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Creativity is already there: instructions for use.

Creativity is not a matter of being a genius, it is a matter of living in an environment and constantly adapting to it and at the same time modifying it.
So creativity can be fostered through space, enhancing well-being, flexibility and malleability of the furniture, accountability, communication and new technologies. That’s what WOW! has sustained at the conference “The boundaries of fantasy: is creativity in the office going too further?” at the  IFMA’s Facility Management Day 2017

Talking about creativity in an office environment is sometimes cause of anxiety. Workers feel like they have to do something extraordinary that they feel they can’t do, even if they don’t know exactly what and how. On the other hand, managers are struggling to create more and more innovative workplaces and ways of working, questioning, at the same time, their real effectiveness of them and trying to define where it is possible to draw boundaries.

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There’s another way to think about creativity that helps to take the pressure off: creativity is already there, it is a part of our everyday life in every environment.
The American anthropologist Tim Ingold once said that “we don’t build to dwell, we dwell therefore we build”.
Creativity arises in a constant relationship within an environment that is made of space, objects, people and rules.
A set of rules is essential for creativity, which is our own way to move inside and bend their boundaries and to keep on recreating them, like kids playing a “what if” game.
Think about the workstation of a hierarchical old-style workplace: on each desk it’s owner create his own territory, piling up papers, adding photos or other kind of objects, positioning monitors or pens in different ways. This is what I call an “inner focused” creativity, and its aim is “survive the boring routine of each day”. The challenge is nowadays to make this “already-made” creativity visible, enhance it, and use it to improve the company’s productivity.

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If we think about the Maslow pyramid of needs, we can turn outwardly this creativity, by creating a space capable of satisfying the well-being, sense of belonging, engagement, fulfilment and safety, basic needs of everyone.
How can we do that nowadays? Here we give five practical suggestions:

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 1) A malleable and pliant space.
When it’s a matter of creativity, flexibility is not enough. We need a sensorial environment that people can touch, reassemble, and constantly modify and re-invent. A multifunctional space is essential, but it is not enough: it has to be open designed, thought not just for the today’s needs but capable of adapting to ten years ahead needs.

2) Objects are actions and relationships.
“Two empty chairs, one opposite to the other, are already a conversation”. Objects are both symbols of identity both a suggestion of an action. Through furniture, managers can transmit messages and influence the behaviour of the employees, creating a space suitable for the goal they want to reach, making it easily perceivable.

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 3) Accountability and trust
Social facts, like office’s life, has always something that is unpredictable and often the project you have in mind comes out in a totally different result.
We need to accept this unpredictability, creating a working environment where two smart working keywords like accountability and trust are perceived and put into practice constantly.

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4) Space as communication and learning.
As Birgit Gebhardt has studied, it is more effective to design space, not thinking about the material side of it, but like a stage where conversations, communications and actions take place. We need to shape communication if we want to foster new perspective and new ways of interaction, which are the foundation of a creative workplace. Moreover, we have to think about the office as a life-long learning environment, where people can exchange competences and knowledge, stimulating their personal growth.

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5) The key role of technology.
As a recent Sedus’s research shows, technology is having a strong impact on architecture and design, developing the concept of a “spacial happiness” based on the capability of the individual to dominate the environment, deciding the lighting, heating, humidity, acoustic conditions. Technology is also crucial to control the unpredictability we talked about before: IoT and sensors help to collect a huge amount of data that managers can use to design more effective and more engaging workplace, satisfying the needs of each employee.
Text by Gabriele Masi.

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The colorful future of the office.

Color can be several things in a workplace: food for our mind, an effective and immediate way of communication, a trigger of sensations and emotions and a powerful identity totem. That’s why color matters in every trend we can trace about the contemporary office, from agile and smart working to wellbeing and creativity, from flexible design to brand and corporate identity.

While the workplace has become a more stimulating, multifunctional, agile and communicative space, color is getting the attention of every interior designer and architect.

