Posted in The Next Web
As Chief Strategy Officer at Triton Digital, I recently oversaw the move of our Boston office – a conscious effort to bring developers, sales and marketing all under one roof. The goal was to create an environment where employees across teams could come together and work through challenges, develop new and innovative ideas for our customers and adapt to what seem like daily changes within our industry.
Before our office was even close to complete, I had to get my team together to tackle a major challenge handed down to us from the bosses – rethink our company’s entire core objectives and brand identity. We had barely found the light switches, let alone gotten an office ready for business, and we were already on the clock.
What unfolded over the next three days was not only nerve-wracking and hellish, but 72 of the most formative and beneficial hours in our company’s history.
First step: Triage
The office space we were moving into was perfect from a design standpoint. It had an open concept where employees could work and collaborate, bookended on either side by one large conference room and two smaller offices. No matter where you stood, you could see the entire office.
Our first impulse was for everyone to grab a seat, open up our laptops, and begin listing traits, pros, cons, anecdotes, key messages and other terms that described our business in our shared Google Drive doc. The only problem is that the Internet had yet to be connected, reinforced by the rat’s nest of blue Ethernet cables situated in a corner, thus rendering our hopes of accessing our documents (let alone Pandora) futile.
I began to inventory what we currently had in the office that we could use to accomplish the task at hand. Dry erase markers, a suit of armor (the result of one of my favorite impulse buys of all time), a Nintendo Wii, speakers, a few mismatched chairs, printer paper, pens, pencils and a massive blue wall covered in IdeaPaint – the focal point of our office.
Taking one of the dry erase markers out of the box I went up to the wall and I drew a circle and put our company name in the middle of it. Clearing the mess of boxes, chairs, and other office staples out of the room, we began to draw process flows between our company and the clients, customers and industries we serve on the wall.
As each idea gave life to three or four more, we began erasing, redrawing, and refining our core messages.
48 hours to go.
Get more people touching the idea
In his eBook “Ideas to Impact: The New Trajectory,” Kevin Maney discusses how under the right circumstances, one good idea can lead to an outpouring of new ones, creating an ongoing process of crystallizing good ideas and breathing life into them.
“The very process of implementing an idea churns up more and sometimes better ideas,” says Maney. “Execution isn’t about stopping creativity and giving way to drudgery. It’s about giving initial ideas momentum and fuel so they attract more ideas and you wind up with something better than you imagined in the first place.”
By the second day we were all wearing new hats, doing everything we could to meet our deadline. One of our employees brought in a coffee maker from home, while two others worked through design ideas for the new logo on printer paper before sketching their final ideas up on the big blue wall for us all to consider.
Seeing one of their sketches, something that very closely represented a Venn diagram, got me thinking about our three key constituents, and where we fell into the equation. All of the sudden everything seemed to click.
By the end of the second day we had our logo and messaging set and began to plug it into a presentation for our Board of Directors.
Two down, one to go.
Low technology in a high-tech world
If you had told me two days earlier that my team was going to be able to develop a Board-ready presentation without the use of a stable Internet connection, projectors, wireless speakers, or any number of other high-tech solutions, I would have laughed.
But there we were, three days later, mission accomplished with time to spare. Sure, we used a laptop to Photoshop together our logo and put the finishing touches on the PowerPoint presentation we had to send to the Board, and yes I did go out and buy a WiFi hotspot so we could at least get our email. But our saving grace throughout this process had been low-tech tools.
The key to creating effective office spaces is to provide a mixture of low technology options coupled with high-tech gadgets to create diverse and inspiring work environments. The genius in these spaces is that ideas don’t die at the end of a meeting. Questions, drawings and notes can remain fixed on an IdeaPaint wall to be revisited and reworked later.
Take Capgemini’s Accelerated Solution Environments, for example. The brainchild of Chip Saltsman, these spaces shun traditional meeting practices in favor of varied spaces and media such as writable walls and surfaces, books and even toys to support meetings that last a few minutes to gatherings that last days.
“Adopt something of an insurgent strategy,” says Saltsman. “Lose no opportunity for people to experience or interact with the idea. Sometimes you have to just start doing it and see what happens.”
Our big blue IdeaPaint wall now serves as our modern-day water cooler, a place for employees to hang out and chat, spurred on by the ability to express themselves in more than words if they so choose. Major ideas and initiatives are sketched out to get at the crux of each task and develop the best solution possible from it.
Sometimes it only takes an hour or two, others take a few weeks, but the process remains the same. Moving from left to right on the wall, we refine ideas into actionable deliverables, garnering input from additional employees, clients and other stakeholders as needed.
Workspaces that allow for ideas to be fleshed out when inspiration strikes, no matter the time of day, are better positioned to benefit from the collective workforce.
Getting your priorities straight
While Triton is long past the days of being considered a startup, we have adopted many startup characteristics to our betterment since we moved into our new office.
In the span of just three Bud Light and Fritos-fueled days, my team had not only streamlined our company objectives, rebranded and laid out our new direction, but we had also unintentionally set up an office workflow that has allowed us to continuously replicate these effects.
For those of you looking to create a home for your startup, if you take anything from our experience it should be to leverage the right mixture of high-tech and low-tech tools to create an office that is engaging, sparks creativity and sets in place a process of continuous innovation, and you will be surprised by the results.
According to Maney, “the real victory is sending a breakthrough idea on such a rocket ride that no one can stop it.”
I knew I was creating a workspace on the fly that I hoped would allow our employees to collaborate more, work smarter, and push themselves creatively. What I was not prepared for was how fast things would click.
Have you recently built a new space for your startup? If so, what were some of the key elements you had to include?