This year’s IFMA World Workplace Conference in Denver last month was one of the best I have been to over the past 27 years. It had an energy about it that you could feel. Even the trade show floor had a lot of new exhibitors that showcased many new innovative products and services.

WE (Workplace Evolutionaries) “Collaborate to Innovate” Symposium

My week started with a full day symposium hosted by the new IFMA WE Workplace Strategy group where we discussed the needs of the changing workplace. Some key points discussed during the first portion of the day were:

  • Innovation takes individual thinking time combined with team collaboration and additional thinking time to fine tune innovative ideas
  • Take one problem at a time, identify roadblocks and solve the problem one roadblock at a time
  • Work is an activity, not necessarily a place
  • Some companies have created a position of CCO (Chief Collaboration Officer) whose responsibility is to bring employees together to solve critical problems through effective collaboration
  • Many organizations are struggling with the desire to simplify their facilities space standards to maximize flexibility vs creating a wide variety of non-assigned work spaces for a variety solo and collaborative tasks in a distributed work environment
  • Every person has a unique collaboration style. It is important for managers to understand those styles so that team members complement each other when trying to develop innovative solutions ( was discussed as a technology tool to help evaluate collaboration styles)
  • WE is exploring a number of issues through webinars and research including such issues as:
    • Change management
    • Digital transformation
    • Technology integration
    • Workplace mobility
    • Work-life integration
  • The second half of the WE Seminar took place at the Bandimere Speedway outside of Denver where we met with race car drivers who spoke about how their teams collaborate to create winning races. This was followed by several team exercises where attendees worked on building their own model racecars which were tested on a sloping track.

General Educational Sessions:

After attending over a dozen educational sessions on workplace design issues, it was clear to me that a number of issues kept trending. They were:

Workplace Innovation: We must design our facilities to foster innovation. That can only be done when there is a clear understanding of how workplace design, company policies and incentives can work together to foster and encourage innovation. Deep programming and observation is needed to understand job functions and collaboration styles, then aligning the facility design to support the needs for individual, heads-down time and team collaboration.

Flexibility in Design: Flexibility in facilities design and construction standards is vital for organizations to remain agile so that change can be made quickly with minimal disruption to the end users. Agile organizations will lead their fields and adapt quickly to changes in the marketplace.

Compete for a Limited Talent Pool: Facilities design is an influential tool for retaining and attracting talent in all industries.  This is especially true when the economy is strong. Organizations that understand thatfacilities which are seen as “cutting-edge” in design aesthetics, that also promote health and collaboration, will dominate their industry by attracting and retaining the best talent, especially when combined with supporting workplace policies.

Productivity Metrics: In this day of the mobile workplace, it is becoming critical to be able to measure what makes people productive. Workplace design, along with better management and monitoring productivity metrics will become critical as workers become more mobile and less visible to management.