Winter 2011/2012 – What we’re working on now
Here are some of the things we are working on or will be working on as we move through the winter of 2011/2012 –
The technical workplace
The spaces where lots of people in manufacturing, science, R&D, and other businesses and professions has been allowed to atrophy. We wonder if the aspirations we have for innovation, leadership and growth may be stunted by working spaces and places still guided by patterns and paradigms of process, hierarchy, supervision, status, institutional culture, and authority. If the places of invention became more like the places where invention is used, will we achieve more?
Fast, slow and spiky
We once thought that the right way to accommodate different generations in the workplace was by reference to paradigms around preferred officing form. But it’s not about age, it’s about pace. How should we think differently about the best ways to effectively engage different generations through new design principles in the workplace?
The campus in the city
This is an old model becoming new, again. The concept of the suburban corporate campus is dying. Universities are seeking to gain and deliver the benefits of community and market engagement. What should we be thinking about as the corporation takes on a new form and as gown returns to town?
Moving the CRE to HR
Under the finance function, corporate real estate pushed everybody out of the workplace. Now organizations want them back. Is CRE under HR the way?
How to think about the workplace in 2012
Not trend, but revolution. How this year will set a foundation for a new approach to workspace design.
Social connectivity as a driving value for the workspace
We learned something about “hubs,” “gate-keepers” and “pulse-takers,” and then we wrapped workplace designs around the uncovered network maps. Oops. Now it’s time to design workspaces to nurture new and continuously dynamic networks. How?
Gaming the workspace
Game designers work differently than you and I, and in a very different kind of workspace. But why? What can we “learn from Las Vegas” and from the world of game developers?
When we’ve wrung out the real estate of the workplace, what’s left? How does “efficiency” shift from a bottom line metric to a top line driver? How does design help?
The 80/20 workplace
80% of how we work and communicate was not possible 5 years ago, but only 20% of workplace design has yet responded to this rapidly evolving change. What should we demand now to achieve the potential in the new tools and techniques of work?
“We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future”
Stay tuned here for updates on some very exciting things we’ve been working on over the past few months –
- How can a major consumer products company achieve and sustain leadership in the marketplace by activating the places and spaces where innovations takes place? How can a new orientation to the experience of working yield leadership through a new orientation to consumer experience?
- Is there a possibility for thinking about a radically different kind of workplace for financial services industry? Is this emerging project the model?
- When the senior members of a law firm recognize that more of their work is being done around the kitchen table, they also begin to get the implications of a new way of working among their junior colleagues. What does the law firm of the future really look like?
We’ve long been interested in creation and innovation spaces. Over the past couple of decades, we’ve worked with R&D centers, technology centers, advertising and media companies, automotive design studios and other places where ideas are generated and products brought to commercialization.
We’ve also worked with insurance companies, consulting firms, energy companies and many more where new services or transformation initiatives were generated and where there was a belief that the design of place would (and did) yield a differential level of success.
In between, we’ve had many conversations with executives and consultants about their experiences with innovation initiatives and have done other research into the nature of place-based creation and innovation.
Most recently, we’ve been collaborating with other researchers and product development organizations to generate and test prototype settings intended to enhance the success of innovation initiatives, especially in the domain of scientific entrepreneurial startups.
I’ve spoken frequently of my appreciation of the “white space” of the workplace. I appreciate most the power of these spaces that lie between function and interaction to energize and activate the workspace.
These places are rare in the normal allocation of space in organizational real estate, especially in times of constrained spending. Yet, perhaps because they may more authentically represent the culture of the organization, we’ve found that these are the places and spaces that evoke the commitment and engagement of staff and enhance their performance. These are places, in other words – normally cut from organizational space allocations – that allow people to more rapidly and effectively comprehend, support and achieve the organizational mission.
We are preparing proposals for an organization who sought a dramatic transformation of its culture as an essential factor in its sustainability and its ability to contribute effectively to the sustainability of its partner organizations and the communities where they do their work.
Their new “offices” – in a formerly mistreated and largely abandoned high-rise – has a model proportion of “white spaces.” These spaces – unnamed in the functional program but provided through “net-to-gross” conversion factors – support several cultural and behavioral shifts:
- From closed to open
From assigned to free
From entitlement to activity
From formal to casual
From secure to invitational
Most importantly, these spaces provide places for the staff to meet with members of partner organizations in extended occupancy – a few days or a few weeks – to work on problems and develop programs to benefit a constituency or community. What had previously been scheduled, agenda-driven and formal now can accommodate a project timeline and become appropriately and effectively extended, adaptable, resource-rich, collaborative, and focused on impact rather than time.
Now, in the last phase of their implementation and move, we are transforming our commission – develop and implement an identity and wayfinding signage program – toward a program for what we’re calling “workspace activation.”
We have generally moved away from more conventional, and commercial, concepts of “workplace branding.” We believe that the best expression of the brand of a company or organization is its work, and that the visible display of its work is much more effective than the display of corporate identity or communication of motto. We also believe that this “workspace activation” resonates into the effectiveness, influence and impact of the organization and its people.
We are therefore developing a palette of graphic and other resources to animate the space with color, movement, image, information, invitation and hospitality. Neither “wayfinding,” nor “branding,” nor “signage,” our program proposes a set of cues, clues, samples and examples to encourage a culture of information openness, collaborative participation, and continuous communication.
We hope to provide a canvas for uncovering potential, giving coherence to capabilities, and initiating sustaining transformation.