You only have to look in the last five years how the former behemoths of their industries have fallen by the wayside with their failure to innovate. So how are companies answering this call to arms? We're finding a growing trend of companies creating an 'innovation' room in their workspace to answer this challenge, but does labelling a room for innovation equal innovation? When did thinking outside the box, suddenly become confined to a literal box?

Physical

A new office environment on its own can't create a culture of innovation, but it can support an organisation’s innovation efforts. In his book, ‘The Science of Serendipity’ Matt Kingdon talks about how important serendipity in the workplace is to encourage people to meet in random ways. Designing your office so that these chance encounters between different departments occur regularly encourages the potential of innovation within your organisation.

I very much doubt the most innovative organisations in the world like Google, Apple and 3m have an 'innovation' room. Within these companies, innovation flows through every corridor, every crevice and every facet of their buildings. After all, innovation isn't a solo activity confined to one room; it's a team initiative that involves a large group of disciplines to first of all come up with the idea and then deliver it to market.

Process

To maximise innovation in your company it needs to be engrained within your daily working processes. It needs to feature on weekly catch ups, appraisals, monthly reports and on every manager’s agenda. At ML we run a monthly workshop called Inno-date which connects staff from across the organisation to get together and produce innovations that answer some of the company’s most challenging problems.

The aim of the sessions is to teach staff to use innovation tools and to deliver innovation within six weeks. We have also started quantifying our innovations in terms of how many and their impact on the organisation. By having processes and dedicated opportunities for your staff to innovate and gauge their efforts, you begin to change the culture to a more innovative one.

Culture

Whilst the physical space and processes can support the innovation drive of a company, ultimately it is the culture that will define how successful your innovation efforts are. Without the support and desire from employees to challenge the status quo, the office environment can only do so much. After all, innovation is a team game. Some think of it as ideas, but this only is part of the innovation process. It's not how many ideas you have, it's how many you make happen. Innovation is all about impact and delivering those ideas into some sort of measurable output. To take an innovation from concept to execution requires a team with diverse skill sets.

You need the ideas person, the creative guru, the business mind, the financial analyst, the person who gets it done, the marketing genius etc... Once you've got the team, they need more than just a room to innovate, they need rich, multi-sensory experiences within their workplace to open their minds and challenge the status quo. Getting all the right people in the room can be difficult, hence having a space that is designed to foster innovation through serendipitous encounters rather than a boxed room has a greater chance to succeed in your innovation efforts.