Farmhouse Renovation Project - Vermont Style

Farmhouse Renovation Project - Vermont Style

Recently work was completed on a heavy renovation of a central Vermont 1840's cape style farmhouse for a mutual friend and daughter. Her long term goal is to get off fossil fuels and live as close to net zero in the long term as possible while refreshing the historic "bones" of a vintage old Vermont Farmhouse in a budget minded yet values driven way.

We helped set to stage to transform a 175 year old building of average quality with relatively recent upgrades including....

Trend 4: User Experience and Branding - Cultivating Culture

Trend 4: User Experience and Branding - Cultivating Culture

The rise of user Experience and Branding

Recently, internal space branding and creating powerful user experience or (UX) has risen in importance as key design factors in planning and developing design strategies for office and workplace projects.  User experience when linked with the data from the rise in beacon and sensor technologies embedded into furniture, floors, walls, ceilings, lighting and more, provide the possibility for new insights on the power of place to support work, workers, and the workplace.  However, these new technologies must be met with...

Inside Out House

Inside Out House

A new small prototype green home we have in design. 1,300 sf +/- of single level living space, 2 bedrooms, flexible kitchen-dining-living area whose space extends to a generous terrace and pergola. The single living level recognizes the growing need for homes allowing older homeowners age in place, reducing the need to further downsize....;

People, place, and passion: The importance of mission driven workplace design

Designing your office or workplace offers some terrific opportunities to cultivate strong cultures, worker engagement, and performance. Watch our video explaining more.  Connect with us!

Why Best Place to Work Thinking?

Why Best Place to Work Thinking?

Curious if Best Places to Work thinking might be valuable to your business or organization? See this post for more.  Check back in the weeks ahead for more insights about Best Places to Work thinking and design.  

Creating places and spaces which inspire: Color, finish and material selection integration

Best Practice Tips for creating inspiring places and spaces

Curious about how architects work to help their clients create attractive and purposeful interior spaces as part of a renovation, addition or new construction project? See our video with helpful insights into our creative process. With our work we seek to help you, your organization, your business, or your family move gracefully through what often is a stressful, complicated part of any project.  

For a typical project, small or large numerous decisions await which require careful integrative consideration and creative insights on sustainability, indoor air quality, durability, comfort, branding, cost, production time, installation coordination, and more.  

Watch to learn more

There's a lot that goes into creating an attractive high performing interior whether an office, retail space, school classroom or home. This video explains the complexity of color, finish and material selection and why hiring an architect to help adds tremendous value to the long term success of your project large or small.

Curious about next steps?

After watching, let us know if you have any questions or comments. To learn more click on the contact us button below.  You're welcome to leave comments here.  Check the opt in box to receive our updates from the Arocordis Blog with events, insights and more we share here. 

 

In design: CORA Rehabilitation Clinic - Kennerly Facility

In design: CORA Rehabilitation Clinic - Kennerly Facility

Opening Soon

CORA Health Services, Inc. hired Arocordis Design recently to develop concept design and renderings of their soon to open 5,400 SF. Kennerly Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.  We worked with their national and regional operations leadership to help them infuse their new space with tasteful brand-focused design....

National Life Group Dallas Lobby and Reception Area

National Life Group Dallas Lobby and Reception Area

    Earlier in the summer of 2016 we provided interior architectural design services for National Life Group  and their just finished reception area renovation at their Dallas area office location serving over 200 plus employees.  

 

      Finished this summer, this presents a new face for the Texas location while connecting to company wide aesthetics and brand story. We designed the reception desk area, planter and engineered stone rough and polished cladding, sign marquee (For weight reasons) as well as provided general direction as to wall graphics, furnishings as well as fixed finishes. ...

Struggling with your Office or Workplace design project and process?

Growing, an adding team members? Seeking to better align your Place with your Culture and Brand while upping collaboration, engagement and productivity?

Are you and your management team, company leaders struggling with how to best move your office or workplace design project forward? 

See this brief video for more on how we can help.

 

7 Tips How to Design a Quieter More Focused Workplace

7 Tips How to Design a Quieter More Focused Workplace

Problems with distraction and inability to focus?

  • Do you, your coworkers or employees complain about unwanted noise and distraction in your open office workplace?
  • Do you wear headphones to quiet the cacophony of sound around you? Do you have no place to go to make private phone calls? Or do you wear them to avoid getting interrupted?
  • Do you work from home as much as you can to avoid being in your noisy office?

If you answered yes to any of the questions you likely are experiencing some design shortcoming in the layout, design and detailing of your office or workplace. To help you and others maybe avoid this in the future we offer Seven or so tips which if followed might contribute to a higher performing open office work setting where you can collaborate, innovate yet work in quiet when you need and want it.... 

