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6 Office Design Tips To Jump-Start Future Innovation

In today's competitive marketplace, everyone has competition — and it’s not just coming from the Fortune 500 companies we all know. Competition and disruption are creeping in from startups and small businesses who operate with agility and speed, shaking up industries with bold determination. More than ever before, workplace innovation is imperative to growth, relevance and sustainability.

Recent office design research has uncovered a number of office design ideas and elements that innovative companies seem to possess. In light of new design principles, office design firms have begun designing the workplaces of the future to include spaces designed to give their clients a competitive advantage and foster a vibrant culture that supports creative thinking, rapid prototyping and iteration.

Ready to jump-start workplace innovation?

Try these 6 things:

1. Create a Flexible Space

Innovation spaces need to be reconfigurable to support spontaneity. Ideally, they should switch between different work modes, promote the dynamic flow of information and supply tools that come and go. In addition, organizations may require use of the space by multiple project teams, simultaneously or in sequence, which makes flexibility all the more important.

  • Consider a mix of fixed and fluid architectural elements, i.e., semi-permanent walls and movable partitions
  • Create a flexible hub for large and small group activities
  • Provide for user configurability with mobile furniture
  • Consider privacy issues by providing enclosed spaces for audio and videoconferencing

2. Create an Inspiring Space

Creating something new is fundamental to all knowledge work, and inspiration is especially important for those charged with product and service development and other areas of organizational innovation. Stimulating, engaging spaces can jump-start and sustain creative thinking.

  • Provide abundant natural lighting and views whenever possible
  • Include natural elements and materials throughout the space
  • Consider color carefully in terms of its ability to excite or soothe
  • Provide settings that are casual, informal and comfortable
  • Allow for artwork and meaningful objects throughout the space to support individuals and promote culture

3. Create a Collaborative Space

Innovation teams require a shared mind. Translate individual insights and memories into group learning and group memories. The history of the project needs to be readily accessible and understandable to reduce backtracking and unnecessary errors.

  • Position individual workspaces around group spaces to maximize visibility
  • Provide group areas for informal brainstorming and information swaps
  • Plan for extensive dialogue with digital information and intense collaborations around computers. This should involve both co-located and virtual team members
  • Provide vertical content displays with whiteboards or markerboads, tackable surfaces, foam core boards, projection surfaces, etc. that allow users to actively engage with information

4. Create a Hard-Working Space

Hard-working spaces can be just as much of a tool as anything else a team uses to innovate. By supporting all the modes of work — focusing, collaborating, learning and socializing — every square foot of an innovation space can become an efficient workshop for new ideas.

  • Consider the wall architecture as a way to organize and display information in a way that links to group processes
  • Make sure active and stored work tools are easily accessible
  • Think of every vertical surface in terms of its potential for information displays
  • Consider layered office storage and cabinets that serve double-duty by keeping materials handy and defining zones
  • Provide a responsive infrastructure that support changing technology

5. Create a Space That Reflects Culture and Brand

An organization’s identity and culture provide reassuring context and meaning to innovators, and space can authentically underscore important values and processes. Reflecting brand and culture within a space is a way that design can offer organizational support for workplace innovation.

  • Authentically reinforce tone and culture in the design of the space, recognizing that what works for one organization doesn’t automatically work for another
  • Allow for displays of products and other collective achievements that will inspire pride and risk-taking
  • Allow for team customization and personalization to reflect ownership and identification

6. Create a Social Space

Social capital between co-creators is crucial for innovation to occur. It builds trust, which is especially important when teams are doing intense, creative work. Open and relaxed areas for informal conversations are critical components for successful innovation spaces.

  • Provide convenient access to food and beverages
  • Provide comfortable lounge seating, café tables and other lounge space furniture that invites mingling
  • Locate casual collaboration areas in close proximity to work areas so it’s easy to take a break, swap stories and build relationships
  • Provide welcoming areas for guests with appropriate views into the space and work in progress
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