Future University – Edge Zones
February 5, 2013 – 6:47 pm | Comments Off on Future University – Edge Zones

I’ve been thinking a bit about the future of the university, and it seems to me that a new model may be emerging, one that has something of the traditional sanctuary of a place of learning, but that innovatively engages communities, both local and international. There will, of course, have to be those preserves where students and teachers can contemplate their experience and learn together, but there must also be what, for the moment, one might think of as an edge zone where interactions of many kinds might take place.

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Four Stages for Aligning Workplace Strategy

Submitted by on December 12, 2011 – 1:00 pmOne Comment

By Bill Porter and Dan Anderson

Organizations are increasingly aware of the strategic importance of their workplaces. Effective and engaging spaces improve productivity, health and morale. The workplace is also a visual presentation of the organization and its culture and is a key contributor to attracting and retaining top personnel. Workplaces and the work practices they support are dynamic and require strategic approaches to maintain their effectiveness and productivity. These factors underscore the need to carefully align a workplace strategy with the mission of the organization.

 

At Anderson Porter Design, we have identified four distinct stages that enable an organization to develop a strong relationship between its mission and a workplace strategy. The four stages are:

  1. creating a value proposition
  2. identifying critical workplace issues
  3. extrapolating generic principles, and
  4. evaluating a test fit of potential solutions.

These stages can be moved through quickly, in a ‘shallow dive,’ or if warranted with a deeper dive, depending on available resources and the complexity of the work. Check back with us as we expand each of these four stages in more detail.

 

We are often are asked the question, “Where should we begin?” An interesting and productive approach for identifying good prospects for workplace improvements is to focus on the specific needs of a working group (eight people is the size limit for effective teams within a business unit) and to structure this investigation in ways that are strongly related — though not necessarily identical with — their ways of working.  What do they see as problems?  What do they think are good solutions? What resources may be required? Are there missing skills or other team members needed for these solutions? Are there other management strategies or processes to consider?  How will we measure and evaluate progress? In light of a constellation of inquiry, these questions can be reformulated so as to most productively frame the problem and evaluate the most likely sets of solutions.

 

A good example of this approach is from a case study and workplace intervention for a research group where we introduced a table-in-the-corridor. This work table placement interfered with ordinary daily activity and movement, but created a setting for active discussions of how the space should be configured and designed for their future work.  During the process of planning and design, the group appropriated the table for their own discussions of the work they were doing.  And subsequently the table became a fixture in the research group’s finished working environment. We found that with a few tactical interventions into a group’s “normal” working processes, one can harness the skills of the group’s members and firsthand understanding of their work, bringing their analytical and creative abilities to the benefit of the planning and design of their own workplace.

  • Anika Savage

    Dan,
    I agree with your comments and like the approach you are taking!
    Anika