Want to foster innovation? Start with your workspace

 As Harvard Business Review puts it: innovation is the “secret sauce” of business success. However, many are uncertain about, how to make innovation happen. Your workspace might be just the right place to start. 

Workplace design plays an increasingly significant role in spurring innovation. Proper workplace design can create opportunities for spontaneous collisions and interactions, which often leads to sharing of knowledge and ideas.

The Leesman Index, which examines the effect workplaces have on employees, found that the highest performing workplaces create environments that capitalize on existing knowledge within the organization and facilitate internal knowledge transfers. Such organizations utilize diverse spaces such as atriums, open team space meetings, and private areas to create communities, facilitate collaboration and drive spontaneous encounters.

Influencing business outcomes through workspace design

Spaces can be designed to produce specific performance outcomes. For example, some spaces can have productivity as the main objective while others exist to increase innovation or combine both.

Architects at Cornell Tech have attempted to foster creativity through design. The project uses architecture to create opportunities for students across disciplines to rub shoulders and allows for accidental meetings and foster creative discussion. From open learning areas inspired by artists’ studios to stairwells that encourage lingering and interaction – the design blurs the function of spaces and sparks innovation.

By creating open, inspiring areas that support collaboration as well as designing quiet spaces for concentrative work, the workplace can drive sharing of ideas, employee engagement and a fostered sense of community.

Knowledge sharing = innovation

There are two factors that affect the knowledge transfers – movement around a building and co-presence. People in proximity interact more often simply due to the visibility of each other. Mixing people in space gives them new reasons to communicate and connect, enabling future collaborations.

Therefore, open plan offices provide an ideal environment for knowledge sharing and support. Younger employees seeking advice from more experienced co-workers can especially benefit from an office design that allows for easier interaction and less hesitation.

Workplace Design requires strong user involvement and change management

Using workplace design as a tool to inspire and foster innovation requires strategic vision and thorough research. Solely adopting the latest trends won’t work.

Workplace Managers must invest in thorough research on user needs, space preferences and allow employees to have a say when it comes to workplace design.

Succeeding with new workplace design also requires strong change management. Start with creating a sense of urgency. People and organizations will not change unless it is necessary. It is human nature to preserve the status quo. By creating a sense of urgency, however, the top management can communicate that the status quo no longer is an option. To secure growth, changes are needed now.

Next, make sure to form a powerful change management team to steer your organization safely through the changes. The team needs to include people who have enough formal power to make the project difficult to block, possess strong leadership skills and are great communicators.

Nevertheless – don’t underestimate the power of communication in any change management process. Communicate to your employees why the upcoming change is important and how it will strengthen your organization and benefit the individuals. Be honest, plentiful and meaningful – and you will succeed.