Creating a Culture of Innovation: Design an Optimal Environment to Create and Execute New Ideas [1st ed.] 9781484262900, 9781484262917

Deconstruct the history of patterns of innovation in business and connect them to existing and failed attempts in manage

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Table of contents :
Front Matter ....Pages i-xvi
Space and Tools (Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino)....Pages 1-29
People and Knowledge (Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino)....Pages 31-55
Communication (Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino)....Pages 57-85
Showing Off (Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino)....Pages 87-111
Conclusion (Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino)....Pages 113-115
Back Matter ....Pages 117-121
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Creating a Culture of Innovation Design an Optimal Environment to Create and Execute New Ideas ― Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino


Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino

Creating a Culture of Innovation: Design an Optimal Environment to Create and Execute New Ideas Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino London, UK ISBN-13 (pbk): 978-1-4842-6290-0

ISBN-13 (electronic): 978-1-4842-6291-7

Copyright © 2020 by Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. Trademarked names, logos, and images may appear in this book. Rather than use a trademark symbol with every occurrence of a trademarked name, logo, or image we use the names, logos, and images only in an editorial fashion and to the benefit of the trademark owner, with no intention of infringement of the trademark. The use in this publication of trade names, trademarks, service marks, and similar terms, even if they are not identified as such, is not to be taken as an expression of opinion as to whether or not they are subject to proprietary rights. While the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication, neither the authors nor the editors nor the publisher can accept any legal responsibility for any errors or omissions that may be made. The publisher makes no warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein. Managing Director, Apress Media LLC: Welmoed Spahr Acquisitions Editor: Shiva Ramachandran Development Editor: Liz Arcury Coordinating Editor: Nancy Chen Cover designed by eStudioCalamar Distributed to the book trade worldwide by Springer Science+Business Media New  York, 1 New  York Plaza, New  York, NY 100043. Phone 1-800-SPRINGER, fax (201) 348-4505, e-mail [email protected], or visit Apress Media, LLC is a California LLC and the sole member (owner) is Springer Science + Business Media Finance Inc (SSBM Finance Inc). SSBM Finance Inc is a Delaware corporation. For information on translations, please e-mail [email protected]; for reprint, paperback, or audio rights, please e-mail [email protected] Apress titles may be purchased in bulk for academic, corporate, or promotional use. eBook versions and licenses are also available for most titles. For more information, reference our Print and eBook Bulk Sales web page at Any source code or other supplementary material referenced by the author in this book is available to readers on GitHub via the book’s product page, located at www.apress. com/9781484262900. For more detailed information, please visit source-code. Printed on acid-free paper

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Contents About the Author ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� vii About the Technical Reviewer ��������������������������������������������������������������������� ix Acknowledgments����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� xi Introduction������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� xiii Chapter 1: Space and Tools���������������������������������������������������������������������  1 Chapter 2: People and Knowledge���������������������������������������������������������������  31 Chapter 3: Communication���������������������������������������������������������������������������  57 Chapter 4: Showing Off�����������������������������������������������������������������������������������  87 Chapter 5: Conclusion���������������������������������������������������������������������������� 113 Index�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������117

About the Author Alexandra  Deschamps-Sonsino  is a London-based author, consultant, public speaker, and entrepreneur with a background in industrial and interaction design. She wrote Smarter Homes: How Technology Will Change Your Home Life (Apress, 2018).

About the Technical Reviewer Daniel Soltis is a creative technologist and user experience designer living in South Carolina. He studied at ITP at New York University and has worked with design and technology companies in London, New York, and California. He has been a technical editor for books on topics including physical computing, smart homes, and the Internet of Things.

Acknowledgments I’m grateful to the staff of the British Library and the RIBA Archives where I did most of my research for this book. I’d also like to thank the wide range of innovation practitioners who shared their stories with me: Andrew Bretts, Gillian Crampton-Smith, Russell Davies, Daniel Davis, Chris Downs, Azita Esmaili, Ed Gaze, Phil Gyford, Matt Jones, Tony Kim, Alexander Minkowski, Shane Mitchell, Mo Morgan, Nicholas O’Leary, Matthew Postgate, Edouard Siekierski, Justin Small, Scott and Susan Smith, Ben Terrett, and Adrian Woolard. Not all of their reflections are documented in this book, but their insights helped me shape my argument and see the forest from the trees. I’m also grateful to Claire Selby for giving me the courage to turn a peculiar work experience into a deep analysis of our work lives. Thanks as always to my family Marielle, Marc-André, and Remy for their love and support.

Introduction Believe you can change the world. Work quickly, keep the tools unlocked, work whenever. Know when to work alone and when to work together. —HP Invent “Rules of the Garage” advertising campaign (1999) The research for this book was conducted in the months leading up to a global pandemic with a deep effect on corporate work life. “Working from home” was no longer a question of good human resource practices but a blanket imposition on workers, no matter what area of work. Unless operating in an “essential” or “key” industry, employees will have had to look at their home and carve out a dedicated space for long-term work conditions. After Aeron chairs were sold out, laptops placed on kitchen tables, and conference calls conducted from the garden for a few months, fatigue sets in and a rosetinted view of the office emerges. All the critique of open plan office spaces, sexist air-conditioning, and office bullying were forgotten. Swept under the proverbial carpet of collective consciousness. Millennials are even said to miss the office the most.1 How do we recontextualize a recent past we weren’t very much in love with, but we now miss dearly? One strategy has been to press pause. Businesses set up working groups aptly named “Return to Work Task Force2” before eventually announcing employees wouldn’t have to come back to offices before the middle of 2021. Others like Twitter, Square, and Schroders3 have given their employees the choice to work from home indefinitely. Then, there are businesses that are trying to either hold on to their workforce or cut costs in anticipation of a global  ver 90% of Young Workers Having Difficulty Working from Home, Survey Finds, Smart O Sheet, April 2020, (accessed August 2020) 2 Indeed says employees won’t be required to return to offices before July 2021 due to Covid, S. Basu, The Economic Times, July 2020 https://economictimes.indiatimes. com/news/company/corporate-trends/indeed-says-employees-wont-berequired-to-return-to-offices-before-july-2021-due-to-covid/articleshow/77062202.cms 3 Coronavirus: Schroders tells staff they can work from home for ever, E. Dunkley, The Times, August 2020, (accessed August 2020) 1


Introduction recession. Uber4 gave its employees a $500 stipend to set up a home office, while Facebook will penalize employees working from home who don’t live in expensive parts of San Francisco.5 Like every living person, the corporate entity’s reaction to a crisis is an insight into their culture and what, or who, they truly value. Over the last 20 years, innovation has been understood, valued, and performed differently. A byproduct of venture capital financing, which we explore in Chapter 4, corporations struggle to project themselves into the future the way 20th-century organizations did. The relentlessness of the 24-hour news cycle means corporations feel obligated to feed it with webinars, incubator launches, and concept videos, just to keep playing a global game of innovation theater. Instead of multi year, patentable innovation work, the work done is often visually enticing, shallow, and comparable to many of their competitors. A culture of “me too” (and hopefully not #MeToo) has settled into many corporate innovation departments, if they exist at all. It would be too easy to blame “open innovation” for the well-designed interiors that now act like a cargo cult. If you build it, they won’t come, it turns out. As Bill Stumpf (codesigner of the Aeron chair) admitted6 I’m not sure there’s a correlation between a piece of furniture and productivity. Silicon Valley is, as some say, a state of mind more than an actual place.7 This is a lesson worth remembering. The conditions necessary for innovation work are not entirely related to space (which is why many good ideas are incubated in the proverbial cold, barely heated garage), but the space has a role to play in enabling or suppressing group dynamics that emerge when there are hundreds and thousands of employees around. From the open plan offices with expensive furnishings to the incubator space with bean bags, innovation work has recently very much become an identifiable place at work. It’s almost as if that was half the work done. But the best innovation work can often be performed in spite of or in opposition to the 1 7 major companies that have announced employees can work remotely long term, J.  Hadden, L.  Casado, T.  Sonnemaker, T Borden, Business Insider, August 2020, www. (accessed August 2020) 5 Why many Facebook work-from-home employees will earn less, D.  Abril, Fortune,  May 2020, (accessed August 2020) 6 Inbox Zero, M.  Mann, Tumblr, 2014,  201152478 (accessed August 2020) 7 Searching for Silicon Valley, P.  DaSilva, New  York Times, April 2009, www.nytimes. com/2009/04/17/travel/escapes/17Amer.html (accessed August 2020) 4

Introduction work environment. The best innovation work is also down to personal interest, peer groups, timing, and luck, no matter what the state of the carpet. Nick O’Leary, a programmer at the IBM Emerging Technologies Group, prototyped the first version of Node-RED, a code visualization tool, between two client projects in 2013.8 Node-RED is now a well-respected, globally marketed open source project that IBM has promoted widely. Incidentally, Nick still works in the same office, more or less surrounded by the same colleagues even though their work is now different and he reports to a different group. O’Leary’s story isn’t atypical but it can only exist with an overlapping set of conditions: how he interacts with the people and structures around him over a long period of time. There’s always an elastic band that ties an employee working in innovation to its employer. And sometimes it breaks. An expensive break was the personal computer designs of Steve Wozniak which HP declined five times. Steve Jobs and he had interned there in their teens and were very loyal. They left the company to start Apple.9 None of this had anything to do with interior furnishings and everything to do with the corporate appetite for risk, investigation, and the interests of the young. The tabula rasa enforced by COVID-19 may well give corporations some time to think about their innovation conditions differently. With that in mind, this book tries to provide examples, anchored in history, of the modern theater of innovation and suggests ways to circumnavigate it to actually let people get some exciting work done. Too many gestures are posed habitually, without a proper investigation of their initial starting point. In Chapter 1, we’ll explore the history of office layouts and its forgotten companions, the organizational communication chart. A mythologized space, the office space of the 20th century and the 21st century are analogous. From the city room and the RAND office in Santa Monica to the Olivetti and Cadbury factories to the Google offices, we’ll look at the history of resources given to employees to manipulate them into more effective or creative work. Chapter 2 will reflect on the naming conventions for innovation in the workplace of today and how much we rely on gathering information from the outside world. The means of information gathering and knowledge creation is what makes the difference between a good brown bag lunch and a pointless one. Then in Chapter 3, we’ll dissect the impact of a hyperconnected workforce on attention. The challenge of any corporate environment is to know when

 alking Node-RED with Nick O’Leary at Node+JS Interactive 2018, YouTube, October T 2018, (accessed August 2020) 9 Garage, O. Erlander, L. Ortega Govela, MIT Press, 2018, p.78 8



Introduction overcommunicating gets in the way of thinking and contributing. Information overload, coupled with imposed frameworks for innovation work, makes for a peculiar set of conditions for new ideas to emerge. In Chapter 4, we’ll end by exploring the most public touch points of innovation work today, the true children of “open innovation” practices: innovation spaces. From hubs, labs, garages, and beyond, these corporate spaces are not actually work spaces, but spaces dedicated to showing off work the corporation describes as innovative. What interests us is the space taken up by this piece of storytelling. When the market for creativity and invention extends to accounting firms, the role of such a space is to soothe customers into a sense of comfort. They are the No theater of risk-taking. There’s the shadow, but the real thing never materializes. Not unlike the State Guest House in Tokyo,10 where a traditional meeting room has been set up to accommodate Western knees, innovation spaces are here to translate an internal culture to outsiders—a physicalized space of compromise that opens a time and a space for new ideas and new conversations. Every chapter could be read on its own, but together, they create the kaleidoscope of considerations a corporate manager has to think through when opening an innovation function. Many managers won’t be aware of the impact of these multiple facets, especially within businesses that have hundreds of employees and where the company barely had a strong sense of itself. Many technology “scale-ups” that are less than 10 years old are barely able to create work cultures that motivate people to stick around. These are especially important considerations when management is moving online and the physical conditions of work are so fraught. The absence of a dedicated space for work outside of the home is undermining women, parents, and people with poor home Wi-Fi alike. When work is a state rather than a place, making sure good ideas emerge, are socialized, and take root becomes key, but made more difficult by the increasingly remotely managed workforce. When you’re working from a coworking space miles away from the headquarters, what sense of attachment can you develop there? And is the isolation a good thing? The way in which innovation work is either highlighted, elevated, or quashed is a multi faceted process. From the physical space where innovation work takes place in relation to the rest of the office to how many consultants come and talk to you about design thinking, the ability for a team to work creatively is affected by a multitude of elements worth curating with great care. The future of our work environment might even depend on it. 10

 abinet Office State Guest Houses website C kiri_no_ma/


1 Space and Tools Business can invade any architecture. —Jenny Kuo1 In 2012, the editor of Monocle magazine, the illustrious Tyler Brulé, was invited to write about office spaces for the Financial Times in his regular column.2 What he had to say is a great starting point: For a sector that fancies itself as creative it’s remarkable how many companies fall for the same design clichés […]. There’ll be skate ramps in reception, “kray-zee” furniture for otherwise dignified people to fall off while they wait to be collected by interns carrying massive Thermoses of lukewarm coffee, and there’s a good chance there’ll be lurid green AstroTurf underfoot. Beyond reception there’ll be basketball hoops, jogging lanes and tennis boundaries painted on the floor, along one wall will be a bunch of plush animal heads mounted, trophy-style, there’ll be lots of eating stations where people will be filling up their 500 litre Thermoses with various free beverages and, as you weave your way past half-finished walls made out of particle board, you’ll pass lots of young men who’ll never glance at you but will fist-bump their colleagues and shout “yo man” when they pass along the kooky zigzag corridor.

1 2

 -typical plan, J. Kuo, Park Books, 2013, p.131 A Office envy & YouTube’s new home, T. Brulé, Financial Times, October 2012

© Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino 2020 A. Deschamps-Sonsino, Creating a Culture of Innovation,


Chapter 1 | Space and Tools This in short is the conundrum of any business. Appear too kooky and you risk losing face. Look too traditional and people may not believe you’re up to anything worthy of mention. How a business appears to guests on the outside can equally become a psychological crutch for managers of innovation. Proof that something, anything, is happening. But the role of physical space, interiors, and what is left after a meeting has the power to set the tone for how new ideas are born as well as making sure those ideas don’t disappear into thin air. How work environments affect the ability to stop and think, to come up with ideas, to make these ideas become more than ideas but projects that find support, enthusiasm, and funding is important to understand. To consider space is not only to consider how that team actually operates but also how it is perceived by the rest of the business. The spatial decisions an innovation manager makes may impact how innovation work is done and how that work makes its way “over the wall” to the rest of the business. A decision about spaces for innovation is, in fact, a decision about power and permissions, two important elements of a culture of innovation. In his seminal book Buildings and Power, Thomas Markus describes the impact that architecture has in shaping power:3 Power has to do ultimately with resources, since these are finite, the only freedom is to divide them in different propositions. It is the cake slicing operation, more here is less there […]. Its results are seen in hierarchical structures, control, surveillance, decision processes […]. In the design and use of buildings, power can be evenly distributed or concentrated so as to create great asymmetries. The power a team has to act on its agenda of innovation will shape and be shaped by the space that team is in. This is what Umberto Eco refers to as the semiotics in spaces or “social utility.”4 A space has the power to signal to the rest of a business that the work done within it is executed differently and should be treated differently. Equally, there may be unintended negative consequences to a series of spatial decisions. These might signal to the rest of the business that the conditions in an innovation space are disconnected from “business as usual” and therefore not worthy of their attention. Worse yet, an innovation space might be used for purposes other than innovation work simply because it looks different to anything else in the business. It’s important to understand and identify these dynamics early on, even before a space is assigned or designed.

 uildings and Power: Freedom and Control in the Origin of Modern Building Types, B Thomas A. Markus, Routledge, 1993, p. 23 4 Ibid. p. 35 3

Creating a Culture of Innovation Elements which a business leader will have to consider when thinking about the space where innovation work happens include the following: –– –– –– –– –– ––

The resources immediately available to that team The amount of space given to the team The amount of space given to individuals vs. group work The amount of social space for that team How that team’s space physically connects to the spaces occupied by other teams How that team’s space differs from other team’s spaces

Making decisions about each and every one of these elements means shaping an experience for a team and impacting the culture of the entire business as a result. This chapter will not dictate rules around how spaces should be designed, but will instead describe the power of space in shaping the experience of innovation work and provide a list of consideration for anyone excited by the prospect of carving out a dedicated space in their business.

Interior design Interior design is one of the few tools still left for business leaders to signal to their clients, partners, and employees a distinct identity, brand, and work culture. Over the last 20 years, however, the modern workplace has become more homogenized. Walk into the offices of a communications company, a newspaper, or a bank and there is almost nothing to differentiate them apart from their interiors. Most of their employees are using the same tools: smart phones, a desktop computer, or a laptop. Clean desk policies, coworking, remote working, and hot desking practices also have contributed to making work feel increasingly generic as people come and go in spaces that are largely the same, never really having the chance to leave their mark. Work happens in a space, barely touching it, with nothing lingering around. People become what artist James Bridle calls “ghost renders”:5 moving bodies with no impact on their immediate surroundings and a very diffuse sense of when work starts and stops. As the architect Jeannette Kuo describes in her book A-Typical Plan:


 ender Search, James Bridle, accessed March 2020, R render-search



Chapter 1 | Space and Tools New terms such as playbour, enterprise gamification and hackathons suggest a general ‘ludification’ of work, the merging of leisure and obligation. The worksphere has become one but social playground, its players, a hybrid troupe of nomadic urbanites—dressed up with a menagerie of technologies. Much like magicians and con artists, we juggle our hybrid devices as they get faster and more ubiquitous, while roaming from hotspot to hotspot. Home has become less home, and the office as type has vanished.6 In this de-physicalized work atmosphere, interior design physicalizes the values and future direction of a business. Investing in interiors becomes a strategy to set ground rules about what it means to work there. This will naturally have repercussions on how a business will then think about the look and feel of their innovation work and what looks and feels legitimate. Legitimacy is largely built on looking at a competitor’s work environment and saying “I’d like that too” instead of looking at how people work within those spaces and then shaping a space to suit a way of working or a way of thinking both on an individual staff level and collectively. Some of this competitive reaction will be explored in Chapter 4. Space isn’t the only contributor to innovation work as Franklin Becker, of Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology, observed: [Google, Apple, Cisco or Facebook] were very innovative long before they’d built any of their new work environments on their campuses. It’s clearly not the case that they only became creative and innovative after they built these environments. […] I personally don’t believe that the environments themselves are what inspires creativity, I think it is more about the organisation and more fundamentally about the hiring of people. And it is about how those teams are organised and work together.7 So work interiors have the capacity to either support existing innovation work or perhaps even disrupt it. Understanding the risks of either overthinking things or ignoring them becomes important. In the next section, we’ll examine two types of office layouts, cloisters, and open plan, to see how they relate to innovation work. These architectural typologies have historical links to invention, research, and innovation work in large businesses. By exploring this history, we can also highlight human dynamics which are rendered invisible or have recently digitized.

6 7

 -typical plan, J. Kuo, Park Books, 2013, p.117 A Spaces for Innovation, K. Groves and O. Marlow, FRAME Publishers, 2016, p.234

Creating a Culture of Innovation

The cloisters of RAND The RAND Corporation was a private, independent, nonprofit organization spun out of the United States Air Force in 1948. It was responsible for many early innovations in the fields of social sciences, cybernetics, and warfare. Concepts like “mutually assured destruction,” war games, games theory, distributed networks, and systems thinking were all developed at RAND. Described as a “civilian campus, a university without students,8” 300 people worked in its Santa Monica building. This association with traditional education in a context of world-leading military innovation isn’t surprising as most of the researchers had graduated from university degrees or worked in university-led research for the Air Force. A culture of individually led doctoral studies, aligned to a collective challenge, was to shape their workplace deeply. By the early 1950s, RAND needed a new headquarters to bring together the engineers, social science researchers, and academic partners that were scattered across California. It became obvious to RAND’s leaders that real breakthroughs would come from enabling proximity and cross-sector collaboration between them in a setting that was less formal. A focus on propinquity and the concept of “mixed teams” was at the heart of the design of a new building. But they did not hand over a brief to an architecture or interior design firm. Instead, one of RAND’s early employees and head of the mathematics department John Davis Williams delved into architectural “types” eventually choosing a lattice pattern. He went as far as suggesting the maximum distance between teams (26 feet). Williams described the focus on proximity of these mixed teams as “the only way to develop such a tender thing as an idea.”9 In an internal memo, Williams explains the reasoning behind a new office and the characteristics of a desirable office: Why are we building a building? Aside from some intangibles, such as a feeling of and a look of performance, that it would give us, the motivation must come from some or all of the following: 1. better location; 2. a better organized facility; 3. better space for individuals.[...]

 onstructing the Cold War Environment: The Strategic Architecture of RAND, M. Kubo, C 2009, p.34 9 Constructing the Cold War Environment: The Strategic Architecture of RAND, M. Kubo, 2009, p.58 8



Chapter 1 | Space and Tools I believe that the qualities that are more desired are, approximately in the order of importance: 1. privacy; 2. quiet; 3. natural light; 4. natural air; 5. spaciousness. This memo was handed over to the architect Roy H. Kelly who translated it into a physical lattice with courtyards or patios. N icknamed the “waffle” building, it was completed in 1953 (Figure 1-1).

Figure 1-1.  RAND office as seen from above with courtyards and the lattice or “waffle” layout (courtesy of Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives)

The building process is described in detail in Michael Kubo’s excellent thesis Constructing the Cold War Environment: The Strategic Architecture of RAND. Kubo’s book gives us an overview of what the office was like once completed: each researcher had their own office with large windows they could open and the doors would be kept open most of the time helping naturally ventilate the whole building. Private meetings were held in these offices (Figure  1-2), reducing the need for dedicated meeting or conference rooms. The patios (Figure 1-3) offered an opportunity to socialize, have lunch, and take in some Californian sun.

Creating a Culture of Innovation

Figure 1-2.  The office of programmer Stuart Dreyfus at RAND

Figure 1-3.  Internal patio at RAND with staffers playing ping pong (courtesy of Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives)

Both the proximity to one’s colleagues and the ability to work quietly emulate the tradition of European cloistered abbeys. It also mirrored an open approach to information access and trust in personnel. The prevailing spirit was best described in the 1957 welcome manual of RAND:10


 onstructing the Cold War Environment: The Strategic Architecture of RAND, M. Kubo, C 2009, p.100



Chapter 1 | Space and Tools The fewer controls the better, we think, and the more each individual acts on his own responsibility the better. Maybe one reason why this atmosphere prevails is that RAND’s work calls for originality and initiative; our products are ideas, and neither ideas nor the ways of producing them fit into repeating patterns. Projects were developed in isolation by one researcher who would then lobby peers. Once a certain momentum had been reached, a budget would be agreed to spend more time and resources. A successful enough project would eventually be spun out. The System Development Corporation11 was one of those spin-off projects. Once it was outside of RAND, it grew to a thousand employees and went on to develop pioneering time-sharing computing and multi-users access for mass market applications. The focus was therefore on the individual researcher and their capacity to network. By being immediately surrounded by peers, yet in their own private space, the office enabled socialization and ultimately the camaraderie would lead to collaboration and innovation. The lack of immediate financial pressure on a researcher also helped RAND aim for “moon shot” projects where the return on investment was not necessarily immediately visible. The process of turning an individual effort into a collective one was reflected by a duality of the office and the patios. Researchers could use their own offices to have intimate meetings, letting ideas evolve, one meeting at a time, keeping the doors open to let people drop in, closing them only for meetings. A necessary incubation period would take place in these individual spaces as people occupied their space with the tools they required. Then ideas which needed to be socialized could find an audience during mealtimes or breaks in the cafeteria or patio. The patio acted as a community of its own as researchers in the immediate vicinity would probably know each other a little better than in other patios. An idea could therefore grow and gain support through both researchers but with the added support of the space and these midsized communal spaces. Things were not perfect, and even if the spaces afforded everyone the same resources, a hierarchy started to emerge. Each office had the same number of windows, but as slightly larger conference rooms were converted into two offices, a little extra space was used to install a secretary who acted as a “moat dragon.”12 This created a barrier to easy conversation or what is often called “traffic management.” Depending on their level of access to sensitive information, some researchers were given a different color of lockable filing cabinets (gray instead of black). As Kubo describes it:13 System Development Corporation, Wikipedia, accessed January 2020, https:// 12 Kuo, p. 114 13 Kuo, p. 18 11

Creating a Culture of Innovation Human behaviour, of course, cannot be reduced to the automated nature of packets of data and architecture organizations inevitably generate effects on social dynamics that cannot be predicted by the diagrams that generate them. The history of the RAND building is marked by just such unpredictable effects: the story of its architecture reflects the degree to which the social dynamics of its research model were affected by the organization of the building. In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg handed The New York Times 43 volumes of photocopied material from the RAND office, and an era of freedom suddenly ended. “The Pentagon Papers,” as they were known, showed the American public the corruption and lies that had propped up decades of conflict in Vietnam. That leak would lead to a complete rethink of the space and information access in the RAND building. Shortly after, security processes were put in place that required visitors to be accompanied everywhere in the building (including the bathroom). Parts of the building were turned into “cul-de-sacs”14 as access was limited to some areas depending on a staffer’s clearance levels. Information could only be consulted by certain people in certain places instead of accessible all the time everywhere. Slowly, all office doors were locked and the building started to fail both as a place for open innovation and a place that provided the adequate level of comfort Williams had desired. Eventually, the introduction of desktop computers raised the temperatures of the whole building. The closed-door habits, coupled with a lack of air-conditioning to counter the loss of natural ventilation, made the building impossible to work in and led to its redesign and demolition in the 1990s. The limitations of an office space in terms of providing a safe environment for the flow of sensitive material are still a common problem today so cannot be blamed on RAND’s own building structure. Incidents like the Pentagon Papers scandal continue to occur in the digital age. The Wikileaks scandal in 2010 and Edward Snowden’s NSA document leak in 2013 are some more high-profile examples. Every industry has cybersecurity issues and data leaks now happen frequently, but they are not expressed in as physical terms as they once were, and as a result, preventing them has become much harder. It’s no longer a case of putting a lock on a door or a cabinet. What it did result in is the famous clean desk policy, a restriction which has created an environment where personality and personalization are shunned. The visual impact of someone’s desk as “work in progress” is very potent in


 onstructing the Cold War Environment: The Strategic Architecture of RAND, M. Kubo, C 2009, p.168



Chapter 1 | Space and Tools innovation work. This is why there is a cultural obsession with the desks of Steve Jobs, Freud, Churchill, and many others. A desk says something about a person and their ways of working. By eliminating this to counter Post-its with passwords on them or an industry report that shouldn’t be there, a lot of cultural impact is lost. Office spaces start to resemble airports. Unless the whole desk becomes lockable, say like 17th-century “secrétaires” (writing desks), the popularity of clean desk policies will keep growing. This may not be something an innovation team has much control over, but it’s important to realize what is lost in the balance and what was lost with the digitization of work in the post-RAND years.

