Part I: Finding the Library’s Unique Role & Purpose

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Library Trends

Historically, the library has been the central information resource and academic heart for scholarly activity on college campuses. In that capacity, it is considered a valuable academic asset. Yet, due in large part to the digital revolution, the library’s role has shifted to accommodate the needs of today’s learners. In the process, some campus libraries now house non-academic services such as dry-cleaners, cafes, spirit shops and other non-academic functions. But, are these new uses in the best interest of the university? Without a vision and strategic plan, the library is at risk of becoming a “catch-all” building.

Evolution of Academic Libraries

The role of the library as a resource to assist people in accessing information has not changed through the ages. What has changed is how that information is shared, from verbal storytelling among scholars to written information on papyrus scrolls, many of which were stored in one of the first academic libraries — the ancient Alexandria Library. Eventually, scholars switched to parchment and then paper as the preferred method for recording information. This meant academic libraries had to transform to properly store and display books instead of scrolls. Today, libraries are undergoing other modifications as digitally recorded information becomes the norm.

At the same time, the research and study habits of students are changing. Traditionally, libraries were outfitted to accommodate quiet, individual studying through separate study carrels and rooms. Now, students are engaging in more teamwork to prepare them for working together as part of bigger units in their future careers. There still is the desire to have quiet study, but students want flexibility to choose to study individually, study alone together or study as a team in small groups at their libraries.

Are Libraries “Catch-All” Buildings?

A “catch-all” building is one that incorporates multiple purposes and uses. In the case of the library, the evolution of shared technology partnered with the needs of the library’s stakeholders is contributing to several academic libraries turning into “catch-all” buildings. In some instances, the reason for the evolution is due to a lack of resources, funding or available space. At other institutions, it is a matter of convenience since the library is a central facility on campus.

In addressing the redesign of the library of the Claremont Colleges in California, Associate Dean Rebecca Lubas said, “One of the concerns throughout our planning process was that the library doesn’t become a catch-all. It’s important that anything we’re doing to serve the needs of students and faculty must align with and support our academic program.”

Lubas also noted that the library has an important responsibility as the resource supporting and promoting an institution’s unique mission and vision. To do so, the library needs to be designed to fulfill a unique purpose, rather than serving all purposes.

Defining the Library’s Distinctive Purpose

Determining a library’s unique function starts with identifying its intrinsic qualities and value proposition. The Claremont Colleges Library serves seven institutions. “Since we are a center for the seven colleges to come together, a lot of collaboration occurs within our library, whether it’s a group study project or creative endeavors between students on campuses,” Lubas said. “It’s more than a place to quietly study. It’s a place that allows for the creative aspects of the research process to happen.”


Tom Sens
Photo Credit (all): Phebus Photography

Similarly, Bruce Massis, director of libraries at Columbus State Community College in Ohio, sees the library as the center of the academic community on a campus. “We’re here for students, faculty, administration and staff. The academic library has evolved into a space that’s a combination of where you can find modern technology or a quiet study space to read,” said Massis.

It is also important to prepare the library’s purpose for the future by being aware of the latest ways of learning, including innovations with virtual reality. “If we’re going to future proof, we must be willing to change the ways of delivering information and resources in our libraries,” said Tonya Fawcett, director of library services at Grace College and Seminary in Indiana.

Preparing for the future means involving students and leadership in library designs and renovations. “By asking the right questions, we can find out what students and faculty need in their research and study environments,” added Fawcett.

Serving Stakeholders

The universal purpose of any library is to be a resource that assists people to access and share information to become better-informed citizens. Traditional public libraries serve the general public and may be more appropriate places to find non-academic functions. On the other hand, the research focus of academic libraries means that it has an exclusive purpose, based on the mission and vision of its institution. Determining the library’s role requires broad stakeholder input to rethink the library’s mission and how it will serve students and faculty into the future.

Tom Sens is a client leader on the higher education team at BHDP Architecture, an international design firm that focuses on creating innovative environments and experiences tailored to the client culture and work process.

 

Part I: Finding the Library’s Unique Role & Purpose

What Do Students Need In A Campus Library? Just Ask Them.