Working side by side enhances engagement, not estrangement

Working side by side enhances engagement, not estrangement

Pardon its dog-eared appearance but that's the way it goes for a book which has traveled hundreds of miles, had coffee spilled on it, and been underlined more times than we can count.

Why is it a great business book for a high aspiring business and organization?   Friedman takes you behind the scenes, out into the open office, meeting spaces and into the board room

Furthering broadbased economic development in Vermont

 

Recently we attended a lunch and learn about some of the key issues facing the State of Vermont in its Tech focused economic development efforts as well as key focuses for the year ahead for the new administration. We heard about statewide economic development efforts from Mike Schirling, Secretary of the State of Vermont Agency of Commerce, Community, Housing and Economic Development. (A mouthful) For a renewed beginning see beta version of www.thinkvt.com. Thanks to Vermont Technology Alliance for spearheading this and Logic Supply for hosting the lunch and learn.

Areas of economic development focus

Innovation center, maker hubs

Accelerators and incubator ecosystem

Enhance coworking opportunities

Better and more fiber

Access to capital

Integrated communication

Easier customer experience navigating permitting, contracting

Smooth access to needed agency services.

Help needed

Vermont Senate and Vermont House of Representatives economic development committees please support additional funding for the Agency to market the whole story of Vermont rather than no funding. This story spans across tourism, technology, sustainable business in technology, agriculture, food and spirits, our historic downtowns and naturalbeauty, entrepreneurialism and more?

What's next?

Lots to keep talking about these issues Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR), Vermont Chamber, Vermont Business Roundtable, Vermont Business Magazine, Seven Days, Burlington Free Press and keep the conversation going. Vermont needs to thrive for the generations to follow.  Lots of work to do, bills and important cross party lines and advocacy conversations to have.

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How to develop a successful workplace innovation framework?

Confused about how to accelerate and inspire innovation in your office or workplace through its layout, design and culture building? To help, we share some insight garnered from an interesting Steelcase white paper "How Place Fosters Innovation." With its evergreen advice, we continue to refer to and share it with clients and partners year after year in our work with others. We feel its insights help frame and shape innovation related organizational thinking and workplace design strategies for large and small businesses alike.

an innovation mindset matters

Today's hyper-competitive business environments, whether in public, private or nonprofit sectors, demand high performing organization naturally seek a state of innovation, continuous learning and a growth mindset.  Successful companies adopt a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. To cultivate authentic and sustainable growth, especially with a focus on seeding innovation, mindset matters. 

Frequently though, we find the Place where people work and How they work misaligned with the needs of the business or organization adopting an innovation mindset. 

Frankly the office and workplace falls short!

We believe attuned place design supporting this natural drive for innovation can power healthy disruptive and sustainable growth, all the while providing the right resources for day to day work, pointing the way towards enduring success.

The Steelcase White Paper offers a framework for organizations to assess why, how, who and what is the work primary to their business. Through it, with the help of architects like ourselves and other consultants, they assess the kind of work culture they currently have, the work processes valuable to them today, and what they strive for in coming future that might be different than today with a growth mindset.  In light of this continuum, we believe it is critical to view your workplace as an ecosystem of flexible spaces and resources supporting your people doing their work. whether face to face and or virtual collaboration, heads down focus work, customer service, communication, potential development and human resources, training and development and more.  

The right kinds of spaces can help people collaborate, share knowledge, learn together and build social networks of trustful interactions so critical to solving big challenges.
— How Places Fosters Innovation - Steelcase Research | sourced 4/4/17 via https://www.arocordisdesign.com/blog/2017/4/5/culture-place-and-space-cultivating-innovation-at-work

Ecosystem Thinking

Aligning Place to purpose, needed work processes and collaboration requires choices of how, where and when to do differing kinds of work. We like to think of the office or workplace, or business as a unique organizational and space ecosystem. We use the concept of ecosystem to describe the workplace as an integration of people working within and together in their physical spaces, along with supporting technology, furniture, building systems and organizational systems. Doing so redirects the conversation away from entitled "I" space to empowered "We" spaces whether at the scale of one person, a small team or grouping of teams within a larger whole.  

Ecosystem thinking also acknowledges the changing dynamics of an organization, its culture and broader identity. Organizations themselves have lifespans and experience stages of growth, transformation. maturity and rebirth. Given these life cycles, placing them within a workplace ecosystem mindset seems entirely logical. Startup, mid-stage, mature and legacy phases constitute the major chapters of organizational life which if anything is dynamic rather than fixed. 