Open plan offices The alternative to a cloisters model is the open plan office. Helped in no small part by the television series Mad Men which aired in 2007 and the launch of WeWork in 2010, we could be forgiven for thinking their popularity is justified. Furnished with midcentury-inspired tables and desks, these open plan offices conflate communication with effectiveness. The choice of the open plan office is usually justified by talk of transparency and open collaboration, but visual dynamism can be sold as a proxy for innovation. As we’ve just seen, constant, carefully calibrated collaboration is very different to just walking past people you don’t know. Let’s explore the history of open plan office layouts, why it came about, and what its impact is on innovation activities.

A history of open plan work As described by John F. Pile in his 1984 book Open Office Space,15 the open office space was initially an alternative to the consulting room for lawyers, doctors, or library-like study rooms used by aristocrats (themselves a type of cloister). Then described as a “bullpen” office, this was a large open space where large groups of employees worked alongside each other, often with desks facing in the same direction. A classroom of sorts. Pile describes their origins: [They] became commonplace in the United States for insurance companies, mail order houses and government agencies that employed a hive of clerical workers.


Open Office Space, J. Pile, Checkmark Books, 1984, p.6

Creating a Culture of Innovation In this early version, the managers were the only ones afforded privacy in a closed office. As clerical work became more common and more omnipresent across all industries, the workforce in that bullpen was replaced by low-paid clerical workers and an increasing female workforce. The roles of people in the “bullpen” were essential but not rewarding. The “thinking” was being done by managers in closed rooms. The source of creativity, authority, and oversight was clearly located away from the bullpen. If you were asked to come into the office, you knew something, whether good or bad, was going to happen. The film, The Apartment (1960), illustrates this power dynamic perfectly. Jack Lemmon’s character gets promoted from the main floor to a closed office because he helps his superiors maintain extramarital affairs by lending them his apartment. His promotion is tangible and physical. By the end of the film, he is offered an office next door to the Director’s, on the upper floors of the building. The importance of this promotion is literally translated in physical terms. These work spaces were transparent about what it took to progress inside an organization. The organizational chart was visually and tangibly represented, segregating those who had access to enough space to think in and those who had to work surrounded by the noise of typewriters.

City rooms In journalism, the bullpen is the beating heart of the business, a cesspit of disruption and creativity. The manager or editor is present as a corrective force or gateway but also as someone who deserves the famous “corner office.” That office, incidentally, is often portrayed as an office with glass doors. In this kind of depiction of the office, the theatricality of the dynamics between colleagues and between colleagues and management is important. The performance matters as much as the work, a theme we’ll come back to. In films, all newspaper offices, or “city rooms,” are open plan offices. From the office of The New York Inquirer in “Citizen Kane” (1942), the headquarters of the fictional newspaper The Banner in “The Fountainhead” (1949) through to the offices of The Washington Post in “All the President’s Men” (1976), all these interiors are messy and dynamic. People are talking, walking around with papers, handing articles for others to type up. The cacophony is part of the job, part of what it means to excel and work is definitely being done. The camaraderie is tangible and necessary. Collaboration and interaction with others is part of the day to day and the implied success of the organization. From typewriters to mainframe computers and desktops, the tools of work change but the space remains largely the same and sets a kind of tone for that profession.



Chapter 1 | Space and Tools But journalism is a very particular kind of creativity. The expected output is publicly accessible written works. Creativity as interpreted outside of journalism usually involves a degree of security and creating work that doesn’t travel outside the organization until it has been patented, published in peerreviewed journals, or developed sufficiently to be “launched” or spun out as a new product or service. How does the open plan office respond to these requirements for both collaboration and secrecy?

Office landscaping In the mid-1950s, the American “bullpen” was under attack. Accused of being hierarchical and surveillance-driven.16 It was a difficult stance to defend in a bruised post-WWII Europe. The new jobs of the postwar era—capturing information which was then filed, stored, and shared—also required a new approach. The pioneers in this space are hard to pin down. From emerging cybernetics researchers to the alumni of the Bauhaus, a number of different professions had a short-lived but transformative effect on this new take on the open plan office. In 1956, Eberhard and Wolfgang Schnelle ran their father’s furniture manufacturing plant on the outskirts of Hamburg17 and worked with artist Kurd Alsleben18,19 and architect Werner Henn20 on rethinking how offices were laid out. They developed mapping tools such as a “communication matrix” capturing, through interviews, the relative importance and frequency of face-to-face and phone conversations between colleagues and teams in a business (Figure 1-4).

 ules of Engagement: Architecture Theory and the Social Sciences in Frank Duffy’s 1974 R Thesis on Office Planning, B. Hookway, Working Paper Series, Princeton, p.11 17 A Discursive Approach to Organizational and Strategy Consulting, W. Schnelle, p. 89 18 Neue Technik des Mobiliarordung im Buroraum, K. Alsleben, Verlag Schnelle Quickborn, 1961 19 Center of Excellence digital Art, accessed February 2020, 20 Office Cluster, The Architectural Review, Euromart special edition, May 1963, p. 306 16

Creating a Culture of Innovation

Figure 1-4.  Communication matrix at Quickborn (1965)

They visualized the results of these interviews (Figure 1-5) and used them to sell their clients a new range of furniture they had developed to support different kinds of work and communication realities.

Figure 1-5.  New office layout by Quickborn with teams highlighted with dotted lines



Chapter 1 | Space and Tools They also thought about the psychology of work spaces in terms of reducing visual distractions and controlling the soundscape of a paper-based workforce. Typing pools were moved out of earshot by using a variety of soundproofing panels, and the focus was on making sure that people could collaborate with their colleagues more effectively while not losing their ability to concentrate. This effort to design and control the entire experience of workers is very reminiscent of the Bauhaus in its ideas of “Gesamtkunstwerk,” or “total design.” Writing in 1969 about the work done by the Schnelle brothers, architect Frank Duffy commented: Office landscaping is a total planning approach in which the cybernetics of information processing are fundamental. Together with the longer-range plans of the occupier they determine the space in which a controlled environment will be created. It is only at this point that the layout planner appears on the scene.21 In 1962, the Schnelle brothers incorporated under the name “Quickborner Team Gesellschaft für Planning und Organization” and created their own office layout: “Bürolandschaft” or, literally translated, “office landscape.” They also severed their connections to the sale of furniture as it was perceived as a conflict of interest and concentrated on advising businesses on their office layouts.22 Eberhard Schnelle and Alfons Wankum eventually described these techniques in great detail in Architekt und Organisator which was published in German in 1964. By 1966, it was translated in English by Duffy as Office Landscaping: A New Approach to Office Planning. He described some of the simplest principles of the landscaping approach: –– –– ––

No person seated at his place of work should have an unprotected view of passageways or entrances (including entrances to toilets, employee lounges, etc)23 Conference areas and management positions should be between 4.5 and 9m from adjoining work stations and noise sources.24 The approach to a manager’s work station should be so arranged that persons approaching him will do so head on or obliquely.25

 ffice Landscaping: A new approach to office planning, F.  Duffy, A.  Wankum, Anbar O Publications, 1969, p.5 22 Space Planning: Designing the Office Environment, L.  Shoshkes, Architectural Record Books, New York, p.8 23 Ibid, p. 19 24 Ibid, p.22 25 Ibid, p.22 21

Creating a Culture of Innovation –– ––

Sections and/or departments should be recognizable optically ie. all their furniture should face in one direction.26 Main passageways should not be narrower than 2 meters.27

The Quickborn original recommendations were clearly becoming popular, but as with every detailed strategy, people eventually tend to cut corners. By the time Duffy wrote his translation, elements of the Quickborn approach were already being applied to the bullpen office, but without any of the communication strategies. The resentment is clear in his introduction: The idea that any open-plan office that sports a couple of rubber plants, and perhaps a moveable screen or two is an office landscape, is gaining ground and should not be allowed to.28 This superficial misinterpretation of Schnelle’s work is still with us today as the aesthetics of office interiors, full of plants and organic layouts, are meant to create a better work environment regardless of how they connect to teams and how those teams work today. These interiors of course soften a space away from the rigidity of the bullpen, but without any of the communication mapping, they become confusing but visually dynamic, a proxy for innovation work, creativity, and new ideas. Much of team communication happens virtually as much as face to face, and it is surprising that no one in interior design has taken up the mantle of Quickborn in questioning a sort of status quo. Understanding the variety of office sounds, and how they impact someone’s concentration levels and communication practices, is what Schnelle tried to understand systematically. The open plan in The Apartment and the city room of “All The President’s Men” were noisy but dynamic. The open plan of today tends to create a very low level yet unpredictable audio landscape which most try to escape with noise-cancelling headphones. Hours of typing away on a variety of keyboards surrounded by people taking phone calls and moving away from earshot define most open office spaces today. This tends to create a continual yet inconsistent background noise that hinders deep thinking and is unfriendly to ad hoc conversation. Because of this, it is not quite a library nor a café. The ability to innovate is partly predicated on collaboration work being not only possible but desirable. If the soundscape around workers makes it Ibid, p.23 Ibid, p.24 28 Office Landscaping: A new approach to office planning, F.  Duffy, A.  Wankum, Anbar Publications, 1969, p.5 26 27



Chapter 1 | Space and Tools impossible to work without headphones, people’s ability to eavesdrop in on an interesting conversation will be diminished or impossible. Coupled with remote work, an individual is even more isolated from physical encounters with teams they might learn from or want to work with. The only opportunities for accidental cross-collaboration are placed heavily on communal spaces which might be in greater demand because of the lack of casual conversation such as lounge areas, cafeterias, and meeting rooms. But there’s a big step between seeing someone in the office cafeteria all the time and working with them.

Lessons Combining the cloisters, the bullpen, and the office landscape, some questions emerge that a business unit could consider: –– –– –– –– –– –– ––

Can a team member isolate themselves away from others easily to reflect and think through a problem? Can they do this without being disturbed? Can a team member have ad hoc conversations with colleagues without going through a formal process of booking a space/ room? Is a team member able to meet and socialize with a diverse but manageable group of people? Is the innovation team in a dedicated area yet within walking distance of the functions they are likely to work with? Are there enough shared casual spaces to allow both the innovation group and peer groups to meet continuously? Are there enough dedicated spaces for phone calls to be made with adequate sound insulation? Are there enough activities planned for the innovation group and their peer groups to get to know each other outside of a planned project?

Hot Desking and Coworking If the history of open vs. closed spaces in innovation work was complex, hot desking and coworking added even more elements to manage and consider. Hot desking revolves around the idea that a business can cut costs by offering unassigned seating. People come in every morning, getting settled in whatever desk is free at the time. The popularity of hot desking increased in line with remote working.

Creating a Culture of Innovation A completely opposite trend, coworking focused on giving a small number of freelancers a place to go and enjoy the camaraderie of a communal work environment.29 The idea was to share the costs of communal resources. Both of these trends deal with concepts of transience, but address them in completely different ways. The opportunities to create chance encounters that can lead to different sorts of conversations and ideas are fundamentally different in both these models. A modern perspective might easily dismiss hot desking as less effective than coworking, but history proves us once more that the initial premise wasn’t as bad as today’s often grim reality.

The nonterritorial office experiment A precursor of hot desking can be found in Thomas J. Allen’s Managing the Flow of Technology,30 published in 1977. It is an important reference in terms of capturing the changing perception of open plan offices in the 1970s. Allen’s book primarily focuses on communication strategies and the habits of researchers in corporate environments, but the latter part of the book uses an open plan space as a way of responding to those habits. Described as the “Nonterritorial Office Experiment,31” it was conducted to prove that there was negligible difference between an office like RAND’s and an open plan space in terms of performance. A closer look at Allen’s findings highlights how his work has been misinterpreted, just like the work of Quickborn two decades earlier. Allen is not an architect nor an interior designer but uses the last chapter of the book to provide answers and not just present the communication research as it was. The study was based on measuring a small group’s communication patterns (10 people by the end of a year-long study) in a combination of hot desking and open plan office. The objective was to create a space which would “increase the sharing of problems and experiences.”32 Described at the time as a “nonterritorial office,” engineers were not allowed personal items and given no designated desk, but work benches and tables in an open space, a “quiet area,” and a completely quiet room.

 oworking  - Community for Developers Who Work From Home, Brad Neuberg, C accessed March 2020, 30 Managing the Flow of Technology, T. Allen, MIT Press, 1977 31 Ibid, 269 32 Ibid p. 272 29



Chapter 1 | Space and Tools The conditions are strikingly similar to RAND in an administrative sense. The group was given a space where mail and the telephone was managed by a “central communicator” (probably a secretary) who would map out every day where people sat and indicate it on a map. This person would then take incoming calls and transfer them to the telephone at the right desk. A silent light would notify the staff member that a call was being put through and they would simply need to pick up. A “computation area” was screened off to offset the noise of computers and a “typing pool” of secretaries managed the typing “some distance away” because “typewriters and telephones can be annoying sources of noise in an open plan office.”33 This kind of “traffic management” would make sure people were fully immersed in their tasks and work, especially if that work required deep thinking. To further support these conditions, Allen noticed that the staff started to behave in territorial ways, even without a given territory, to manage how likely they were to be disturbed. In the non-territorial office, it is actually easy to bury oneself in a corner and avoid distraction. If someone is sitting in certain places, it is obvious that he wants to be left alone. Norms seem to have developed around this which allow a person to control his privacy and the amount of distraction he confronted. […] People do have preferred tables, but there are usually two or three of these and they tend to be in very different parts of the office area.[…] Those near the laboratory benches are used when considering or discussing test results. Tables near the windows seem to be used more for solitary, analytical work.34 […] The occupants seem to prefer to move about considerably over the course of a day. No one spent more than 50 percent of his at-table time at a single table […].35 Allen responds to what could easily be considered an underutilization of space with some thoughts on the role of meeting spaces:

Ibid, p. 272 Ibid, p. 276, 283, 285 35 Ibid, p. 283 33 34

Creating a Culture of Innovation The total quiet room and partial quiet area were seldom used […]. The low utilization factor, however, should not be taken as an argument against such areas. It may well be a necessity to provide these sports in order to make the nonterritorial concept acceptable.36 These meeting rooms act as a kind of psychological safety net for people. Knowing that there is a space to isolate themselves if they needed it presumably provided a person the required comfort to keep concentrated on a task even when the environment was moving in unpredictable ways. Hot desking after all creates a lot of unpredictability when it comes to group work and conversations. [The nonterritorial office] is likely to succeed with groups that spend high proportions of their time outside their office area. Groups who spend most of their time in other areas are accustomed to moving around on the job and are more likely to accept the loss of a permanent individual station. This is a key conclusion of the book. Hot desking is often wrongly perceived as a strategy to avoid underutilization of office space. However, just because people are using an unassigned desk doesn’t mean they are having meaningful conversations with the right colleagues when they’re elsewhere.

Lessons For any group larger than 10, the dynamics of hot desking soon become a case of “Where’s Wally?”, and virtual conversations, email, and scheduling meetings all attempt to compensate for simply knowing that someone is in or not. Their physical absence in a specific area creates uncertainty when the work that needs doing is collaborative. Allen’s nonterritorial office is more effective for people who don’t rely on working together actively. Unfortunately, business owners that were cost-sensitive latched on to the headline message rather than the details of Allen’s book. The office became one big transient space. An example of this is modern buildings, such as the New Academic Building at the London School of Economics,37 that make a performance of staircases and public walkways as if the movement of bodies is really “collaboration in action.” The performance of bodies moving about a space has never empirically proven to improve collaboration, and if that were the case, airports and malls would be great places for collaboration. Nevertheless, the trope persists.

36 37

Ibid, p. 285



Chapter 1 | Space and Tools In other words, if a business is going to decide to apply hot desking practices, then they should expect a degree of connection to be lost. The ability for an innovation team to think deeply and connect continuously to other relevant colleagues in other departments depends on everyone knowing where everyone else broadly tends to hang out. This is made more difficult in a hot desking situation and places the burden on more traditional “social spaces” instead of making the office fulfill its full potential. If teams are left to wait for meeting rooms to be available or lunchtime conversations, then the strength of the relationships they’ll build will suffer; the burden of relationship building will be placed on spaces and times which feel less critical like after-work socializing and mealtimes. In the next section, we will analyze how important these moments can be, but only because a business might not allow people to connect successfully within a work space and in work hours.

Canteens, eating rituals, and other perks Finding time to think through an idea with a colleague is a challenge when a space doesn’t let a quiet, unplanned conversation happen serendipitously. The weight is then placed on “other spaces” and other times within an office space. From the water cooler to the canteen, the coffee shop outside of a building, and in some cultures, the bar after work, teams will try to make the most of these less scheduled or even “out of office” moments to find the time to explore an idea with a colleague or a team. The history of dining experiences at work isn’t very rich, but Laboratory Lifestyles by Sandra Kaji-O’Grady offers a good starting point as she positions offering food within a workplace a part of “caring capitalism.”38 What the book highlights is the soft politics of eating with others when doing research work. The book refers to39 anthropologists Yochanan Altman and Yehuda Baruch and their research on organizational lunch:40 The lunch break, […], should be viewed as fulfilling a role in shaping, maintaining and negotiating shared meanings, and in interpreting identities that are institutional as well as individual.

L aboratory Lifestyles, The Construction of Scientific Fictions, S. Kaji-O’Grady, C. Smith and R. Hughes, MIT Press, 2019, p.128 39 Laboratory Lifestyles, The Construction of Scientific Fictions, S. Kaji-O’Grady, C. Smith and R. Hughes, MIT Press, 2019, p.123 40 The organizational lunch, Y. Altman, Y. Baruch, Culture and Organization, 2010 38

Creating a Culture of Innovation These identities may even conflict with people’s beliefs like WeWork’s policy of imposing meat-free dining on its staff.41 Far from being an effort to nanny employees, offering lunch can help maintain a team’s sense of shared understanding if the eating experience is also communal. This will not only vary greatly across each business, but a business should consider that lunchtimes are also an opportunity for people to reclaim a sense of personal time and space, especially as the workforce is varied age-wise. Family obligations may come before lunch. Additionally, lunchtime is deprioritized the more overwhelmed a team is. Research conducted on 2000 American employees in 2018 shows that as many as 30% have lunch at their desks42 and, worse, that the average lunch break is often compressed into 16 minutes. For innovation teams who can’t make the best use of their desk space layout, the weight of socializing and community building is therefore put on times of the day like lunchtime. This leads to a variety of outcomes business should be aware of before imposing group rituals.

Eating together The idea of eating together as an act of team building at work is relatively new. Before the start of the 20th century, factory workers were expected to bring their lunch or eat at home. Lunch mostly meant something cold, eaten quickly43 at a work bench and was not meant to be convivial nor a collective experience. The legal provision of school meals for poor children eventually led to school canteens and cafeterias near office spaces in the late 19th century.44 Providing a work canteen was not a given, but when unions started to develop, one way to make sure a workforce was content was to feed them, instruct them, take care of their health, and support them with pension schemes and other financial instruments. Feeding employees became one of the many strategies a business developed to instill a sense of belonging and shared success.  emo From the Boss: You’re a Vegetarian Now, D. Gelles, New York Times, July 2018, M 42 America’s Lunch Break is Fading Away, Study Finds, SWNS Digital, accessed March 2020, 43 Historian: Industrial Revolution Gave Us Lunch As We Know It, J.  Siers-Poisson,  Wisconsin Public Radio, 44 Fragments of the Past: The Exchange Buffet, Building a Business on Trust for 78 Years, P.  Szende, J.  Pak, Boston Hospitality Review, Fall 2017, Volume 5, Issue 3, Boston University, 41



Chapter 1 | Space and Tools We’ll look at two early pioneers of this approach: Olivetti and Cadbury. Both companies were leaders in their field by the time they built on-site dining facilities, and in both cases, food was one of many other perks.

Olivetti Olivetti, the Italian typewriter manufacturer, had a history of providing social support structures for its employees as it slowly became the main employer in the Piedmont region. Olivetti’s factory manager, Domenico Burzio, would often personally meet with employees who had financial difficulty and help them budget their earnings.45 A mutual fund was set up for employees in 1909,46 and in 1919, anticipating changes in government policy-making, Olivetti increased the salary of employees who had dependant children.47 The business at that stage had less than 200 employees. By 1924, Olivetti was offering night courses in mathematics and professional development.48 In 1932, a summer camp for children was organized, and in 1934, a day nursery was set up on-site to cater to its more than 1000 employees. The cafeteria service49 was opened in 1936, almost 30 years after the business had started. For many, food is the easiest perk to offer, but in Olivetti’s case, it came after many other advantages. Eating together became easy to instigate when every other patriarchal benefit was already being offered. Many would struggle to match this level of support in today’s corporate world, but this assured Olivetti a loyal employee base and success well into the 1960s.50

Cadbury Another example of the “caring capitalism” of eating together is the Cadbury brothers factory town of Bournville in the United Kingdom. The chocolate and confectionary empire had relocated to this greenfield site with a factory surrounded by housing for employees. Like Olivetti, lunchtime usually meant employees went home.

 livetti, 1908-1958, Ing. C. Olivetti & C. S.p.A., Ivrea, 1958, p.34 O Ibid, p. 170 47 Ibid, p.172 48 Ibid, p.173 49 Olivetti cafeteria view: 8471/2728526390538527/?type=3&theater 50 Story of cities #21: Olivetti tries to build the ideal ‘human city’ for its workers,  C. Provost, S. Lai, The Guardian, April 2016, accessed March 2020, www.theguardian. com/cities/2016/apr/13/story-cities-21-adriano-olivetti-ivreaitaly-typewriter-factory-human-city 45 46

Creating a Culture of Innovation Then in 1927, on the request of the Workers Councils, the firm built the “Dining Room Block” which contained a dining room, lounges, committee rooms, and even a concert hall.51 The administration of the facilities was left to the Councils so the canteen was essentially employee-run. In the “Guide to Bournville’s Factory” of 1936, the employee schedule is described in great detail with everyone stopping for lunch at 12:30pm every day. Today that canteen has become a series of restaurants and dining rooms in which 5000 can take their meal at the same time. […] Meals in the dining rooms are served on the cafeteria principle, through hatches. In the Terrace Restaurant the food is brought round to the tables. The food was cheap and varied, and if they had a little more time during that lunch hour, employees could roam the Rowheath Recreation Grounds or borrow books from the library. Lunch was limited to one hour and was segregated, with men and women eating in separate areas. Compared to Olivetti, the Cadbury’s efforts feel more contrived. In order to retain people at a time of wealth and growth in the business, perks had to be offered. As highlighted in Laboratory Lifestyles, the lack of studies of food and commensality in the workplace52 doesn’t prove that offering lunch helps people have better ideas. At best we can gather that lunch is seen as a great leveler. Everyone eats and needs to eat, manager or not. So some businesses use it to connect at a very basic level in a context that is less formal than a meeting. A more recent example of this is design firm Pentagram who have an on-site chef cook lunch for the entire staff at 1pm every day53 (Figure 1-6).

 adburys of Bournville, the building of a modern business, Cadburys Brothers Ltd, C Bournville, 1955, p.22-23 52 Laboratory Lifestyles, The Construction of Scientific Fictions, S. Kaji-O’Grady, C. Smith and R. Hughes, MIT Press, 2019, p.135 53 Inside London’s Wolff Olins and Pentagram Studios, Aiga, February 2018, accessed March 2020, 51



Chapter 1 | Space and Tools

Figure 1-6.  Pentagram office at lunchtime (photo: Nick Turner)

Pentagram’s London office uses long communal tables reminiscent of the Cadbury restaurant. With a partnership structure that resembles a law firm, the interaction between partners, at lunchtime, in between projects, can create opportunities for camaraderie in an otherwise competitive atmosphere. Lunch can also create an important opportunity to complain. Complaining about something that isn’t going right in a business may be enough to keep an employee going without any desire to formally complain. One in four eat with colleagues because of “ritualized work group obligations, comradeship and sociability, or relaxation and stress management.”54 For the mental health benefits alone, it’s worth making sure people eat with others. Or at least take the time “away from the desk” to connect with their peers.

Eating whenever and structural holes Eating at your convenience, regardless of the time of day, was more common in white collar settings where shutting down machinery wasn’t a consideration. Working in environments where the outputs and management practices are


L aboratory Lifestyles, The Construction of Scientific Fictions, S. Kaji-O’Grady, C. Smith and R. Hughes, MIT Press, 2019, p.135

Creating a Culture of Innovation both digitized and largely remote made this possible again. Lunch and eating with others can now be ignored entirely, performed alone or done whenever there’s a consensus in a smaller team instead of the whole factory floor. Google’s policy of offering free food in its cafeterias to all its employees epitomizes this attitude and encourages these ad hoc flexible lunch situations. From their early experiments with foods that weren’t going to make them groggy in the afternoon55 to over 185 facilities (Figure 1-7) for over 100,000 employees,56 they’ve taken an extreme stance on this idea. But why make such an important investment?

Figure 1-7.  One of the kitchen areas in Google’s Tokyo office (source: Google)

This is down to co-founder Sergey Brin’s interpretation of network theory57 and bridging “structural holes” in a network.58 This concept, developed in a 2004 research paper59 by sociologist Ronald Burt, found that the people who 55

The Google Chef, Charlie Ayers, Internet History Podcast, April 2017, www.interneth-

2 1 photos of the most impressive free food at Google, Business Insider, August 2016, 57 The Real Reason Google Serves All That Free Food, D.  Burkus,, www. 58 Structural Holes and Good Ideas1, R. S. Burt, American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 110, No. 2 (September 2004), pp. 349-399 59 Structural Holes and Good Ideas1, R. S. Burt, American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 110, No. 2 (September 2004), pp. 349-399 56



Chapter 1 | Space and Tools bridged teams more often were able to come up with ideas appreciated by others, therefore more likely to “stick.” The kitchens and cafeterias therefore act as a way to nudge employees into cross-departmental connections. But the transience of sharing a meal facility isn’t the same as eating a meal together. Selecting a meal, because the facility is omnipresent, may be doing exactly the reverse of what Brin intends, allowing people to avoid busy periods, thus having less conversations. Others avoid lunch entirely by going to the gym or using meal replacements like Soylent. The lack of imposed lunchtime structure means relationship building is performed outside of the dining area. From running groups to the office gym, the reliance on free food any time frees an employee from worrying about the time they might eat. The location of food provision may in fact not support a sense of immediate neighborliness as an employee may become closer to the people they share their exercise routine with. The ability for an employee to build their own identity through their ways of dealing with lunchtime is more flexible than ever but may be less easy to measure for a manager. As O’Grady notes:60 What looks like leisure is, instead, best understood as an extension of work, not its antithesis.