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To understand further how students are using their libraries, a Cincinnati architecture firm surveyed more than 20 of these higher education facilities.
The college library’s exterior might be majestic and ivy covered and appear to be a solemn place where words of wisdom literally are etched in stone. But inside, it’s a different story. Rather than silently poring over books and penciling notes, today’s students might be working with a team of classmates, using the internet to research, creating a PowerPoint, or practicing a podcast.
“I have walked by some study areas where each student has three or four electronic devices, all running at the same time or charging,” said Arne Almquist, dean of the library at Northern Kentucky University. He also noted that lively group-study sessions are another trend, and libraries have become social hubs.

Campus Library
As a result, library architects and designers face many challenges when they plan and create spaces that work well for these young patrons. To get the best results, a good starting point is to ask students what they want and get ready to rethink the role of one of the most important buildings on campus.

How To Update An Icon? Carefully.

Dramatic shifts in the ways students use libraries — driven by trends in education as well as technology — have made college library design a busy field. Often these buildings are in central, scenic locations that beg for creative architectural solutions. Their historical status may make them icons to faculty and alumni. They might even be featured on logos and letterheads.

Understandably, administrators tend to tread lightly when updating such venerable structures.
Rather than designing from the ground up, campus library projects are likely to involve renovation
and remodeling. This reflects the financial constraints that face most universities today as well as a
desire to preserve history.

How can this be achieved? BHDP Architecture of Cincinnati decided to go directly to students for
insights on what would make campus libraries more tech-savvy, welcoming, and user-friendly. The
investigators were their peers, graduate students in architecture and design. Over the past year,
student teams visited more than 20 libraries in Ohio and Kentucky that included a mix of larger and
smaller campuses, public and private, urban and suburban.

The teams observed, photographed and sketched, at varying times on different days. Most
important, they asked students questions:

  • How often do you use the library?
  • What do you come here to do most often?
  • On average, how many books do you check out/use from the library in a year?
  • Where do you work on schoolwork if not here, and why?
  • What is one thing you would change/add/remove in the library if given the chance?

Some results of this research project were surprising — even to Bruce Massis, director of libraries at Columbus State University and an authority on library trends. His campus was among those studied.

For example, Massis noted that as libraries have become centers for socializing and collaborative learning, one might expect demands for features like audiovisual perks. But some students told the teams they were most desperate for sanctuary, away from noise and crowds.

“As much technology as students requested to be installed in the library, there was still a need and numerous requests for quiet study spaces where they could work on their studies in peace,” Massis said.

 

Key Findings From The Project

What else did the students want in their libraries? Here are some highlights.

NKU Library-3Places to plug in. Laptops, tablets, iPods, cellphones… students are bringing all of these to the library, and all need to be plugged in and recharged. Accessible outlets are a must, for convenience and safety. A busy library is not a place where you want to add the hazardous clutter of extension cords.

A brighter outlook. Academic enlightenment isn’t the only kind students crave. Well-placed task lighting helps keep them on point, while ambient, natural light promotes a feeling of health and cheer.

Specialized spaces. Long lines of tables, long rows of chairs… that isn’t a sufficient setup for the ways libraries are used now. Students want a variety of specialized spaces for work and research. That means spaces for collaborative study assignments; small, insulated rooms; places with audiovisual equipment; and comfortable areas for group discussion or tutoring.

Improved signage. As libraries add spaces geared to various tasks, clear signage becomes even more important. Not only does it help people find their way around, but it indicates which tasks and sound levels are appropriate in different areas. Additional signage also can help students translate the call numbers of the Library of Congress classification system into more understandable categories that permit easier navigation of a library’s vast print collections.

NKU Library-5A sip and a snack. Although once forbidden, people are eating and drinking at the library. Students need to recharge their bodies as well as their electronic devices, or grab a snack on the way to their next stop. Northern Kentucky University’s Almquist reports that a coffee and bagel shop adjacent to his library has been expanded twice and “it’s the most popular space on campus.”

Fewer books, perhaps. Pragmatic decisions about using the available space might mean a choice to jettison some of the book collection. This can be controversial for the generation that fondly remembers browsing bookshelves for the classics. But it’s a no-brainer for today’s students. In addition, making resources such as academic journals available digitally can expand access to a broader variety of materials. When there’s pushback, a diplomatic approach helps: Northern Kentucky University publishes a list of items to be removed 60 days in advance, allowing time to field possible objections.

Look For Student-driven Solutions

Thanks to tech-dependent students and collaborative trends in education, significant changes are happening in every corner of campus. The library — increasingly more of a “learning commons” — is one place where updates might be most urgently needed.