Photo by SrdjanPav/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by SrdjanPav/iStock / Getty Images

Your business is a work in progress just like you

This evolving process of carrying out and doing your business and its work befits what is really happening; we are all works in progress.  And yes work is messy, held together in some cases literally and/or metaphorically by duct tape more often than we like to admit, and full of failures which inspire potential future success.  Like natural systems, your organization fits into an eco-system with all of its parts and pieces serving some kinds of inter-related purpose.

We think the first step to more clearly understanding your organization's innovation oppourtunity is to closely examine and reflect together on what's your purpose and the primary motivations behind what you do. Or don't do.

Purpose and Cause: The Why

First look at your organization in the mirror with your team.  Do you have a clear sense of mission and purpose? Having a collective sense of identity and purpose forms a cultural glue uniting individuals into teams of mission driven performers able to carry out at different times, disruptive and sustaining innovation. If you lack organizational clarity and passion about your mission and core purpose likely it will be difficult to innovate together. 

The other aspect of this lies in the your organizational size and how your group, team or self fits into the overall whole.  Whether you have three or 5,000 colleagues makes a difference in how to work with an innovation mindset.  With smaller size comes greater agility and quick adaptability to change processes, tools and use your spaces differently.  The larger you are, the more complex the innovation equation becomes.  Also the greater oppourtunity.

Regardless of size, make sure you have a clear sense of mission and purpose and you authentically as individuals and teams can connect with it. If you don't, you have a terrific opportunity to codevelop and collaborate together on redefining your core mission and values. Then you will be ready to innovate together whether in disruptive or sustaining ways. The reason is you will already be innovating working hard together to cultivate and build your culture. 

Individual versus collaborative versus distributed work

Examine closely your ratios of how you actually work right now regarding how much is individual, group, collaborative and distributed work. Distributed work may be an unfamiliar term to you.  

In an increasingly global marketplace, a distributed workforce frees a business from the conventional constraints of time zones and work schedules, allowing work to be done seven days a week, 24 hours a day if necessary.
— http://www.inc.com/partners/comcast/the-distributed-workforce-why-theres-no-there-there.html

You may think you work in a traditional office setting with most people working out of your office.  But do you really?  You likely already work on the distributed work continuum. How often do you work from home, a local coffeeshop, park bench holding video calls with team members across numerous time zones and cultures? Likely much more than you did five or ten years ago.

Where you work right now, how much space is devoted to individual workspaces versus common work areas including social, learning and cafe spaces? Today's newer space ratios range closer to 60/40% for individual to common to 50/50 or even 30 / 70% in organizations taking pride in a more "We" focused culture.

In general today's innovation focused business work with less dedicated personal workspace emphasizing instead shared spaces ranging from heavily social to extremely focused increasingly popular quiet spaces.  Looking around your workplace do you see those ratios or do you see those from ten to fifteen years ago with a much higher amounts of owned workspace and less meeting spaces.

An informal collaboration space, Steelcase Global HQ - Grand Rapids, MI by Stephen Ml Frey

An informal collaboration space, Steelcase Global HQ - Grand Rapids, MI by Stephen Ml Frey

Depending on what your work is, you likely collaborate with partners and team members working from home, coworking spaces, other subcontractors assisting you with specialized services from a far needing occasional onsite workspaces.  The ratio of personally committed "owned" workspace versus shared in common, collaborative and just-in time work areas is very different than even five or ten years ago. 

You probably already work with virtual collaboration spaces like GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, Skype for Business, Facetime or Duo. Some of you work like this daily, others less frequently. This shared virtual working is distributed working.  Compared to 10 years ago and technology tools available then, today's tools offer unparalleled convenience, ease of use and collaborative functionality. Plain and simple, we are all working differently and by extension,  innovating in new ways. We can only expect this level of disruption of how we work to continue infinitely.  

So honestly, you're working more differently than ever before.   So then, what models of innovation might work best for your organization, your work, purpose and brand? Your why?

Models of innovation: Centralized to decentralized

"Some organizations look inward; others look externally for fresh ideas and new ways of solving problems." From Steelcase's research perspective they have eight or so models spanning the innovation spectrum from centralized (closely held, proprietary) to decentralized (open or crowd sourced and more). Where and how do you do your best work, where you and your coworkers thrive in regards to innovation?  Choosing one requires close examination of your organizational leadership style and how you collaborate well as well as your purpose.