Lessons An innovation manager should consider carefully the impact of how they offer and manage a lunchtime experience. Less pressure is placed on lunch when the existing working conditions allow cross-pollination to happen easily in the office layout. The less pressure there is on lunch to produce these creative conversations, the more people can decide what to do with it, fit in the rest of their life obligations, freeing their energy up for the rest of the day. This is especially important with a varied workforce dealing with care obligations elsewhere. Much can come from lunch happening at the same time across a business, without everyone having to eat together every time. Not every second of a work day should feel like a communal act. Good ideas should be enabled during the times and in the space more strongly associated with work as opposed to turn every single space into a work opportunity.


L aboratory Lifestyles, The Construction of Scientific Fictions, S. Kaji-O’Grady, C. Smith and R. Hughes, MIT Press, 2019, p.129

Creating a Culture of Innovation Cognitively, people need spaces in an office where their mind can wander more freely and forcing them into eating with colleagues they haven’t chosen may hinder this precious downtime.

Stationery Toys are not really as innocent as they look. Toys and games are preludes to serious ideas. —Charles and Ray Eames In the last section of this chapter, we’ll address the physical tools which are commonly found in meeting rooms and associated with creativity. Part totem part ritual, we’re hard-pressed to find an office space that doesn’t have a stationery cupboard somewhere next to the printer. In a world where work has largely been digitized, holding on to physical tools materializes group activities. But what tools are we talking about? This may feel like a shopping list for your nearest stationery shop, but the following both enable different levels of legibility and engagement across a whole group, no matter the size: 1. A surface on which to write in a way that lets others read from afar (blackboard, whiteboard, smart whiteboard, foam board, flipcharts, projection area) 2. Thick pens to use on these surfaces (large whiteboard pens) 3. Thinner pens which can being read in a small group (Sharpie pens) 4. Paper of a variety of sizes (A5, A4, A3) 5. Self-adhesive paper (Post-it Notes) 6. Pens for individual note-taking 7. Adhesives The fact that most of the offices of today have a selection of these tools is in part thanks to the Schnelle brothers again. Their Metaplan moderation method was developed in 197261,62 by Metaplan GmbH, the company they set up after Quickborn. The Metaplan method focuses on running very prescriptive group work with a variety of shapes of card that would be annotated and pinned onto brown berhard Schnelle, Bramstedt Archives Wiki, accessed March 2020, http://wiki. E 62 Primer for the Metaplan Technique, Metaplan GmbH, p.  5,  Education/METAPLAN/metaplan%20primer2.pdf 61



Chapter 1 | Space and Tools craft paper so that group discussions could take place as participants linked each piece of paper to another with arrows. It’s not a surprise the Post-it Note replaced those pieces of paper today. As consulting firms like Metaplan started to adopt these theatrical methods of group work, the Post-it Note fit right in. The challenge with Post-it Notes is that they are so easy to misuse. From their format, color, type of pen used to write on them, their usefulness for group work is questionable at best. Some examples of misuse might include the following: • Writing with a ballpoint pen on a Post-it Note so the thought won’t be read as easily by a larger group when the inevitable clustering or note-taking time comes along • Writing on them a meaningless word or half a thought— something that needs a broader context or a verbal explanation • Writing on them without worrying about colors means a visual mess a group will decipher with greater difficulty • Writing on them anonymously removes any obligation to follow up. This might work in some contexts but it also hinders the organiser’s ability to find out more later Far from being a scientific analysis of the use of Post-it Notes, it’s easy to see they play a role in group work and the communication of ideas after that group work disappears. Their flimsiness also contributes to the feeling that “ideas are cheap,” something at the heart of brainstorming practices which we’ll explore in Chapter 3. The way they create a feeling of “activity” makes them powerful political tools. This is no fault of 3M, the manufacturer of the Post-it Note, but the lack of real goal-setting and meeting structure when these tools are put into people’s hands can make people feel like they’ve done something when in fact they haven’t. Because they invade the spaces of today, taking over entire meeting room walls, sometimes staying up on the wall for years, they create a certain kind of noise, an illusion of sorts. One group’s work also has the potential to essentially tarnish a space for everyone else. The soft politics of stationery, in this sense, shouldn’t be underestimated.

Creating a Culture of Innovation Some have grown so averse to Post-it Notes they actively refuse to use them. Christ Downs, founder of London-based design studio Normally,63 has a no Post-it Note policy. I introduced this in the studio as I feel they inspire a behaviour that isn’t conducive to risk taking or thinking with rigour. Someone will write the word ‘data’ on a post-it note and days later that note sits there, without context and becomes meaningless. It lets us off the hook from ever having to think through ideas and concepts in detail. They’re a lazy illusion of thinking. Instead we have whiteboards in the studio so we can stand together as a team and use written and visual forms. They become constellations of words, illustrations, code, images of interfaces. You can amend them and it slows you down to properly communicate with someone. There’s an immediate need to do something with those ideas as the whiteboard feels more temporary. Post-its tempts you believe they work well as repository for thinking. So people delude themselves into thinking you’ll come back to a collection of Post-its. They also create an artificial barrier between the facilitator or designer and the impact you can have by doing work. Services are not made of post-it notes, they’re made of data, interfaces and people. It also gives designers the illusion of control over a process of brainstorm but again, that’s not action. That’s not what a designer is capable of. There are other processes we can take, other ways to do things.

Lessons It’s very tempting to buy as many tools as you can lay your hands on when you first start an innovation function within a business and “see what happens.” Understanding the power dynamics and how they exist in our spaces is as important as how accessible they are. Well placed though, they can open up conversations that would never otherwise happen, something beautifully illustrated by Anne Miller in her book The Myth of the Mousetrap: [A] junior manager at one of my clients businesses had the simple idea of putting a white board and some pens by the coffee machine. This transformed the way people discussed and shared ideas, as people from all levels in the company added suggestions and improvements to the current hot idea.64

63 64

Normally, The myth of the Mousetrap: How to Get Your Ideas Adopted (And change the world), A. Miller, Marshall Cavendish, 2007, p.3



2 People and Knowledge There have always been a handful of engineers who come to every TGIF.  They sit in the front row and ask long, rambling questions. Every week.[…] One of these questioners was a slight, brown-haired man. He had a gentle mien and always seemed to ask his questions in the form of a narrative. […] The questions were sometimes wacky, sometimes prophetic. He asked about two-factor authentication years before it was offered. Then one day, after a decade, he retired. […] It turns out he’d been one of our very early Googlers1. —Laszlo Bock, Work Rules! Businesses are communities within communities that exist spatially, geographically and conceptually. Generating ideas that will be interesting enough to build consensus and lead to action across a cluster of desks, a department, a floor, or a building is a big challenge in most businesses. Information that ideas are based on also needs to be understood, and socialized across multiple groups. If the rationale isn’t communicated effectively, people forget why a project is being talked about and acted on. Innovation work is often based on lobbying and facilitating conversations. 1

Work Rules, L. Bock, John Murray, 2015, p.135

© Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino 2020 A. Deschamps-Sonsino, Creating a Culture of Innovation,


Chapter 2 | People and Knowledge This requires curation and investment. Managers in an innovation department have to decide what is relevant to the business and what isn’t; then they may develop a collective response to that information, whether that’s a new product, platform, or way of working. So innovation work is a deeply social act and not just a technical one. From selecting the most receptive person in a group to ascertaining the right time to tell them, innovation work is about people, what they do with information, and how they move from information to knowledge and then action. In the previous chapter, we explored how the physical environment supports teamwork. Here, we’ll look at the social dynamics involved in innovation work. Some of what we’ll explore is a selection of psychological research along with the latest trends in work practices. Every reference in this chapter is worth exploring in its own right and should be considered a starting point for future research.

Giving permission Work that is primarily focused on generating and incubating new ideas might not be supported by the same kind of team and knowledge dynamics as “business as usual.” However, if they’re deemed too creative and different, the team may be written off as “those crazy people in the innovation department.” Too close to business and the staff may not be motivated to rock the boat as there are enough daily challenges to keep everyone busy. There is a fine balance to be struck in making sure the conditions provided make others in a business feel like welcomed contributors. Innovation leadership should be about managing the interaction between the internal communities focused solely on new idea generation and those that aren’t. It should be about building an environment where ideas can come from anywhere and the people who are happy to spend more time on them are free to do so. A common example is Google’s 20% rule, but the reason why this format worked is that someone is eventually curating the results. As former CEO Laszlo Bock explains in his book Work Rules!, the permission to work on side projects at Google did not mean every idea was worth pursuing: A side effect of untrammeled freedom is a flood of ideas. In addition to hundreds of products, we had a project database where Googlers would log the thousands of 20-percent-projects that had been started. We had an ideas

Creating a Culture of Innovation board, where more than twenty thousand ideas were posted and discussed. [Larry] began leading an annual spring cleaning, shutting down products that weren’t gaining traction.2 Putting aside the effects of the culling on group morale, there was an impression of freedom and that contribution was open to all. This has become more challenging in workplaces focused on surveilling employees and micromanaging them every click of the way, especially in the knowledge economy This creates an environment employees will fight against in order to spend time on ideas they find more exciting. In this chapter, we’ll look at strategies to avoid creating a defensive environment. We’ll also examine how teams dedicated to innovation open themselves up to new ideas and how they select and retain relevant knowledge. The conclusions may apply to departments that aren’t so tied to novelty and new product development. If the communication and knowledge sharing dynamics within an innovation team work well, chances are it will affect positively the dynamics in other business divisions.

The right stuff? Finding out who in your business has ideas worth backing is as important as finding out who might. It would be a mistake though to think that some people are more inventive or creative than others. There is a long history of research in organizational psychology to prove that the conditions a worker is placed in will have an effect on their ability to be creative. This is commonly misinterpreted by leaders who refuse to look at their own conditions, deciding to focus instead on hiring “the right people.” This process might start with recruitment practices based on personality testing, based on the erroneous belief that to uncover someone’s motivations is to find out how they might react within a team. This ignores the fact that it is impossible to anticipate new ideas and, more importantly, how far an idea will go without a person already being embedded in a team, with a management structure to support them and a business as a whole ready to listen. No personality trait will enable these other, more crucial conditions.


Ibid, p. 135



Chapter 2 | People and Knowledge Personality tests are sadly used in everything from HR to dating websites3 without any scientific basis for doing so.4,5 For an in-depth analysis of the problems behind personality and IQ tests,6 it’s best to turn to What’s Your Type7 by Merve Emre and The Cult of Personality Testing8 by Annie Murphy Paul. These publications explore in much more detail the history of a range of testing methods and their continued appeal today regardless of inconclusive scientific results. [R]esearch shows that a single person's scores are unstable, often changing over the course of years, weeks, even hours (a subject may be "a good intuitive thinker in the afternoon but not in the morning," […]). And, worse, there is little evidence of the correlation of test scores with school performance, managerial effectiveness, team building or career counseling.9 Not only are personality tests wrongly applied, they’ve also been shown to support bias. Thinking of people in “types” caters to a recruiter’s own ideas of who is worthy of employment. The Centre for Social Integration at Nuffield College, University of Oxford,10 showed that racism was embedded in recruitment processes. In 2015, they applied to nearly 3200 jobs, randomly varying the minority background of fictitious applicants, while the skills, qualifications, and work experience stayed the same. On average, 24% of applicants from the majority group (in this case white) received a callback from employers. Applicants with ethnic minorities needed to send 60% more applications in order to receive as many callbacks as the majority group.

 ata in Dating: From eHarmony to Tinder & further, Eva-Maria Locusteanu, D (accessed April 2020), 4 Free Innovation, Eric Von Hippel, MIT Press, 2016, p.122 5 Using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to study managers: A literature review and  research agenda, W. Garner, M. Martinko, Journal of Management, Vol 2, Issue 1, 1996, p. 45-83 6 The New Republic, J.C. Pan, 2018 (accessed April 2020), article/151098/personality-brokers-book-review-invention-myersbriggs-type-indicator 7 What’s your type: The strange history of Myers-Briggs and the birth of personality tests, M. Emre, William Collins, 2018 8 The Cult of Personality Testing: How Personality Tests Are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies, and Misunderstand Ourselves, A. Paul, Free Press, 2005 9 ‘The Cult of Personality’: Are you Normal? Think Again, S.  Satel, New  York Times, October 2004, (accessed April 2020) 10 New CSI Report on ethnic minority job discrimination, Nuffield College January 2019, (accessed April 2020)


Creating a Culture of Innovation Even when new technology to select CVs independently is brought in, biases remain. In 2018, Amazon’s artificial intelligence–powered CV selection tool had to be shut down when it was found to actively discriminate against female applicants.11 The idea that the “right people” can be selected also leads to the burden of creativity to rest solely on their shoulders. It willfully ignores a long hard look at the internal conditions, settings, and team dynamics that are promoted and encouraged. What do we mean when we say conditions? If we take a school as an analogy of a corporate environment, the relationship between the student, their class, and the school shapes that student’s experience. Sociologists Robert Dentler and Bernard Machler12 studied the behavior of a group of students in relation to creativity. They found that: [S]ocial and personal determinants as a climate of indulgence, safety, friendliness, cooperation, permissiveness and so on, increased the originality of students. This kind of social climate suggests to the individual that he does not need to be on guard. He does not need to eliminate what is likely to be unaccepted by the environment. So applying this analogy to the workplace, the more an employee understands how to contribute to group work, how to voice opinions, and how to take action, the more likely they are to understand where the safety net lies. This often requires a leader or manager to really examine and question their own process and requires a degree of humility toward their own approach, which businesses in pressured and competitive industries are less likely to do. In those cases, internal processes are left ill-defined and the cult of “the right person” continues. Vague character traits are sought instead of designing more productive models of teamwork. The easiest way to see this kind of corporate behavior in action is through the lens of the much-publicized manifestos and employee handbooks. The “Freedom and Responsibility Culture” internal guide at Netflix13 is a good example. It proudly describes innovation as one of the nine values their employees should “embody”:

 mazon Scraps ‘Sexist AI’ recruitment tool, M. Oppenheim, The Independent, October A 2018, (accessed April 2020) 12 Creativity: The Magic Synthesis, S. Arieti, Diane Publishers, New York, 1976, p.9 13 Reference Guide on our Freedom & Responsibility Culture, Netflix, p.19, https:// (accessed April 2020) 11



Chapter 2 | People and Knowledge You re-conceptualize issues to discover practical solutions to hard problems. You challenge prevailing assumptions when warranted, and suggest better approaches. You create new ideas that prove useful. You keep us nimble by minimizing complexity and finding time to simplify. This is another take on “creativity as a personality trait” and worse still since it claims innovation is one of those personal traits to be measured against others such as honesty, selflessness, and curiosity. This is repeated later as: Our model is to increase employee freedom as we grow, rather than limit it, to continue to attract and nourish innovative people, so we have better chance of long-term continued success. Innovative people are, for Netflix, something to attract and “nourish” as if they were exotic plants with needs beyond the needs of the rest of their workforce. The responsibility of new ideas is therefore not put on a team or an environment but on the personal ability of some rare breed of employee. Netflix is not unique in being dismissive of the conditions they offer employees, no matter how it affects retention.14 Many Silicon Valley businesses struggle with retention as a result of aggressive internal dynamics because they assume “the right kind” of person will stay, tough it out, or come up with the necessary solutions. Another example is a memo handed to Nike employees by co-founder Phil Knight in 1977.15 It included a set of “principles”: 1. Our business is change 2. We're on offense. All the time. 3. Perfect results count -- not a perfect process. Break the rules; fight the law. 4. This is as much about battle as about business. 5. Assume nothing. Make sure people keep their promises. Push yourselves push others. Stretch the possible.

 orking at Netflix Sounds Absolutely Terrifying, M. Kosoff, Vanity Fair, October 2018, W (accessed April 2020) 15 Copy of an original employee handout in 1977,  status/1043908145863581701/photo/1 (accessed April 2020) 14

Creating a Culture of Innovation 6. Live off the land. 7. Your job isn't done until the job is done. 8. Dangers. Bureaucracy. Personal Ambition. Energy takers vs. energy givers Knowing our weaknesses Don't get too many things on the platter 9. It won't be pretty. 10. If we do the right things we'll make money damn near automatic. The mix of “we” and “you” implies that individual decisions (how you spend your time, how you manage others, how you take part in conflict) are as important as how the business as a whole acts. There might be something rallying about this memo, but the military analogies would put many off today. If Nike’s principles were passed through a gender decoder filter today (like the one created by Kat Matfield16), the principles do not include a single “femininecoded” word. This means they don’t overtly include concepts of cooperation, trust, or enthusiasm. They don’t describe the culture of permissiveness required for all types of people to feel confident about contributing ideas. These kinds of externally digestible insights don’t replace a good audit. They are sometimes no more than marketing. It’s unlikely that employee handbooks like a single card at the luxury department store Nordstrom17 or a 128-page document18 at the marketing software company HubSpot really give employees an ideas of who is and isn’t allowed to contribute creatively. The proof is in the pudding at work and eventually employees find out both whose ideas are respected and whose opinions are ignored. A cursory look at the employee feedback section on will give an insight into the impact of culture on employees at every level, not just in innovation.

 ender Decoder for Job Ads, Kat Matfield, G (accessed April 2020) 17 Nordstrom’s Employee Handbook Has Only One Rule, A.  Lutz, Business Insider,  Oct 2014, (accessed April 2020) 18 Culture Code: Creating A Lovable Company, HubSpot, SlideShare, March 2013, www. (accessed April 2020) 16



Chapter 2 | People and Knowledge The democratization of idea generation is important for employees to feel like they have something more to contribute than just ruthless execution. By defining “innovative people” as a separate category of employees in public ways, it creates an elite of people who contribute to the business in a seemingly different way to the people managing customer calls or cleaning the office every morning. That segregation will have repercussions across the whole of the business and even before someone joins.

Job titles In-house There is no clearer signal of creative authority than the job title given to someone working in innovation. From an outsider’s point of view, the early signs of an innovation culture will start with the naming of the department and the people in it. Over the last 10 years, there has been a rise in trendy, often confusing job titles, especially in digitally focused businesses. Chief Happiness Officer is a common example. This role is largely an extension of traditional human resources but with a focus on managing staff communication more organically. They may also take care of onboarding new employees by building a sense of community with dedicated (often after-work) activities and mitigating the risks to a business because of an employee’s mental health, potential breakdown, or resignation.19 With all the complexities of this role, it may be that a traditional title would be too restrictive, but Chief Happiness Officer sounds a little flippant.20 The same confusion between fun and descriptive titles happens in dedicated innovation departments and functions. According to research conducted by Boards of Innovation, over 19 different job titles are used in innovation departments.21 Out of them, the ones that include a more direct reference to innovation include the following: • Innovation Consultant • Change Agent  ase Study: What does a Chief Happiness Officer Actually Do, Chartered Managers C Institute, May 2018, (accessed April 2020) 20 Do You Have a Chief Happiness Officer?, D.  Blomstrom, Forbes, sites/duenablomstrom1/2019/01/24/do-you-have-a-chief-happinessofficer/#77f29a815256 (accessed April 2020) 21 Our Field Guide: Job Titles in Innovation, Boards of Innovation (accessed April 2020) 19

Creating a Culture of Innovation • Chief Innovation Officer • Innovation Catalyst • Innovation Strategist • Innovation Manager • Venture Builder • Venture Architect CB Insights, a market research firm, wrote about 25 “absurd titles” in April 2019.22 These included the following: • Innovation Evangelist • Innovation Alchemist • Innovation Sherpa As entertaining as these titles might sound, they obfuscate a person’s role and place within a group. In 2012, a UK think tank the Resolution Foundation commissioned23 research that showed that workers ended up with more “senior-sounding” titles, but that their salaries were for middle-ranking employees. It’s impossible to tell if a Rockstar, Ninja, or Sherpa earns more or is more senior than an Alchemist, a Builder, or a Change Agent. That confusion will not only confuse new applicants but won’t offer clarity to any future employer. Being clear in a job title enables someone to then feel confident about their place in an industry. Having a title that sounds clear and resonates with the rest of a sector also enables more meaningful conversations between people both inside the company and out. Going to a conference and spending two minutes explaining what kind of role you occupy is a waste of a networking opportunity. By choosing a title more in line with what the role actually entails, the crossdisciplinary conversations that are so needed in a business are more likely to take place. A litmus test for a job title is whether, when you look up this same title in job search engines, you find similar ones elsewhere. If you don’t, you’ve created a job title no one else is using, so no one else can relate to. The innovative aspect of the work should be more important than how it’s described.  he 25 Most Absurd Titles in Tech, CB Insights, April 2019, T research/most-absurd-tech-job-titles/ (accessed April 2020) 23 We’re all managers now, Resolution Foundation, March 2012, (accessed April 2020) 22



Chapter 2 | People and Knowledge

Evangelists Innovation work also involves caring about what happens in your sector, your peer group, and your competitors. This means keeping a constant eye on “what’s out there” to respond to it accordingly, especially when market conditions change rapidly. This is hard to do in the middle of a deadline, with a large team to manage and quarterly reporting structures. Industry research can too often gather dust on a shelf, Internet links litter a Slack channel, and industry intelligence reports stay unread in an inbox. Quite apart from the cognitive challenges of work spaces which we’ve explored, many employees also struggle with information overload,24 so it’s important to examine alternative ways of building both consensus and action planning based on external information. An approach which some companies have chosen is to give someone in their team the job of both socializing their existing work and keeping an eye on what is going on in their industry more widely. This person is sometimes given the title of “evangelist.” Borrowed from the biblical canon, the term was adopted by the companies like Apple in the early 1980s. Their first software evangelist Mike Boich started in 1982.25 This term continues to be used today. This person spends a large part of their time working outside the office, attending industry conferences, speaking on behalf of a product team, and helping grow a community of clients or contributors. This is very close to a political lobbying or sales role and is often focused on building communities of interest that can help shape a product still in development. Building communities can also help a company develop industry-wide alignment or standards. The person who occupies these roles tends to be someone with a track record of working inside a business for a long-enough period to understand both the “internal” perspective and be attentive enough to the opportunities that exist elsewhere. This is what Thomas Allen would call a “technology gatekeeper.” Far from being a negative term, he refers to them as a person inside a research lab who was able to make links inside and outside the organization. In Managing the Flow of Technology, they are described as slightly older employees who have been in the business long enough to become an internal reference as well as someone who opened doors elsewhere. This shouldn’t be confused with technology transfer or the process of finding an industry partner to exploit a patent. An evangelist or gatekeeper is there to listen to what is happening  o task left behind? Examining the nature of fragmented work, G.  Mark, Computer N Human Interactions Conference Proceedings, 2005, CHI2005.pdf (accessed April 2020) 25 Signing Party, A. Hertzfeld, February 1982, t=Macintosh&story=Signing_Party.txt&sortOrder=Sort+by+Date&characters= Mike+Boich (accessed May 2020) 24

Creating a Culture of Innovation outside a business and make connections with what is being talked about inside. This was perfectly captured by Robert Scoble, Microsoft’s first corporate blogger turned “tech evangelist” in an article for The Irish Times in 2005:26 An evangelist's role inside a company is to help software developers build software... A good evangelist is really a good listener. But then, a good blogger is really a good listener. By being exposed to industry dynamics, an evangelist can bring insights back to a team that would improve product development and give people a different point of view on an existing activity. An evangelist could focus on curating content and organize discussions with a variety of teams across a business. New information can lead to new ideas only if the ideas are born from unusual communities within a business and an evangelist should be able to facilitate this. One of the pitfalls of evangelism is that it created a kind of celebrity culture. People will occupy those roles because of their public speaking charisma in conferences, not necessarily for what they bring back into the business. The poster child has surely been David Shing,27 nicknamed Shingy, who acted as “digital prophet” for AOL until late 2019. He was promoted to this role in 2011 from Vice President of Media and Marketing, a job title much more understandable to any industry. He described his new role on his LinkedIn profile:28 In this role I work across both North American and International territories to identify new opportunities for the business, actively change brand perception and assist in building the external profile of the company across the globe. Not only do I speak at conferences and present to agencies and clients, but I also develop creative solutions for brands and clients. That description seems pretty in line with any personal relations or marketing role, so why use “digital prophet”? His public persona was exploited on social media and in the technology press in order to make AOL sound trendy by association. The job title is part of that “over the top” brashness. The more he presented himself as an artist (he had studied graphic design), the more attention AOL received. And any advertising is good advertising. But hiring  logging is good for business, says tech evangelist, K. Lillington, The Irish Times, Nov. B 2008, (accessed April 2020) 27 Shingy, the Digital Prophet, Reflects on His Time at AOL and What’s Next, B. Feldman, New  York Magazine, Oct 2019, shingy-reflects-on-his-time-at-aol-and-whats-next.html (accessed April 2020) 28 David Shing, LinkedIn, (accessed April 2020) 26



Chapter 2 | People and Knowledge someone to be your eyes and ears and a translator between your innovation work and what happens outside is very different to a marketing role.

Internships An often forgotten way to enable new ways of thinking in a team is by offering internships to a variety of students or graduates. The mistake is to consider a young person as a drain on resources or as meat for the organizational grinder. Many of the first researchers at RAND were in their early 20s, even leading some of the departments. Many startup founders are today in their early to mid-20s.29 Some, became multimillionaires in their teens.30 It’s important to remember that the biggest competitor to the internship is entrepreneurship. With that in mind, it’s important to focus on what the company as well as the individual can hope to gain. Sectors like management consulting are very good at turning an internship into employment contracts, winning yearly employment awards,31 but these opportunities are often offered to specific types of graduates who come out of specific types of academic programs.32 Other sectors like hospitality and fine arts use long apprenticeships to build a working relationship with someone starting out. That model is a good one to follow in innovation work where understanding the culture of a team will take as much time as understanding how to have impact in that team. No one wants to feel like an outsider when working in a business and this process may take up to a year. Thinking of internships as apprenticeships could allow someone to start with small tasks and move on to more complex ones inside a close-knit team. They get to fail on someone else’s dime and decide for themselves what they like about the profession and the sector at large. And if the internship leads them to go start their own business, the company will still have influenced their own sector in a positive way.

1 0 Young Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2020, Just Entrepreneurs, April 2020, https:// (accessed May 2020) 30 Summly app created by London teenager Nick D’Aloisio sold to Yahoo for millions, The Evening Standard, March 2013, (accessed May 2020) 31 Here Are The Top 100 Internship Programs In The U.S.—And #1 Goes To…, A. Csedrik, Wayup, August 2019, (accessed May 2020) 32 Rise of white-collar apprentices challenges conventional degree wisdom, K. Allen, The Guardian, March 2014, (accessed May 2020) 29

Creating a Culture of Innovation Most innovation work, being white collar and often based on idea generation, is by definition more accessible to a wider array of people, but they’re often short, unpaid, and involve no or little progression. Corporations where deadlines are tight and money is tighter will have a tendency to offer internships to a restricted “type” of person, either coming from educational institutions they already have ties to or from existing personal relationships. But the return on investment of an enjoyable internship shouldn’t be underestimated. A successful, enjoyable internship allows for the innovation team to grow a sphere of influence outside the business. People who have a positive experience are likely to share it with others and become a reference for how they, in turn, treat future interns. If the intern was perceived as a temporary customer, and their experience was negative, they’re likely to tell between 9 and 15 people instead.33 An innovation team’s appetite for risky projects, trust in their teams, mechanisms to learn from the world outside, will all be elements that shape a less experienced person’s expectations of innovation work elsewhere. A positive experience early on in a career leads to expectations around learning and sharing which help elevate the sector and diversify the number of people who can contribute to innovation efforts.

