IDEO San Francisco: be collaborative as state of mind

This post was written by Andrea Paoletti

In may I had the chance to visit the IDEO Office in San Francisco. It is located on a marvelous pier with a big window facing the bay that brings in amazing light inside the building. The main area is a large open workspace created in order to help employees increase visual communication between each other and as a result create a sense of respect and support for one another. It is divided in various islands, called after San Francisco suburbs.  Alan, the experience manager guided me through the space and told me about how all the employees and other users of the space are involved in the design process of the space. They use a design charrette where everyone can share images, sketches, pictures of inspiring references and ideas that would be useful for the improvement of the office and drafts of solutions to a design problem. The design charrette serves as a way of quickly generating a design solution while integrating the aptitudes and interests of a diverse group of people. The general idea is to not have rules but to always be open to suggestions. The office wants to play with the idea of “feeling at home” and build a community that blurs the lines between vendors, employees, visitors and services. IDEO’s approach is called design thinking, a way of thinking that allows people who aren’t trained as designers to use creative tools to solve a vast range of challenges. This process is thought as a system of overlapping spaces rather than a sequence of orderly steps. All the processes go through three steps: inspiration, ideation and implementation. These occur through a space with a precise balance between order and chaos and the creation of casual mingling areas. The idea is to design to accommodate multiple functions within.The dining room, for example, is also used as conference room, informal meeting spot or as gathering area. For that reason they create special partitions with thin cardboards and a fancy design. Even the kitchen functions as meeting room as well. At IDEO they focus on education and want employees to choose to follow a certian behavior, instead of forbiding it. For example, instead of avoiding soft drinks altogether in the office they try to educate their employees to drink water. They serve it in an attractive water dispenser with lemon and orange or cucumber and fennel to make it more appealing and better tasting. They also try to give employees the opportunity to collaborate. This is facilitated with the use of blackboards in the bathrooms where people can use their free time to leave messages and comments. Most of the materials used for the furniture in the kitchen and office cabinets reflect ethical and sustainable choices to minimize their impact on the environment, and they are recycled. The product shelves caught my attention; it’s a very inspiring area, where there are products collected from all around the world by employees in order to help with the creation and innovation of new projects. Bikes (there is a ceiling full of bikes that employees are able to hang above their desks using pulleys ) and umbrellas are provided for employees to use for free to make life easier and more sustainable. What IDEO did was co-create a space to feed the soul of the people; and now the collaborative office has become a state of mind and life style for all their employees.

the kitchen

the common area

The product shelves

hanging bikes

One thought on “IDEO San Francisco: be collaborative as state of mind

  1. Pingback: Killing or Enhancing Creativity and Innovation in Business | The Creative Mind

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