Design for Innovation


08 June 2016 - TIM HAWK

As we have determined from previous blog posts, speed to market is a critical need in tomorrow’s workplace. In order to promote speed, the workplace needs to support an agile working environment. Remove barriers, set the stage, promote engagement and collaboration, and watch innovation unfold more quickly right before your eyes. This is a topic that we have been exploring over the past five years, since we became engaged more fully in the detailed design of innovative workplace environments. At WSA Studio, our work is not about how many awards we win, it’s more about the process of engaging in design to solve the complex challenges each of us face daily. With each project, we consider various methods to improve the human condition and we passionately explore how design fosters positive change for client organizations. 

In January 2011, our firm began an intentional journey to explore and research methods to foster innovation in the workplace through design. Each of these projects is a singular exploration of entrepreneurship. With each decision, we are seeking to make occupants engaged. We want the occupants of each workplace to be committed to their jobs and embedded into the fabric of their organization, and we know that the design of the space can contribute to this in part or in whole. There are other factors including technological support, interpersonal relationships with peers, and personal concerns, but if the space is designed well, all of these factors can be addressed and integrated. 

Once a worker is engaged, their productivity will increase exponentially. Engagement settles the employee into a working relationship with the employer and elevates the potential for that employee to be collaborative. Once collaboration with peers commences, knowledge sharing will foster creative approaches and innovation will originate. Engagement leads to collaboration which results in innovation.

So, if the end result is initiated by engagement, we must first seek to increase the level of engagement by employees in their workplace. WSA Studio is exploring opportunities to increase engagement daily. 

Lessons learned and methods to foster employee engagement include:

1.  Provide both individual privacy and a range of opportunities for collaboration with peers in close proximity to one another. Too often, our spaces are designed with conferencing and collaborative space remote from the place where work actually occurs. Let’s face it; there is little time to formalize many of our collaborative moments which occur in an ad hoc manner. If there are distributed spaces to support collaboration, they will be used.

2.  Vary the types of conferencing space that are provided. Consider various sizes and technological accommodations in order to diversify the opportunities and support a range of meeting types and personal preferences. We have been trying to break down the size of conference rooms and offer smaller rooms in larger numbers. Research suggests that a majority of meetings include fewer than five persons.

3.  Consider public space as an opportunity for knowledge sharing. We all know that we often learn more about a project through talking over coffee or at the water cooler.

4.  Recognize that everyone needs a place to call their own, even if that space is very small and much of the work that they do is outside of the office.

5.  Provide mobile tools for each worker which cut the tether to their desk. If every associate is equipped with a laptop and a mobile phone, they can work anywhere and make more effective use of their time. Additionally, they can seek out the best environment for their working methodology.

6.  Address acoustics. Nothing is more disruptive than workplace acoustical disturbances.

7.  Provide places for team recognition and group celebration. It is imperative that we huddle up every once and a while to remember that we are all part of a team with a broader mission than our own individual tasks and priorities.

8.  Integrate distributed resources into the personal work space.

9.  There is no “one size fits all” solution, even within the same working group.

10.  Be mindful of transitions. We all take time to transition from one activity to another and we need to consider this when we design workplaces. 

These tips are foundational to a culture of speed. Spark workplace engagement. Support collaboration between associates. Foster innovation. Watch your milestones whoosh by as the speed of your organization increases.  I actually think it’s that easy.