True, today’s students are less likely than their elders to be strolling through library stacks and checking out books. But it would be a mistake to let these venerable buildings become obsolete — not to mention, a squandering of both tradition and resources.

Strategic innovations in technology and library design are vital for meeting the needs of students and the expectations of their parents, often paying the bills. And as with any architectural project, it’s crucial to consult the people who’ll actually be using the space. Students have great answers about what they want and need from the library — if only we ask the right questions.

library design

Authors:

Tom Sens (seen here, left) is a client leader on the higher education team at BHDP Architecture. He has a BA in Environmental Design and MA in Architecture from Miami University. John Bloomstrom (right) is the marketing director at BHDP Architecture. He has a BS in Administrative Science and a MBA from The Ohio State University. BHDP Architecture, established in 1937, is an international design firm that focuses on creating innovative environments and experiences tailored to the client culture and work process.

What Do Students Need In A Campus Library? Just Ask Them.

Where Might Artificial Intelligence be Leading Us?

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Electronic Faces

Diana Rhoten, Managing Director at IDEO, spoke at WorkTech New York recently on Artificial Intelligence. In her talk, she suggested, “The rise of new social behaviors being stimulated by the gig economy and the emergence of advanced technologies like AI are changing work.” Within her perspective was the mention of the possibility of a work-free future, implying that our conception of work will change so dramatically as to be unrecognizable from where we sit today.

During Q&A I had the opportunity to ask her about preparing for this probable future.
Brady: I’m curious what you might recommend to 8 to 15 year-olds to prepare them for a potential work-free society?
Diana: I’m not going to give you a satisfying answer, because I haven’t found one yet. I don’t think we’ll ever be in a world in which there’s no work; it will never be that extreme. I think we might face situations in which there’s more “Indie-work” (freelance expertise). We’re working with universities on this question. I’ve always been of the theory that learning is based on the way in which we have been taught. Today learning is not about the course or the curriculum, it’s about the ability to learn. I know that’s not satisfying, but it is true.
Brady: What can humans do in the future that AI may not be able to do?
Diana: It’s the cognitive and the metacognitive skills, our self-awareness, that is important. Again an unsatisfying answer, but true. Our kids are only going to apply those cognitive and metacognitive skills deeply into the things they love. How we organize our institutions of learning around these passions is important so that when our social institutions of work change on the extreme end, we are ready to learn. This change is likely to be so radical that learning and working may either disappear or be displaced to some extent. We will need to have people who are self-sufficient and passion-centric to lead their own independent lines of work.

IDEA 01: Diana’s response suggests preparing for a future full of artificial intelligence where our kids (and ourselves) will need to become focused on learning how to learn. I believe that learning skills will require an ability to “unlearn” what we have previously been taught, and then apply our human ability to discern what is right and good. The value of our ability to discern is to arrive at truth and trust in the value that technology is already delivering for us.

IDEA 02: Most future thinking comes with a hint of aloneness. Diana’s explanation suggests that kids today need to prepare for an AI laced future in an air of individualism. What if AI becomes focused on driving us together into new forms of relationship, while we each develop our individual skills, strengths and passions toward creating value in our work? Is this not the appeal of social networking to share images of kittens? Our human ability to relate to each other will remain a baseline requirement of creating value in the future of work.

IDEA 03: It is unlikely that the future will require extreme individualism to create the work needed to drive value. With co-working centers currently popping up like mushrooms in the woods after a summer rain, it seems that a path is being laid to drive Diana’s idea of “Indie-work” (freelance expertise) toward a freer form of organizational systems; and that these more open relationship systems will be outside the traditional corporate setting.

In design and workplace strategy, we are only beginning to scratch the surface when imagining the potential impact that AI will have on the design of future workplaces. Perhaps you’re pondering this as well. Will discernment, relationship, and freer forms of social organization change the way you work? Do you imagine your favorite 12 to 18-year-old dreaming of working at a traditional cube/office/conference room workplace; even one sprinkled with “activity settings”? Send me a note, I’d love to hear your thoughts and fresh perspectives.

BTW, here’s my own latest encounter with AI… Siri recently notified me the directions I was following had a detour that would reduce my travel time to a client’s office by 8 minutes. Blindly, I followed the redirection only to be surprised by a series of road construction delays that had not been anticipated due to the mapping speed of other travelers. Siri’s redirection did not add value because I arrived at my destination 20 minutes later than expected. I didn’t discern if the data was of value in the moment! I failed to follow my instincts to continue my original path. I wonder, how would my kids might have reacted to Siri’s suggestion?

