Writing Retreat: Day 4

Content flow for AirBnB case study

I’m more excited than I thought I’d be to write up the AirBnB case study.  I knew it would be fun, as I’ve always loved the uniqueness of the AirBnB offer – gorgeous places to stay all over the world for a fraction of the price and infinitely more intimate and special than staying in a hotel.

When I visited their HQ in San Francisco at the end of last year, I was as delighted as people said I would be by their beautiful, open, airy, light space – complete with a ring of jewel-like meeting spaces modelled on real listings from their site.  I was further delighted by the philosophy and approach of the “Ground Control” (Headed up by Jenna Cushner) team to create an ’employee experience’ that echoes the thoughtfulness and creativity of Air BnB hosts to their guests.

But having spoken further this week (by phone – sadly not another trip!) to Aaron Taylor Harvey, Design Lead in the Environments team about learnings gleaned from the HQ, how their approach to space is evolving alongside the company’s overall philosophy, and how that’s been translated into a new office in Portland, well – that just tipped me over the edge.

Now it’s just a case of getting it all down on paper!

Writing Retreat: Day 3

Microsoft The Hive, Envisioning Center and The Garage
Microsoft The Hive, Envisioning Center and The Garage

Ah the discovery of creative lubrication: chocolate and wine!

A day of getting into the world of tech giant Microsoft, highlighting three unique approaches to innovation and work: the Hive – a place for experimenting and prototyping around space itself before implementing ‘live’; The Envisioning Center – a place where future technologies are explored and brought to life contextually through human experiences; and the Garage, a geek hangout for creative souls to mix, be inspired, make and invent.

Writing Retreat: Day 2

Case Study write-up number two: Stanford's d.school
Case Study write-up number two: Stanford’s d.school

The day started with a tear as I watched the moving and hugely important TED talk by David Kelley about Creative Confidence.  At the heart of #InnovativeSpaces, I think, is an ability to create a climate where people are encouraged to explore, try, share, inspire and be OK with not getting it ‘right’ first time.

Some of the key themes I’m looking forward to getting into include the d.school’s methods for encouraging creative confidence through diversity – mixing up teams, learning from each other and sharing skills.  Another aspect of confidence comes from control and decision making around how spaces are set up and the postures that people choose when working alone or in groups.

Any thoughts welcome!

Writing Retreat: Day 1

Day 1 Writing Retreat Preparing for IDEO
Day 1 Writing Retreat Preparing for IDEO

Now we’re into the thick of writing up the #InnovativeSpaces book.  Having spoken to over 80 people, visited 50 places and with a stack of journals, research papers, articles and books up to my armpit, it’s time to get it all down on paper.

One of the biggest barriers I’ve found to getting going is distractions.  And it’s not just the distraction of the phone ringing, cooking dinner for the kids it’s also a meeting to go to, a workshop to deliver, or more interesting stuff to learn about.

So with the help of my family, I’ve created 5 days of absolute lock-down.  The goal: to write at least 7 case studies, hopefully 8.

Wish me luck.

Day One: IDEO.  So much to think about here, as this company is the master of innovation, and the people we met and things we saw in their Chicago and New York offices has given me enough stimulus to write an entire book.  It’s going to be a challenge to get this down to just 1000 words.

As a way of helping me distill the key learnings, I think that the IDEO case study will primarily be about how they use their own approach to solving problems on themselves: understanding first that it’s about identifying what people need to do, then designing experiences around that and finally the enabling structures to make it happen.