exercise balls instead of chairs in the office. (Yep, big, round bouncing balls that sell for less than $25!) Apparently, those annoying rubber balls that were such a big hit in the gym are now finding their way into the office:

People have searched for the perfect office chair for decades, one comfortable, adjustable and easy on the back. Now some professionals are abandoning chairs altogether -- in favor of parking their hind quarters on a giant rubber ball.

Long used by fitness buffs and physical-therapy patients, those big spheres you see at the gym (commonly known as exercise balls) are rolling into an increasing number of workplaces as a seating option. Google, a company that prides itself on its unconventional office culture, displays several balls on its campus in a recruitment video available online. But more-staid employers, including BMW AG and Bain & Co., the international consulting firm, are allowing employees to bring in balls or ball chairs for personal use as well. Manufacturers and distributors report that sales of the balls are up sharply. They even made an appearance on the TV show "The Office," when one character, irritated by the incessant bouncing, stabs a colleague's ball.

Employees claim that these rubber balls are more comfortable than regular chairs, that they promote better posture and that they make them feel younger and more creative. As one Connecticut-based HR manager points out, "It kind of reminded me of when I was a kid..." (Maybe this is what she had in mind?) Call me small-minded, but I'm perfectly happy with the latest from Herman Miller.

[image: Really creative people sitting on exercise balls]

 

When it comes to innovation...

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