External The misguided belief that people are creative (or aren’t) leads to a lack of trust in an innovation team if the desired level of innovation isn’t attained in the expected time. This supports the belief that creativity can be brought in from outside. This isn’t for lack of options. In 2020, advertising agencies, independent consultants, design agencies, accounting firms, and management consultants all offer some form of innovation work, or broadly speaking, “creativity as a service.” But there are important pros and cons to consider.

Working with consultants Hiring an external partner when a company has no dedicated innovation or research function is often cheaper than either hiring new people or finding people internally and asking their manager for their time. It’s also cheaper because you don’t need to dedicate office space to them. Hiring someone unfamiliar with a company’s internal dynamics may also feel like a “fresh” perspective, but ignorance isn’t always bliss. They may face “not invented here syndrome,” which means a large piece of work they will do won’t be considered as valuable by the people having to act on their recommendations.


15 statistics that should change the business world, but haven’t, C.  Shaw, Beyond Philosophy, June 2013, (accessed May 2020)



Chapter 2 | People and Knowledge There may also be some resentment that creativity has been outsourced, further highlighting the lack of trust in people’s natural creativity if the conditions were different. Making sure the external partner is embedded for a long time inside the business will require more time and more energy but might reap a more relevant set of outcomes. To make this more effective, the external company should conduct the type of ethnographic studies often reserved for end consumer studies. This will allow them to gather some understanding of the client’s situation, the way teams operate, any political divides, before proposing innovative solutions, workstreams, or activities. If they don’t, their work may fail to find the “stickiness” required, like a transplanted organ rejected by its host. Something to be weary of when external partners spend time working within a company is the “IKEA effect.” This cognitive bias coined in 2011 by researchers Michael Norton, Daniel Mocho, and Dan Ariely34 refers to the disproportionately high value placed on the Swedish manufacturer’s furniture because customers have assembled it themselves. The same principle could apply to working with a consultant. The collaboration in itself, regardless of the outcome, can feel meaningful and enjoyable. The simple act of starting and completing an activity with an external collaborator creates enough meaning to make people happy, even if it doesn’t create an innovative result at all. Reversly, many companies are uncomfortable letting consultants close to their internal dynamics for fear of industrial espionage. They’ll keep them at arm’s length, arguing this will prevent the consultant from getting bogged down in the “day to day grind,” thus really preventing that consultant from coming up with relevant ideas and processes. Bringing external people into an innovation process has become so habitual in some businesses, it has become their only approach to innovation. When that doesn’t reap the desired benefits, the activity is cut, shelved, and discarded, only to be revisited some years later when the CEO meets someone they like who is offering services they like the sound of. So what are they likely to offer?

Processes Sometimes an innovation service means bringing in someone else’s process to try out. Sometimes it’s about buying someone else’s team to outsource an entire activity using a different process. Regardless of which it is, the process is what a company will be seduced by.


 he IKEA effect: When labor leads to love, M. Norton, D. Mochon, D. Ariely, Journal of T Consumer Psychology, Vol 22, 2012, p. 453-460

Creating a Culture of Innovation The sales pitch of an external vendor of innovation services is likely to include the following elements: 1. Definition 2. Exploration 3. Convergence No matter what industry the company is in, these components will make up the backbone of an innovation offering from most external consultants. Over 100 models were collected by American designer Hugh Dubberly and published as an ongoing collection in 2008. “How do you design?: A compendium of Models” compared methodologies coming from management consultancies, software development firms, and designers, highlighting in his introduction the siloed nature of these processes: […] for the most part, designers, business managers, and software developers appear to be unaware of practices and thinking about process in the other disciplines. Even within their own fields, many are unaware of much prior art.35 He also describes the infinite potential for expansion of these methods: […]Processes have a fractal quality. You can zoom in or out, increasing or decreasing abstraction or specificity. You can add more detail—dividing phases into steps and steps into sub-steps, almost infinitely. Processes rarely have fixed beginnings or endings. You can almost always add steps upstream or downstream.36 Looking at someone else’s innovation process, the chosen lingo, and marketing speak is likely to obscure the generic nature of what’s on offer. Activities may ultimately resemble those offered by their competitors when they’re stripped to their simplest expression. Understanding the basic building blocks of any innovation process will help a company make sense of the method beyond the buzzwords. At their simplest level, they often include three core components: definition, exploration, and convergence. 1. Definition will be about refining the problem, the brief, or the activity further. This may be about debating the ”exam question” entirely, or finding out more about how acute the problem is. This phase is about being sure a consultant understands what they’re spending time on.  ow do you design, H. Dubberly, Dubberly Design Office, 2008, p.7, www.dubberly. H com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/ddo_designprocess.pdf (accessed May 2020) 36 Ibid, p.13 35



Chapter 2 | People and Knowledge “How Might We” is an example of a definition activity. Developed by Marino (Min) Sidney Basadur at P&G in the 1980s, it helped reframe their response to the popularity of Colgate’s Irish Spring37 and helped them develop Coast. “How Might We” was popularized by design firm IDEO and promoted recently by Google and Facebook’s teams. These days “How Might We…” statements are even used by graduates to describe their final year projects. User-centered design This term emerged out of human factors and ergonomics research after World War II when complex technological systems developed for warfare had to be adapted to as many types of people as possible. User-centered design, user experience design, ethnography, user research, and user-centric design all describe a process which focuses on understanding the problem by asking the people who experience it or are affected by it directly or indirectly. This can take the form of interviews, surveys, observation in situ, eye-tracking analysis, and other methods. This process further helps define the work and often gives it more context. 2. Exploration often involves group ideation, activities that use play, the speculative production of ideas, no matter the quality, and bringing in outside perspectives. In his 2008 research,38 Thomas Allen identified three types of communication between coworkers: coordination, information, and inspiration. He noted that “People seldom, if ever, actively seek Type 3 communication.” This part of the process is entirely focused on addressing this gap. Different techniques will be proposed to give life to this part of a process:

 he Origins of How Might We, Managing Experience Conference, March 2011, https:// T (accessed May 2020) 38 Combining organization and physical location to manage knowledge dissemination,  International Journal of Technology Management, Vol 44, No 1-2, 2008 37

Creating a Culture of Innovation Brainstorming is a common exploration technique. Initially39 aimed at creating as many ideas as possible through free association in a small group, it was first developed by advertising executive Alex Osborn of BBDO and documented in his 1942 book How to Think Up. Hosting startups Another form of exploration which shortcuts an internal exploration is akin to process tourism. More common in corporations with no history of investing in dedicated research activities, this works by eavesdropping and supporting other people’s exploration processes. Corporations might be invited to invest in hosting early-stage companies in their own offices or support an existing incubator. The idea here is to generate ideas in a team by watching someone else address the same industry in different ways. There’s a sort of “monkeysee, monkey-do” assumption of knowledge building. 3. Convergence through choosing from what has emerged from the exploration phase, making choices, picking elements, and applying more time and energy to them, either through delivery or development activities. The “Double Diamond” is an example of a process which places as much importance on exploration as convergence into an outcome. Heavily influenced by the “dynamics of divergence and convergence model” published in 1996 by Hungarian systems thinking academic Belà H. Bànàthy, it was coined by UK’s Design Council in 2005. Many design agencies use the shape of this process (if not always the name) to describe their process of opening things up before selecting a few options.


 he Journey of Brainstorming, Hanisha Besant, Regent University School of Business & T Leadership, Journal of Transformational Innovation, Vol. 2 Iss. 1, Summer 2016, p. 1-7



Chapter 2 | People and Knowledge Agile software development is another type of convergence process based on iterating the outcome. It’s about working on an end product (in this case software) in a way that takes into account multiple perspectives and revisiting that end product continuously. Agile software development was developed in the late 1990s to allow for software products to be developed while accommodating continual change and input from stakeholders and customers. Initially referred to as “lightweight,”40 the Manifesto for Agile Development was published in 200141 coining the term within a community that has continued to grow. The principles it describes are still largely championed in software development, but the term has also caught on elsewhere with work environments frequently describing themselves as being Agile. This is an example of a process of constantly revisiting convergence. Once a company understands what they’re being sold (definition, exploration, and convergence), they can concentrate on interrogating that process without being thrown by its supposed uniqueness. A company may choose to compare different possible contractors on the basis of their process, but it often comes down to affordability and affability of the staff. As long as the “IKEA effect” is mitigated and the work that emerges from working with an external partner actually gets implemented, the effort of finding the right partner will have not been in vain. Outsourcing or vicariously experiencing innovation services does not necessarily mean they become part of a company’s own habits. This is a risk as ideas could fail to engage enough internal stakeholders. But on some happy occasions where enough cohabitation exists, companies and their external contractors can come to rely on each other for many years. Companies like IDEO, Capgemini, EY, and others rely on these long-term relationships to build up international offices and cater to a wide variety of clients.

o agility and beyond: The history—and legacy—of agile development, P.  Varhol, T TechBeacon, (accessed May 2020) 41 Manifesto for Agile Development, K.  Bent & al.,  (accessed May 2020) 40

Creating a Culture of Innovation

Futurists External consultants now also include futurists. These tend to be independent consultants hired because of their professional persona and hired to contribute to either: –– ––

An “exploration” process A “definition” process by selecting from the growing global information landscape and making scenarios that may have an immediate or long-term effect on a company

They contribute largely to Thomas Allen’s third type of communication: inspiration. The work of a futurist is largely about sensemaking and presenting a company with a clear path through the multiple futures it may have. People who describe themselves as futurists will have a background in anything from design to sociology, even future studies. They tend to focus their efforts on research and exploiting a variety of communication strategies to make their message easy to communicate inside a business. Their outputs are varied but often visual and collaborative so that a number of people in a business can understand and share a “future vision.” If a team inside a business shares a vision, chances they’ll work to address it with a common sense of purpose. This is largely speculation as much of a futurists work, like other consultants, sits outside of a business. On occasion, they might work in a more integrated fashion. Not unlike an evangelist, the work done by a futurist can also take on marketing connotations. The shared vision of the future can, if shared even more widely, increase the recognition of the institution hiring the futurist. In 2016, Richard Watson42 joined Imperial College London as their first “Futurist-in-residence.” In 2017, he produced (with designer Zeljko Zoricic) a London Underground map of “Mega Trends and Technologies 2017-2050” which he then published widely. Anab Jain and Jon Arden run Superflux, a London-based studio which specializes in “Translating future uncertainty into present day choices.” Their work often takes on the form of future everyday living as illustrated in short videos. Addressing everything from smart devices to future healthcare and activism, their work is often displayed in cultural contexts like museums and exhibitions, even when done for a corporate client. Futurists also have their more corporate equivalent. The Institute for the Future was set up in Connecticut in 1968 by former RAND employees and


 apping the Future with futurist Richard Watson, eatbigfish event, August 2017, M



Chapter 2 | People and Knowledge today is based in Palo Alto in the heart of Silicon Valley. It acts as a think tank for hire and uses forecasting methods it has developed and trains people to use. Whether hiring a futurist is fundamentally different to hiring a management consultant or a designer may come down to personal relationship building more than the work done. Chances are a futurist may stay at a strategic enough level that a business can choose how to act on their insights. As Stephen Wunker illustrated in Forbes in 2016:43 […] if companies don’t change the way they operate, bringing on futurists will all be for naught. The futurists’ insights will get lost, and their tenures will be short. It doesn’t have to play out that way, though. […] organizations can make sure that the trends that they uncover turn into promising innovations rather than presentation handouts that sit around collecting dust.

INTERVIEW: CHANGEIST Changeist is a consultancy based in Amsterdam and led by Scott Smith and Susan Cox-Smith. They were asked about their career as futurists working with clients on innovation projects. Have you noticed any particular trends, working with your clients? No one is interested in measuring innovation. There is also a quarantining of innovation that has happened, because innovation is seen as a distraction to a business. It’s important that the risks of distraction are kept to a minimum. After all innovation is perceived as something to do with freedom. Having the freedom to create can be interpreted by corporations in terms of team makeup and space. There is something of a perceived alchemy in coming up with new ideas. There is also an anti-disciplinarity that is inherited by the likes of Xerox Parc. It’s not about the end goal, it’s about the conditions and the experience of trying to come up with something. Open plan offices, for example, act as a proxy to freedom no matter how they actually perform. What power dynamics have you seen in innovation activities? There is an inherit elitism to innovation work as it’s hardly a democratized activity. Everyone has to agree that it takes place, but not everyone gets to participate.


 hy Companies Need Corporate Futurists But Will Fire Them Anyway, S.  Wunker, W D. FArber, Forbes, April 2016, why-companies-need-corporate-futurists-but-will-fire-themanyway/#4bf7005568ab (accessed May 2020)

Creating a Culture of Innovation Innovation is also sometimes used as a human resources tool, helping identify outliers or future leaders in a team. If there is a culture of innovation, then it may mean that there are many cultures, just like countries. As an industry, we haven’t examined this yet, the monoculture of innovation. There may be local interpretations of what this process of “newness” is. There is also a risk that innovation is used as a form of pacification of staff members who might be feeling a little angsty about their place in a business. It also becomes part of tried and tested attitudes that people feel comfortable with. Some people refer to brainstorming sessions as “nap time,” because everyone knows what to do. There is also the productization of empathy, hidden behind “usercentered design” practices. No team can ever be inclusive or diverse enough, better ideas that work for a larger range of people should be the baseline but it often isn’t. We have to move from a “how might we” to “how might we not.”

Attending conferences In its simplest expression, innovation work can be defined as a person or a group that has access to enough internal information about a business combined with wider industry knowledge. The combination of these two areas of knowledge may lead to the expression of ideas that, well nurtured, can turn into realistic business opportunities. Industry-wide knowledge is more difficult to obtain with only desk research or relying on consultants. The element of surprise and serendipity is what conferences can bring. The divergent thinking that eventually leads to convergence is created when someone is placed in a different context to their own. Of course people attend conferences for different reasons. Whether that’s to catch up with former colleagues now working for the competition, or finding out what the direct competitors are doing at the networking drinks, it’s easy to stay within an informational comfort zone. A conference also has the potential to place the problem at hand under a different light. Due to COVID-19, many conferences moved online but the opportunity is still the same. Instead of thinking “will this be relevant,” an alarm bell should be whether the program is entirely expected and feels unchallenging. The content might be of interest but won’t push someone to redefine the problem they’re working on or think differently about it. It’s impossible to name conferences worth attending for every type of sector, but it’s worth remembering that by going to events that seem unorthodox, they’re likely to introduce some divergence just by virtue of their format. This can be as much about setting, format of sessions, or topics covered. By attending events that feel comfortable, there’s more temptation to get distracted with what’s happening back at the office, which would waste the



Chapter 2 | People and Knowledge opportunity. Here are examples of conference formats old and new which could make most corporate teams excited about attending an external event: OffGrid Sessions is a yearly conference on the island of Osea in the United Kingdom. The tides mean it’s cut off from traffic for most of the day, forcing a deeper engagement and a stay overnight for attendees. The Do Lectures is held in Wales and involves camping and listening to talks in yurts. Possibly inspired by publisher Tim O’Reilly’s Foo Camp invite-only events in California, the Do Lectures also have limited attendance and a very wide array of well-known and inspirational speakers. The Do Lectures have been organized by David and Clare Hieatt, founders of Hiut Denim Company which they started after selling their first fashion business, Howies, to Timberland in 2006. Doors of Perception was a design conference between 2000 and 2008 run by John Thackara, author and consultant to many businesses and governments. Events took place over more than a week, an unusually long format for most events. The conference included a choice of multiday workshops, engagement with cultural institutions nearby, and a more traditional conference track. The Salzburg Global Seminars uses a similar format. The organizers work with corporate sponsors to set a topic of discussion; they then select and invite leading practitioners to attend a five-day retreat to explore the chosen topic. Attendees are put into groups which write up their conversations and conclusions by the end of the week. Some events are more extreme and sell tickets for vacation-like experiences around the world. was co-founded by David Rowan, former editor of Condé Nast’s Wired UK, a technology-focused magazine. Themes for each of their “adventures” include food, health, and climate. Add to that the glut of unconferences, meetups, salons, and every other format there is, an innovation practitioner could be pretty busy all year long with divergent thinking. Finding the divergent event opportunities is also a challenge, and sadly there are few services available to automate this curatorial exercise—Lanyrd, a digital service (now defunct), helped people see which events their social media followers were attending.

Creating a Culture of Innovation Then, there’s the challenge of adequately documenting an attendee’s experience to share with the team. Slideshow presentations are sometimes shared by event organizers, but the connections made and new ideas that emerge also need to be jotted down and made sense of after the fact. This is one of the biggest challenges of attending conferences and other professional events. The more exotic their setting, the more likely details will be forgotten on the way back home. This is similar to the “doorway effect,”44 a psychological reaction to stepping through doorways and forgetting what you went to the kitchen for. If someone doesn’t document their thoughts on site at the conference, they’re likely to have trouble recalling them several days later. After all, an event is made up of more than just people to meet and presentations to listen to. Divergent thinking is probably also taking place but needs to be captured quickly.

Note-taking This is where those with a fine arts education have an advantage. Creative note-taking in a sketchbook is taught in art school but less so elsewhere, especially with the advent of laptops. The advantages of sketchbooks are to enable note-taking on the go, in the middle of a round table or a conference where mobile or laptop note-taking is less practical and audio recordings would be ineffective. Keeping a sketchbook isn’t just about sketching but taking notes in a way to deepen the learning experience of being in a conference setting. Research done at Princeton University in 201445 proves that writing instead of typing notes deepens a learning experience as someone is then able to reframe what they’re hearing and interpret it for their own purposes. This is important to make the most of a conference experience and how it is then communicated back to colleagues. The Sketchbook Project46 may provide inspiration for different approaches to both note-taking and doodling. Neither of these should be considered a waste of time, as they allow different cognitive functions to impact recollection.47 A sketchbook doesn’t have to be exhibitionworthy, but at least readable later (this applies to digital tablets and pens too).

 alking through doorways causes forgetting: Environmental integration, Radvansky, W Gabriel & Tamplin, Andrea & Krawietz, Sabine., Psychonomic bulletin & review (Vol. 17) 2010, p.900-4 45 Mueller, Pam A., and Daniel M. Oppenheimer. “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking.” Psychological Science 25, no. 6 (June 2014): 1159–68 46 The Sketchbook Project, (accessed May 2020) 47 Boggs, J. B., Cohen, J. L., & Marchand, G. C. (2017). The Effects of Doodling on Recall Ability. Psychological Thought, 10(1), 206-216 44



Chapter 2 | People and Knowledge Other forms of note-taking are also useful, especially with so many ways to record conversations on the go with our mobile phones. The classic “walkthrough” using a mobile phone camera might help someone capture their thoughts while visiting an exhibit. As long as these are well planned, they’ll be easy to share with everyone after the fact.

Brown bag lunches Corporations also host their own events, bringing interesting people to deliver keynote speeches or take part in panel discussions. This has the advantage of exposing a larger number of employees to information and sectors outside of the company’s own and not rely on note-taking and reflections from a single person. This also means being less involved with that guest than working with consultants, and interesting divergent ideas and concepts are presented without having to actually adapt to them or think about them too deeply. This format isn’t useless per se, but it is information as entertainment as talks are often delivered to a largely passive audience seated in a room or lecture theater. There is a gamble that people attending won’t know how to think of what’s being presented to them unless it’s specifically framed for their internal purposes. An example of this is former Apple Fellow Alan Kay organizing “forums” for staff in the Los Angeles office. These were recorded and started in 1993 with Neil Postman, a technology critic, philosophy professor, and author of the seminal 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death.48 Judging by the subsequent work at Apple, it’s hard to see how Postman’s critical approach would have made a dent in the technology-driven company. But that’s precisely the point of information as entertainment. If the audience had taken what Postman described seriously, this would probably have led to a crisis of conscience and more than a few resignations. History doesn’t tell us whether this happened, but it’s unlikely. Listening to divergent ideas without being forced into what is known as “active listening” (i.e., without any other distractions and in an intimate context where you feel socially obligated to engage) is unlikely to lead to strong memories49 and therefore knowledge building. So lectures, when offered in very large groups, are broadly there to expose staff to an external opinion but rarely turn into an internal possibility. They are another form of sales pitch for that external expert, disguised as a learning opportunity. And everyone present probably knows it.

 eil Postman talk at Apple 28th July 1993, YouTube, N (accessed in May 2020) 49 Listening to remember: Active sensory listening, M. Sugai, The Global Listening Centre, (accessed May 2020) 48

Creating a Culture of Innovation The timing of these talks is also important to consider. It also acts as a signal to employees. A lunchtime lecture takes up precious downtime away from an employee with family duties. Because it’s during lunch, this also indicates that the lecture isn’t critical enough to interrupt actual work. This gives employees a choice of abstaining. Just like the quality of the canteen can create a communal experience, active listening in a small group to an expert with different views that leads to a group discussion can have a positive impact because of the invisible network between people that is built. But these conditions need to be met to make sure it’s not “in one ear, out the other.”



3 Communication I will either respond to your email immediately or three years from now. —Sarah Cooper1 Silence is to speech as the white of this paper is to this print. —Thomas J. Bruneau When you collaborate with colleagues in today’s workplace, and especially in corporate settings, communication is a minefield. From choosing the level of formality to the tools you use, communication helps make allies and get your ideas supported. The choice between whether you send a colleague an emoji, an instant message, a Slack message, an email, or have a face-to-face chat over lunch can also act as a way of managing expectations. They complement the physical space which you’re in. A formal email inviting you to lunch with your manager won’t be perceived in the same way as a quick text from a colleague. Levels of formality in communication also depend on the industry. In heavily regulated industries like finance and law, face-to-face meetings, voice calls, or messaging-based communication might be used more frequently as an email might be perceived as more binding and a higher cybersecurity risk.

Sarah Cooper, Twitter,


© Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino 2020 A. Deschamps-Sonsino, Creating a Culture of Innovation,


Chapter 3 | Communication But an informal communication culture helps loosen up people’s perceptions of what they’re allowed to do, to say, and by extension the ideas they’re allowed to have and communicate. The combination of smart phones and messaging apps has created informal communication channels that create “safe” contexts for colleagues to share their thoughts around a project, a manager, or their employer. Relationship building is no longer done around the water cooler, but in the WhatsApp group. It’s out of sight unless drastic surveillance-like policies are adopted and enforced. If that’s the case, it becomes a question of whether a business believes those tactics create an atmosphere of trust and creativity. When e-scooter company Bird laid off 406 employees who had been working remotely during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, this had to be done remotely. The managers did this, not with an individual call, but by inviting all of them to a conference call set as a webinar. This prevented any immediate feedback. The reaction to the invitation was covered in dot.LA:2 […]some grew suspicious when they noticed the guest list and host were hidden and they learned only some colleagues were included. It was also unusual they were being invited to a Zoom webinar, allowing no participation, rather than the free-flowing meeting function the company normally uses. Over the next hour, employees traded frantic messages on Slack and searched coworkers' calendars to see who was unfortunate enough to be invited. These digital corporations are different, culturally, than many of their peers in other sectors of the economy, but their communication strategies influence others around them and are often adopted without question.

Reporting In such environments, digital communication is part and parcel of the work, and traditional relationship building can be overtaken by task-centric communication. Then just as there is information overload in most workplaces, communication overload is also a risk. One way in which this comes to life is in the reporting habits of corporations.


’It Felt Like a Black Mirror Episode’ The Inside Account of How Bird Laid off 406 People in Two Minutes via a Zoom Webinar, B. Bergman, dot LA, April 2020, bird-layoffs-meeting-story-2645612465.html (accessed June 2020)

Creating a Culture of Innovation From 360 feedback (where employees report on their managers3) to Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), a quarterly reporting structure developed in 1971 by Andrew Grove4 in the early days of Intel, the options for letting a manager know you’re doing your job can take a significant amount of time. The focus on reporting is a byproduct of digital communication structures which make it virtually impossible to walk past someone’s desk and be able to tell exactly how busy they are. They’re just tapping away at a keyboard, and in many paperless offices, their physical environment no longer illustrates their level of activities. In light of that “invisibility of work,” reporting increases year on year. In 2011, the Boston Consulting Group even developed a “Complicatedness Survey” in light of their research5,6 into the dynamics of work: the amount of procedures, vertical layers, interface structures, coordination bodies, and decision approvals within organizations had increased by anywhere from 50% to 350% over a 15-year period, in response to growing external complexity. If reporting on what work is being done takes more time than doing the work, chances are the environment won’t allow anyone to “stray” from their set objectives into thinking about other things. As described in the excellent The Tyranny of Metrics by Jerry Muller, metrics-based work environments and by extension communication practices affect the likelihood of new ideas: When people are judged by performance metrics, they are incentivized to do what the metrics measure, and what the metrics measure will be some established goal. But that impedes innovation, which means doing something that is not yet established, indeed hasn’t been tried out. […] When performance metrics discourage risk, they inadvertently promote stagnation.[…] One result is to motivate those with greater initiative and enterprise to move out of mainstream, large-scale organizations where the culture of accountable performance prevails.7

 ere’s How Google Knows in Less Than 5 Minutes if Someone Is a Great Leader, J. Haden, H Inc, April 2019, (accessed June 2020) 4 What is an OKR? Andy Grove, OKR inventor, explains, What Matters, YouTube, (accessed in June 2020) 5 Smart Rules: Six Ways to Get People to Solve Problems Without You, Y. Morieux, October 2011, (accessed June 2020) 6 Complicatedness Survey, Boston Consulting Group, (accessed June 2020) 7 The Tyranny of Metrics, J. Muller, Princeton University Press, 2018, p. 171-3 3



Chapter 3 | Communication Gary Pisano and Willy C. Shih, at the Harvard Business School, argued8 that metrics in business also prevented long-term innovation from happening because it led managers to only measure what they could immediately predict. […] it remains enormously hard to assess long-term R&D programs with quantitative techniques[…]Usually, the data, or even reasonable estimates, are simply not available. Nonetheless, all too often these tools become the ultimate arbiter of what gets funded and what does not. So short-term projects with more predictable outcomes beat out the long-term investments needed to replenish technical and operating capabilities. Managers would serve their companies more wisely by recognizing that informed judgment is a better guide to making such decisions than an analytical model loaded with arbitrary assumptions. There is no way to take the guesswork out of the process. Our first chapter focused on the spatial conditions of innovation and our second looked at the contextualization of people’s work; here we will highlight ways in which communication can contribute to creating space—space for new ideas to be voiced, space for these ideas to find champions, space for these champions to carve out some time and find internal support for an idea. Ignoring the effect of how communication is led, how meetings are conducted, how collaboration efforts are framed is to ignore the space where ideas can grow. Just like some people attend conferences for the “corridor track” where unplanned conversations take place, communication does offer opportunities for flowers to grow in the cracks of the concrete pavement of work tasks. If anything, this chapter should give managers the opportunity to reflect on what happy accidents a deeper understanding of communication might foster.