Those models of innovation are:

  • (Centralized) In-house marketplace model
  • In-house share model
  • In-house center model
  • Off-site model
  • Partnership model
  • Consultancy model
  • Network model
  • Community driven model (Decentralized)

Depending on the kind of business you're in, your size and organizational complexity, one or a hybrid combination of the above will likely fit.  In our design practice, we have worked in a variety of models to best help our clients with organizational fit to purpose.  For some larger ones we act almost as an embedded design and innovation consultant. For smaller ones we act in the consultancy role as outside architectural design experts working on a project by project basis. Or we work on larger project design teams whether leading the overall effort on behalf of the client or participating as a team member among many. 

Defining fit to purpose for innovation efforts

Finding the right model also speaks to where your organization is in its life space and maturity. The model you choose to work with also echoes your leadership model and style. as well as active practice of innovation with recurrent and well supported work processes and resources.  Choosing a decentralized crowd sourced innovation model within a heavily centralized leadership model may not align, however alternatively, following it may fuel disruptive innovation difficult to achieve within such an organization and its prevailing leadership style. 

Defining the fit of innovation efforts to your organizational purpose is extremely important.  Part of this plays into understanding if your are looking for sustaining innovation or disruptive innovation outcomes.   Examining innovation models in the context of space design and layout is an essential next step. 

So then, how to foster innovation by design? Here are a few principles borrowed from the Steelcase research as well as augmented in (parentheses) by us from our own practice and applied research experience.

Workplace design principles to spark innovation

  1. Make a Place (and Tell Your Story): Create and cultivate strong pride in place and opportunities for creative collisions and focused work. Given the rise of distributed work choices and capabilities you must have strong reasons to come to work, bond socially with coworkers and partners face to face. Make sure to leverage your interior environment to integrate branded storytelling, touch and waypoints reinforcing mission, purpose, and core value messaging. Select furniture, finishes and materials which reinforce your brand DNA. 
  2. Make it inspiring: As the Steelcase research shares "creating stimulating, engaging spaces can jump-start and sustain creative thinking." (and collaboration opportunities.) Bring nature near into the interior, daylight and views with strong connection to brand values with a variety of choices of informal and more formal spaces.
  3. Make it flexible and adaptive: (Take care to carefully balance long term space needs with avoiding permanent "monument" construction which makes later space changes and adaptations expensive and time consuming to make. Use easily changeable, movable walls, furniture and lighting where feasible in the majority of your work spaces leaving a minority of areas with more fixed architecture.  This fixed architecture might include storage rooms, restrooms, special conference areas, labs, production facilities and specialized manufacturing. Embed technology which allows for telepresence and forward flexibility adaptable to emerging technologies along with wireless capabilities.) Create communication protocols internally via technology with an agile focused facilities and operations team to assist in co-creating and adapting existing spaces.
  4. Make it Social (Yet Create Quiet Places): "Social capital between co-creators is crucial for innovation to occur. It builds trust, especially important when teams are doing intense work. Open and relaxed areas for informal conversations (and creative collisions) are critical components for successful innovation spaces."  (Sprinkled within active collaboration areas provide places of refuge and Quiet Spaces and places for innovators to think alone, recharge, work in small groups have risen in importance since Steelcase released these findings. Provide "clearings" amidst collaboration areas with shared common areas with comfortable cafe style seating adjacent to food and drink for recharging and relaxed informal interactions. Create a shared kitchen counter area to act as an interaction hub.)
  5. Make it Collaborative: "Innovation teams require a shared mind. Individual insights and memory need to become learning and memory" with easy visibility to project or innovation work history throughout the space says the Steelcase research. They go onto suggest the following: (Our additions in parentheses)
  • Position individual workspaces around group workspaces to maximize visibility. (and proximity to shared work)
  • Provide group areas for informal brainstorming and informal information swaps. (fostering creative collisions)
  • Plan for extensive dialogue with digital information and intense collaborations around computers (and smart devices , wall and furniture surfaces) involving (face to face) and virtual team work.
  • Provide for vertical (and horizontal) interactive displays, white boards (white board surfaces applied to walls)
  • (Consider mobile, easily reconfigurable furniture to encourage DIY team oriented project based reconfigurations)
  • (Maintain an informal and evolving set of collaboration and design thinking protocols easily understood and widely shared to create continuity and clarity about the collaboration process)
  • (Provide a maker space or series of mini-maker spaces with maker tools and support props for rapid prototyping and ideating developing concepts. [Legos for adults.  But leave in the Legos])

Innovation is evolving

Since work processes, technology continue to evolve in truly breakneck speed many of these above ideas may well need to be dramatically rethought and re examined in coming years. How will machine learning and artificial intelligence impact innovation process and capacity development? Could be extremely powerful in regards to inventing many new possibilities arriving from human and AI collaboration.  While the future is unclear in respect to AI, our shared drive for new ideas and impulse to innovate remain constant. 

