New Brookings Institution Report Links New ‘Convergence’ Economy with Trends in Innovation and Workplace Design

A new, independent report by the Brookings Institution, co-authored by Perkins+Will principal Dan Watch and Julie Wagner, co-director of the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Initiative on Innovation and Placemaking, finds that “innovation spaces”—built environments used for everything from start-up incubators to research institutes to innovation centers—are proliferating and changing to meet the needs of a new economy.

The report, Innovation Spaces: The New Design of Work, analyzes the findings of nearly 50 in-depth interviews with architects and innovation space managers around the world, including those from the AT&T Innovation Center, Clemson University Watt Family Innovation Center, and the MIT Media Lab. It concludes that a new global “convergence economy”—where traditionally separate sectors, such as industry and academia, now intermingle and use shared technologies—is influencing workplace design.

The report highlights three major trends:
Economic innovation is increasingly open and collaborative. In response, architects are applying creative spatial strategies to stimulate both mixing (of people and disciplines) and collaboration (between people and across disciplines).
Collaboration-centric work and worker preference are revaluing face-to-face communication. The most successful innovation spaces recognize collaboration’s linguistic, technical, and organizational challenges, and, in response, design buildings and rooms that encourage face-to-face communication, collaboration, and ideation.
Technology is increasingly ubiquitous in the workplace with innovation spaces witnessing a particularly pronounced infusion of tech over the last 10 years. Given the velocity of technological change, innovation spaces are becoming “social test beds” in their pursuit to balance technological power, organizational ambition, and human needs.

Watch’s and Wagner’s research also concludes that the most successful innovation spaces proactively provide opportunities for collaboration and prioritize flexibility for end-users. In the report, Watch and Wagner offer best practices for industry leaders, managers, and architects to help them design innovation spaces as functional catalysts for creative thinking and innovation. This, the report suggests, can improve an organization’s competitiveness, enhance its culture, and enrich its contributions to the modern economy.

To download the full report, click here.

Note: ‘Innovation Spaces: The New Design of Work’ is an independent report by the Brookings Institution. Perkins+Will did not provide financial support for the development or promotion of this paper.

About the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Initiative on Innovation and Placemaking

The Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Initiative on Innovation and Placemaking is a collaboration between the Brookings Institution and Project for Public Spaces. It aims to catalyze a new cross-disciplinary approach to city building that integrates the reinforcing benefits of vibrant public spaces, innovative urban economies, and inclusive growth.