Before hiring an architect to (re)-design your workplace: Part II

The second most important quality that your workplace architect should have is: A participatory process.

When you are investing in designing or re-designing the best workplace for your team, you want a great architect – not just a good one. And while Simon Sinek is right by saying that “greatness starts with a vision”, a vision is nothing – but intention or dream – if not translated into reality.  So when it comes to finding the best architect to design your workplace, the two most important qualities you are looking for are: an aligned vision and a participatory process.

“Knowledge is not power. Knowledge is only potential power. Action is power.”

Just like knowledge without action does not lead to results, a vision without a process will not create your next workplace. An architect that is an expert in workplace interactions will ensure that the process is based on interactions – with you and your teams. This means that the design and technical architectural process needs to be expanded and complemented by the human interactions component. We are talking here about a participatory process. Although the process varies from one architectural firm to another, here are the principles you want to be looking for throughout the phases of the process.

Principle 1: creating an aligned understanding.

It is crucial that the process does not start with design, but rather with creating an aligned understanding among the different groups of people concerned by the project. Creating this alignment allows the architects’ team to truly understand your vision, values and goals as a company. Read here why this is essential to create a workplace that truly supports your employees and entire organisation. Beyond the architects’ understanding, this step is essential to create alignement amongst your internal stakeholders. It is a very important step that is often missed, by assuming that employees are aligned when very often, when it comes to the workplace, they are not.  Another side benefit of this process is the community building aspect of it. While the participation should kick start the process, it should continue to take place when and where appropriate throughout the rest of the process. This continuous engagement of the project’s community is a very effective community building tool.

Principle 2: creating a shared vision.

After having collectively reached an alignement regarding the project, it is important to then co-create the shared vision of the project. This is where the understanding of the project’s question created earlier needs to be carefully translated into a vision that can answer the question.

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Principle 3: implementing through iterative cycles.

The main principle during design development and implementation is learning by doing. This part of the process needs to adopt an iterative approach of design, prototyping, feedback, design, prototyping…etc. This iterative process allows the architects’ team not only to incorporate the feedback of the people but also the feedback of real time testing. It is through these cycles of learning by doing that a refined workplace can be created, that truly supports the specific needs of your organisation.

Principle 4: adapting based on real-time behaviour.

This principle is one that most architects never even consider, since the customary architectural process ends right when the building is completed and right before people move into it, and start inhabiting it. When you work with a Workplace Interactions Expert architect, things are different. Their participatory process should extend beyond the end of the customary architectural process. In fact, once your teams start inhabiting the newly (re)-designed workplace, the last phase of the process should start. This is the living phase of the project. During this living phase, it is the responsibility of your architect to accompany your teams as they inhabit their new workplace. In this phase, the principle is to refine and adapt the workplace design based on observing how people are using it. It is by observing how people are using the workplace that your architect should be able to refine it and make the last adjustments needed to create a space that truly triggers the right interactions. This is essential to ensure that any workplace created embodies the company’s culture and does in fact actively support the ever-changing needs of its employees.

To see what this process could look like in practice, read more about AKKA’s process here. Curious about what kind of workplaces can this process lead to? Download here our Innovative Workplace Expert Guide.

As a workplace professional, whether you are a Human Resources manager, a Facility Manager or a Corporate Real Estate manager, it is usually part of your scope to translate the organization’s vision and goals into the daily operations and manifestations of the company. Your workplace is no exception. It too, needs to represent and enable your vision, values and goals. When considering hiring an architect to (re)-design your workplace, make sure you check if he/she has the two most important qualities an architect can have: an aligned vision and a participatory process.

At AKKA, we believe that space is a strategic tool that can foster interactions, and any added value or innovation, small or large, starts with interactions. Interactions are the seeds of innovation. At the intersection of the main forms of interaction creativity, collaboration and learning added value emerges. Are you interested in learning about our vision at AKKA and how it can support your workplace design? Download here the excerpt of the book The Power of Interactions.

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