Remember sharing purpose and cause fuels your drive to innovate and cultivate the right kinds of workspace and culture to do this important work.  We believe without this cultural glue your innovation efforts will falter and lack purpose, with stunted success. In the meanwhile, keep aspiring to do good things and keep a steady supply of duct tape around.  

You will need it! Do you follow or practice an innovation mindset or framework similar to what we share here? Do you practice any of these innovation design principles? Or do you see different forces at play impacting how, where and why you work?  Please share in the comments sections below.  Let's build a dialogue. 

Contact us if you have more questions or if you want to learn more about how to apply this Innovation Framework to your business or organization by design. We want to help you thrive.

Favorite Places and Spaces: The Eames House

Panorama from Eames House to Pacific Palisades Beach and PCH

Panorama from Eames House to Pacific Palisades Beach and PCH

A few years ago I visited the Eames Foundation and its iconic Eames House. Located in Pacific Palisades, California, hidden away among tropical growth and trees, it overlooks the nearby beach and Pacific Coast Highway 1 literally a stone's throw away. 

I first read about this home as part of my history studies in Graduate School where I studied for a professional degree in Architecture.  I learned then the Eames House was part of the Post War Case Study Houses project by John Entenza and others which helped introduce innovations in emerging building technologies while popularizing Modernism, specifically California Modernism. 

A HIDDEN GEM

After years of mysteriously staying off of my radar when visiting family in Pacific Palisades I remembered on a recent visit it was in the area and sought to learn more.  Ironically I learned I could literally walk to it from my Aunt and Uncle's nearby residence.  Perhaps chance and circumstance kept me away all of these years, but this time I made sure to visit with one of my son's.

I won't go into a detailed history of the building and its occupants. Instead I share here a deep appreciation of the integration of the home into its site, its exterior beauty and innovative technological charms seeking an idealized vision of mid-century era modern design. The home is designed as two volumes with the main living area sharing a japanese inspired outdoor terrace with a design and arts studio and a nearby smaller garage.

THE VISITOR EXPERIENCE

Its linear layout of two skinny boxes, rests on open yard almost flat on the south tucked deftly into a steep hillside filled with trees and ample shade and shadows.  Its siting defines the concept of "nestled-in" while providing a generously scaled open area with terrific ocean views.  However, looking up from the PCH you would never see the house hidden in the trees.

Walking down the hard to find driveway tucked into other driveways and alleys, you walk into the house site echoing the arrival of a car.  You walk past the garage on a path which leads along the southern face of the interconnected buildings, first seeing the Studio, the shared terrace and then the home.  The same path circles around doubling back higher on the upper slope side of the home providing wonderful views into the upper portions of the house and views across the site towards the ocean. 

JAPANESE AESTHETICS & INDUSTRIAL PROCESSES

The Eames truly admired traditional Japanese architecture which blends linear forms and careful integration of indoor and outdoor spaces, with framed views, translucent interior screens and windows Shoji screen-like.  They transformed their admiration of this vocabulary through the novel use of the industrial. Steel columns, joists and beams as well as metal siding are painstakingly elegant and proportioned.  They adapted industrial manufacturing and building technologies in novels ways in the design of their home, its building systems, interior details and furniture, modern art, collected objects into a total work of art. 

A GESAMTKUNSTWERKE

A term I learned in graduate school history and theory classes which defined this (Thanks Ned Collier and Taisto Makela), Gesamtkunstwerk, emerged from the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th Century and then into the ideals of the Bauhaus from Germany.  Like these early movements and their expanded concept of design practice, their home in Pacific Palisades is truly a remarkable achievement integrating the landscape, building, interior design of spaces, furnishings and the Arts.

Their home acted as both a residence and a design studio as Charles and Ray Eames, as the Eames Office, worked on famous exhibition designs, films, commercials, books, furniture (then bentwood products for Herman Miller)  (A favorite exhibition of mine they designed can still be experienced in the Museum of Science in Boston, Mathematica. It's startling contemporary and vital today in all of its analog glory. If you appreciate exhibition design, math and storytelling go to this exhibit.) As their practice grew they eventually relocated the Eames Office to nearby Santa Monica. 

The close attention they paid to site planning, of fitting their home into the side of a hill, paying heed to the sun and daylight alongside their novel approach to innovating with new metal building and window technologies, the power of the interiors, and merging of their art and object collection with the architecture reinforce and build on one another.  You really feel the indoor to outdoors California living when visiting this special place where building and landscape come together.