Written Written communication strategies are varied and the shape they take contributes to the cognitive load of workers. If a business wants to think about how it enables innovation, divergent thinking, and make space for new ideas, I might be useful to take a closer look at the everyday instances of corporate communication. From the notice board near the bathrooms to the company-wide email, an opportunity is always hiding in plain sight to invite feedback or new ideas. Every element of internal corporate communication should consider whether:


 estoring American Competitiveness, G. Pisano, W. Shih, Harvard Business Review, JulyR August 2009, (accessed June 2020)

Creating a Culture of Innovation ––

The author asks for new ideas clearly. Not unlike office feedback, ideas should be positively promoted. From a dedicated email address, a physical or digital ideas box or a dedicated period of time someone is willing to take time to discuss new ideas, ideas should be actively identified and encouraged.


The process of selection and discussion should be made clear, just like for suggestions or job applicants. If management has no intention to comment on every single idea, that should be clear.


Ideas can be shared anonymously. Like negative feedback, some might feel that an idea may not be received positively because of internal politics or perceived ownership of activities. Letting people share ideas in a format where they can do so anonymously can help people muster up the courage, no matter where they sit in the hierarchy of a business.


The more diverse the audience for the ideas, the more likely they are to be understood and their implications discussed and explored.

This is so that feedback about the business is differentiated from new ideas and both are equally valued. If a new idea is read by the right person in a business, its potential can have a big impact. Earlier, we shared Nike’s internal memo stating its values in the 1970s, but the culture of internal memos doesn’t have to be mundane. The Los Angeles LACMA residency matched artists and corporations for collaborative work. James Lee Byars’s television broadcast World Question Centre9 was the result of his work with The Houston Institute. The sculptor and filmmaker Robert Chamberlain became an “artist in residence” at the RAND Corporation and inspired by Byars’s work sent every employee the memo in Figure 3-1.


 he art of perfection: James Lee Byars at MOMA PS1, Artslant Archive, www.artslant. T com/ny/articles/show/40633-the-art-of-perfection-james-lee-byarsat-moma-ps1 (accessed June 2020)



Chapter 3 | Communication

Figure 3-1.  Artist-in-residence John Chamberlain’s all company memo

Similar to the long broadcast of Byars’s 100 questions to thought leaders, Chamberlain collected the irritated, lyrical, and amusing responses from employees. Somewhat of a provocative way to get people out of their shell, not all of the responses invited a connection but the one from Ralph Lewis did. Every business makes choices to make their employee’s life creative. It’s where that creativity comes in and whether it is wasted in surviving in the workplace that can make all the difference.

Creating a Culture of Innovation

Email Email is the communication tool everyone loves to hate. About 3.9 billion10 people have email accounts, yet the quantity, uncertain quality, and distracting effect create a kind of corporate “spuddle”11 we all have to live with. Email has also become part of the performance of modern public life. In a yearly review of the use of email at work, Adobe12 found that American employees spent 209 minutes a day checking their work email, 53% of which will be done outside of work hours. Furthermore, 43% of all email is checked on a mobile phone. In 2019, researchers at the University of the West of England conducted a survey of 5000 passengers commuting to London from the Midlands. Fiftythree percent of them used Wi-Fi to “catch up” on work, thus, essentially, working. Email is the thin end of a wedge of work activities. Email allows someone to start engaging with their tasks, boss, and colleagues before they even physically set foot in the office, preparing themselves psychologically for the role they need to play. In his 2019 paper “Between Home and Work: Commuting as an Opportunity for Role Transitions,”13 Jon Jachimowicz, from Harvard Business School, found that commuting offered an opportunity to conduct “work-related prospection” and “boundary management strategies,” a process of planning ahead that helps busy parents and executives get the most out of their day and feel more satisfied. When someone applies makeup on a busy early morning train into work, or in their car, they are literally putting their “game face” on. Checking email complements this psychological preparation for work, giving someone a liminal zone before they are actually obligated to respond. Many, however, will feel pressured to respond to email at all hours of the day, contributing to a recent call to consider this unpaid labor. This no man’s land in someone’s day has also become especially contentious in the age of the “gig economy.” In France, where the statutory work week is 35 hours, sending email to employees out of hours was seen as equivalent to unpaid labor and contributing to stress, burnout, sleep problems, and relationship problems.

 umber of e-mail users worldwide 2017-2024, J. Clement, Statistica, March 2020, www. N (accessed June 2020) 11 Susie Dent, Twitter, 12 Adobe Email Usage Study 2019, SlideShare, September 2019, adobe/2019-adobe-email-usage-study (accessed June 2020) 13 Between Home and Work: Commuting as an Opportunity for Role Transitions,  J. Jachimowicz, J. Lee, B. R. Staats, J. Menges, F. Gino, Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper No. 16-077, December 2019 10



Chapter 3 | Communication Passed in 2017, the El Khomri Law14,15 (also known as the “right to disconnect”) requires medium-sized businesses to state clearly the hours when employees are not expected to read or respond to email. Even if they are difficult to police in practice, they do offer protection for abusive practices that will sap someone’s motivation at work and are slowly being adopted around the world. Beyond attention, there is an emotional dimension to email which is important to consider. In a study conducted on 1000 American office workers in 2019,16 three-quarters said they felt important (76%), happy (81%), and satisfied (85%) when someone responded instantly to an email they had sent. When they didn’t receive an immediate response, they feel frustrated (50%), unimportant (46%), and unsatisfied (47%). The study also went on to describe “bad netiquette” or what they deemed socially unacceptable behavior in email composition. The top three included copying in too many people, using curse words, and using capitalization too often. Even when we highlight these bad behaviors, there are no norms around how emails are written.17 This lack of universal experience has created a strange subgenre in the world of management. Instead of letting employees deal with their tasks as they see fit, pressure to manage one’s inbox in a particular way started to emerge out of early web culture. Some will limit their emails to five sentences,18 in a bid to appear more effective; others create complex systems of attention management. Originally published in 2001, David Allen’s book Getting Things Done had a huge impact on the corporate definition of “personal productivity” in the Internet age. It moved it away from promoting supposedly more effective and therefore more virtuous behavior in chief executives with PDAs to every kind of office worker who was suffering from information overload or what Dr. Sherry Turkle called “email bankruptcy.”19 It also created its own genre of software development:

F rench workers get ‘right to disconnect’ from emails out of hours, BBC News, December 2016, (accessed July 2020) 15 The Working World: France gave workers the right to disconnect but is it helping?, D.  Pearce, February 2019 france-right-to-disconnect-law (accessed July 2020) 16 New Study Explores How Americans Feel About Email in 2019, Spike Blog, October 2019, (accessed June 2020) 17 You’ve got Mail Report, Future Work Centre, 2015, p.16, (accessed June 2020) 18 Five sentences, (accessed July 2020) 19 ESSAY; In Lost E-Mail, a Dividend, C. Rosenblum, New York Times, February 2002, www. (accessed July 2020) 14

Creating a Culture of Innovation productivity software. Business-related apps are now the second largest category on the Apple store20 and the third on Google Play.21 By the time Merlin Mann, a blogger and journalist, spoke at a 2009 Google Tech Talk,22 productivity software built to support the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology was already a growing market. He’d also contributed to the development of OmniFocus,23 a task management application entirely dedicated to support Allen’s work. In his talk, he shared his idea of Inbox Zero24—an email management strategy he borrowed from Allen’s concept of responding to email within 2 minutes. He then added elements like classifying a message according to actionability and checking an inbox only once an hour or once a day. Perhaps because of its unattainability, Inbox Zero generated its own wave of email-focused productivity software like Flow-E, Boomerang, ManyMe, and others. None of these applications or concepts have led to anymore clarity around email culture. In his talk, Merlin Mann captures exactly why in the Q&A section: There are some problems that can’t be fixed by email. There are some problems where email is just the canary in the coalmine. You feel the pain in that place. What do you do with someone who keeps sending you junk? […] You’ve got to talk to them. Self-improvement techniques have always permeated the world of middle management, and email has given employees something else to feel guilty about—another Bogeyman to keep employees both uncertain about the best way to contribute to teamwork and at an individual level. This tendency in corporate culture is clearly captured in Melissa Gregg’s book Counterproductive. She highlights some of the social dynamics at play:

 ost popular Apple App Store categories in June 2020, by share of available apps, M J.  Clement, Statista, June 2020, (accessed July 2020) 21 Most popular Google Play app categories as of 1st quarter 2020, by share of available apps, J. Clement, Statista, May 2020, (accessed July 2020) 22 Inbox Zero, Google Tech Talks, YouTube, October 2007,  watch?v=z9UjeTMb3Yk (accessed July 2020) 23 Omni Group interview: part 1, C. Roger, Softonic, May 2007, 20

articles/omnigroup-interview-part-1 (accessed July 2020)


Fresh Start: The Email DMZ, 43 folders, M.  Mann, January 2006, www.43folders. com/2006/01/04/email-dmz



Chapter 3 | Communication Productivity apps are a way to order work that avoids discussing work limits, job content, or questions of power that ultimately determine ownership of tasks that require action. In this way, time-management tools obscure the politics of labor and its delegation in the quest to maximize efficiency.25 Policing people’s inboxes or even the way in which they choose to respond to email is bound to be counterproductive, simply because there are no universal rules that will work for everyone. In 2020, a constant flow of articles are still being written about Inbox Zero and how to achieve it. Some have even strayed away from Mann’s initial concept to simply aim for an empty inbox at any cost.26 The reduction of his principle to its simplest expression is still an unattainable, largely pointless goal. Of all the aspects of email communication, how people manage an inbox isn’t the most crucial. Email communication is about teamwork and whether that teamwork is being done. No amount of focus on the work will prevent an inbox from overflowing with meaningless junk. So taking the foot off the pedal and letting people communicate at their pace, without guilt, should be a priority. It will also leave people the freedom to respond when they really have something to share back or respond with a one line “let me get back to you.” A 2015 study by Yahoo Labs and the University of Southern California27 showed people’s response rate to email varied depending on gender, age, and the time of day they chose to respond. The more emails people received, the more likely the response would vary in quality and in speed. users increased their activity as they received more emails, but not enough to compensate for the higher load. This means that as users became more overloaded, they replied to a smaller fraction of incoming emails and with shorter replies. However, their responsiveness remained intact and may even be faster. Demographic factors affected information overload, too. Older users generally replied to a smaller fraction of incoming emails, but their reply time and length were not impacted by overload as much as younger users. In contrast, younger users replied faster, but with shorter replies and to a higher fraction of emails. If this was a game of Whack-A-Mole, younger people would be winning, but for what business purpose? Interrogating the purpose of communication when it isn’t the key aim of someone’s job is an important step in questioning  ounterproductive, M. Gregg, Duke University Press, 2018, p.79 C To Inbox Zero or Not to Inbox Zero?, Doist blog, (accessed July 2020) 27 Evolution of Conversations in the Age of Email Overload, Kooti, Farshad & Aiello, Luca & Grbovic, Mihajlo & Lerman, Kristina & Mantrach, Amin. (2015) 25 26

Creating a Culture of Innovation what everyone in a team spends most of their time doing. Adam Grant in his book Originals talks about the sweet spot between precrastinators and procrastinators and that could be applied to email. Making sure everyone has a little more time to respond without being punished for it because it’s literally office policy means the emotion might be taken out of the rate of response.

Slack Slack is a business messaging platform developed in San Francisco in 2013 by Stewart Butterfield, the co-founder of the photo-sharing website Flickr. A mixture of instant messaging, chat rooms, document sharing, and the use of searchable keywords (hashtags), it was valued at $20 billion at its stock market debut in the summer of 2019. But what does it actually do? Employees can join and subscribe to notifications about the conversations taking place in themed chat rooms (known as “channels”). The theme of these channels can align with different business units, common business problems, or miscellaneous ones. There is always a “general” channel which everyone in the company can see, replacing the age-old company-wide email. The difference is the “all hands” email wasn’t necessarily sent every single day, nor multiple times a day. But not unlike email, which it claims to replace, there are no norms of use around Slack. Initially targeted at software developers who thought email was too distracting, it is now used by over 10 million users every day who work in a variety of industries and business functions.28 Slack’s attempt to create a universal pipe for most communication needs has also led to the same proliferation of “how to” guides as GTD and Inbox Zero. A Google search for “how to use Slack effectively” generates 15 million results. From tutorials to tips and tricks, the fact that Slack is a mashup of multiple tools, in turn, multiples its possible use and misuses. Slack, in principle, could be used to enable the kind of cross-team interactions that we’ve discussed in the other chapters. However, this requires management to accept that one of the important byproducts of the tool is this free and open way to interact with others no matter their location in an office building or in a department. A mistake would be to interpret communication based on gifs being sent around as an “unproductive” use of the tool. Just like you can’t control who writes you an email, controlling how people message each other is futile. It is


S lack vs. Microsoft Teams: StatSocial Digs Deep into the Collaboration Wars, StatSocial Insights, July 2019 (accessed July 2020)



Chapter 3 | Communication however a warning that the culture of communication isn’t open and welcoming. That, in turn, might hide a controlling and micromanagerial structure that employees will end up having to manage, on top of doing their work. Armed with the right in-built “permissions,” managers can surveil and police every message and private conversation, with devastating consequences on trust. Unlike email, on Slack, there is literally nowhere to hide, creating a sort of virtual open space office where the chatter of others can be overheard by everyone including the boss. But unlike physical space, some things on Slack could never be done in real life. No one would normally walk in, uninvited, into a room where colleagues are meeting. In December 2019, The Verge described29 the Slack-based culture of communication at luxury travel company Employees were not allowed to email each other, and direct messages [on Slack] were supposed to be used rarely (never about work, and only for small requests, like asking if someone wanted to eat lunch). Private channels were also to be created sparingly and mainly for work-specific reasons, so making channels to, say, commiserate about a tough workday was not encouraged. The rules had been implemented in the name of transparency, but employees say they created a culture of intimidation and constant surveillance. […] Their projects were brutally criticized by executives on public Slack channels. They were reprimanded for not answering messages immediately — even late at night and on weekends. In other words, Slack allows online behavior that would otherwise be too embarrassing or be more clearly labeled as verbal abuse. A digital message can be delivered much more quickly than walking across an office floor to ask someone for a word in private. Dealing with conflict on tools like Slack creates a culture of remote digital management which can turn into bullying very quickly. In June 2020, Katie Muecke, an employee of the online news site theCHIVE, was denied access to her email account by her manager30 as a result of disagreements on the company’s response to the Black Lives Matter protests:

motional Baggage, Z.  Schiffer, The Verge, December 2019, www.theverge. E com/2019/12/5/20995453/away-luggage-ceo-steph-korey-toxic-work-environment-travel-inclusion (accessed June 2020) 30 I quit my job at theCHIVE to show that the time for silence has passed, K. Muecke, Early for the Afterparty, June 2020, 29

Creating a Culture of Innovation […] suddenly, my Gmail account signed me out. And my LastPass [authentication software]. Without any notice, I had been locked out of everything to do with my job. And it would be nearly THREE HOURS until I heard from my manager, who finally bothered to call to “see where my head was at”. These are admittedly extreme examples. Some more mundane uses of Slack include employees searching for their own name when added to a new channel, to find out if someone spoke ill of them at any point. This is now known as “Slackenfreude,31” a reference to Schadenfreude. This redefines the concept of institutional memory. If, as reported in July 2020, in an article32 on remote innovation: successful innovators build a foundation of trust around micro-interactions that occur in the workplace. Then this should apply to the micro-interactions on social communication like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or whatever tool someone might have implemented in their business. And this comes down to managers doing what they do best, helping people do their best work, instead of actively policing them or allowing awkward social interactions to stay unresolved, hanging in a speech bubble.33

PowerPoint Another written communication tool in the workplace is presentation software. An evolution of the architectural model and the paste-ups pioneered by Florence Knoll in office interiors, presentation software allows someone to both be factual and visual. This was always going to be a problem. The choice of how much a presenter relies on text, charts, or other visual elements can make the difference between the audience feeling energized and putting them to sleep. Even in the days before presentation software, management consultants knew there was a potential for communication disaster with this potent mixture of presentation and theatrical performance. After all, most presentations are a kind of multimedia experience with someone narrating or physically presenting a selection of images they have selected.

 o You Search For Your Name When You Join a New Slack Group? H. Walk, December D 2018, (accessed July 2020) 32 Innovating in a remote environment, A.  Coleman, Raconteur, digital-transformation/innovation-remote-productivity (accessed July 2020) 33 Building a winning team, technical leadership capabilities, B. Sutton, R. Chatham, British Computing Society, 2017 31



Chapter 3 | Communication The Metaplan method we mentioned in Chapter 1 also recognized people would need to be trained to wield this great power. The German visual artist Telse Schnelle-Cölln coined the idea of “optical rhetoric” and coauthored a number of Metaplan publications34 with her husband, then Metaplan founder Eberhard Schnelle. Concerned about the overall rhythm of the presentation, their books aimed to help people understand the power of visuals when moderating group work. Today, this approach is slowly coming back. Microsoft PowerPoint, which set the standard for other presentation software (Keynote, Google Slides, etc.), was developed in 198735 and has been actively maintained ever since. The linear format (a skeuomorph of carousel slide projectors of the 1960s) as well as the assumption someone might be telling you a story, one slide at a time, remains unchanged. PowerPoint is both a tool that will make anything silly look serious, or bring credibility to the worst lies. Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos famously forbids36 its use, opting instead for a six-page memo. As such, it is a tool of persuasion, entertainment as well much as it can be about communicating the quarterly results. Extreme example of the use of PowerPoint is Colin Powell’s presentation to the United Nations Security Council in 2003,37 making a case for the Iraq War. His use of PowerPoint slides prompted the Iraq government to dismiss it as “a typical American show, complete with stunts and special effects.38” This has worked well for British comedian Dave Gorman whose 2011 stand-up routine specifically used a PowerPoint presentation, a projection screen, and a handheld clicker. As he explains to the audience how coffee killed tea,39 he clicks through a series of slides that used a variety of sound effects and transitions, making fun of making this kind of point, with that kind of tool. isualization in moderation: a practical guide for group work and presentation, V T. Schnelle-Colln, E. Schrader, Feldhaus Verlag, 1983 35 Desktop Presentation Graphics - Part One, Internet Archive, Stewart Cheifet Productions, 1989 36 A 2004 email from Jeff Bezos explains why PowerPoint presentations aren’t allowed at Amazon, M.  Stone, Business Insider, July 2015, jeff-bezos-email-against-powerpoint-presentations-2015-7# RyLZulaH3IGJ8vhK.99 (accessed July 2020) 37 U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell Addresses the U.N. Security Council, The White House under President George W.  Bush archives, February 2003, https:// html (accessed July 2020) 38 Feb. 5, 2003: Colin Powell on WMD #TBT, YouTube, ABC News, February 2015, www. (accessed July 2020) 39 Dave Gorman: Why Coffee has ruined Tea..., YouTube, February 2014, com/watch?v=8DWFWyz9f2w (accessed July 2020) 34

Creating a Culture of Innovation Any attempt to improve on it, like Prezi,40 ends up making something closer to a website or a microsite instead of really rethinking the presentation experience. For some, PowerPoint’s flexibility is not good, and so rules and guidelines are invented, just like for Slack and email. Guy Kawasaki, a renowned marketing executive and evangelist, came up with principles to help startups present effectively to investors. Calling it the “10-20-30 rule,” it means slides are limited to 10, a presentation no longer than 20 minutes, and type should never be smaller than 30 pt. Russell Davies, a British digital strategist who helped develop the awardwinning UK government’s Design Principles in 2012,41 is pragmatic about the role of PowerPoint: It’s the most ubiquitous and useful piece of software in the world. If you want to make an image you can a birthday card, a poster, you use it and it can do most things fairly well. You learn how to write badly, because everyone else writes badly. The same happens with Powerpoint. You’ve seen the presentations everyone else is giving and you give the same kind of presentation. The problem is people think in Word and present in Powerpoint. For me, it’s a series of posters, it’s not a document. A poster has to work in five words to be effective. [At GDS], we had the opportunity to intervene and say: ‘we’re no longer going to give that kind of presentation, this is what they’re going to be like from now on’. It was a huge circuit breaker. It’s extraordinary how revolutionary that felt to say ‘no more than six words per line’. But the stylistic rules are an attempt to nudge you in the right direction. Your intent has to be honest for it to work. In “Doing Presentations,”42 Davies goes on to describe some of his rules for presentations: 1. Nothing smaller than 36 point 2. No more than seven words per line 3. No bullet points

Prezi, (accessed July 2020) A unit of delivery, Russell Davies, April 2013, planning/2013/04/the-unit-of-delivery.html (accessed July 2020) 42 Doing Presentations, R. Davies, November 2015, https://russelldavies.typepad. com/planning/2015/11/doing-presentations.html (accessed July 2020) 40 41



Chapter 3 | Communication Others take offense at the time spent presenting. PechaKucha limits the presentation format to 20 slides being displayed for 20 seconds each, automatically. This forces the presenter to either be very confident about what they have to say or “catch up” to their own slides, making it entertaining to watch no matter what. Lasting a total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds, this format was started in 2003 by architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham as a way to radically shorten long-winded presentations. It is now a community of over 100 “PechaKucha Nights” hosted in cities around the world and an online subscription service for businesses.43 Finally, others focus on the style of presentation, the physical performance. TED (which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design) was originally a multidisciplinary conference started by another creative duo: graphic designers Harry Marks and Richard Saul Wurman who organized the first TED conference in 1984. The second edition,44,45 in 1990, was filmed and archived online. But the TED we know today is the result of the sale of the format to Chris Anderson in 2000. A British-American entrepreneur who had worked in publishing, he turned TED Talks into a repeatable format of communicating complex ideas by putting the audience through a simple but effective storytelling process that lasts on average 18 minutes. All of the presentations are now made to be delivered online and the conference setting is secondary. The TED style of delivery (presenters are trained when they are selected to give a talk) has even become so recognizable as to be satirized.46 Here the use of presentation software is secondary to the performance itself. The focus is on the theatricality of communicating complexity. Regardless of all these different attempts at making presentations better, there is no exact scientific way to make your presentations more impactful. Dr. John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and author of Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, is often referred to, especially when justifying the effectiveness of the 20-minute presentation. But the detail of his explanation is worth considering: Peer-reviewed studies have confirmed that approximately 10 minutes into a presentation or lecture, most people have mentally checked out. Why? Nobody knows.

PechaKucha Pricing, (accessed July 2020) The TED2 Conference Writeup -- 22 Years Later, B.  Storms, August 2012, http:// html (accessed July 2020) 45 TED 2 (Monterey, 1990), Vimeo, (accessed July 2020) 46 ‘Thought Leader’ gives talk that will inspire your thoughts, P.  Kelly, CBC Comedy, YouTube, (accessed July 2020) 43 44

Creating a Culture of Innovation So that famous “personal story” at the beginning of a TED Talk is one of the many ways to distract audiences into paying attention for those first 10 minutes. Knowing how to communicate effectively is one thing, knowing how to entertain in a meeting is another entirely. But that cocktail of clear, enticing visual communication coupled with a 10-minute loop in content should make some teams think more laterally about how they use their presentation time. There are also times when slides are not needed, because the person presenting feels confident enough not to have to use them as crutches. Politicians don’t use slide presentations. This may require an extreme degree of personal confidence, but it will get an audience to focus completely differently. Some people will also enjoy the lack of visual distraction which allows them to gaze down, in order to concentrate on what is being said, not unlike what happens when you listen to a radio program. This in turns requires letting people take in what you have to say without worrying about the visual entertainment. A totally different approach.

