The Erste Campus in Vienna, the Styria Media Group’s new headquarters in Graz and the new headquarters of Logicdata in the south of Styria: When companies think about changing their buildings, it is no longer only architecture that matters today.
Open meeting zones, showrooms for employees or flexible workspaces are just a few examples of thoughtful elements of innovative office spaces. Because space is not just space – our environment significantly influences our thinking and acting and for that reason, innovative furnishing concepts are becoming more and more important.
Companies like Google, Apple or IDEO in California have been exemplifying this for a long time. Anyone who wants employees who think innovatively must also provide them with the appropriate space. While in 1879 a simple room was good enough for Thomas Alva Edison to formulate and test the first concepts for a light bulb, the way we innovate in the 21st century has changed a lot. It turned away from the individual genius in its own space and went towards heterogeneous teams that always have their customers and their needs in mind and work well connected with universities, researchers and partners along the value chain. We expect productive and efficient teamwork – preferably even across departments and, if necessary, beyond space and time zones.
When Design Run into Its Limits
What does the optimal office concept look like that not only convinces visually, but also promotes innovation? The question itself already contains the biggest delusion that should be avoided: innovation-enhancing spaces must not be designed for a design award. Literally, you can´t make an omelet without breaking eggs – therefore hard work must leave its traces. Much more important than the perfect design is the purpose behind it. Do I want my employees to generate many ideas in meetings? Should my employees be able to network more easily across departments? Each space creates its own atmosphere and can set the necessary small impulses that ultimately motivate us.
On the Way to an Innovative Office
In our daily work with companies, we repeatedly come across three key aspects in the design of innovation-enhancing spaces – elements for creative inspiration, informal feel-good zones and flexible structures. To motivate employees to be creative and innovative on their own account, a good interaction of these elements is required. It does not matter whether it is about rethinking the whole office concept or improving the existing one with minimal means. Dealing with these three elements in a thoughtful way can be a first important step towards success.
Elements for inspiration create space for new creative ideas and thoughts: Past innovation projects in different stages of development shown on a wall; A gallery of gloriously failed ideas and innovations; An internal showroom in which all current products can be experienced by employees at any time, but also an internal factory or laboratory in which crafting and testing is allowed. All these spaces have the potential to inspire new ideas in employees.
Networking without Pressure
The more familiar employees are with each other, the more creative and innovative the atmosphere in the company is. It is not without reason that the biggest enterprises worldwide are trying to introduce leisure time into their company: For example, there is a beach volleyball court at Google and a large shared kitchen with planned culinary highlights at IDEO – all with the goal of creating informal feel-good zones for employees. On a small scale, a well-planned coffee kitchen can be enough to increase networking and create trust.
Flexibility for All Work Situations
The latest innovation from Bene exemplifies it. Pixel by Bene is not just a box, but also a chair, a table or a stand. Why? Because innovative companies know that the room ideally adapts to the task with a few simple steps. Agile teams need space instead of fixed offices, flexibility instead of routine and certainly never a too large conference table in a too small meeting room.
Author: Julia Jantschgi