A CONTINUING INSPIRATION

It makes me wonder if Charles and Ray Eames lived today, and were starting building a new home on a side of hill in Pacific Palisades what new and emerging technologies would they seek to harness in its construction?  Where would they turn to stylistically today? The Eames House stands as a much quoted icon of Modern Architecture forming a primary DNA strand still being copied, hacked and expanded today.  I have to wonder how their penchant for inventive innovation and integrative thinking would inform projects today?

This inquisitive and restless spirit of innovation inspires me today in my work, in my focus on integrated design of place and space, building, their systems, and land,.  Does the Eames House inspire you? Or do you have a special house or building of your own and a story to tell? Please share! 

Meanwhile, remember hidden gems like the Eames House lie underfoot in everyday life.  Let your curiosity and sense of wonder lead you to extraordinary experiences. I'm grateful I finally found the Eames House and could experience it in person after all of these years of distanced admiration.  I made the historical personal and it truly inspired me.  

HOW TO VISIT THE EAMES HOUSE

Visiting Los Angeles and want to schedule a tour? Click on this how to visit link to learn more. 

(Note, I wish I could share the photos I took of the building but alas when touring you learn photos taken there can't be used for publication.) 

 

Celebrating Best Places to Work in Vermont

Best Places to Work Vermont Celebration - 2017

Best Places to Work Vermont Celebration - 2017

Tonight we attend the 11th annual Best Places to Work in Vermont held in South Burlington. A sold out event, experiencing it shines a light on successes around the State in businesses large and small following their values and passions building thriving companies. 

By embracing 'Best Places to Work' processes and organizational strategies, companies drive culture building and engagement helping attract and retain talent, improved performance and more. 

We have always wanted to attend to be amongst all of this amazing positive energy.  And being here certainly doesn't disappoint! Vermont is a special place to live, work and run a business.  

There is so much variety in the business focus and value sets of the award winning companies here. What they hold common is their passion for measuring the success of their environment, employee survey results, levels of engagement in programs and other factors.

Another factor is having clear and persistently lived and shared values in their workplaces. Building successful organizations is clearly a team sport requiring many hands and brilliant minds working together. Strength in values and strength in a team of operations, administration, and in many cases, the field, or manufacturing floor all counts. 

16 of the 45 companies here tonight are here for the first time. It's our impression building a best place to work takes years and requires a big vision to get there. Companies following Best Places strategies over the long run, research shows, perform 50-100% better than industry peers. Long term commitment to the process really matters to building success. 

Consider pursuing a Best Places to Work mindset in 2017 and beyond. You won't regret it!

How To Cultivate The Best Value From Activity Based Workplace Design

Tim Oldman - CEO and a founder, Leesman speaking at the workshop

Tim Oldman - CEO and a founder, Leesman speaking at the workshop

Applied Learning in Boston

Recently we attended an exceptional seminar given by Leesman Index at 9OFS in downtown Boston sharing their latest research findings on Activity Based Working.  The seminar was hosted by Tishman Speyer, a global real estate, design and construction consultancy. Facility managers, workplace strategists, interior designers, real estate developers, software companies and architects like ourselves attended. 

Rising Augmentation, need for trust and self-direction

Moving further into the 21st Century finds us veering away from mere knowledge based work alone so crucial to productivity and success in the mid to late 20th Century. Today we increasingly work with processes and systems augmenting our own knowledge and abilities with artificial intelligence (AI) hybridizing how and why we work, how we write and more.  Today we already have begun to learn to work in tandem with these smart tools as they begin to auto-prompt us with predictive intelligence and suggestions helping us (if we are willing and able) to work smarter and at greater capacity than ever before.  

With this increasing augmentation of how we work, employers, depending on industry and type of work processes, are finding the need to shift towards more trust based work cultures relying more on self-directed workers.  More than ever before, critical thinking, curatorship, creativity in complex problem solving play an ever increasing importance requiring more autonomous trust based management styles. This strongly contrasts with work processes relying on traditionally managed knowledge workers working within more traditional 9-5 work settings rooted in late 20th century work styles.

Those older management strategies relying on more hierarchical and fixed in place work, worker and workplace design mindsets may no longer suffice.  Hence the recognition of the value and rise of alternative business transformation strategies like Activity Based Working and Workplace Design where choice, variety and integrated operational and soft systems reign; All working together to empower employees to behave and work differently because they have to.  We think competitiveness and value differentiation demands a shift in mindset transforming how, why and where we work along these lines.

Thus Activity Base Working and ecosystem workplace design offer a clear alternative pathway to help transform business processes and fuel innovation.  But we have to be careful to be thoughtful and ensure as Tim Oldman, the Leesman Index CEO said, "Define fit to purpose when considering shifting towards such transformative business model."  But it is surely not the only answer.  We know one thing to be true, these principle, and others like them, must be tailor fit to each organization's business processes, workforce, brand promise and culture. 

