Design for Innovation


15 June 2016 - TIM HAWK

Why do we want to be first? Why is it that America is fascinated by the concept of winning? Being first? Being best? This concept is in our DNA and can be traced back to the freedoms our ancestors chirped through coming here. Our country offers a balance between individual liberties and connection to the common good. We take great pride in our freedom and our individual liberties, and it seems that we believe that if we end up in second, we hold the potential to be "falling behind." Truth is, we don't fall behind, we simply shift our values, which is ironically at the root of freedom. Americans compete to win in sports, academically, in the arts, in research, in business, and in countless other arenas. We compete. We want to win. We gain our value through these individual contributions to society. And of course, we want to win in the workplace. If we win there, we will gain access to financial freedom, the ability to have greater influence in society, and achieve a respected status. In the end, we just want to fit in and contribute. This explains the pressure to succeed; however, the there are many paths to success besides speed. Quality is one measure of potential. Logic suggests that quality is the best way to guarantee success. But quality also typically comes with higher costs and may limit market appeal. Not to mention the time investment that is often necessary to achieve the highest level of quality. So, in our market, what usually succeeds are those products and/or services which blend quality, affordability, and innovation to meet a market demand. History has shown that the first product to the market may not stick if it's quality is compromised. One needs to place enough development into a product to ensure acceptable quality and then be relatively early to release in order to differentiate.  One wants to be new, inventive, quality, and necessary. That magical combination will further success. So, organizations need workplaces to be designed to drive speed, innovation, and quality which seems like an impossible task, especially when the definitions are always shifting. They are dynamic. As an architect, we are trained to take the long view when we consider the design of a space. We know your investment might be the last one made in a lifetime, so we seek to anticipate change and design workplace environments to adapt and absorb these shifts in values or priorities. Speed is supported through a design which is flexible. Short term planning often creates fixed situations which quickly become irrelevant. Long term planning drives a more agile design and your investment should be able to absorb those changes which come with organizational evolution. Ironically, designing space that is less successful at meeting today's specific demands will drive speed in the long run.