How to create a digital water cooler effect?

Organizations pay heavily for a big desk and a washed wall paint, yet little attention is paid for hallway interaction. How many ideas have sprung from the corner where the water cooler existed to host so many conversations with hidden opportunities of intra-departments idea collaboration? This is where creative ideas from different corners of the office floor emerge.

The situation of intra-disciplinary (or intra-departmentally) collaboration worsened is when we moved our work remotely and didn’t design for such interaction. Those non-essential conversations that don’t usually fall nicely into our over-crowded meeting schedules are the essence of creative ideas.

Some of us moved back into offices after long months of silo survival work. Others chose a hybrid situation, and some decided to move entirely online. Yet the question remains: How to design spaces that promote inter-department impromptu conversations? How to have more chance encounters and welcome serendipity into our manicured meeting schedules?

There are many ideas on this subject. Some with proven track record and others that don’t fit every situation. Back to you:

What have you done to design randomness into your daily work life?
How are you creating chance encounters with your team members?
What norms are you building to nurture a culture of innovation?
What have you done to create such spaces of loosely fit connections?