There is no cookie cutter approach to workplace design.

Why did we attend this event?

We went to learn more about this design framework and gain a clearer sense of its value to the mission driven companies and organizations we like to work with.  We wanted to know if ABW might be valuable and adaptable to our clients needs and helping them thrive over the long term.

A year or so ago Leesman released its first version of this survey detailing the rise of Activity Based Working. This work established the context and promise of measuring ABW as a business transformation strategy. Leesman had the goal to revisit research progress with the participants and companies 12 months later to assess and report back on ABW's continuing effectiveness and rising use.  Last week, they were in New York City and Boston where we saw them. They were reporting back their findings over the last twelve months with updated information.

You might wonder what Activity Based Working means and how best to cultivate its value for your organization?

So first, what is Activity Based Working? 

Activity Based Working (ABW) provides employees with (a variety of) purposefully designed settings to best support the many different activities that are undertaken in a workplace. Rather than an employee carrying out their work in a single allocated desk or cubicle, ABW encourages (the recognition) different work activities can be better supported by spaces and features designed specifically for that task.
Spaces are designed to create opportunities for different activities, from intense, focused work and solo telephone calls, to impromptu meetings or more formal collaborative work.
...ABW requires a different approach to workplace design and this often results in visually stimulating spaces. But it also needs an equally different approach to to technology and manegement/staff behaviour.
— Leesman Index, The rise and rise of activity based working

Many confuse this working approach to merely hot-desking, hotelling or flexible sharing desk sharing strategies to assist in providing greater facilities operational flexibility, or reducing needed office square footage. A sticky point for ABW adoption and success is the 'clean desk policy' which come with not having personal and 'owned' workspace.

Example space program closeup

Sometimes viewed as anathema to expectations for a 'space of one's own' at work, ABW's business value proposition relies on shifting mindsets around work, working and the workplace. When well aligned with business fit, purpose and mobility oriented work processes, ABW and the matching ecosystem workplace design help transform businesses Leesman data shows. But it requires thinking differently about mobility based work, people and place.

Mobility Adoption

Leesman's study reviews four different types of Mobility Profiles working in ABW work settings as compared to traditional workplace strategies with 'owned' personal workspace and more familiar office layouts.  We find it really interesting how they define these Mobility Profiles and feel they have great value for consideration and reflection for design and planning purpose by a high performing organizations regardless of ABW adoption.

The Mobility Profiles

  • Mobility Profile 1: I perform most/all of my activities at a single work setting and rarely use other locations in the office.
  • Mobility Profile 2: I perform the majority of my activities at a single work setting but also use other locations in the office.
  • Mobility Profile 3: I perform some of my activities at a single work setting but often use other locations in the office.
  • Mobility Profile 4: I I use multiple work settings and rarely base myself at  single location within the office.

Cultivating Value Through Adoption of Activity Based Working and Workplace Design

Where does the value lay for organizations of various kinds, the most befitting management and organizational styles, business sector types, prevailing business processes and transactions?  We think Activity Based Working and Workplace Design offers value in the following ways, especially in combination with more than one of the factors below. Barriers to adoption must also be considered as well.

  • Mission and Purpose: Mission driven companies, valuing active and strong culture and pride in place.
  • Processes: Business processes requiring a high degree of mobility, agility of thinking, creative group and high value remote collaboration, and combined with self-directed working in high trust cultures.
  • Team with a team: Silo'd teams within larger corporate cultures with a degree of independent autonomy and internal oversight.  "They can help drive innovation within a larger organization." says Ed Cortis, CTO of Rocket Space, who said his "ABW team of 300, worked within an IT team of 1500 when he was a Bankwest."
  • Creative collisions: According to Cortis, "When there is value placed on enabling 'creative collisions', especially amongst agile teams which rapidly assemble and disassemble."   
  • Informality: More informal, flatter organizational work cultures valuing "We" not "I" performance, rotating leadership, servant leadership styles at all levels.

Barriers to adoption

  • Organizational misalignment: Mismatch of activity based working with incompatible leadership, management styles and culture, behavior.  (This is a hard one to parse out but it's worth a closer examination in applied research)
  • Look and feel focus versus really doing it: Admiration for appearance of activity based workplaces but unable to adapt to required workstyles and mindset shifts. You get the snazzy workplace but people aren't prepared to use it properly.
  • Poor acoustics and space planning: Lack of planning for acoustical quality with sound insulated walls, glazing, ceilings and floor surfaces. Poor space planning and lack of variety of open to more closed and private (quieter) spaces.
  • Not adapting and listening: Over-zealous unyielding management unwilling to adapt ABW framework to reality of their people, work culture and processes.
  • Inflexible, fixed mindsets: Team members with fixed mindsets, rather than those open to change. Can be people of any age or experience level. Not generationally specific. (Be careful of generational confirmation bias here.)
  • Ineffective technology infrastructure: IT support system, equipment and processes not in place to effectively support a more fluid, changing work setting, workers moving around on and off-site. 

