Jet, an optimized workplace, was founded in 2015 as an eCommerce platform that would sell at lower prices for people who would wait longer to receive their orders. They were the reverse of the Amazon Prime model that focused on speed of delivery. Because Jet had a startup mentality of fun and freewheeling ideas in the office to balance the long work hours, employees would spend extra time in the office to get the store up and running.
It was such a promising concept and technology that Walmart purchased Jet a year later in 2016 for $3.3 Billion. Immediately noticeable was how the cultures didn’t mesh. Walmart had a very traditional work environment with bureaucratic policies. Jet employees could no longer drink or swear at work feeling their autonomy crushed while the Walmart culture took over and pushed out the original employees. By 2019 Walmart had shut down Jet to just focus on their own sales platform. This move cemented the point that the workplace environment that doesn’t provide inclusion, freedom, and autonomy is masterful at killing great ideas.
The goal of the future work environment is one in which employees are treated like Olympic athletes to get their top performance. The mission of a leader is to have people operating at their peak potential while at work where they are clicking on all cylinders. While this environment is ideal for production, it is also necessary for achieving innovation.
As a leader, you don’t want someone overworked, tired or just getting through the day. You want your team to be well-rested, excited, energetic and engaged in the creation process. Hence for peak creativity, each person will need to feel like a member of the team, confident that they are contributing, and to feel good about themselves. Some workshop facilitators focus extensively on the snacks and meals during a workshop. Doughnuts and pasta bars have been staples of a big meeting based on their low costs to feed a large group of people. These high caloric and carbohydrate meals are also known for energy crashes. Some top facilitators picked up on this trend early and make a special effort to have snacks and meals provided consisting of fruit, vegetables, nuts, and high protein low carbohydrate meals to keep participant energy levels high.
For some, a workplace that provides food and ideal conditions is science fiction, but the workplace that enables peak performance is a competitive advantage. Not only does it help with recruiting but by having a team primed for greatness makes achieving excellence much easier. Ideal workspaces are different for every person, but an office will want a mixture of a space that can provide common areas where teams can collaborate while also providing spaces for individuals to privately reflect.
As a leader, you want to build a comfortable spot where your team will want to run to and not away from the end of the day. This could be providing food, it could be having natural lighting, or it could be having painted scenic vistas on the wall all under the belief that it will help your team perform and create. It is different for each team member on how they perform best, the question for the leader is how to learn what that environment is and the challenge of providing it.
Innovation is highly difficult to achieve. Priming employees to get the most creativity out of people means building the right conditions to thrive. By building the best conditions to inspire performance, it also brings forward unprompted feedback from onlookers and comments of “we weren’t pampered back in my day.” As a working society, mankind has evolved to understand that providing ideal conditions is not pampering but a long-term advantage.
Employers historically have underestimated their employees’ capabilities with innovative thought. They’ve also underestimated their employees’ ability to be adaptable. Working in a climate of perpetual disruption and change organizations have assumed that their teams will have trouble adapting to change and therefore need to put policies and restrictive guidelines in place to give the team a totem of stability. What is not realized is that employees are more able to adapt to changing markets than assumed and that the paradigm is shifting from the control of employees to now looking at employees as an untapped resource where the employers give them the conditions to succeed and to expend their energy.
The eCommerce giant, Amazon, paired John Medina a molecular biologist with Architect Ryan Mullenix to design a high performing office. This was under the belief that they could gain an edge on their competition through office design nurturing how their employees thought and felt throughout the workday. Their design of the Amazon Spheres in downtown Seattle applied five key attributes to the new environment.
The first being to keep the office volume down by using manmade waterfalls to act as white noise throughout the day. Secondly, they understood that exposure to plants makes individuals less emotionally volatile and error-prone and therefore planted over 40,000 plants in Sphere. Their understanding of forward-looking inspired the artwork of vistas throughout the office for inspiration. Lastly, their goal was to nudge healthy bodies and minds by encouraging physical movement with easy stair usage and healthy available foods to inspire diets that enable blood flow and peak brain functions.
Apple has held design as its lifeblood and reason for technological success. These roots can be traced back to Steve Jobs auditing college classes on calligraphy and his passion for making everything aesthetically pleasing. Jobs’ met his design soulmate, Jony Ive, in the early years of Apple when Ive designed the candy-colored iMac. The two famously paired together and Ive went on to help design every Apple product from the iPod to the Apple Watch. Jobs and Ivy would spend numerous hours sharing designs and debating their philosophical approach on the future of Apple, and the future new headquarters.
Job’s last project before his death was his vision for the new Apple Headquarters. He carried over his belief from his time of running Pixar that an office needed to center around serendipity and connecting people face to face. Ive was able to carry Steve Job’s vision forward after his death spending his next eight years working with Architect Norman Foster to design every detail of the new Apple Headquarters.
Apple spent roughly $5 Billion to design and build in Cupertino, California the 175-acre campus. The office houses a 2.8 million-square-foot four-story building nicknamed the spaceship due to its circular design. The design of multiple work pods helps push people into the center of the office. The intent is to have employees congregate into a central hub resembling a wagon wheel. With the buildings overall focus placed on making it natural for people to meet face to face so that they can capture the nuances during the early part of projects to achieve perfection.
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