BHDP Architecture Opens New Office in Atlanta, GA

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BHDP Atlanta Office Release

We are pleased to announce the opening of our new office in Atlanta, GA. The office is located at 1230 Peachtree Street, Suite 1900, Atlanta, Georgia 30309 and can be contacted by phone at 770-545-5862.

The office will be led by Lucas Roberts, AIA, LEED AP, who has a decade of workplace design experience. “BHDP has several clients already in and around the Atlanta area, so it makes sense to have an office here so we can serve them better,” said Lucas Roberts, Client Leader.

Read More Here

Behavioral Change from Hierarchical Systems

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By Brady Mick, Client Leader           website-collage
BHDP Architecture

How does the military win a war? History suggests it begins by identifying the “enemy,” with a focus on determining the location of its “leader.” After this, a vision can be defined, along with success criteria and mission strategies to deliver results. Yet, as recently described by Chris Fussell, at WorkTech’s NYC Conference, from his book, Team of Teams; these former rules have changed. Because the enemy is no longer hierarchal, fighting with past expectations does not achieve desired results.

Admittedly, war is a terribly dramatic metaphor for the realities that business leaders face in their work. Good business does not require that lives be on the line; but their leaders need to adapt their approach or face another losing battle.

After his presentation, I asked Chris Fussell how intuition played into the new military behaviors that are changing to redefine success. Below is our exchange.

Brady: “I am fascinated by the interplay that you described between rational, data driven, lives on the line thinking; and the need to rethink past strategies for engagement. How much did intuitive approaches, those elements you can’t understand that are coming, play into the work of your team?”

Chris: “This entire process that I described was intuitive. Our senior leadership needed to make a massive shift to approach a highly specialized, very seasoned force at war. To say, “We are going to go through a major redesign, at a cultural level, and make that change while you’re out in fire fights” is a pretty tough conversation to have.
What helped was the trust that existed within our senior leadership and toward the units they commanded. This trust was developed because the leaders were part of the effort. We had senior leaders deployed in Iraq for 5 years straight, who only came home for 45 days during that interval. Living in the conflict shows leader buy in. That develops trust.

The changes required in the complex situation did not come down from someone in a development role telling us what to do. These are change leaders who lived the fight with us; every single day. That accelerated trust in them, which built over time. This is rare in most organizations.

Our leaders used their intuition of what was happening on the ground to be well informed; both at strategic and tactical levels. They knew the history, so you could trust their change judgement at multiple levels because you knew they were a dedicated part of the change process.

Change is a leadership challenge. Business leaders also need to buy in to this degree of change leadership. If employees don’t see leaders being engaged in the purpose and promoting the value of change, they will resist going to the next level. Making that next shift in organizational alignment with complex business needs is a different sort of behavior that people at all levels must demonstrate together.”

My closing thoughts.

Hierarchical thinking has value when tied to the human power of intuition. Unfortunately, like past military leaders, business leaders can become separated from the realities of the conflicts their teams are facing, and conveniently fall back on past methods, which can isolate them from the realities of their organization’s culture and work behaviors. This separation is most apparent when organizations revert to constant readjustment of past work systems while their market share erodes.

At BHDP, we often hear a cry for “Greater Innovation” as a common goal in the strategic design solutions we need to deliver to our clients. However, much like the military discovered in the Middle East, simply expecting innovation is not easily achieved without a seismic change in work processes that are endorsed, promoted and practiced by the leadership. This requires a shift away from the hierarchical thinking of the past.

Fussell’s book – Team of Teams – is an important study of behavioral change from hierarchical systems thinking. From it, I learned that leaders who inform their intuition through their practical engagement in the work of their people, will have the greatest chance to build the trust needed to direct the course of their business to a successful outcome.

Interested in continuing this discussion? Email Sarah Holmes to set up a time to talk with Brady more in-depth.

BHDP Architecture Opens New Office in Pittsburgh, PA

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BHDP Pittsburgh Office Release

We are pleased to announce the opening of our new office in Pittsburgh, PA. The office is located at 6425 Living Place, Suite 200; Pittsburgh, PA 15206 and can be contacted by phone at 412-450-6031.

“With project locations spanning all 50 states, 5 Canadian provinces and 20 different countries around the globe, this expansion will help us better meet the needs of our growing client base,” said Mike Habel, President/CEO of BHDP.