Summing up

We have been thinking about Activity Based Working for some time and looking for learning ways like this seminar to better understand its value to our architectural and workplace design practice.  Clearly this framework has great potential and will continue to mature. This system appeals to architects and strategists like ourselves on many levels.  However, we must remember to not force this upon our clients when the fit isn't there.  

Remember, when considering this framework, ask the hard questions, examine with your design team your organizational DNA, culture, management styles, work processes and technology support capacity.  Like many things, perhaps adapting aspects of this framework to your design project has the greatest value and the conversation about it will surely unlock invaluable insight how best to design your office to help your business and people thrive.  

That is why we do what we do.

(More About Leesman)

If you have not heard of Leesman, also known as the Leesman Index here is a little about them. They are a data and analytics firm which provides 'collective intelligence' measuring how the workplace best supports people.  They share their data freely and widely, stemming from their practice measuring thousands of workplaces globally over the course of many years. They leave it up to others to use their data and insights, applying and synthesizing them to project work and professional practice needs.  

If you would like to learn more about ABW or other aspects of our design and professional services please contact us.

How to optimize your firm's social media work for success

It Started with Headlines

About six weeks ago we re-evaluated how we did our social media work, recognizing we needed to get more organized. We felt something lacking from a coordination standpoint in all of our social media postings across the platforms we regularly use.  We took a deep breath and looked around a bit knowing something was missing.  At some point we remembered the headline analyzer offered by CoShedule we had been using successfully for well over a year to help us write our headlines for articles and blog posts.  Why not explore the headline analyzer and other aspects of CoSchedule's products.

First a little bit more about the headline analyzer.                                                               

The analyzer, with a learn by doing process, helps you write your headline. By using it we became more adept at writing headlines in active rather than passive voice, the importance of character length, word count and word balance.  Word balance proved especially interesting as the higher ranking headline scores achieved a balance between common, uncommon, emotional and power words.                                                                                                            

Using the analyzer helps us write more pointed and directed writing as well.  The best writing advice we ever received usually begins with well, you guessed it, a great headline. What's helpful about letting the headline lead your writing is the clarity and focus of your thoughts which evolve out the act of ideating multiple headline concepts.  

Screenshot of running this headline through the analyzer - An example

Screenshot of running this headline through the analyzer - An example

The calendar organization tool

One day, we checked out what lay behind the Headline Analyzer and learned more about CoSchedule the company which runs it and its social media tool set, most notably the calendar. The calendar is the one stop place to organize your social media and marketing work.  We use it in solo-preneur mode with only one team member in charge of organizing it and doing our social media and blogging updates through it.  

Through the calendar we can set up in advance a week or two in advance social media activity across all of our social and professional network sites.  Doing so helps us stay focused doing our regular architectural, design and creative work for our clients.  We use the calendar to target our messaging about news, information, tips and best practices we think our various communities would like to hear and learn about. 

A screenshot of our emergin calendar. (Last week is greyed out)

A screenshot of our emergin calendar. (Last week is greyed out)

Along the way, we sprinkle in targeted messages highlighting recent design work, in the news bits and blog posts about us all creating convergence to our website and ultimately our contact us pages.  Using the calendar helps us share our connective content out there freeing us up on the back side to interact, respond and engage with our growing social community on and off line from those scheduled posts and shares.  

Right now we mostly post social media messages, choosing what optimized times and day of the week and which platform we share from.  We seek to offer inspiring ideas and best practice information on Mondays and Fridays. Then during the middle of the week we share more about our architecture, interior, workplace and creative examples and services paired with specific advice, unique stories we follow which fall in the quirky category.  As you can imagine with a new tool like this we continue to test new ideas regularly and open to suggestions and community feedback on how to add more value to you our Arocordis Design community..

Here's a how to video on more about CoSchedule

Next steps for our Calendar

Over the coming months we hope to use The calendar and its functionality in more ways to deepen our engagement and interactions with our Arocordis Design community creating positive brand energy.  And you will continue to see engaging and to the point headlines from our work with the headline analyzer.  

We will check back in on this process and tool sometime in the next six or eight weeks to tell you how it is shaping up for us. 

If you would like to learn more about our architecture, interiors, workplace and creative visualization work click on the contact us button below.