The new book Spaces for Innovation offers up much workspace food-for-thought, with one of the key considerations about engagement of teams relating to the invitation to participate in the space-change process. The authors Kursty Groves and Oliver Marlow have synthesised a thematic approach outlining the relationship between the physical design of working environments and levels of creativity and innovation.

This is not intended to be a definitive 'how-to' guide of formulating a creative office, though by systematically working through the ten themes in the book, readers will be better prepared to make workplace changes that will benefit their workforces and organisations. Naturally, there is no one-size-fits-all and the authors set out to communicate various perspectives. From the interviews with experts from across the globe to the successful stories told through the numerous case studies – literally A to Z – one consideration that is a focus is in relation to the engagement of teams.

The approach of inviting the workforce to be part of the entire process varies from different cultures – take for instance the procedures followed by Airbnb in Portland and Zappos in Las Vegas, which are examples at the extremes of the spectrum. Making the workforce feel involved and considered is one thing, inviting them to be involved in the design of theIr own space is another. Both these corporations have done that, though in widely differing manners. 'Airbnb activates its invitation to participate whilst maintaining a strong curation of its design ethos. By guiding a small group of volunteers through the process of designing and building distinct spaces in its new working environment, those people with the internal motivation to participate are rewarded throughout the experience of creation,' comment the authors. 'Zappos is at the opposite end of the design spectrum with a "no rules", decorate-it-yourself approach. Teams are allocated space and allowed to configure their areas as they wish. Each person has their own small space they can control.'

Both are successful models that are importantly consistent with the company values and approach to innovation. Having the workforce engaged and motivated can only be a good thing, right? Indeed, research evidence supports this, as the authors explain, 'A personal sense of well-being and happiness can be enhanced through enriched and empowered environments, providing elevated levels of psychological comfort. Ignoring this means that you may have people doing their work but their brains won’t be operating at full capacity. Worse still, if you take control and choice away from people, engagement in their work and the organisation nosedives.'

How will readers know which approach is best for their situations? This, in part, comes down to the strategic questions that are posed throughout the book, which guide them to formulate their vision for the space to support their own goals. This publication is jam-packed with advice, insights, inspiration and direction, as well as thought-provoking ideas. One such nugget of wisdom from an interviewee in the book that has stayed with me comes from Despina Katsikakis, architect and globally-renowned workplace strategist: 'Imagine what would happen if we could go somewhere to work and leave work feeling healthier, more energised and more inspired than when we arrived – wouldn't that be a wonderful thing?' Indeed it would, and something we can all strive for.


This book, which stems from research commissioned by innovation foundation Nesta, is out now. A number of launch events are planned in the upcoming months and to be kept informed about these, please get in touch. You can order your copy of Spaces for Innovation, here: