MEREDITH Strategy & Design

We design great places and spaces that enhance the experience of  work. 
Our purpose is to help companies and organizations of every scale
more effectively achieve their goals
and capture value from what they and their people do.

Jim at meredithstrategyanddesign dot com

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Innovation, infrastructure, architecture and the corporation

I am not sure why I cannot keep up with a weekly posting of links that have been interesting to me and that might be interesting to others. Time is, of course, a factor. Yet there are other habits that seem to find their time. I do, otherwise, find myself immersed in the collection rather than the curation. The FOMO factor may be at play in that; I do periodically remind myself that actually reading this a few of the pieces that I bookmark might be better and more rewarding.  And, the ones that I do link here are typically the ones that, once read, I find some lingering value and want to retain. Anyway, this week, these. 

Several articles this week found reason to address the matter of the corporate campus and the urban context. All of these are quotes from the linked articles. 

When Apple finishes its new $5 billion headquarters in Cupertino, California, the technorati will ooh and ahh over its otherworldly architecture, patting themselves on the back for yet another example of “innovation.” Countless employees, tech bloggers, and design fanatics are already lauding the “futuristic” building and its many “groundbreaking” features. But few are aware that Apple’s monumental project is already outdated, mimicking a half-century of stagnant suburban corporate campuses that isolated themselves—by design—from the communities their products were supposed to impact. Link

But while this wave of construction captures the optimism and wealth of a cohort of companies that are imagining and packaging our digital future, Silicon Valley could lose something in the long term. The Valley thrived because people met and shared ideas in office parks, restaurants and cafés, and talent has historically moved around easily within and between companies. As firms build self-enclosed universes, that mixing may stop. Innovative architecture may attract talent and tourists initially, but it also risks altering an environment that has fostered world-beating ideas and products. Cupertino and other Silicon Valley towns may come to long for the time when they had no interesting buildings to distinguish them. Link

The sweeping real estate play — which affects 30,000 employees working in 70 separate buildings — is designed to give the company a fighting chance in the war for young professionals as Silicon Valley tech giants with hip corporate campuses hire away the auto industry's most talented engineers to develop autonomous vehicles and electric cars. It also accelerates a trend among major automakers to inject a fresh dose of innovation into their once-stodgy workplace environments, where PowerPoint presentations and top-down management once prevailed over collaborative working and free-flowing communication. Link

When complete in spring 2017, JLL's space will have been revamped from top to bottom to incorporate the latest strategies in workplace design, including many of the best practices it already uses in its work for clients and features inspired by direct input from its workforce. Following principles outlined in its recent Fully Engaged report, JLL has created a space that reflects its culture and values, and inspires employees to rally around business performance. The company is using workspace and technology to further connect employees, improving their ability to work productively to achieve superior results for their clients and attain higher levels of job satisfaction. Link

A growing body of research in cognitive science illuminates the physical and mental toll bland cityscapes exact on residents. Generally, these researchers argue that humans are healthier when they live among variety — a cacophony of bars, bodegas, and independent shops — or work in well-designed, unique spaces, rather than unattractive, generic ones. Link

From the crumbling bridges of California to the overflowing sewage drains of Houston and the rusting railroad tracks in the Northeast Corridor, decaying infrastructure is all around us, and the consequences are so familiar that we barely notice them—like urban traffic congestion, slow-moving trains, and flights that are often disrupted, thanks to an outdated air-traffic-control system. The costs are significant, once you reckon wasted time, lost productivity, poor public-health outcomes, and increased carbon emissions. Link

Innovation is a dominant ideology of our era, embraced in America by Silicon Valley, Wall Street, and the Washington DC political elite. As the pursuit of innovation has inspired technologists and capitalists, it has also provoked critics who suspect that the peddlers of innovation radically overvalue innovation. What happens after innovation, they argue, is more important. Maintenance and repair, the building of infrastructures, the mundane labour that goes into sustaining functioning and efficient infrastructures, simply has more impact on people’s daily lives than the vast majority of technological innovations. Link