Space, the Final Frontier

Ok, that was too dramatic. But in today's Organization for Innovation class, guest lecturer Gunter Henn enthralled us with a spellbinding lecture on architecture and how it affects our daily work life.

'Architecture is a social facet.',he said. 'It is the extention of an organization. It is part of society. It defines the space we live in.' (Slightly paraphrased.)

We are spacial beings. We must transform flow and bring it into our thinking. We must think of the spacial dimention of innovation, the spacial dimention of knowledge, and the spacial dimention of the organization.

He showed us a beautiful library, probably built in the Renaissance age. Pointing to the library's vast collection of books, he said that someone said that you are educated when you can find the knowledge you don't know. Successful is the person who knows where knowledge emerges. Today, it is not just a question of 'where' but of 'when'too.

We are ordered by spaces-countries, companies, universities. We now have a network flow of information.The older organizational model stressed hierarchy. The new one stresses a network model. Today its a balance between communication and. concentration. The organization form has moved from groups to hierarchy to a network.

He showed us a building close to Prague built in the 1920s. The building included a mobile office in the truest sense. Its head office itself was a gigantic elevator that moved up and down several floors of the building. It was for a boss who kept track of work in several floors.How could one bring this model into today's workplace?

As a case study, he showed us his and our very own Prof. Tom Allen's work in designing the BMW R&D centre in Munich. It was a glass structure. Each floor of the office was designed as a spine, to facilitate the flow of information. On each floor teams of engineers, worked on different models of BMW's cars. The center of each floor showcased the car that was being built and its stage of development. In essence
the 'Project was the Boss'. The project decided who needed to do the work at each point. Progress could be tracked by just looking at the car being built on its respective floor.

An engineer, in addition to tracking progress on his project could also see how far the other teams had progressed by looking at the cars on other floors. This type of building architecture also allowed for interaction between groups.

Spacial working environment is one of the most overlooked aspects of Corporate life and requires a lot more attention.

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