Read More Here

The Mandate For Innovation: Preparing for the next generation workforce

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The Mandate For Innovation: Preparing for the next generation workforce

Business is quickly facing a new set of expectations as the next generation grows up. It is within this environment that the mandate for innovation is at the forefront, not only in terms of future workers but workplaces as well. “Digital natives” as they are called—a term first used by Marc Prensky in 2001 to point out the failure of educators to understand the needs of modern students—don’t learn in traditional ways. They think and process information differently, often as a result of their daily interaction with technology. Today’s teens are growing up in a world where gaming, social connectivity and learning style are producing new ways of relating, behaving and functioning. While this trend might be curious and concerning to many adults inside and outside the workplace, it is a reality that employers will need to address. That’s because very soon these near-future workers, who thrive on innovation, will be making decisions about how, when, where and why to work.

Fidelity_Durham_286The New Look of Innovation What does innovation look like to the next generation of workers? Individuals entering the workforce in the next five to ten years will interact on a new level from previous generations. Involved with an expanding global community, they recognize no difference between physical and virtual interactions. For this reason, they prefer to communicate through technology, such as social media, video chats and online forums. A recent survey from the Pew Research Center shows that 94 percent of teens who go online using a mobile device do so daily. Results from the same survey show teens use multiple social platforms and 71 percent use more than one social media site (May 13, 2016).

While social media plays a role in shaping future hires, the picture would not be complete without also addressing the increasing popularity of online gaming. Surveys indicate 81 percent of teens have access to a game console and 72 percent of all teens play video games on a computer, game console or portable device (Pew Research Center, August 6, 2015). Although this is considered an entertainment option, multiplayer online games are changing not only the way individuals learn, but also, what they are learning.

Gamers see their online time as their highest value and resent when that time is impeded upon by perceived time wasters like school, bedtime, dinner time and other routine activities. Digital natives are literally building their own learning experiences led by their gaming systems, online experiences, and their virtual social networks. They are not simply “gaming” as in wasting their time. They are learning strategic thinking, accounting, accountability to a team, leadership, strength-based management, motivational psychology, creativity and innovation, and a plethora of additional knowledge based activities.

Characteristics of Future Workers Overall, social media and video game participants hone life-long skills and behaviors that transfer directly to business success. While no two individuals are identical, here are six characteristics of future workers that make them ideal candidates for the workplace:

  1. Global vision. Exposure to a variety of people, cultures and ideas from around the world increase awareness, provide a broader, more inclusive, perspective.
  2. Team player attitude. Virtual connectivity provides ample opportunities to join numerous groups, experience the value of teamwork and actively participate in problem-solving scenarios.
  3. Strategy experience. Repeated online interactions help individuals perfect strategic planning skills.
  4. Multi-tasker proficiency. Studies indicate that 50 hours of experience on an action video game significantly improved performance on the Multi-Attribute Task Battery test, which is modeled after skills required in piloting aircraft (Chiappe, Dan, Mark Conger, Janet Liao, J. Lynn Caldwell, and Kim-Phoung L. Vu 2013. “Improving Multi-Tasking Ability through Action Videogames.” Applied Ergonomics 44:278–84).
  5. Leadership flexibility. Interplay in multiplayer games encourages situational acceptance of both leadership and follower roles.
  6. Strong sense of diplomacy. Gamers demonstrate competency by relating stories of successful battles and suggesting possible winning scenarios.

 

Implications for the Workplace As digital natives grow up, corporate innovation will become more essential in attracting and retaining exceptional workers. Innovation will take a variety of forms ranging from the way business relationships are structured to the opportunity for workers to contribute in non-traditional ways. With expanding social networks, online communities and crowd-sourcing increasing individual opportunities and choice, flexibility and creativity in appealing to the best and the brightest will set companies apart from the competition. Although salary and benefits will always be important, work fulfillment will become equally vital as workers find greater value in combining their skills, strengths and passions to create new high value work platforms that will compete directly with traditional business relationships. As such, here are some alternatives to traditional employee-employer relationships:

  • Expanded consultancy models;
  • Limited contracts and on-call service agreements;
  • Work in unison with other organizations to create shared workspaces that allow individuals to work independently with several companies;
  • Expanded virtual work opportunities within the company that utilize new forms of technology and increased co-work spaces, which will encourage new work behaviors between otherwise siloed employees;
  • Innovative benefit packages;
  • Customized workplace packages based on individual needs.

