Physical vs. Virtual Business Innovation

Filed Under Innovation

The New Trend in Office Design Focus on Collaboration

February 7, 2014

Companies put a huge amount of effort into creating modern, productivity-enhancing offices. However, as IT heads further into the cloud, should virtual work spaces get the same treatment?

With a newly aggressive focus on increasing productivity and innovation, the last two decades have witnessed a revolution in how businesses use office space. As our working lives are increasingly dominated by technology and cloud-based applications, businesses need to apply the same methodology to their virtual infrastructure.

Physical Workplace Revolution

Traditionally, the office was a place where an individual went to get their job done, sealed off from colleagues by divides or separate offices — think Mad Men’s creative Dom Draper with his huge personal office, or even David Brent wasting away time in his! This is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

The last couple of decades have seen a number of global brands break the status quo and successfully implement new ways of structuring the workplace, all with a focus on collaboration and interaction. In 2000, Steve Jobs transformed a derelict Del Monte canning factory into a highly modern, innovation-driven Apple office. Such was the open-plan layout of the renovated space, with all communal areas, mailboxes and toilets in the central atrium, employees were forced to mingle beyond their immediate neighbours.

The end result was cross business collaboration, and soon other companies were taking Jobs’ lead. Google has built numerous innovative workspaces, including the new 1,000,000 square foot campus in San Francisco, where every employee is within a two and a half minute walk of every other one. UK-based physical innovators include fruit smoothie manufacturer Innocent, which equipped its London HQ with an astro-turfed cafe for meetings and brainstorming sessions to take place in.

Virtual Workplace Revolution

However, as workforces become more mobile and technologically dependent, businesses are being forced to re-think how they structure the working environment again — applying the same commitment to physical innovation in the virtual realm.

Unsurprisingly, early adopters of virtual innovation include Google, whose meme generator is said to have helped spark many of its best ideas. The freedom to create memes (collaborative pieces of content passed between people) during office hours is part of Google’s ‘20 percent time’ policy, which gives employees one day every week to work on pet projects that fall outside of their job description. While Google’s resources are staggering, even smaller companies with tighter budgets can enhance the level of collaboration within the business. Technologies for innovating, such as our own SpigitEngage, provide a simple way to involve people across the workforce, in both the creation and the delivery of ideas, ensuring that employees and departments aren’t siloed away.

Business Impact

Improved collaboration and creativity can have a huge positive impact on a business. Great ideas can lead to great products, the evolution of a company’s business model, or even a more efficient organisation. But an environment must be created to foster them and ensure a high conversion rate.

The tech revolution has created new opportunities to link workforces together, and maximise innovation. Constant innovation is what keeps businesses ahead of the field. Innovation is priceless. Yet its cost can be relatively low, largely, as it is driven using an already existing asset of the company — its people.