“Culture isn’t ONE aspect of the game – it is THE game. In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.” – Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., former CEO of IBM and author of Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance.
In order to create new value for a company and its clients – it’s essential to design and perpetually optimize an environment that attracts top talent, promotes collaboration, and enables inspiration and creativity. I had the opportunity to speak and learn about this important topic with a collaborative panel of leaders in the furniture, architecture and real estate industry last week at the CoreNet Conference hosted by Rockford Construction, Progressive a/e and Haworth, and a central theme was the ability of a work-space to encourage or hinder innovation.
A curious culture of lifelong learners in the pursuit of innovation begins each day with the total resignation to the fact the world is quickly and constantly changing. Many of us from the baby boomer generation started our careers in a small, beige cubicle where we worked hard to move up in the organization to one day sit in a corner office. Thankfully, this has changed!
There is now a common theme of open and collaborative spaces that encourage equality within the organization. When we moved to our new office space last year, we tore down walls, removed doors and barriers, and made every inch of white wall a tall, glossy collaborative white board surface. Not only has this helped us to create a more beautiful and inviting space but it has helped unleash the potential of our team. We have already seen impromptu collaboration sessions and whiteboarding new ideas and strategies, literally, everywhere throughout the office.
How we are geographically organized in the office is also an intentional, strategic design decision made in effort to create a holistic team. Our cross-functional team of engineers and designers sit side by side, collaborating to study paradigms, destroy them and imagine better user experiences for our clients and their customers. It’s vital that our space and culture encourages this collaboration, imagination and creativity.
In the design of our new office, we also considered elements that support our existing culture and make our space feel personalized to us. Our team has a deep appreciation for good food so our large, open kitchen has become a place where we can gather over catered homemade team meals and after-hours drinks. We have a group of mountain bikers who regularly do team bike rides, so bike racks in our office have become a must. Finally, our large second floor terrace complete with work-space furniture, colorful hammocks, a beer cart and our very own bee hive, is a nice alternative to break away from our desks and flourish our imagination with nature and fresh air.
In addition to seeing the benefits for our teammates, we are pleased to extend this experience to our clients and partners as well. It’s common for the companies we serve to volunteer to fly across the country and spend days in our space, verses our team traveling to them. They want to be immersed in a culture that promotes innovation. It’s incredible to see the solutions that arise during those discussions as a result of the new mindset our environment inspires.
By designing a work-space that focuses on the human experience of work, inspiration and creativity, an organization can encourage an innovative culture. It’s commonly said that people are our greatest asset, yet many organizations take for granted the human aspect of the workplace. That is why it’s necessary to invest in the people of an organization by focusing on building a great culture with an amazing space to draw inspiration from all day, every day.
If you are working to create an innovative organization, I encourage you to put some thought into the design of your work space. You may not be in a position to knock down walls and doors, but you can take small steps to create community spaces and encourage a culture of collaboration and creativity.