 

The lesson here is to avoid getting too comfortable with a single approach when recruiting the next generation of workers. Innovation at work is supported by innovation in work relationships. Companies that let go of traditional workspaces and HR principles face a brighter future in an increasingly competitive market.

The Workplace Matters

The workplace will matter to the next generation that is driven by the need for innovation. Already many corporate workplace teams are experimenting with agility in designs, providing various environments such as team zones and activity areas to encourage new behaviors and innovative business results from people working. Unfortunately, most of today’s workplaces remained relatively the same. The transition from assigned seating in cubes and offices, re-servable conference rooms for information gathering and dissemination, and break rooms for lunch are deeply engrained in the expectation of today’s North American workforce. Hierarchical management practices continue to dominate the delivery of acceptable work results. And leadership attention to the value of workplace is minimal. Yet HR remains one of the most powerful and underutilized attraction and retention assets on a company’s balance sheet. Taking time now to consider the impact of digital natives has the potential to infuse new value into old paradigms of what is right and what is good in work.

As renown management consultant, Peter Drucker said, “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” In business, staying competitive in the future often demands rethinking standard procedures today. PM-ITM

Author Bio Brady Mick is a design strategist and thought leader for BHDP Architecture. BHDP focuses 80 years of design and design thinking experience to create environments that affect the key behaviors necessary to achieve strategic results for clients. Connect Brady Mick Follow @bmick12345

 

https://www.hr.com/en/magazines/talent_management_excellence_essentials/april_2017_talent_management/the-mandate-for-innovation-preparing-for-the-next-_j1c0oe4z.html

Dynamic Modeling and Simulation: Synchronizing Operations With the Built Environment

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Dynamic Modeling and Simulation: Synchronizing Operations With the Built Environment

FlexSim 4 cropIn any business where production efficiency is vital to success, especially the industrial, manufacturing and research sectors, every upgrade, renovation or expansion creates the opportunity to deliver productivity improvements. Yet, too often, improvements also create unexpected upstream and downstream challenges that disrupt an operation’s overall effectiveness. For years, organizations have had to rely on experience and static analysis methods alone to evaluate and improve performance.

“Not anymore,” says Michael D. Verdier, vice president and market leader of Integrated Industrial Design at BHDP Architecture. “Applied correctly, today’s dynamic 3D modeling and simulation technologies are uniquely designed to take the guesswork out of planning and designing complex manufacturing and research facilities.”

BHDP Architecture is integrating the visual capabilities of building information modeling (BIM) with the analytical power of discrete event simulation to virtually mimic a facility’s current or planned operations, synchronizing the interaction of people, materials and equipment in the built environment.

To date, the company has used the dynamic modeling simulation technology to analyze factory production lines, logistics parks, warehouse operations, research laboratories, and even a campus cafeteria with impressive savings and operational improvements.

In one case, BHDP designed a buffer yard for a large automobile manufacturer’s new distribution center that called for 400 new semi-truck stalls. Once the distribution center was simulated, BHDP reduced the number of stalls to 220—saving $2.2 million in new construction. Similarly, the firm simulated a biomedical research facility expansion to accommodate a growing workload. By analyzing activities, BHDP demonstrated that more effective use of people and processes would eliminate the need for the expansion, saving the customer $750,000 in new capital equipment.

Verdier concludes, “Dynamic modeling and simulation allows for swift, intelligent data-based design and decision making. It’s a fast, cost-effective and powerful tool that enables us to bring our clients’ visions to life.” ?

 

See article in ENR here.

Defining Privacy for the Future of Workspace Design

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Defining Privacy for the Future of Workspace Design

Untitled-1The astounding rate of change and complexity in the marketplace in the beginning of the 21stcentury precipitated a shift toward barrier-free workplace design. Many business leaders believed that collaboration, fostered by open-plan workspaces, would stimulate the innovation required to meet the needs of the changing marketplace. However, the need for privacy in the workplace has curbed the appetite for the open-plan workspace. Today, workspace design client-facing focus groups hear these complaints more than in previous years: “I just don’t have time to think!” Or, “It’s too distracting to think.”

The need for quiet and privacy in the workplace has architects, designers, and employers scrambling to strike the right balance. To create environments that maximize employee engagement, innovation, and productivity, designers need to grasp why and how people work.

