By Matthew Claudel, Head of Research, Beco / MIT DesignX

The innovation economy has redefined what it means to work. What you do, where and when you do it, who you do it for and who you do it with – these are all profoundly different than they were a decade ago. Businesses that effectively support rapid ideation, collaborative development and agile integration have a clear competitive advantage, and they are also more attractive places for hiring talent. This becomes a feedback loop, benefitting the firm as a whole and its individual employees. The inverse is also true – difficult organizational structures, disempowering roles, and unattractive places to work are quickly drained, in a market of rapidly shifting employment.

How to break this paradox of the contemporary workplace? The workplace.The innovation economy has redefined working, but the physical space of real estate has been slow to catch up. In short, architecture is costly and inflexible. Long-term leases and fit-out budgets handcuff business leaders, despite their vision for creating an enriching workplace environment. In response, a new model for workplace as a service has redefined the cutting-edge of real estate portfolio strategy.[1]

This can also transform the building itself, by introducing a user experience (UX) approach to architecture. Physical spaces can attract employees and enable effective collaboration.[2] They can support wellbeing and they can be integrated as a building-scale productivity tool. This can be as simple as a dynamic meeting room and phone booth system that minimizes the friction and frustration of daily tasks. Long term data on spatial patterns and organizational structure can also be put to work as a strategic management tool – the positioning of teams has been empirically proven to correlate with breakthrough innovation.[3]

Real estate needs to be flexible by the square foot, and buildings need a live link with their users. Both can certainly be achieved with high-cost solutions – think renting co-working desks or building a state-of-the-art office from the ground up – and that was our challenge to innovate. We developed a simple technology that re-activates existing real estate assets by creating a micro location stream. Spatial data powers new digital/physical experiences, or, “architectural apps.” These blend into the background of effective daily work, maximizing productivity, collaboration and wellbeing for users. The resulting high-resolution data also provides a clear path for strategic management based on real-world insights.

Architecture is finally catching up to the innovation economy: it is becoming agile, productive and engaging through a live link between digital and physical work environments. To learn more plan to attend Active Architecture: Data Insights to Action at the CoreNet Global Summit in Seattle, Nov. 5-7

[1] Rigaud, P., Legge, M., & Fleming, S. (2013). Convene: Pioneers in a corporate real estate revolution: Convene takes Manhattan. Cornell Real Estate Review, 11, 45-62.

[2] Claudel, M., Massaro, E., Santi, P., Murray, F., Ratti, C. (2017). An exploration of collaborative scientific production at MIT through spatial organization and institutional affiliation. PLoS One.

[3] Catalini C. (2012). Microgeography and the Direction of Inventive Activity. SSRN Electron J.