Innovation is a buzzword today, and because the path to innovative products and services is a little fuzzy, we ourselves not only practice, but also train people in a structured way of innovation: using the ‘Look>Think>Make’ approach of Design Thinking.
So lets say we have now got the most innovative product in our hands. An innovative product will work if every touchpoint in the experience journey for the customer evolves a positive experience. Value is not created by innovation only or at the factory level; but is co-created by the way customers experience the product at various touch-points. A customer usually gets human and non-human touch-points in this journey. Compared to non-human touchpoints in the journey, like websites, human touchpoints have a higher level of inconsistency…because of the simple reason that we are all born unequal. This inconsistency is a problem area. So while training brings in consistency to a fairly high level, an organization usually does not have much control on the human’s mind….on his personal life and what he or she is thinking. At the same time, when someone is at work, he is largely influenced by his surroundings, by the people around him or her…and I feel, also by the physical space around him. So, for example, we have seen that, when we have high cubicle partitions, employees become less social and smile less, whereas in more ‘open’ environments where employees can see each other, they are smiling and socializing better…and this impacts their behavior with clients. The kind of lighting in the office makes a difference, the temperature makes a difference, the level of oxygen makes a difference and I have seen changes in behavior on account of all of these.
For any organisation, the biggest investment is in its people. The second biggest investment is in the space and the furniture and fittings, in real estate, to house these people. It is this space, within which the humans perform and contribute to the organisation’s bottom line. While a lot of thinking and policies are made around the ‘human’ resources, there is hardly any fresh thinking around the ‘non-human’ resources within the four walls of which the ‘human-resources’ perform. For years, corporations seem to continue to deal with this with an approach like “tables and chairs within four walls is good enough”; and the testimony is the lack of involvement of senior management. It is largely left to the imagination of an Architect or Interior Designer, who usually has no clue about the organisations’ and its people’s needs, to deliver a space which will lead to high performance. Now, I see that as a problem and I doubt this approach will result in high/optimum performance environments. If the environment within which these ‘human’ resources work, does not allow them to perform at their optimum best, they will create a problem in the experience journey of the end user. And when this happens, the ‘innovative’ product may fail.
Space: the final frontier, indeed. We’ve got to get the space working for us; at least the physical space to begin with. I say this because all of us today, without realising, shift between two spaces. The physical space, and the virtual, when we surf our phones and our computers.