Pivotal inventions and designs

The era of modern office architecture didn’t begin until the late 19th and early 20th centuries as the Industrial Revolution summoned workers out of their farms and into factories and offices. Of the many inventions during that period, Elisha Otis’s 1853 elevator made taller buildings acceptable work places. Until that point, architects helped their clients maximize their space utilization in huge rooms prone to heat, noise, and poor lighting. It wasn’t until 1937 when the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) compelled overtime pay beyond the 40-hour workweek[1] that work conditions started to change for the better. As the laws changed, workers’ expectations of their work environment changed along with them.

There are several other notable markers in timeline of building that contribute specifically to modern office design and its relevance to privacy. The first is the Bürolandschaft office movement of the 1960s, which incorporated curved screens, potted plants, and organic geometry to promote collaboration within the “pods” of people working on similar projects. The 1980s ushered in an era of “hot desking” or “office hoteling,” which assigns desks ad hoc, based on who’s there at any given time. Workers have neither their own desk, nor a personal space to hang a family photo. The 1990s introduced the cubicle as the premier “one-size-fits-all” solution to workers’ needs for security.

Workers’ privacy, collaboration, and office design

Harmony among privacy, collaboration, optimal space utilization, and worker productivity (and engagement) has not yet been found. Since the complexity of the work being performed has increased in recent decades, meeting time has doubled: workers report spending too much time in consultations, in conference rooms, or on virtual calls with distributed teams. The requirements of work interactions have restricted the time needed to concentrate and think about the complex problems presented by today’s volatile marketplace. Open collaborative office designs are contributing to that problem.

Yet three out of every four CEOs in a 2012 survey of 1700 CEOs, IBM identified collaboration as the most important trait that they were seeking in their employees.[1] It is not surprising to find that management favors collaboration and the type of workspaces that offer visual access to team members. The problem seems to arise from the way the workplace is constructed to drive creative, problem-solving thinking and, as a result, innovation.

Collaborative environments continue to be delivered across all BHDP industry designs and customers, including this new workplace for Unum. Image courtesy of BHDP.

Creativity requires a balance between privacy and collaboration in order to foster innovation. Design firms, therefore, wrestle with how best to optimize their clients’ effectiveness by making sure privacy and collaboration are in balance. To accomplish this goal requires an investigation of how workers generally define privacy and how much privacy they need.

Defining the terms

Business and architectural workspace designs are inextricably linked because businesses are comprised of people. How do people negotiate their places of work to produce results? Why do people no longer benefit from their workstations, offices, and conference rooms? What do they need to be productive? Is privacy important to them and in what way?

Synonyms and antonyms for “privacy” provide a reference point from which to discuss office privacy, if only as defined by its opposite.

Table courtesy of the author.

The same person who complains of too much distraction at an open office layout workplace may find refuge at a noisy, high-bar bench seat at Starbucks with their monitor open to prying eyes. In this example, the worker has gained control over the interruptions, not the ambient noise or presence of people, giving insight to his definition of privacy.

The challenge in today’s workplace is to be sensitive to individuals’ needs, knowing that some people work better in collaboration than in privacy, while others need the opposite. Designing for the range of needs is important; designers serve their clients best by delving deeply into their clients’ social dynamics — and definitions of privacy — to balance the full spectrum of expressed needs.

Choice has become the stronger design strategy for people working between the behaviors of collaboration and the behaviors of privacy, such as this multi-function work environment for Timken Steel. Image courtesy of of BDHP.

Meeting workplace privacy design challenges

At first blush, the answer appears easy: construct a working arrangement that has an adequate square footage of both private and public spaces, with frictionless access to whichever is needed for the function and the role in question. But hardscape design (walls, doors, windows, noise, colors, ceilings, and lighting) is not the only answer to people’s craving for privacy; personal preferences and company culture are of equal importance. Each must be factored into the design plans.

Consider the following questions to aid in finding the right mix:

  1. How much privacy does a person in a particular role need to accomplish their job? Is this driven by their temperament or their specific function? Does their privacy need require a closed door or merely freedom from interruption? Does the resulting workspace create privacy risks, as in the case of working on proprietary information in a public venue?
  2. What is the appropriate balance of time spent in collaboration vs. solitude? Is there a resulting ratio of the type of square footage to allocate? How do the company’s mission, vision and culture inform that mix? What materials will best accomplish those objectives?
  3. How can science and art, architecture, management, physical attributes (plumbing, heating, ventilation, etc.), enhance collaboration and privacy? What can social sciences such as psychology, physiology, and anthropology contribute to the design?

