Andy Hunt posted an article this morning entitled Science Failure and Cubicle Brain Death. He explains that one reason it took so long to discover that adult animals could grow new brain cells was that such growth doesn’t happen in laboratory conditions. To grow new brain cells, animals need stimulation that a sterile lab environment does not provide. People need stimulating environments too. Little things matter.
… things like the pen and paper you use, the decorations at your desk, the lighting and ceiling height of your cubicle all have a measurable effect on your cognitive processes.
Joel Spolsky talked about this in the latest StackOverflow podcast. His company often faces criticism for spending so much money on office space for developers. But as he put it, the difference between depressing and stimulating office space may amount to whether you devote 4% or 6% of your total budget to rent. The extra investment in office space allows you to recruit more competitively for top talent and makes the people you hire more productive.