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“Colors are the food for our mind”, Christina Wiklund, CMF Manager in Kinnarps, said during the presentation of the Kinnarps Color Studio: a mind that has to remain creative, open and enough flexible to face the new and dynamic challenges of an ever-changing market.
Therefore color, as food, has to keep our mind healthy and “fully charged”, creating a landscape where the employee can find what he needs at every moment. It has to be also a simple and easy to digest kind of food, helping to orient yourself in a space shaped by nomadic and mobile ways of working, tracing a visible map.

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Most of all, color shares with food the fact of giving a connotative and perceivable identity feeling: from the face and body painting of the ancestral populations to the medieval coats of arm, to the flag of the countries, till the nowadays expression of the corporate identity on the office walls.
Color is a very effective way to create a banner to follow, to communicate with people, to transmit through space sensations, rules, required behaviours, and messages, as it is shown by the AzkoNobel’s Heart Wood, Color Future 2018,  chosen to transmit a welcoming and reassuring feeling to the people living in the workplace.

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So, what is the kind of color we need for the new architecture of communication (as it was defined by Birgit Gebhardt during the conference at the Dieffebi‘s Showroom in Milan at the last Fall Design Week)?
It’s a color that takes inspiration from reality: like the ones used in traffic lights, it it has to direct the constant flow of people, communication, and information; like an heraldic symbol it has to create a sense of corporate membership; finally has to be scenographic, capable of creating the perfect stage where a free and creative play can take place, evoking, at the same time, more intense and meaningful emotions.
Text by Gabriele Masi

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Communication via architecture for a new WOW-effect office.

“The design of the office space has to focus on the structure of the human collaboration and communication”. The idea of workplace presented by the trend expert Birgit Gebhardt at the showroom Dieffebi is based on a “landscape of learning”, where networks and data will allow every individual to find his own way of expressing himself, through constant development and self-organization.

Will the office loose its WOW effect in the future, replaced by different spaces more suitable for a more creative, convenient and flexible kind of job? It is a pretty ongoing question that Birgit Gebhardt has studied for the last years, focusing on how we have to rethink the office space in order to let it have an important role still to play.

That was the topic of the lecture “The evolution of Smart Working: Rethink human work, redesign your office”, held by the German trend expert during the Brera Design Days at the Dieffebi Showroom, that celebrates for the occasion the first year of opening. Our society, as long as the economic world, is going through a radical structural change: from an industry-focused system, based on concepts like massification and standardization, we are moving toward the digital era where network and data produce a massive layer of information that help us to focus and produce at an individual scale.
If once the motto was “bigger, faster, further, cheaper”, nowadays is more like “unique, on the spot, feasible by anybody, as many as needed”.

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Communication and collaboration are becoming the core of this new structure and therefore they are changing also the way of designing and living the workplace.
The office can’t be anymore the stiff and hierarchical environment, where the inside is hidden from the outside, but it has to be a transparent, intelligent and malleable space, a stage where competences and performance can happen freely.
A communication via architecture is therefore fundamental, enhancing the different structure and social and psychological features of the collaboration and communication processes, offering a variety of codes and sensual stimulations, that allow the people to build a profitable learning culture.

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“Learning” is another keyword of the future office. In fact, communication and collaboration are not sterile events, but their main focus has to be the developing of personal and group competences and creativity.
The workplace has to become a blended learning space, where like in gaming, everyone is free to try and experiment, where, as Gebhardt suggested no one should be afraid of thinking in a totally different direction”. We need to create, therefore, a “landscape of learning”, based on a free and constant process, and on a good self-organization.

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At the same time, it is necessary to create an environment where design and people are strictly connected, entangled, and capable of freely modifying one another. “A space that can’t be too designed: you need to touch it, to change it. If it is too designed, people won’t touch it”. So it is not just the human being to adapt to the situation, but it also the other way around. A stimulating space, finally, is a workplace where people are allowed also “not to focus”. As neuroscience shows, to be creative we need alpha waves that our brain produces when we are not too concentrated on one particular task. That’s why another catchphrase of the future office might be “Let it happen”.
Text by Gabriele Masi.
Pictures from New Work Order by Birgit Gebhardt
Captions:
1. The School of Athen, Raphael: a model for the nowadays office space
2. The metaphorical pictograms used by Rosan Bosch
3. Ørestad Gymnasium, Denmark, picture by Adam Mørk.

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