Picture this: A person sits alone in an office, head in hands. Fingers drum on the desktop. The clock ticks as a deadline looms. Then: “Eureka!” Cue the light bulb, the widened eyes, the “I just had a brilliant idea” music. As we all know, creativity doesn’t always work that way. Innovation is critical when it comes to success in business, whether for a huge corporation or a tiny start-up; and more often than not, the seeds of that innovation will come from the minds of talented employees. But leaving people alone in rooms isn’t the best way to spark their mad genius. (Unless, of course, they’re all Steve Jobs.)
So how to achieve that “eureka” moment? These days, the most creative professional environments encourage employees to collaborate, share, and develop ideas with their peers. And building a workplace that fosters inspiration doesn’t happen by accident.
Steelcase has been leading the charge when it comes to the importance of workplace design in driving innovation, which not only supports overall strategy and impacts the bottom line, but can also have a positive effect on employee culture. It’s not a one-size-fits all approach: An office setup that energizes a team of 10 may not inspire employees at a bigger company, just as a business that uses contractors has different needs than one whose creative team is in-house.
In a white paper entitled “How Place Fosters Innovation,” Steelcase presented eight models of innovation that tailor office spaces to companies of varying workforces, needs, and strategies. Among them are:
The “In-House Marketplace Model”
- Goal: Every team and person within the organisation—from the lowliest junior staffer to the top executives—is responsible for innovation.
- Setup: Collaboration takes place in “neighborhoods,” with a central project area for visual presentations and updates. People can move to private areas to do more focused brainstorming, or to a cafe to talk informally.
The “In-House Share Model”
- Goal: Teams work on focused projects, sharing their information with other groups within the company.
- Setup: specialised teams are grouped together, with individual workstations on the periphery. These areas host a “front porch” for the sharing of public information, yet include private spaces for more sensitive collaborations.
The “Partnership Model”
- Goal: Separate partners work on one collaborative project.
- Setup: Each partner has its own company space, but all share one unified space (both physically and virtually). Team members meet, break apart to consult with experts and work in specialised labs, and convene again.
It’s one thing to stay afloat in a competitive marketplace, but it’s another thing to stand out. Before designing or rethinking your workplace, don’t just consider what colour to paint the walls and which cool chairs to buy—think about how the layout of your workplace can align with your business strategy and encourage innovation. Pretty soon, all your employees will be mad geniuses in their own right.
Find great advice for the organizational model that applies to your company in Steelcase’s helpful white paper, “How Place Fosters Innovation.”
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