Collaboration Buzzwords, in-jokes, and office language One unusual and often forgotten barrier to collaboration is the accidental coded language used in innovation work. From code words for projects to acronyms or in-jokes, language is one way to create a barrier to entry for anyone not “au fait.” The more obfuscation, the more tension there is likely to be with other departments and the harder it gets for someone to contribute or give feedback on the fly. Secrecy is one thing, but making it harder for your own people to tell you why your idea won’t work is another one entirely. One of the reasons for this choice of language is world building. Every innovation department is trying to build a narrative about themselves as an extension or in opposition to the rest of its business. Language is an easy way to create that world when the office space doesn’t. It’s also a way of embracing military ideologies or artistic ones, both potent sources of imagery and visual inspiration for innovation work. Coded language is only one aspect of corporate jargon we all have to deal with. André Spicer, from City, University of London Business School, breaks down what Corinne Maier47 calls a “no-man’s land” in his 2018 book Business Bullshit:


Bonjour Paresse, C. Maier, Editions Michalon, 2004



Chapter 3 | Communication The greatest benefits of professional jargon is that it nurtures a sense of what Mats Alvesson has called ‘grandiosity’. Committed users of management jargon are able to transubstantiate boring administrative activities into great deeds. Management jargon can help nurture a sense of self confidence in the chronically insecure world of middle management. There’s something more interesting at play than merely trying to make yourself sound interesting. Every innovation function is, in fact, trying to emulate either a smaller entity than its own or a more artistically inclined department. This desire to emulate an artist collective, an art movement, or any other form of artistic practice can lead to a group of people behaving in a cult-like manner to both build a heightened sense of belonging, increased expectations around performance, and a nifty way to keep others out of the loop. Within the confines of acceptable corporate behavior, naming things in a creative way is also the lowest hanging fruit, even when what is being built isn’t particularly noteworthy. Coming up with code names also helps lighten the mood around a particularly stressful activity. They’re often used in the finance sector to refer to speculative mergers and acquisition plans. A good code name can make you a rock star, at least for a few minutes. […] It's a chance to have some fun.48 But it itself, it is part of the performance of being at work and working in an innovation department. Some want it to feel as critical as military research so that employees take it seriously. Some, on the other hand, publicly acknowledge the performative aspect to internal language. Apple’s naming convention for its operating systems is a typical example. After running out of big cats, they chose extreme geographic locations.49 If Apple products can be named after their internal code names (OS 10.2 was marketed using its code name Jaguar), then anyone can. Short of actually doing anything innovative, or having very much to protect in terms of intellectual property, there are now ways to describe everyday work activities in innovative ways. In 2009, Russell Davies, then co-founder of Newspaper Club an on-demand personalizable broadsheet printing service, started writing50 detailed weekly  roject Funway: Code names help spice up the art of the deal, G.  Tan, L.  Hoffman, P Financial News, August 2014, 49 Apple Has A New, California-Based Naming Scheme For OS X, Starting With OS X Mavericks, TechCrunch, June 2013, (accessed July 2020) 50 Week One, R. Davies, Newspaper Club Blog, Web Archive, June 2009, http://web. 06/05/week-one/ (accessed July 2020) 48

Creating a Culture of Innovation blog posts about what employees were working on. The blog described itself as follows: This is the blog where we're alarmingly honest about where it's all going wrong. And occasionally smug about where it's going right. This confessional style of public communication, sharing the ins and outs of internal processes, soon spread like wildfire. A few weeks after, Matt Webb,51 then co-founder of design studio Berg London, emulated Davies’s style while adding project code names based on the Colorado Plateau.52 This added an air of mystery to the transparency. Choosing to share without sharing. In a 2018 retrospective, Webb likened it to keeping a lab book that allows you to capture the story of work being done without attempting to rewrite history. Digital strategist, Bryan Boyer, called this format a “weeknote” in his blog53 in October 2009 and, along with Russel Davies’s format, is now used by a variety of corporate bloggers. From government departments to freelancers, the site collects them54 in one place. Weeknotes is the process and jargon of everyday work turned into high art, another form of grandiosity. Weeknotes is also responsible for organizations sharing their processes even if they don’t make sense to others. This is a kind of performative radical transparency that has extended to Trello boards being shared online. Trello, an online platform to make, keep, and share lists of tasks, has been very popular with businesses adopting Agile methodologies and a “to do / doing / done” form of collaborative project planning. As of July 2020, we can peruse the Trello board of Smart London,55 a group within London’s City Hall, which tells us they are running late on a task titled “Develop a new cybersecurity strategy.” Showing off someone’s internal process eventually becomes as much of a story and public relations effort as a weeknote. It also puts pressure on employees to perform in a way that is partly public, instead of being allowed to fail and for projects to fold quietly. This partly explains why weeknotes and open roadmaps are popular in smaller businesses and government-led

 pre-history of weeknotes, plus why I write them and perhaps why you should too A (Week 16), M.  Webb, Medium, July 2018, a-pre-history-of-weeknotes-plus-why-i-write-them-and-perhaps-why-youshould-too-week-16-31a4a5cbf7b0 52 Week 218, M.  Webb, Berg London, August 2009, 2009/08/12/week-218/ 53 Week 029, B.  Boyer, Web Archive, October 2009,  web/20091022153339/ (accessed July 2020) 54, (accessed July 2020) 55 Smarter London Together Report Card, Trello, smarter-london-together-report-card (accessed July 2020) 51



Chapter 3 | Communication innovation work. They complement already existing public reporting structures, for example, in London’s borough of Hackney:56 Weeknotes are a way for us to keep people informed about progress on the project. Given the technical nature of the re-platforming work we will use them to explain technical choices that we are making, including the benefit and impact of these choices.

Meetings The communication tools we’ve talked about so far exist to pad the time between meetings. But then it makes you think about meetings in a different way. When half of your time is spent replying to email, answering Slack messages, or adding emojis to a gif, do you really need a meeting at all? Even GoToMeeting, a conference software provider, recognizes this conundrum and warns there are seven warning signs your meeting should be an email.57 From badly prepared meetings to needing direct answers from a small group of people who might need to think about it, or no one leaving with any “actions” to take, bad meetings are a waste of time and money. But a good meeting, especially in innovation work, is a meeting where as many voices and perspectives are heard. In some companies, every meeting starts with a sort of icebreaker, a daily discussion topic set for each meeting room, or a round-the-table welcome. This matters especially in more diverse and neurodiverse teams which should ideally make up an innovation team. Research has proven that women are interrupted more often in meetings58 no matter the gender of the people doing the interrupting. They will also contribute less59 if they are outnumbered in gender terms. This obviously creates an environment where a woman will feel defensive and may retreat, taking her ideas back to her desk, and possibly on to the next job. Women are

 ackney Re-Platforming Weeknotes Week ending: 2020-03-013, D.  Durant, HackIT, H March 2020, (accessed July 2020) 57 7 Warning Signs Your Meeting Should Be an Email, A.  Tiffany, GoToMeeting blog,  November 2017, (accessed July 2020) 58 Influence of Communication Partner’s Gender on Language A.B. Hancock, B. A. Rubin, Journal of Language and Social Psychology 34, no. 1, January 2015, p.46–64 59 Gender Inequality in Deliberative Participation, C. F. Karpowitz, T. Mendelberg, L. Shaker, American Political Science Review, 2012 56

Creating a Culture of Innovation not the only ones who can suffer from poorly run meetings. Employees from ethnic minorities, neurodivergent, disabled team members, and anyone dialing in remotely are bound to have a bad time in meetings where contributing creative ideas is the name of the game. Renée Cullinan,60 a San Francisco– based consultant, runs “Stop Meeting Like This” which helps businesses identify flaws in their group processes. In an article for the Harvard Business Review in 2016, she describes the crux of the problem: In the ideal meeting, all attendees participate, contributing diverse points of view and thinking together to reach new insights. But few meetings live up to this ideal, in large part because not everyone is able to effectively contribute. We recently asked employees at a large global bank a question: “When you have a contribution to make in a meeting, how often are you able to do so?” Only 35% said they felt able to make a contribution all the time. Hilary Dubin, a product manager at enterprise software company, Atlassian, describes in a 2019 blog post61 some more advanced meeting techniques. These included the following: ––

Making the entire meeting remote if even one participant is dialing in remotely


Asking the group to write down their thoughts when a big question arises and then giving everyone a voice


Actively interrupting the interrupters or giving them the job of whiteboard scribe which naturally puts them in a more passive role

Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, also shares free resources for teams that include introverts. Her checklist62 includes recommendations for introverts themselves to help them get what they want. This includes speaking early. A cognitive bias known as “anchoring” is being amenable to the first idea that someone puts on the table. By getting their voice heard early, instead of waiting too long, what an introvert has to say might even influence the decisions made by the end of the  un Meetings That Are Fair to Introverts, Women, and Remote Workers, R. Cullinan, R Harvard Business Review, April 2016, (accessed July 2020) 61 How to counteract 3 types of bias and run inclusive meetings, H.  Dubin, Atlassian Blog, January 2019, 62 Inclusive Meeting Checklist, S. Cain, The Quiet Rev website, (accessed July 2020) 60



Chapter 3 | Communication meeting.63 There are no guarantees offered of course because every single group of people is different and so are their political dynamics, but making sure you give a voice to everyone is bound to both be good for ideas but also avoid people building up frustrations because their voice isn’t actually heard.

Formats We’ve talked about the format of meetings in terms of how they are run, but this section explores some of the more physical aspects of meetings and meeting rooms especially as well as their impact on communication. If a meeting is being held in person, some people get excited by the soft power dynamics at play. Not unlike the conundrum of where to sit people at a wedding, people like to talk about the impact of where someone will sit in a meeting room.64 But more often than not, most people will find themselves facing a screen with a colleague being dialed in remotely. Just like the television tends to dictate the furniture placement, most meeting rooms now face an audio visual tool of some sort. So what really does matter isn’t in fact position, but personal space and comfort. An invasion of personal space can start to trigger stress, anxiety, and a range of negative emotions you want to keep out of your meeting room. But meeting rooms, and real estate in general, has been contracting for years. There is, in fact, such a thing as a meeting room that is too small for a group of people and understanding that quickly allows you to transition to an alternative space. A 2017 cross-cultural study of proxemics65 published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology shows that in the United Kingdom, the acceptable social distance between acquaintances is around 80 cm and with a stranger (someone they might have a meeting with) that increases to 1 meter. Women and older participants also preferred increased measures.66

 ow Anchoring Bias Psychology Affects Decision Making, K.  Cherry, VeryWell H Mind, April 2020, (accessed in July 2020) 64 Where you sit at a meeting may say something about your role, D, York, Quartz at work, December 2018, (accessed July 2020) 65 Preferred Interpersonal Distances: A Global Comparison, A. Sorokowska, P. Sorokowski, P. Hilpert, K. Cantarero, T. Frackowiak, K. Ahmadi, A. M. Alghraibeh, et al., Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 48, no. 4, May 2017, p.577–92 66 Don’t stand so close to me: why personal space matters in the workplace, P. Goodchild, Workplace Insight, September 2018, (accessed July 2020) 63

Creating a Culture of Innovation These distances are easy to apply to work colleagues and meetings with visitors. If these measures are ignored, the discomfort someone might feel would distract them from the task at hand, especially if the work is meant to be creative. The image of the hothouse Post-it brainstorming session with people squeezed into a room sounds exciting but turns out to trigger all sorts of emotions and is likely to keep people’s best ideas out of the meeting.

S tanding up, walking, treadmills, and movement at work As large corporations try to keep their employees happy, this has extended keeping an eye on their bodies. Productivity, sick days, and sick pay are all tied in some way to an employee’s body. We talked about the effects of access to free canteen food earlier, but exercise in general has been increasingly promoted in mundane work interactions. An employee’s body has become a corporate concern even when the work isn’t itself strenuous or requires any particular level of stamina. And if this isn’t pushed directly by the corporate environment, employees themselves create situations where physical ability is a requirement. From lunchtime jogging to taking part in international sporting events as a team, physical performance can both help reinforce team spirit and create a clique that is hard to break into. Offering a sit/standing desk, for example, is a popular (if expensive) starting point. Researchers have shown67 that it improves outcomes in work engagement, occupational fatigue, sickness presenteeism, daily anxiety, and more. But others have not found any effect on creativity,68 and it will have less of an impact on weight loss than going for a walk.69 Transitioning to standing all day also requires training to avoid unwanted side effects. Walking outside also improves creativity,70 but unless this is built into a preestablished meeting structure, it’s not as accessible to a wide variety of people.  ffectiveness of the Stand More AT (SMArT) Work intervention: cluster randomised E controlled trial. C.  L. Edwardson, T.  Yates, S.  Biddle, M.J.  Davies, D.W.  Dunstan, D.W.  Esliger, L.J.  Gray, B.  Jackson, S.E.  O’Connell, G.  Waheed, F.  Munir, BMJ (Clinical research ed), (2018) 68 Taking a Stand: The Effects of Standing Desks on Task Performance and Engagement, L. E. Finch, A. J. Tomiyama, A. Ward, International journal of environmental research and public health, 2017, p.939 69 The truth behind standing desks, R.  Shmerling, Harvard Medical School Health Blog, September 2016, (accessed in 2020) 70 Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking. Oppezzo, M., & Schwartz, D. L. (2014). Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, p.1142–1152 67



Chapter 3 | Communication A walking meeting is also a meeting which doesn’t require note-taking, which one could argue shouldn’t be a meeting at all then. If a real group discussion is desired, it’s worth noting whether walking makes the meeting inadvertently inaccessible or inconvenient. The US National Center on Health, Physical activity and Disability published a set of recommendations for walking meetings:71 ––

Arrange the meeting in advance allowing individuals to bring proper footwear or assistive devices.


Set the path ahead of time ensuring the same start and finish.


Ensure that the path is accessible to all persons. Terrain should be a smooth, firm surface with no steep slopes. It should be free of obstacles and include curb cuts at all transfers.


The meeting should move at the pace of the slowest person.


Consider the impact of ambient noise.

When it comes to actual exercise, then research is clear that anything that requires motor skills (like typing on a keyboard) might not be worth doing while on a treadmill.72 It might look interesting, but it’s probably a poor replacement for a good session at the gym over lunch. At the end of the day, the physical health of employees working on new ideas should be secondary to their interaction with others, openness, and curiosity. Some businesses have built gyms and other exercise facilities as part of their building, gently nudging employees to look after themselves. Others offer health insurance policies that vary according to an employee’s level of activity. This subtle policing of the body at work can shame more mature and experienced employees, adding stress and anxiety to activities that really don’t need them. So avoiding ageism and ableism should be a priority for most innovation teams, especially team leaders who may not have direct experience of mobility issues or may be younger than their team members. All of this requires a level of empathy and understanding that is difficult to communicate if it isn’t company policy in the first place. Offices still get built (and even win accolades73)  esources to support walking meetings in the workplace, National Center on Health, R Physical Activity and Disability, 2015/09/How-I-Walk-Campaign-Fact-Sheets_Walking-Meetings.pdf (accessed July 2020) 72 Effects of Active Sitting on Reading and Typing Task Productivity. C. E. Doroff, E. L. Langford, G.A. Ryan, R.L. Snarr, International journal of exercise science, 2019, p.1216–1224 73 Building Accessibility Into America, Literally, M. Kimmelman, New York Times, July 2020, (accessed July 2020) 71

Creating a Culture of Innovation without proper wheelchair access, so it’s likely the perception of ability is skewed in the average office and so in the average team. Effective leaders should be attentive to needs that might not be immediately voiced and take action without shaming anyone into a conversation about their limitations. This also applies to the stand-up meetings,74 a tradition in software development and Agile project planning. From making sure everyone’s height doesn’t turn into a bias against shorter colleagues to a variety of health conditions and stamina in a group, a more lateral reading of a group means there’s no little need to actually be standing when sitting would put everyone at ease. This is especially relevant when these kinds of meetings are meant to be short, so everyone’s minds should be focused on the discussion rather than a colleague’s height.

Conference calls When Jack Nilles coined the term “teleworking” in 1973,75 he might not have anticipated how many opinions would now exist on this method of collaborative work. With the rise of telecommuting, telework, flexiwork, or just “working from home,” the need to “check in” has increased exponentially. As a result, a person’s bandwidth, or phone line, starts to play an active role in their ability to work well with others. In 2014, researchers found76 that delays in communication, which were due to poor connectivity, led to negative perception of the person at the other end. But ultimately, the same rules apply to conference calls as any meeting. Like email, video “netiquette” is also not entirely clear. The default use of video cameras can be stressful for many who are taking the calls from a closet or don’t enjoy staring at their own reflection while speaking with others. This also leads to more eye strain than a normal conversation as our eyes move from watching ourselves to watching everyone else. That is, if we’re even paying attention. A much referenced 2014 report by conference software provider InterCall77 (now Intrado) pointed out how fragmented our attention can be when video conferencing takes up a fraction of our screen experiences. Out of the 500 people interviewed, 82% admitted to working on other things when on a S tand-Up Meetings Don’t Work for Everybody, B. Frisch, Harvard Business Review, May 2016 (accessed July 2020) 75 Jack Nilles, Jala International, (accessed July 2020) 76 Why are you so slow? - Misattribution of transmission delay to attributes of the conversation partner at the far-end, K.  Schoenenberg & A.  Raake, J.  Koeppe, International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 2014 77 Mobile Conferencing is Changing How We Work, D. Collins, InterCall Blog, August 2014, (accessed July 2020) 74



Chapter 3 | Communication conference call. In a sense, multitasking is part and parcel of a phone call, compared to a face-to-face meeting. Everyone has picked up their mobile phone and used it in ways they wouldn’t for an office landline. From eating (55% of respondents), taking it into the bathroom (47%), or sending emails (63%), people’s attention tends to be fragmented because the experience isn’t physically limited and the social obligations are entirely different. The imposition of a “video on” policy doesn’t guarantee focus either, especially if the person is working at home with other, more immediate obligations as a parent or carer. This was judged such a big opportunity for improvement that Zoom, the video conference software provider, developed an “attention tracking” feature which looked at whether their software was “spotlighted” (in the foreground) in the last 30 seconds. Following accusations of privacy breaches, the feature was removed78 in April 2020. So at best, a conference call which absolutely needs to take place should obey the same rules as a good meeting, and this applies to remote idea generation as well.79 Respecting people’s attention, no matter how fragmented, is respecting the limitations and freedom of working remotely for many. The main advantage of remote work is the ability to get together and create an “invisible college” of participants who might be working for the first time together as their physical locations might make it difficult to work on creative or open added activities. Making sure that group becomes a more coherent group over time might create conversations that wouldn’t have taken place during the remote meeting. A group mailing list, dedicated Slack channel, or any other digital mechanism to keep that group together will eventually reap benefits especially after people have met face to face at a later date. Without this social glue over time, the effort put into a session really relies on very strong documentation skills.

Away days Sometimes described as “enforced fun,” corporations organize yearly gettogethers for all or part of their staff in order to revisit, expand on, or rethink their collective goals and actions. What is unique about them is they tend to happen out of the office and involve hands-on group activities (physical or creative). These generally are

 Message to Our Users, E. Yuan, Zoom Blog, April 2020, message-to-our-users/ (accessed July 2020) 79 How to Hold a Successful Virtual Brainstorm, R.  Corliss, Owl Labs, May 2020, www. (accessed July 2020) 78

Creating a Culture of Innovation curated to encourage people to interact with others outside of their department and without the constraints of everyday office life. Its origins are unclear, but off-site training sessions are common in professional sports. Unlike a small intimate sports team of say 10–15 players, most corporate away days can involve hundreds of employees. Mozilla’s “All Hands80” meetings involve almost all of their employees (around 1100) meeting in a different location every year. Empirical research into the effectiveness of this format is limited, but what is there points to some interesting avenues for consideration. In their 2010 paper “The Ritualization of Strategy Workshops,”81 researchers look at the impact of this “calendar-driven ritual” and its effectiveness back at the office. They studied how removed the events were from everyday activities, who ran them, how they were run, and how often they took place in the business calendar. They found that the liminal state of getting everyone onto a different location and using an external facilitator didn’t improve the effectiveness of the workshop. What did lead to change was a clearly set purpose. Just like any other meeting! The 2013 research paper “Off to Plan or Out to Lunch?”82 looked at the design characteristics and outcomes of over 650 away days. Their effectiveness was described in terms of organizational, interpersonal, and cognitive outcomes which implied that away days might be effective in ways you can’t measure directly. What proved more operationally effective was increasing the number of events every year and not displacing people so much. Increasing the types of people involved also helped with interpersonal outcomes, something that is bound to improve their ability to work together in the future. Finally, working on scenario planning which relied on creative conversations was more effective than just pouring over the usual SWOT analysis. workshops designed to stimulate higher levels of cognitive effort – as indicated by the amount of preparation, time dedicated to the focal event, and the use of cognitively challenging analytical techniques  – were associated with perceived improvements in the understanding of strategic issues.

 ll Hands, Mozilla Wiki, (accessed July 2020) A The Ritualization of Strategy Workshops, G.  Johnson, S.  Prashantham, S.  Floyd,  N. Bourque, Organization Studies, 2010 82 Off to Plan or Out to Lunch? Relationships between Design Characteristics and  Outcomes of Strategy Workshops, M.  Healey, G.  Hodgkinson, R.  Whittington, G. Johnson, British Journal of Management, July 2015, p.507-528 80 81



Chapter 3 | Communication So if the best way to run these away days is to run them as a set series of well-structured meetings that are closer to home, a business is likely to save money and time. It will also become more accessible to women who might not have been able to attend an away day because of family obligations or a disabled colleague not sure about the likelihood of accessible travel conditions. Other downsides of away days can be more depressing. Bringing people together wasn’t a guarantee of “communitas” but did create a temporary “social limbo” which we could assume is not only responsible for ideas that don’t translate into organizational change but actions that would be unthinkable in the workplace. Instances of sexual harassment at corporate events have increased over the last ten years, a sad reality documented by the website Geek Feminism.83 This has led to event-based Codes of Conduct84 that attendees read and sign on arrival. The culture of away days has led some to revisit fraternity-inspired office perks such as free alcohol. Salesforce banned it in their offices in 2016.85 Walmart have asked their country managers to approve the presence of alcohol at corporate events,86 and WeWork stopped offering it in their locations in early 2020.87 Because away days are part of the corporate “water,” it’s important for an innovation department to approach them differently and in a radically inclusive way, focusing on the variety of attendees, clear agenda, and ditching the exotic location. This is likely to keep people on their best, most respectful behavior and get people to work with others with genuine enthusiasm instead of trying to live up to their surroundings.

imeline of incidents, Geek Feminism Wiki, T wiki/Timeline_of_incidents (accessed in July 2020) 84 Codes of Conduct 101 + FAQ, A. Dryden, Ashe Dryden Website, February 2014, www. (accessed in July 2020) 85 Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff reminds employees of workplace drinking ban: ‘Alcohol is a drug’, E.  King, CNBC, November 2017, (accessed in July 2020) 86 Alcohol & Drug Free Workplace, Walmart,  walmartethics/en_us/statement-of-ethics/our-workplace/alcohol-anddrug-free-workplace.html (accessed July 2020) 87 Are WeWorks in Revolt Now That the Company Is Taking Away Free Beer?, A. Mark, Slate, January 2020, (accessed in July 2020) 83

Creating a Culture of Innovation

Working with IT Want to host a prototype in the cloud? Sorry, you’ve got to host it on our internal systems for privacy purposes, so the risk, time and cost to get this done will go up dramatically. Still want to proceed?88 A relatively new source of tension when it comes to innovation is the IT department. The larger the corporate environment, the more a variety of security practices affect the ability for a business to innovate. This can start with how guests are treated when they walk into a corporate office. From identifying themselves (this might require a passport) to having their photograph taken and bags scanned (this is common in offices located in historic buildings or at risk of terrorist attacks or protests), a guest isn’t exactly experiencing the same degree of freedom as other work contexts. Access control policies might even restrict their ability to go to the bathroom unassisted. This conjures an image of being in primary school and asking for a hall pass. Then there is the ability for someone to work using their own suite of communication or collaborative tools. A corporation’s purchasing decisions may impose the use of software tools that are deemed “safe” mostly because they are understood, well supported, and come with different levels of 24h support. From corporate environments who have bought computers for all their employees from a particular vendor to social media and voice conferencing vendors being banned, IT restrictions can act on many levels and at different points in a project. This has two possible repercussions: frustration or group frustration. Just like bad food, ham-fisted IT practices do create opportunities for communal grumblings. From the executives that share documents using LinkedIn messaging because they disliked using their own intranet tools to people blocking out portions of time in their calendar so their colleagues couldn’t invite them to meetings without their consent, the digitization of work has led to many avoidance strategies. These strategies sometimes expose a business to cybersecurity risks but the cost to innovation is real too. Being able to create “sandboxes” for a team to work outside of the constraints is useful but also equates to the “liminal state” of away days. Eventually, the corporate restrictions will need to be dealt with.


 hree Reasons Most Corporate Innovation Programs Fail, S.  Glaveski, Medium, April T 2019,



4 Showing Off [The] rise and fall of the large corporate lab matches quite well the rise and fall of American productivity. —The changing structure of American innovation1 The closing of a major research facility and the pressure on large corporations to eliminate spending on basic science may benefit a few wealthy investors, but it is a loss for the U.S. and the world. —DuPont Central Research & Development2 Throughout this book, we’ve focused on the internal setup, power structures, and processes that make new work possible in a corporate context. On a good day, these allow a company to file an interesting patent, exploit it, license it, or be the first to develop a product and launch it on the market. This requires long-term thinking, financial investment, space, and people. Since the 1980s, innovation financing has diversified, giving corporations more open, less risky, and ultimately cheaper options to choose from. In his 2013 paper,

 he Changing Structure of American Innovation: Some Cautionary Remarks for Economic T Growth, A. Arora, S. Belenzon, A. Patacconi, J. Suh, Innovation Policy and the Economy, Volume 20, Lerner and Stern, May 2020, p.5 2 DuPont Shutting Central Research, A. Tullo, Chemical and Engineering News, January 2016, (accessed July 2020) 1

© Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino 2020 A. Deschamps-Sonsino, Creating a Culture of Innovation,


Chapter 4 | Showing Off Dr. Gerben Bakker at the London School of Economics breaks down the financial mechanisms that underpin corporate R&D spending over the last 200 years. He contends that the recent adoption of venture capitalism has led to an increase in “spin-offs” and patents3 instead of richer, more speculative, and ultimately culturally impactful internal research activities. A recent spate of closures of high-profile research departments is also emblematic of a growing concern for the “return on investment” of research. In 2001, Philips closed its 40-year-old Philips Natuurkundig Laboratorium (NatLab) replacing it with the “open innovation” High Tech Campus Eindhoven. In 2016, the merger of chemical giants Dow and DuPont led to the closure of its 59-year-old DuPont Central Research. When Apple’s Research Labs was closed down by Steve Jobs in 1997, journalist Tim Bajarin commented:4 The group provided some important technology, but they also spawned the 'Not Invented Here' syndrome. That had actually really hurt Apple over the last few years, with money put into proprietary research and development when they could have bought technology from outside. Buying technology from outside is of course a euphemism for mergers and acquisitions (M&A).5 And the last 20 years of digital entrepreneurship gave corporations a much larger pool of companies to choose from. But the expression “open innovation” was the catalyst that made M&As acceptable and even desirable. Hot on the heels of open source software,6 “open innovation” was coined in 2003 by organizational theorist Henry Chesbrough in his book Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology. He reframed7 a complex set of R&D approaches as a binary decision between closed or open. It just turned out being open was cheaper. Being “open” came to mean outsourcing the process of developing radically new ideas out of the corporate umbrella and turn them into observable  he Changing Structure of American Innovation: Some Cautionary Remarks for Economic T Growth, A. Arora, S. Belenzon, A. Patacconi, J. Suh, Innovation Policy and the Economy, Volume 20, Lerner and Stern, May 2020, p.30, Fig. 10 4 Apple shutters Advanced Technology Group, CNET, October 1997, news/apple-shutters-advanced-technology-group/ (accessed July 2020) 5 M&A Statistics, IMMA, (accessed August 2020) 6 How I Coined the Term Open Source, C. Peterson, Slashdot, February 2018, https:// 7 Why Open Innovation is old wine in new bottles, P. Trott, D. Hartmann, International Journal of Innovation Management Vol. 13, No. 4, December 2009, pp. 715–736 3

Creating a Culture of Innovation investments. Instead of a room with a team and a roadmap of development, bets can be placed on startups or early-stage companies occupying space (on or off campus) in the incubators, accelerators, and labs that the corporation sponsors. These self-propelling processes have become a form of innovation tourism for the corporation itself. A trip to the aquarium of ideas. Something to visit, enjoy, and leave without having to change. But how do you talk about this externalized, encapsulated, ready-to-bethrown-out-the-window kind of innovation work? Do you show it or hide it? And where is it located? Corporate office spaces have a long history of hanging up pictures of past achievements in the corridor, put a display case with awards won in their lobby, or even open up their own museum, but this is different. It’s not about championing the past but the possible futures. A future that isn’t too radical. A future that feels interesting to shareholders and the board without actually feeling risky. The dedicated “innovation space” is there fill that gap, making open innovation feel tangible and showcasing a shift in research strategy.

