Measuring the Outcomes of Serendipity

Over the course of two days at WORKTECH NY, the focus of conversations shifted from serendipity to data.

Increasingly, we are measuring the performance of our designs very differently than we were just a few years ago. This was a key element of Bernice Boucher’s enlightening talk. As a workplace strategist at Jones Lang LaSalle, Bernice increasingly has been orienting her research team to discover which characteristics impact employee engagement and productivity. She also discussed trends they’re discovering in their research, particularly in international markets like England and Australia, which recently have been leading the charge to wrap data around engagement and productivity.

The norms of “flexible, open, and collaborative” are expected in workplaces today. The variables of the outcomes of a space — engagement, productivity, efficiency — change depending upon each organization and its particular business goals.

For example, one company might measure productivity by the number of meetings. Another might measure engagement by whether or not an employee brings friends and family members into the space, proud to show off where she works. And yet another might value the frequency of informal interactions and their affects on generating great ideas that translate to revenues.

Bernice was spot-on in describing the shift in focus from cost per square foot or per person. These are obsolete measurements that only address infrastructure, not people or the bottom-line impacts they make when they feel connected.

And when people feel connected to their work and workplace, they can better connect with each other, too. That’s a foundation for how great ideas happen.

Greg Lindsay, author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next, and a contributing writer at FastCompany, talked about innovation in the workplace. He said that great ideas happen during serendipitous, social interactions. And knowing this, we could design for them.

Greg walked us through different scales of innovation — from individuals to companies all the way up to cities — and offered up techniques for “engineering serendipity,” as he called it. A big piece of this meant moving away from the silos of rank within a company; innovative ideas can come from anyone.

With this foundation, we can then put in place metrics by which to measure the outcomes of those casual interactions; exactly what Bernice was saying.

Related, that’s why I found Jeff Jones’ seminar both so fascinating and timely. He’s focused on analyzing the relevant people-data already measurable in a company. In doing so, a company can best understand where it realistically can innovate, execute, and measure performance. (In short: people matter, and place matters, too.)

He uses the term “social collective intelligence” to describe this process of introspection that companies should do. It was such a practical exercise for me and many of the other WORKTECH attendees that I asked Jeff to write a piece for us about the topic. Fortunately, he obliged, so check out Jeff’s full article to see his 12-point scale that assesses an organization’s “innovation readiness.”

These were just three of the speakers who spoke about issues affecting the workplace today in terms of measurement, performance, and data. But it was a common theme heard throughout the entire WORKTECH speaker lineup, which never fails to disappoint.

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WORKTECH NY, the focus of conversations shifted from serendipity to data. Increasingly, we are measuring the performance of our designs very differently than we were just a few years ago." />