Diagram courtesy of the author.

Privacy and collaboration need to coexist in a balanced environment that allows all temperaments to thrive. The most significant part of the “build” is in the preparation stages, where possible design elements are explored for suitability, but also with sensitivities to budgets and problem solving.

For the near future

Designers who create interior spaces realize that while open space layouts promote collaboration, too much collaboration may lose the best human resources for a lack of privacy or “time to think.” The solution involves the “soft-scape” behavioral sciences as well as hardscape design. Sorting out the behaviors that promote productivity, and designing for them, might just restore equilibrium.

Designing environments that affect the key behaviors necessary to achieve strategic results can be done with effective communication and analysis of organizations’ needs, their employees’ roles, and an honest appraisal of the current and future work in what is currently called “the workplace”. Human behavior impacts the bottom line of every business and it always will; designing spaces that honor the variety of privacy needs is a workplace win for the long run.

[1] http://www.optimityadvisors.com/insights/blog/why-companies-struggle-innovation-and-collaboration

Defining Privacy for the Future of Workspace Design

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What do “Creative People” do?

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fortunecookiesBy Brady Mick, Client Leader

A recent book has gotten some main-stream attention in a business context connected to the current cries for innovation. After a 2014 Huffington Post article, the author teamed with an academic and cowrote, Wired to Create. While an interesting and easy read containing ideas intent on identifying creative people based on behavioral traits, the book requires a deeper review of creative behaviors to attain truth toward innovative people at work.

As with all books pertaining to advice on living, there is a solid level of “fortune cookie” thinking contained within Wired to Create. The ideas contained in the presented truths of how to identify creative people are attached to ‘science’, validating the validity of the presentation. Yet, as with all good fortune cookies, there must be a kernel of validity to imagine the possibility of the fortune becoming real. Be careful of the science being promoted.

When reading through the list of behavioral characteristic from the original article, consider if you exhibit the personally trait in your life.

What do “creative people” do?
1. daydream
2. observe everything
3. work the hours that work for them
4. take time for solitude
5. turn life’s obstacles around
6. seek out new experiences
7. “fail up”
8. ask the big questions
9. people-watch
10. take risks
11. view all of life as an opportunity for self-expression
12. follow their true passions
13. get out of their own heads
14. lose track of the time
15. surround themselves with beauty
16. connect the dots
17. constantly shake things up
18. make time for mindfulness

How did you decide if the characteristic was true to you? Did you decide with a “Yes” or a “No”? Did you allow yourself the possible answer of “It Depends”? I suspect we all exhibit each of these characteristics within our living, work, learning, family and cultural patterns. Is it true that we are all creatives?

It depends.

What problems are we solving? What dreams are we imagining? What ideas are we creating? Do you or do I measure up to Picasso in terms of creativity? Was Picasso always non-linear in his life and the way he lived it? Not likely, as he certainly had to eat, relieve himself, relate to others, and most famously, he intended to achieve his personal goal of becoming the highest paid living artist in history. Such a goal required the antithesis of several the traits listed above. And he achieved his goal.

All good fortunes focus on the gray zones of possible futures. I received a fortune once that stated: “Your high-minded principles spell success.” I thought for a moment about being “high-minded”, both in terms of being smart, and being aloof. And my principles, well certainly I stand by my principles, whatever those are? And even though I have been a lifelong suffer in poor spelling, I do want to achieve success! In the end, I wadded up the strip of paper and tossed it into the garbage. Possibly, you may be equally critical of the list above about the suggested behavioral characteristic of a creative person.

I would choose to suggest that I am a creative person. I know with much practice where my greatest frustrations and excitements for work, life and loves come from. I resist order and familiarity, while seeking out those tensions that excite me personally – like this book and article. I am certain you reach for things that interest you as well, as I know with great certainty you too are a creative person. You took the couple of minutes needed to read this attempt at a semi-diatribe, hoping for an idea to experience.

The idea I share is to discern the truth yourself without the need for a constraint such as being creative. Appreciate the noise of our idea-laden world full of fortune cookie guidance, but discern your own value of self, away from judgmental comparison.

I choose to crunch the cookie and discard the piece of paper holding this list of 18 traits with a smile.