May 29, 2013

Making Space for Innovation

Forecasting Trends

Over the last year, we’ve had the good fortune to participate in some of the Innovation Day events at United Health Group, helping them further their organizational commitment in this area through events that feature workshops, presentations, and project competitions.


Space can play a pivotal role in supporting innovation with an organization. It can enable interaction, showcase work in progress, and both express and shape a culture – to name a few. When people are more engaged and better connected, your space can be more than an inert container, it can be a lever for the business that enables people to be more productive. (For more on this, see this presentation.)

In our workshop and presentation, we focused on 3 strategies for using space to foster innovation:

  1. Coming up with better ideas by supporting work processes, using a case study from Canvas

  2. Sharing those ideas more effectively by enabling interaction and collaboration, using a case study from Google

  3. Deciding on those ideas faster by making leaders accessible, using a case study from GlaxoSmithKline

We also talked tactics as well, offering some tips to better use space to support innovation. These included:

  1. Designing your calendar to be strategic about how time is allocated, for instance having “no meeting zones,” blocking unscheduled time or “office hours” for leaders, and protecting times when you do individual work best

  2. Making work visible – digitally and physically – so that others can see, comment on, and learn from your work in progress

  3. Prototyping new work settings simply by rearranging current furniture; for instance to test arrangements of desks or to try out turning offices into meeting rooms

  4. Developing workplace protocols so that you are explicit about the norms and behaviors that help everyone be productive; such as developing a digital and physical “do not disturb” signal when you need to focus (and acknowledging it can’t be “on” all the time)

  5. Meeting by design – thinking through 5Ps of meetings (purpose, participants, protocols, products, and place)  so that you can more effective meetings and thus less of them

We hope these strategies and tactics help organization enable people to be more productive and foster innovation. Let us know what’s working for you and what additions to these you might have!

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