Dedicated innovation spaces The innovation space also emerges to fill the void left by the corporate boardroom. A culturally constructed space where power, ideas, and interiors all come together, the boardroom isn’t as visually important as it was in the economic boom of the 1990s. The artist Jacqueline Hassink explored the choice of table, chairs, and catering for 21 boardrooms of Fortune 500 companies in her 1993 photography project “The Table of Power.”8 They go from kitsch to dull, but what’s clear is that people aren’t necessarily proud of them. The innovation space on the other hand is a space to be proud of. Just like a swimming pool, a lactation room, or a gym, not every corporation has an innovation space. Instead their innovation partners do. The innovation space became a new service accountancy firms, professional services, and IT companies with Fortune 500 clients had to offer to differentiate themselves. Often set up as part of an existing office space, these dedicated spaces borrow heavily from the visual culture of science laboratories, startup culture, and design studios.


 he Table of Power, Jacqueline Hassink website, T site/paragraph/item/22092/THE-TABLE-OF-POWER-project-The-Table-ofPower-1993-95 (accessed August 2020)



Chapter 4 | Showing Off Part event space, hands-on museum displays, and visitor center rolled into one, they are often considered publicly accessible, a nod to an “open innovation” philosophy. They are also built with the assumption that a mixture of internal and external people might visit them and publicly accessible video might be produced in the future. They are a window display of sorts. For today’s innovation providers, showcasing their process all year long instead of just at a trade show is a necessary part of selling innovation work. This has led to a kind of cargo culture as most of the innovation work done is wide ranging. Anything from incremental product improvement to new patent filing could be called innovation work. Because of this loose interpretation, the spaces that represent these activities tend to all look alike, uniform in a way that can only be described as playfully corporate. And it’s become almost impossible not to develop such a space. If a services company has competitors that have an innovation space, or an incubator, or a lab, they will need to develop one too. Otherwise, how could they prove their extended set of capabilities and interests? An innovation space is a signal to partners and clients that innovation is important enough to require its own space.

Purpose and design Knowledge work and its associated digital transformation programs have largely made innovation invisible to the outsider. Papers are written, policies are drawn up, websites and apps are built. So there’s not a lot to display upfront, especially when NDAs have been signed. One strategy for many innovation providers has been to borrow heavily from the world of science and engineering. This is not a trivial choice. To borrow from the language of others implies borrowing the expectations that belong to that world. This co-opting helps transform a digitally heavy workplace into one that feels closer to a science laboratory, an art school, or a maker space. This is an especially potent set of imagery to pull from in post industrial economies where the long lost manufacturing sector still looms large in the collective imagination. An environment which features a 3D printer, a virtual reality headset, electronics components, and other similar props signals the potential for “invention,” even if it isn’t the actual place where everyday work happens or what is produced. The monotony of people sitting in a room, working on their laptops, no longer hints at anything novel, so the innovation space needs to dazzle. The liminal space created is the physical manifestation of a simple marketing

Creating a Culture of Innovation message: “We can help you think differently.” It is rarely a functional workspace alone, but rather a place where innovation work can be discussed in the abstract. The following examples showcase a range of approaches to the innovation space. They are not in themselves better made than others, but they represent some of the “types” that exist today. To examine them is to examine a transient spatial type which is always on the brink of disappearing. Like an exotic animal, the innovation space is always at risk of becoming extinct, one of the reasons it is appealing to so many. The writing is always on the wall for an innovation space as it is ultimately at the mercy of the financial weather and an internal definition of what innovation means. Not unlike terms like “design” and “digital,” innovation can signify and crystalize any degree of newness that is shared with the outside world. The following examples might not stand the test of time, but they capture a very particular appetite of the last 10 years to pander to a corporate idea of ingenuity.

Case studies The barely visible innovation space In 2015, Capgemini, a global IT provider, launched its “Applied Innovation Exchange (AIE) platform.” As part of this platform, a Collaboration Zone (CoZone) was created in their Netherlands office. In a 2018 blog post, Henk Vermeulen reflects on their Netherlands office setup:9 We realized that we needed a different approach. So, we thought about moving off site. We considered everything – from an abandoned factory to a parking garage. We wanted a space that was unregulated; a space in which graffiti would be considered cool rather than vandalism. […] Eventually, we decided on a spot that had the perfect mix of form, frugality, and function. Right in our Netherlands office, right next to the cafeteria. No doors, no gateway, transparent and accessible to anyone who is interested or merely curious. Accepting (or leveraging) the constraints of a regular office building and putting any budget toward the stuff that matters most.[…] At any given time, about 80 people in about 14 teams are working towards a deeper understanding of leading-edge technologies. We are building demonstrators of how these technologies have a practical application in a diverse array of business processes in weekly sprints. […] Over 800 colleagues have contributed to over 90 concept demonstrators, showing over 500 visitors how applied innovation can change everything.


 eople: the backbone of every innovation lab, H. Vermeulen, Capgemini, July 2018, www. P (accessed August 2020)



Chapter 4 | Showing Off The accompanying promotional video10 shows people working in an open plan space, a Pepper robot (available since 2015), someone dialing into a tablet on wheels (available since 201311), a woman wearing a Microsoft HoloLens virtual reality headset (available since 2016), and a set of Post-its being moved around by a team gathered around a whiteboard. Why any of these objects are there is left to the imagination as they are props for the idea of “concept demonstrators” without actually pointing to the work done. They are purely symbols. A longer, unofficial, version of the promotional video shows more12 details around the kinds of concepts that were built, but this was not released publicly. That same year the blog post was published, Capgemini acquired Fahrenheit 212, a New York–based “innovation strategy and design firm,” and launched Capgemini Invent as well as the “AI Garage” which they describe as a rapid prototyping unit:13 a group of talented AI enthusiasts dedicated to creating innovative and datadriven products and services for cross-industry customers. Our goal is the rapid development of state-of-the-art solutions using the latest AI technologies and data science methods. The evolution in branding from the AIE to the AI Garage is striking considering how similar the activities sound. The AIE talked about “demonstrations” and “applied innovation” but the Garage talks about “products and services” and “rapid prototyping.” The choice of a garage hints at the mythical birthplace of many American success stories14 but without committing to it physically. It’s only metaphorically a garage as opposed to say X (formerly Google X) which commits more strongly to an industrial workplace aesthetic.15 This mixture of metaphors when it comes to representing formality, experimentation, and delivery is not unusual. Whether the AIE platform has been subsumed by the AI Garage in marketing terms doesn’t matter because

 taste of the Collaboration Zone - Capgemini Netherlands, Capgemini, YouTube, July A 2017, (accessed August 2020) 11 My Life as a Robot, E. Dreyfuss, Wired, September 2015, (accessed August 2020) 12 081001 CoZone Long  - Capgemini, Media Meisters, Vimeo, 2019, https://vimeo. com/316783320 (accessed August 2020) 13 AI Garage, Capgemini Invent,  insights-driven-enterprise/ai-garage/ 14 Garage, O. Erlanger, L. Govela, MIT Press, October 2018 15 A Peek Inside the Moonshot Factory Operating Manual, A Teller, Medium, July 2016, 10

Creating a Culture of Innovation none of the nomenclature matters. It’s all storytelling for a program of internal training and client-driven prototyping using tools which are marketed as being the “latest” and the naming will keep iterating as long as clients and technological developments require them to. These spaces are pregnant with potential without having to show any results, or even commit to a specific location.

Self-reflective innovation space In 2016, software provider SAP opened its DATA SPACE16 in Berlin. Built in collaboration with design studio Ars Electronica FutureLab,17 it describes itself as: the meeting point for tech enthusiasts, innovators, and decision-makers […]. It’s a place to exchange ideas and to network in an inspiring atmosphere – at events, on a lunch date, or over an after-work drink at the bar. In the heart of Berlin, the DATA SPACE provides a space for the exchange of ideas, thoughts, innovations, as well as all topics related to digital transformation. The DATA SPACE includes a restaurant with an online booking system which allows the kitchen to prepare meals for people too busy to wait for table service. There is also a dedicated event space upstairs and a demo space where a series of table and wall touch screens showcases SAP’s digital capabilities. The restaurant can also be turned into an event space. This is an example of an innovation space as a mirror of the hustle and bustle of a particular type of city living. Busy, affluent, hip, the interiors sit somewhere between a dark sci-fi film set and an early 2000s lounge bar. Located on Rosenthaler Strasse, in the heart of Mitte, the space has more in common with an experiential Nike store than it does to a museum exhibition, but that’s partly the point. The nook is where touchscreen demonstrations18 take place. They aren’t hidden away, but neither do they invite unaccompanied interaction. This is the only element of the space that requires translation and its default status is attractive enough to look like an abstract window display.

 ata Space, SAP, D SAP Data Kitchen, Ars Electronica Futurelab,  futurelab/en/projects-sap-data-kitchen/ (accessed July 2020) 18 Data Space by SAP, Bechtle AG, YouTube, March 2017,  So640p-E (1.47 min) 16 17



Chapter 4 | Showing Off The focus on technology-augmented commensality is a recognition that food and the guest chef may attract the kind of young technology-loving foodies that SAP might want as an employee or in their incubator. Even if this is not achieved, the ambiance created blends easily into the city and doesn’t feel out of place. It might feel a little empty, but that happens to every good restaurant too. The DATA SPACE acts as a marketing-friendly applied innovation project. It doesn’t need to talk about the work because it is the work. This is especially important when the space is in the heart of a city with an important and culturally significant nightlife. This kind of space allows SAP to connect their capabilities to culture and place without having to take their clients to Berghain. The DATA SPACE removes any obligation to be too specific about what other kinds of innovation work can be done because it already offers itself as the proof of SAP’s capabilities. It presents itself as the embodied, situated, process of innovation and cross-disciplinary collaboration.

Innovation space as museum experience Hager Group is a supplier of solutions and services for electrical installations in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. In 2015, they opened a new space in the heart of their largest industrial site in Obernai, France. Hager Forum is described on the dedicated microsite19 as A 6 500  m2 open, collaborative space, where visitors can meet, exchange, train, innovate and shape their future with Hager Group. It includes a training center, a visitor center, an events space, a café, and an office space. They have several exhibition spaces where visitors can find out about the history of the company, experience an immersive show, learn more about the products displayed in two showrooms, and visit the “Garden,” a maker space. As Daniel Hager, the CEO of Hager Group, puts it: Hager Forum is our response to the necessity of having to adapt our ways of working to the challenges of the future, to perform and deliver even more successfully: more collaboration and more networking.


 ager Forum, Hager Group, (accessed August H 2020)

Creating a Culture of Innovation The Hager Forum’s closest spatial equivalent isn’t an office space though, it’s a modern art museum. All the elements of a museum are present: the new build, the restaurant, the exhibition spaces, and the lecture theater. This of course is a reflection of the changes in museums, but it’s also a useful way to think about what a corporation like Hager considers the right kind of environment to get people collaborating and networking. Unlike a museum, the entire visit is handheld with staff essential in providing a guided tour. The Forum is also not publicly accessible but part of the secure industrial campus where the company has been operating since 1959. Just like the word “garage” for Capgemini, the choice of the word “Forum,” an open space for discussion, is mostly symbolic of a desire to appear open to new ideas. The Forum appears, as a space, much more interested in clarifying its values and history than it is to break from the past and launch into the unknown. This is why it operates more closely to a cultural institution. Its maker space, the only space described as dedicated to innovative ideas, is located in the basement, away from view. This is an innovation space using the timeless appeal of high-tech architecture and hands-on exhibition stands to hint at its ability to deal with an uncertain future. The whole experience is managed and no uncertainty allowed to seep in. This may be explained by what Hager actually offers its clients and partners: the certainty of safe and reliable infrastructure. In this context, talking about disruption, uncertainty, and risk is difficult, so the message is controlled every step of the way, spatially as well as conceptually.

Innovation space as demo space Launched in 2017 by services company PwC UK, the Frontier Data Lab20 is a publicly visible ground floor room next to the entrance to one of their offices. Not purpose built, this is actually a meeting room with several technology-led demonstrations hung up or installed. This includes a real-time data visualization mural piece built by artists21 Brendan Dawes and Kate Egan. There is also a multiscreen touchscreen used in collaborative, tablet-based group work. Similarly to Capgemini, telepresence robots and a virtual reality installation also feature. PwC describes the space on the company website as: home to our ever-changing collection of disruptive technologies. We have our virtual reality equipment set up in there and linking to the big screen to

 he Frontier Data Lab, PwC UK, YouTube, (accessed T August 2020) 21 Carefully Everywhere Descending, Brendan Dawes, (accessed August 2020) 20



Chapter 4 | Showing Off provide a truly immersive experience. At the moment we also have an augmented reality experience on display as well as double robotics and the latest tool for measuring emotional intelligence through wearable technology. It's a great place to experience something new and think about the possibilities for using emerging technologies in your organisation. Similar to the Accenture Innovation Hub22 but much more publicly visible, the Frontier Data Lab sits between Capgemini’s ambiguous work space and Hager’s museum experience. Clearly, the space only comes to life when someone is there to explain all these demonstrations, but the rest of the time, it’s probably a pretty decent event space with plenty of light and easy for guests to access (unlike Accenture’s Innovation Hub which is a small room high up in their London office). This use of the space and a focus on a “collection” is in keeping with the idea of a Hub even if “hub” implies “spokes” that don’t exist. The notion of “Frontier,” while an anachronistic reference to the European settlement, is a nod to its American roots. The space isn’t trying to do too much, just occasionally show some interesting work. In that sense, it reflects the history of “demos” in the technology sector: a ritualized time in the calendar (a trade show, a conference, or a Friday evening presentation) where the latest product is demonstrated to peers. Douglas Engelbart’s famous 90-minute demonstration23 of radical new prototypes like the computer mouse and hypertext still looms large in the collective imagination of people working in digital work today. In that sense, every demo is trying to conjure, by association, that famous 1968 demo. Every space is trying to replicate that same potential. These spaces are neither successful nor unsuccessful, but they are examples of a very particular corporate desire: the one where talking about innovation is as good as innovating. This is a trend that may fade quickly or be with us for another 10 years, but as long as internal research budgets keep being slashed, these kinds of spaces are likely to keep appearing in the crammed office spaces of service providers. Ironically, it’s spaces like Hager Forum which will move away from a lab or research aesthetic to promote an idea of innovation that is safe and controlled. But then, can it really be called innovation?

L iving Innovation, Accenture, (accessed August 2020) 23 [email protected]: did Engelbart’s ‘mother of all demos’ launch the connected world?, M. Weber, Computer History Museum, December 2018, net-50-did-engelbart-s-mother-of-all-demos-launch-the-connected-world/ (accessed August 2020) 22

Creating a Culture of Innovation

Incubators and accelerators For some, innovation is a demining exercise. An innovation manager acts as a mine diffusion expert, making sure an innovation effort doesn’t lead to an explosion for the company. This is especially true in regulated industries such as finance. One way to ensure the risks are carefully mitigated before anything exciting happens is to treat innovation as a lightweight, controlled, scientific experiment. This is where incubators and accelerators come in. For risk-averse corporate environments, hosting an incubator or accelerator is one way to ensure that the damage is minimal and everyone comes out winning. Whether the startups or small enterprises that take part in a “program” are successful doesn’t matter because the focus is really on the fact that the incubator exists at all. The incubator allows a business to offer a minimal viable support system to startups with little or no starting capital. A combination of free office space, mentorship by employees, and a time limit makes this model very attractive to both the startups and the corporate host. In some instances, the program management itself is outsourced entirely to companies like LMarks24 and Techstars25 who have white labeled their own programs to bring it to any corporation. Here are two examples.

Lloyd’s Lab Launched in September 2018, Lloyd’s Lab26 is a bi yearly 10-week startup support program offered by Lloyd’s, the global insurance and reinsurance market specialist in their iconic London office. Run by Ed Gaze, it was set up in collaboration with L Marks,27 an advisory firm specializing in running incubation and acceleration programs for corporate clients. The program is financed by over 50 of Lloyd’s own clients to make sure they are interested in the outcomes of the program. One to three eventually become active mentors, occasionally developing a commercial relationship with the startups.

LMarks, (accessed August 2020) Join the platform for global innovation, techstars, (accessed August 2020) 26 Lloyd’s Lab, (accessed August 2020) 27 L Marks, (accessed August 2020) 24 25



Chapter 4 | Showing Off

ING Labs ING Labs28 (Figure 4-1) was launched in 2018 by ING Wholesale Bank. Run out of the ING Customer Experience Center in Amsterdam and other offices in Bruxelles, London, and Singapore, it focuses on incubating both startups and its own teams to address core and tangential business challenges. Teams are mentored through ING’s own process they call PACE.29 Paul Spronk, head of ING Labs APAC in Singapore, described their approach in an interview:30 […] the team has a three-pillar strategy and works on: Greenfield ventures that create long-term impact for ING and its clients. These ventures and initiatives can go beyond banking business models in addressing client needs as the global trade ecosystem evolves. Venture partnerships with a clear client-driven platform strategy in mind. ING invests in partnerships with startup, scale-up and corporate partners, with the aim of developing multi-sided business ties and models with open architecture and governance structures that enable the bank to create value-added products and services clients. The roll-out of PACE, INGs innovation methodology that combines a lean startup, and Agile way of working with design thinking. It offers tools that enable the bank to develop relevant solutions to internal and external problems.

ING Labs, ING, accessed January 2020, PACE: ING’s way to innovate, YouTube, October 2017,  watch?v=C3FRA9iA7FE (accessed August 2020) 30 ING: A collaborative approach towards innovative success, A. Donovan-Stevens, Fintech Magazine, May 2018, (accessed August 2020) 28 29

Creating a Culture of Innovation

Figure 4-1.  ING Customer Experience Center, Amsterdam (credit: ING Group)

What connects these two examples is the commitment to a process they can exploit in other ways than the success of the individual startup they support. What divides them is the fact that Lloyd’s is transparent about the companies that are part of its cohorts, whereas ING is more careful. Both operate in heavily regulated markets but their interpretation of reputational risk is different. Because it is a marketplace, Lloyd’s seems happier to be more transparent. ING on the other hand is conscious of making sure it extracts every possible competitive advantage it can from the projects it supports. The dichotomy between a transparent exercise of incubation and a closed one is also down to the corporate interpretation of “open innovation.” In ING’s case, they are open and actively champion their process only. In the case of Lloyd’s, they are transparent about the startups they are supporting. Most corporate incubators from EDF Energy31 to Disney32 will operate in a similar manner giving startups a replicable experience they can offer as often as they like.

DF Energy announces Blue Lab startups, announces-blue-lab-startups/ (accessed August 2020) 32 Disney Accelerator, (accessed August 2020) 31



Chapter 4 | Showing Off Whether consciously or not, the corporate incubator is inspired by one of the most successful technology focused incubators: Y Combinator. Co-founded in 2005 by Paul Graham, he described its initial ambition in 2012:33 investors should be making more, smaller investments, they should be funding hackers instead of suits, they should be willing to fund younger founders. This focus on hackers and young founders is another way to talk about “diversity” in the investment space but without talking about sexism, ageism, and racism. On age alone, a 2019 research at the US National Bureau of Economic Research found that founders in their 40s and above are more successful no matter what areas of entrepreneurship they engage in.34 Meanwhile, women founders only commanded 2.8%35 of American venture capital investments in 2019 and that drops to 1% for Black founders.36 What Y Combinator is really in the business of doing is convincing someone young, naïve, energetic, and white that they should burn the candle at both ends for years to make their investment worthwhile. And to a large extent, that has worked. After thousands of investments (such as Dropbox and Airbnb), their top 10 most valued investments37 were over 7 years old and only one had been acquired. Y Combinator was still in contact with companies that were continuing to grow and increase in value. In order for a corporate incubator to achieve the same, it should presumably be willing to hold on to enough institutional knowledge to manage relationships with small fledgling companies it invested in over a 10-year period. This is ultimately the challenge for corporations investing in this format of knowledge building. Internally tied to this quarter, or this financial year, rarely does a corporation plan for a long-term approach to supporting the startups it temporarily houses. This is a way to indulge in entrepreneurship tourism, watching someone take risks instead of taking risks themselves.  ow Y Combinator Started, P. Graham, March 2012, H html (accessed August 2020) 34 Age and High-Growth Entrepreneurship, P.  Azoulay, B.  F. Jones, J.  D. Kim, J.  Miranda, National Bureau of Economic Research, April 2019, (accessed August 2020) 35 Funding For Female Founders Stalled at 2.2% of VC Dollars in 2018, E.  Hinchliffe, Fortune, January 2019, (accessed August 2020) 36 What is Transparent Collective?, Transparent Collective, www.transparent (accessed August 2020) 37 Y Combinator Logo Top Companies List – 2019, (accessed August 2020) 33

Creating a Culture of Innovation Incubators are also a great way to learn about the world outside a business without having to attend conferences, by eavesdropping in on someone else’s challenges and pains. But being in the room with someone struggling is the best way to learn from them. Even if an incubator only contributes to accelerating internal research or helping staff become more entrepreneurial in their project management, the benefits for both the startup and the corporation are multiple if the long view is taken. If, on the other hand, the corporation is mostly motivated by marketing, then a virtual program is easy enough to undertake. But the rewards will decrease accordingly. An effective corporate incubator is about startup selection, mentorship structures, and how relevant the network around the corporate might be to help the startups they select. None of this requires any infrastructure to exist. That’s not to say physical infrastructure doesn’t enable different things to happen, but if your KPI is to look like you’re supportive and enabling, then all you need is a good website.

Maker spaces No longer as popular as it was in the early days of the “maker movement,” the maker space still lingers as it spreads further away from its experimental grass roots into libraries and corporate spaces. Its most powerful totem is the 3D printer. Made affordable by the likes of MakerBot (acquired by Stratasys in 2013), these printers started appearing in dedicated community-based physical prototyping spaces in cities around the world. These spaces are either community run38 or part of a franchise model39 which is reflected by the naming convention they adopt. TechShop40 and Fab Lab41 were licensed out of the United States, while maker spaces or hacker spaces tended to be more community-based. Initially catering to communities of

 pen Dataset of Maker Spaces, A. Sleigh, H. Stewart and K. Stokes, Nesta, April 2015, O p.10, users_guide.pdf (accessed August 2020) 39 Makerspaces under pressure to revamp business models, B. Bouw, The Globe and Mail, July 2019, (accessed August 2020) 40 TechShop, Wikipedia, 41 Fab Foundation, (accessed August 2020) 38



Chapter 4 | Showing Off computer scientists, the drop in prices of digital fabrication tools like 3D printers, laser cutting, and others meant a space was necessary to learn how to use them, especially for hobbyists and their personal projects. Along with the development of cheap electronics educational platforms like Arduino and Raspberry Pi, what could have been confined to the garden shed or the garage became a communal learning experience. They enabled the informal and largely free education of people from a wide range of backgrounds in their local communities. Instead of being confined to arts education or engineering departments, maker spaces opened up tools to ordinary citizens who might have picked up Make magazine (launched by O’Reilly Media in 2005) at their local newspaper stand. Books like Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson (former editor of Wired US) and Free to Make: How the Maker Movement is Changing Our Schools, Our Jobs, and Our Minds by Dale Dougherty (former editor of Make magazine) and Ariane Conrad are great starting points to understand the history of the movement. Just like Hager Group, it was inevitable that corporations would develop their own. In its simplest expression, a maker space today is a space enabling a degree of physical prototyping and light manufacturing. Barclays (the British bank) initiated their Eagle Labs program in 2015 when they turned one of their London branches into a dedicated maker space42 for entrepreneurs who had digital fabrication needs. They have now expanded this program across 25 different locations in the United Kingdom, bucking the trend of many banks to close their branches43 or turn them into cafés. They now also include business incubation44 and are even located in unconventional premises (for a bank). Branded “Eagle Lab Maker Space” their terms and conditions page describes it45 as: a place where everyone is welcome to create something, learn a new skill and share ideas. Eagle Lab Maker Spaces provide facilities and tools to help you come up with ideas and produce early-stage Prototype Products. We can also provide creative and technical support to help you produce Your Product. You can use an Eagle Lab Maker Space to build Prototype Products using our Equipment e.g. our fabrication tools such as 3D printers and laser cutters.

agle Labs in Bournemouth, Barclays, E bournemouth 43 Banks don’t know what to do with their branches, A.  Prang, Wall Street Journal,  November 2019, (accessed August 2020) 44 Eagle Lab at Plexal, Barclays,  (accessed August 2020) 45 Eagle Lab Maker Spaces Terms of Use, Barclays, (accessed August 2020) 42

Creating a Culture of Innovation Unlike Hager Forum “Garden” maker space, this isn’t targeted at training Barclays’s staff but offering potential customers more than another bank branch would. By focusing on training and business incubation, they increase their brand value. By aligning themselves with invention and entrepreneurship that comes with a maker space, Barclays actually innovates around its real estate portfolio compared with a growing number of digital-only competitors. This is one of the rare examples of a corporation shaping its identity around a maker space. This cozying up to a maker aesthetic is not unusual,46 but most corporate maker spaces tend to stay internal. There’s too much pressure to show the outputs of investing in such a space in tangible ways, either by the products developed, the utilization of the tools, or other key measures that largely depend on good curation. For others though, an internal maker space allows other kinds of work to be developed for marketing purposes. Investing in light industrial fabrication resources signals an interest in a particular kind of experimentation. When looking at what makes a good maker space in Norway, researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology47 came to some pretty obvious criteria around utilization which could be applied in a corporate context.48 • How many days were the machines in the machine workshop used individually? • What is the number of monthly visitors? • How many workshops with a fee were facilitated this month? • How many free events/activities were arranged this month? • How much does the current workspace differ from the originally designed Status 0? (Is the workshop tidy)? • How many people attended activities with and without fee? • How many self initiated (humorous) projects or artifacts has been installed in the workspace?  hy your office needs a makerspace, H.  Greene, Stantec, June 2018, www.stantec. W com/en/ideas/content/blog/2018/why-your-office-needs-a-makerspace-its-about-investing-in-the-creative-workplace (accessed August 2020) 47 State of the Art of Makerspaces  - Success Criteria When Designing Makerspaces for Norwegian Industrial Companies. M. Jensen, C. Semb, S. Vindal, M. Steinert, Procedia CIRP. 54. p. 69-70, 2016 48 Corporate makerspaces as innovation driver in companies: a literature review-based framework, F.  Rieken & T.  Boehm, M.  Heinzen, M.  Meboldt, Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, 2019 46



Chapter 4 | Showing Off • How many steps does a potential users have to go through to book the equipment in the makerspace? Can these be reduced? • How many activities included workers from several different companies? As we’ve explored throughout this book, these criteria for success relate to resources as much as the diversity of users of the space. The need to make sure enough people take advantage of a space entirely dedicated to something that isn’t necessarily part of their work can be as effective in setting the tone as a nursing or a prayer room. But unlike spaces which are created to cater to the diverse needs of a community of employees, a maker space can only create the potential for lateral thinking, it cannot guarantee it. The tangible value might not be immediately measurable, and space utilization is too blunt an instrument. In lieu of advertising an internal maker space more clearly, some businesses utilize what the maker space implies to appear innovative in their communication. In 2011, Mint Digital, a London-based advertising agency, launched a three-month-long program called Foundry49 where graduates created unusual physical products. One of those graduates, Ben Redford, created a series of products, some of which were even manufactured in small batches. This included a little chewing gum dispenser connected to digital social interactions50 and a small projector for Instagram photos.51 The program only ran for 3 years and Ben Redford moved on to start his own business making a desktop vacuum former.52 Mint Digital eventually closed its doors in 2018. This kind of digital fabrication-based work is knowledge intensive and, without a financially stable environment, is hard to maintain. Almost 20 years after the first Fab Lab53 was set up, maker spaces are more common in education and as part of civic spaces like museums and libraries. Corporations often get involved as sponsors, taking an arm’s length approach to the investment required to run a good maker space. But the benefits of enabling teams to learn different sets of skills will be lost. Watching people learn something new isn’t the same as changing the way people work and make assumptions about complex product development.

F oundry, U. Can, Mint Digital, August 2011, (accessed August 2020) 50 Molly - turns your retweets into sweets, Vimeo, 2012, (accessed August 2020) 51 Projecteo, Vimeo, 2013, (accessed August 2020) 52 Mayku, (accessed August 2020) 53 Fab Lab User Group Meeting, MIT Centre for Bits and Atoms, January 2005, http:// (accessed August 2020) 49

Creating a Culture of Innovation A lack of product design understanding at a company level can be addressed with an internal maker space that is well programmed and utilized. It contributes to raising awareness and literacy around certain aspects of manufacturing and product design, something a wider variety of corporations are interested in, especially when the bulk of their work is digital. Social media giant Snapchat’s surprising attempt at manufacturing camera-enabled glasses is one such example.54

Marketing In June 2012, Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, walked onto the stage of Google I/O wearing a Google Glass. The developer conference was 8 years old and thousands of people were in attendance. He spent 11 minutes sharing a Google Hangout with people who skydived toward the Moscone building where the event was held, abseiled down the side of it, and biked back onto the stage to meet him. All of this was live streamed. Eight years later, Google Glass is still only a “developer kit” available from trade distributors for over $999.55 This is not unusual. The theatrical unveiling of a piece of research is one of the many ways to remind potential customers of a corporation or keep shareholders happy. How that innovation is shared and what stories a corporation chooses to tell reveal a lot about the technology readiness level of the idea. The time, context, and language used by the corporation to show off its newest idea also hint at the future of that idea. The difference between “buy now” or “coming out soon” is significant.

Trade shows From the Geneva International Motor Show to Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, corporate announcements have become a form of entertainment. Tickets to these events can cost thousands of dollars even though they are available online and are sometimes even streamed.

 van Spiegel triples down on snapchat spectacles - at twice the price, E. Lutz, Vanity Fair, E August 2019, (accessed August 2020) 55 Glass Providers, Google, (accessed August 2020) 54



Chapter 4 | Showing Off This shouldn’t be a surprise seeing as the first trade shows to focus on invention were the World Fairs which grew out of the French “Exposition des produits de l'industrie française” in 1798. From the 1851 Great Exhibition in London (6 million visitors over 5 months) to today’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (182,000 attendees over 4 days), there is little difference except for their frequency. The average American business professional attended 30 regional, 16 national, and 10 international trade shows in 2019.56 They’ve become crucial for building relationships with partners or vendors57 as well as a useful way to gain new customers. In lieu of that, a trade show presence should generate as much press as possible. David Woodhouse, then Design Director at Lincoln Motor Company, comments on the purpose of concept cars at trade shows:58 If we have a new launch of a new version in our portfolio, we would tease that with a specific type of concept that would be a slight exaggeration of the production car. So it would be slightly more idealized. And of course, that's to generate interest but also awareness that this product is coming to market a year or two later. This tendency to go for an extreme version of a product is due to the trade show context. When a company knows it’ll be surrounded by its closest competitors and it has only a few moments to capture the imagination of a tired and overstimulated attendee, an eye-catching experience rather than realism will be remembered. There is something of Disneyland in most trade show experiences and the suspension of disbelief is crucial in helping people remember a corporate brand in new ways. Disney’s own EPCOT center59 was used to showcase the emerging innovation work of many household names like Monsanto.60 It wasn’t a trade show but it shares many of the same features. A trade show tends to be a mixture of exhibition spaces, dedicated rooms programmed with talks, and networking/refreshment areas. Some trade shows take a couple of hours to visit, some take days. The only difference is

 umber of trade shows US companies attended 2015-2020, by type, A. Guttmann, June N 2020, Statista, (accessed August 2020) 57 Top management attention to trade shows and firm performance: A relationship marketing perspective, B. Brown, Brian, M. Mohan, D. Boyd, Journal of Business Research, 2017 58 Why top automakers spend millions on concept cars they don’t plan on making, A. Caldwell, Business Insider, June 2019, (accessed August 2020) 59 History of the Original Spaceship Earth Corporate Sponsors, The Mouselets, June 2019, (accessed August 2020) 60 Smarter Homes: how technology will change your home life, A.  Deschamps-Sonsino, Apress, 2018 56

Creating a Culture of Innovation the scale of the real estate covered as the experience of a trade show attendee is entirely based on their own personal stamina and interests. This makes it incredibly challenging for corporations who invest in a trade show presence. You literally don’t know who will walk past your stand and what their interest might be. In many ways, having a booth at a trade show is like opening a store in a city you don’t know. Common advice given to corporations is to stick to trade shows which are the most relevant, but some key events are so vague in their focus that they attract a wide variety of attendees, something that could be beneficial to an innovation team trying to try out some ideas or showcase a new project for the first time. Here are a couple of examples of these influential yet diffuse trade shows.

SXSW This one wasn’t even a trade show. When it started in 1987, South by Southwest (SXSW) was a three-day music event in Austin, Texas, featuring 177 musicians across 15 stages. By 1994, it had added a “Film and Interactive” theme with eight panel discussions featuring 36 speakers. Eventually “Film and Interactive” were split into two different events. The number of attendees and its reputation grew so that companies working on products where critical mass is important would soft-launch there. Virtual location-based check-in game Foursquare61 used SXSW to debut their service in 2009, and in 2011, Twitter62 used it as an opportunity to do a big promotional push. In response to this interest, SXSW started a Startup Village in 2012. It now offers the same services as a large-scale trade show with exhibition spaces separated according to themes and prices that run in the thousands. When an event attracts 280,000 attendees and contributes over $355M to Austin’s local economy,63 it’s hard to ignore for anyone working in the cultural, technology, or music sector.

Foursquare Seeks to Turn Nightlife Into a Game, J.  Wortham, Bits Blog, New  York Times, March 2009, 62 Twitter And Foursquare Explain Their SXSW Explosions: Hustle, Buzz, And Maybe $11K, Tech Crunch, January 2011, M. Seigler, twitter-foursquare-sxsw/ 63 Analysis of the economic benefit to the city of Austin from SXSW 2019, Facts, SXSW, (accessed August 2020) 61



Chapter 4 | Showing Off

CES A less authentic but as significant in the yearly tradeshow calendar is the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas which describes itself64 as: […] the most influential tech event in the world — the proving ground for breakthrough technologies and global innovators. This is where the world's biggest brands do business and meet new partners, and the sharpest innovators hit the stage. Started in New York in 1967, it moved to Chicago and then to Las Vegas in 1978, mushrooming to take up several convention centers and hotels. It prides itself on being a place where future commercial successes were launched, but what it fails to highlight is the difference between a “demo” and a commercial product launch. This leaves them enough room to support their claims.65 The “world-changing innovations announced at CES” list includes the laser disc which was showcased in 1974 but only became commercially available four years later.66 Their list hasn’t been updated since 2015, showing that it’s hard to call something “world-changing” without the test of time. CES now includes automotive, space, and telecommunication companies as well as consumer electronics brands. It also has dedicated halls for startups without prototypes to “launch” but simply there to take advantage of the crowds to boost fundraising campaigns. CES and SXSW are American but every country and industry has its own “must attend” event in their yearly calendar. Whether that’s SIBOS67 for the finance sector, IFA68 in Germany, the Salone del Mobile69 in Milan, the Geneva International Motor Show,70 or Eurosatory71 in Paris, it doesn’t matter. The experience for all of these is the same as it was in the days of the World Fairs. It still represents an opportunity to show either something that is no longer that sensitive in terms of intellectual property, or something to kick the competition to the curb even if temporarily and superficially.

 bout CES, CES, (accessed August 2020) A Milestones in the technology industry, CES,  pdfs/technology-milestones-timeline.pdf (accessed August 2020) 66 Incredible photos from the CES vault: 1967 to 2014, L.  Dune, D.  Pierce, The Verge, January 2013, (accessed August 2020) 67 SIBOS, (accessed August 2020) 68 IFA, (accessed August 2020) 69 Salone del Mobile, (accessed August 2020) 70 Geneva International Motor Show, (accessed August 2020) 71 Eurosatory, (accessed August 2020) 64 65

Creating a Culture of Innovation Trade shows also generate their own internal flurry to find something to showcase. Obscure pieces of research are dusted off or innovation departments are called up by the marketing department in desperation a few months prior to the event. The marketing imperative is sometimes stronger than reason, and an innovation group might find itself pulling all-nighters simply to have something interesting to show on this year’s booth. This happens when a trade show is reputationally so important that the corporation can’t afford to skip the event. A huge amount of effort is put into producing a well-resourced booth with enough to attract journalists on the press days. But that’s not to say what is being produced will live on as the key performance metrics of a marketing department are very different to those of the innovation department.

Video In lieu of being able to attend a conference or trade show, a potential customer will hear about a new innovation project through traditional marketing efforts. A concept video or behind-the-scenes video be produced for this purpose. Video hosting sites like YouTube and Vimeo have facilitated the distribution of all kinds of promotional videos which would have struggled to be shown on broadcast television 10 years ago. Not entirely advertisement (as there is often nothing to buy), they often focus on putting the new product idea, concept, or prototype into its wider corporate context. They help create a visual and easy-to-digest story about what the company values in its innovation work.

Concept video In June 2018, Ford’s Smart Mobility Europe department published a 2-minute concept video72 (54,000 views at the time of writing) for a smart cycling jacket they had developed in collaboration with clothing startup Lumo73 and software company Tome.74 The video was linked to a blog post describing in more detail the idea, but the expected caveat was included at the end:75

right Idea! Smart Jacket for Cyclists, YouTube, June 2018, B SQH1PCmeO_I (accessed August 2020) 73 LUMO: The world’s finest urban cycling jacket with lights, Kickstarter, March 2017, www. (accessed August 2020) 74 Tome, (accessed August 2020) 75 Bright Idea! Smart Jacket for Cyclist, Ford Europe, June 2018, https://fordeurope. 72



Chapter 4 | Showing Off For now, the smart jacket remains a prototype. However, we are in the process of securing the patent that it might in future be further developed or licenced to others, along with the companion app and know-how. By February 2020, Ford Europe shared a concept video on YouTube without an accompanying blog post. This one-minute video76 garnered 144,000 views and showed a concept for the lining of a bicycle jacket which would show emojis to drivers behind the rider. The YouTube description links to the company’s “Share the Road” campaign77 and describes the level of completion of the idea: This one-of-a-kind creation, which is not available to buy, is designed to show how tensions could be eased by enabling riders to more easily and more clearly show drivers what their intentions are – and how they are feeling. Unsurprisingly, the second video was more popular with traditional press outlets than the first. These quick, noncommittal concept videos are easy to share, and expectations can be managed without having to make too many sacrifices on the company website—a win for many marketing departments. These videos also end up being cumulative, allowing a company to build up a visual history of small public experiments cheaply while generating recurring traffic and interest.

Behind-the-scenes video In 1939, Disney produced a 6-minute video showing people who were about to watch Snow White (their first full length film) how animation worked.78 This sneak peek behind “the magic” of work is still alive and well today. If anything, the behind-the-scenes is even more potent than concept videos as it puts staff at the heart of the story around a company’s innovation work. This is risky of course as people come and go, or indeed die! Bart Sights79 at Levi’s is a good example. Hired in 2010, he’s a very charismatic figure and essential for the story the company tells of its Eureka Innovation

Ford Emoji Jacket helps people to ‘Share The Road, YouTube, g756nqX-jUU (accessed August 2020) 77 Share The Road: Making our roads safer for everyone, Ford Europe, experience-ford/about-ford/share-the-road (accessed August 2020) 78 How Walt Disney Cartoons are made, RKO Radio Pictures, YouTube, https://youtu. be/mhfp6Z8z1cI (accessed August 2020) 79 Bart Sights, A. Tzortzis, The Ageist, September 2018, bart-sights/ (accessed August 2020) 76

Creating a Culture of Innovation Lab.80 When Project Jacquard (a collaboration with Google’s hardware group ATAP) was announced, he was interviewed in the 4-minute video. He is actually present in almost all short videos about Levi’s work with new technology, including their latest work on laser etching the “wash” on jeans to make them personalizable by customers. Had he been a less charismatic man, Levi’s may have been weary of focusing so much on a “personality.” But he brings the aesthetically pleasing lab to life, without which, for the average video consumer, it would just be another warehouse. This trend for a look at the process rather than the end product has even led Apple to share81 the inner workings of its “Health Lab” when it launched the Apple Watch in 2015. The watch was a departure from many of Apple’s devices, so the storytelling was important to legitimize a product which would end up capturing so much of its customer’s biometric and therefore personal data. Focusing on the sports performance as part of the 2-minute video helped make people comfortable about wearing a computer rather than having it in their pocket. Social media has enabled a “cult of personality” where the “personality” is embodied by staff and the brand. Instead of an occasional press release, every tweet and Instagram post matters to create a rich story over many years. And this is also an interesting way to promote content which would otherwise feel quite formal or stuck in trade shows. A quick and dirty story of innovation is better than none, even when the product is less than innovative. As we’ve seen in this chapter, the look and feel of what is communicated has become as important as the level of innovation that can be achieved behind closed doors. The radical “open innovation” approach has led many to embrace a “little and often” approach to communicating their innovation work. Whether each and every project ever sees the light of day doesn’t matter, it’s the showing and not the doing that now counts.

Levi’s Eureka Innovation Lab Innovator, Levi website, September 2019, en_GB/blog/article/levis-eureka-innovation-lab-innovator/ (accessed August 2020) 81 Inside the Apple Watch Secret Research Lab, ABC News, YouTube, https://youtu. be/BceaTNT14Ao (accessed August 2020) 80



5 Conclusion We’ve explored a wide array of conditions that make work an environment that promotes new ideas, cross-pollination between colleagues and departments as well as the power of communicating innovation work to the outside world. The cost of not examining how new ideas are created internally isn’t high. As we saw in Chapter 4, it’s entirely possible to look like new ideas are possible without actually making sure they happen. Investing in a well-designed space can act as a proxy for something that doesn’t in fact exist and there is no clear process for. We’ve also seen that a lot of received ideas around innovation processes leads to cookie cutter approaches. But creating a space where nothing happens is fine if all your competitors are also guilty of it. There’s psychological safety in numbers. So then what does matter? Not all of the topics we’ve covered in this book will apply to every type of corporate environment, but it’s likely some of them will. Understanding the combined impact of space, people, and knowledge is also likely to impact loyalty,1 something many high-stress corporate environments struggle with.


F ull List of Most and Least Loyal Employees, PayScale, (accessed August 2020)

© Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino 2020 A. Deschamps-Sonsino, Creating a Culture of Innovation,


Chapter 5 | Conclusion Google, Amazon, Yahoo, and Apple employees stay for less than 3 years. The more professional a service, the worst things seem to get. As much as 43% of Boston Consulting Group employees have been there for less than two years and 77% less than five.2 It’s hard to build a culture of trust, ideas, and implementation with a workforce that isn’t interested in sticking around to make sure the work happens. One could argue that the reason people leave is that salaries are more competitive. In fact, research conducted in 2019 by the Institute of Leadership and Management showed that employees valued relationships with their coworkers and training opportunities above their salary.3 It’s also important that no matter what you do to your work environment, it cannot compensate for some major basic flaws. If there is a significant pay gap between white men and others in the business, for example, chances are the innovation potential of the business won’t be reached. It’s very hard to have great ideas when you’re angry at basic workplace inequalities. Innovation isn’t the lipstick you can put on a pig. Glassdoor reviews, the #MeToo movement, make a toxic work environment something to shout about. An innovation activity won’t excuse it. Another tricky aspect of innovation in a work environment is that the ROI of a good space and good practices cannot be measured against any kind of real, scientific, or economic baseline. No corporation can create a placebo space to compare the effectiveness of their investments. No single mix of employees is the same, and no work environment is the same, so a return on investment needs to combine a leap of faith and measuring the breath of possible outputs for a team whose entire mission is not in fact new ideas, but making sure those ideas are acted on over long periods of time, regardless of employee attrition. Pushed to come up with metrics for innovation, some have looked to space occupancy. Others, like WeWork,4 have even looked to computational architecture to create “better” spaces, but as we’ve explored in Chapter 1, space is only one aspect. It’s not the most important one, but out of misplaced pride, it can easily become the most expensive. In Chapter 4, we explored what happens when you turn innovation work into innovation theater. This desire to very precisely turn innovation work into a visible, precisely located,

 roof that a lot of strategy consultants leave after two years, B. Tuttle, efinancecareers, P February 2019, (accessed August 2020) 3 New Decade, New Direction, The Institute of Leadership & Management, 2019, (accessed August 2020) 4 Humanizing Architectural Automation: A Case Study in Office Layouts, A.  Heumann, D. Davis, Impact: Design With All Senses, 2020, pp.662-670 2

Creating a Culture of Innovation publicly digestible activity also stems from a recent obsession with real estate. The past 20 years of starchitecture, “flagship stores,” and coworking offices modeled on Scandinavian café culture have put a lot of pressure on corporate leaders. They have been falsely led to believe that a beautiful interior is enough of a signal of both modernity and innovation. Once built, that environment is rarely revisited or analyzed to make sure it is, in fact, fit for purpose. No one wants to think about what would happen if the answer is no. The gulf that lies between the appetite for an ambitious architecture project and the realities of everyday innovation work is important to both acknowledge and understand. The pioneering work of the Quickborn communication charts is worth not only revisiting but working into the communication tools of today. The balance between “communication work” and “individual work” is also crucial to understand, respect, and implement at scale, especially when remote management means being “online” on a chat-based interface. The impact of COVID-19 on ordinary corporate work life may or may not have long-term repercussions. The year 2020 does offer a kind of opportunity to reevaluate work, the value of the office, and how an employee’s well-being, mental health, and focus might be managed in the future. Jack M.  Nilles, who coined the concept of “telework” in the late 1970s, suggested solutions which seem prescient today. In his 1998 book Managing Telework: Strategies for Managing the Virtual Workplace, he suggests creating “telework centers” which are no further than a 20-minute walk away from a group of employees so they can work together but not actually go into the office.5 The quiet time spent in a socially distanced café or walking around the local park might offer more opportunities for lateral thinking than the office’s busy open plan would. Access to space was guaranteed but it is now under threat. From the kids in the other room to the lack of work space, or in fact the quality of an Internet connection, many things will conspire to distract workers during the pandemic. Home life is unhelpfully blending into our work life and corporate life. How leaders react will show their employees what actually matters to them. Corporations should take a leaf from Olivetti’s (patriarchal) playbook and support the cost of child care, the desire to work in whatever mode makes sense to them, and generally respond where the local government’s response is inadequate. How corporations react in these difficult times will earn them the respect and loyalty of their employees, as well as their best ideas.


Managing Telework, J. M. Nilles, John Wiley & Sons, 1998, p.216


I Index A


Accelerators, 97–101

Cafeteria service, 22

Accenture Innovation Hub, 96

Caring capitalism, 20, 22

Access control policies, 85

CB Insights, 39

Accidental cross-collaboration, 16

Changeist, 50, 51

Active listening, 54

Chief Happiness Officer, 38

Ad hoc flexible lunch situations, 25

City rooms, 11, 28

Ageism and ableism, 80

Clean desk policies, 3

Agile methodologies, 75

Client-driven prototyping, 93

Agile software development, 48

Cloisters, 4

AIE, see Applied Innovation Exchange (AIE)

Coded language, 73

Attending conferences, 51–53

Collaboration Buzzwords, 73 coded language, 73 in-jokes, 73 and interaction, 11 meetings, 76–78 office language, 73

Away days, 82–84

Collaboration Zone (CoZone), 91

Amazon’s artificial intelligence, 35 Apple, 40 Applied Innovation Exchange (AIE), 91, 92 Apprenticeships, 42

B Behind-the-scenes video, 110, 111 Big transient space, 19 Boards of Innovation, 38 Brainstorming, 47, 51 Brown bag lunches, 54, 55 Building communities, 40 Business leader, 3

Communication conference calls, 81, 82 formality levels, 57 formats standing desk, 79, 81 treadmill, 80 walking, 79 matrix, 12 reporting, 58–60 type, 46, 49 WhatsApp group, 58

© Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino 2020 A. Deschamps-Sonsino, Creating a Culture of Innovation,


Index Communication (Cont.) work, 115 written (see Written communication) Communitas, 84 Complicatedness survey, 59 Computation area, 18

Doorway effect, 53 Double Diamond process, 47 DuPont Central Research, 88 Dynamics of divergence and convergence model, 47

Concept video, 109, 110


Conference calls, 81, 82

Eating experience, 24, 37

Consumer Electronics Show (CES), 108, 109

Eating together Cadbury, 22–24 Olivetti, 22

Convergence, 47 Cookie cutter approaches, 113 Corporate behavior, 35 Corporate office spaces, 89 Corporation sponsors, 89 Corridor track, 60 Coworking, 3, 17 Creativity, 28 Creativity as a personality trait, 36 Cul-de-sacs, 9 The Cult of Personality Testing (Book), 34 Culture of permissiveness, 37

Elements, 3 Email bankruptcy, 64 Email communication, 63–67 Emerging cybernetics research, 12 Employee feedback section, 37 Enforced fun, 82 Entrepreneurship tourism, 100 Evangelists, 40, 41 Exploration, 46 External vendor, 45

Cybersecurity, 9



Face-to-face meetings, 57

DATA SPACE, 93, 94 Definition phase, 45 Democratization, 38 Desk space layout, 21 Digital communication, 58, 59 Digital entrepreneurship, 88 Digital fabrication tools, 102 Digital message, 68 Digital prophet, 41 Digital transformation programs, 90

Family obligations, 21 Flagship stores, 115 Formal email, 57 Foundry, 104 Free food, 25 Futurist-in-residence, 49 Futurists, 49, 50

G Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology, 65

Dining experiences, 20


Doing presentations, 71

Hosting startups, 47

Do Lectures, 52

Hot desking, 16, 17, 19

Doors of Perception, 52

HubSpot, 37




IKEA effect, 44, 48

Kitchens and cafeterias, 26

Inbox Zero, 65, 66 Incubation period, 8


Incubators, 97–101

Landscaping approach, 14

Individual work, 115

Language, 73

Informal communication culture, 58

Legitimacy, 4

Information, 31

Less pressure, 26

ING Labs, 98–101

Lloyd’s Lab, 97

In-house, 38, 39

Lunch, 24, 26

Innovation, 51

Lunchtime experience, 26

Innovation as value, 36


Innovation financing, 87 Innovation leadership, 32 Innovation spaces dedicated, 89, 90 demo space, 95, 96 design and digital, 91 museum experience, 94, 95 self-reflective, 93, 94 visible, 91, 92

Maker movement, 101 Maker spaces, 101–104 Marketing, 105 Meeting rooms, 19, 20 Meetings, 76–78 Meeting spaces, 18 Messaging-based communication, 57

Innovation work, 32

Metaplan method, 44

Innovative people, 38

Moon shot projects, 8

Inspiration, 49

Mutual fund, 22

Intellectual property, 108


Interior design, 3, 4 Internal corporate communication, 60 Internal training, 93 Internships, 42, 43 Interview, changeist, 50, 51 IQ tests, 34 IT department, 85

J Job titles evangelists, 40, 41 external, 43 futurists, 49, 50 in-house, 38, 39 internships, 42 processes, 44–48 working with consultants, 44

Netflix, 36 Node-RED, xv Nonterritorial office experiment, 17–19, 34 Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 103 Note-taking, 53, 54

O Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), 59 OffGrid Sessions, 52 Office landscaping, 12–15, 29 Office layouts, 4 Olivetti, 22 Open collaboration, 10 Open innovation, 88, 90, 99, 111



Index Open office space, 10

Remote working, 3, 82

Open plan, 4

Reporting, 58–60

Open plan offices city rooms, 11, 28 history, 10 landscaping, 12–15, 29 lessons, 16

Researchers, 8

Open vs. closed spaces, 16

Return on investment, 88 Risk-averse corporate environment, 97 Rowheath Recreation Grounds, 23

Organizational chart, 11


Organizational psychology, 33

Salzburg Global Seminars, 52


Sandboxes, 85 Secrecy, 73

Pentagon Papers, 9

Self-improvement techniques, 65

Pentagram office at lunchtime, 24

Self-propelling processes, 89

Permissions, 68

Silicon Valley, xiv

Personal computer designs, xv

Sit/standing desk, 79

Personality testing, 33, 34

Sketchbook, 53

Policing people’s inboxes, 66

Slack, 67–69

Postindustrial economies, 90

Social and personal determinants, 35

Postman’s critical approach, 54

Social media, 111

Power, 2

Social spaces, 36

Power dynamics, 50, 51

South by Southwest (SXSW), 107

PowerPoint, 69

Space decision, 2 limitations of office, 9

Principles, Nike employees, 36, 37 Private meetings, 6 Processes, software development firms, 45–48 Public communication, 75

Q Quickborn communication charts, 115 Quickborner team’s approach, 15


Spatial decisions, 2 Stationery, 27–29, 44 Structural holes, 25 Superflux, 49 System development corporation, 8

T Task-centric communication, 58 Team communication, 15

Racism, 34

Tech evangelist, 41

RAND Corporation, 21, 42

Technology-augmented commensality, 94

Real-time data visualization, 95 Recruitment practices, 33

Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED), 72

Recruitment processes, racism, 34

Technology gatekeeper, 40

Relationship building, 58

Trade shows, 105–107

Index Traffic management, 18 Transparency, 10

concept, 109, 110 hosting sites, 109

Treadmill, 80

Voice calls, 57

Typing pool, 18

W, X, Y, Z


Walking meeting, 80

User-centered design, 46

Weeknotes, 75

US National Bureau of Economic Research, 100

WeWork’s policy, 37

V Venture partnerships, 98 Video behind-the-scenes, 110, 111

What’s Your Type (Book), 34 Working with consultants, 43, 44 Work Rules (Book), 32 Written communication Email, 63–67 Slack, 67–69