Communal Design: Taking Client Collaboration to the Next Level

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Chair Of The Month

This isn’t a case study about a collaborative workspace, although it certainly contains the makings for one. At the New York Headquarters for LivePerson, a live digital engagement company, open plans have replaced a more hierarchical set-up, informal meeting areas make for easy group discussions, and the strategic placement of amenities encourages collaboration and communication. But what sets it apart from other projects is the collaborative design process. Fifteen employees — or ambassadors — representing a cross-section of the company volunteered to be a part of the process that involved everything from themed work sessions to board game-style space planning.

Lynda Mota, Global Creative Services & Operations Director for LivePerson, has been the project manager on three build-outs completed by Mapos (the two-phase project in New York, and a current project in Atlanta).

Said Mota, “For each of those projects we decided to include employees opinions in authoring their space because decision making — or ‘being an owner’ — is part of our culture. That includes owning the space you work in. We wanted to extend our spirit of collaboration in our work, to collaborating in creating the space we inhabit.”

LivePerson’s culture and values are directly in line with Mapos’ approach — one that measures the success of built environments based on how well they integrate their surroundings and engage the community of people around them — so this was a natural fit. We believe that the variety of experiences and expertise that everyone brings to a project — in this case, the LivePerson representatives — is fuel for creativity and innovation. And to bring out the potential in every team member, we go beyond the typical meetings and favor team games and storytelling.

One of the liveliest examples of our collaborative effort with LivePerson was the “board game” approach to space planning. A big printout of the floor plan became our board, and we had color-coded pieces for workstations, collaboration areas, and various features. We also had “wild cards” that could be put towards any uses they desired. We watched the group play what started to look like a game of Risk!. They haggled amongst themselves and we were the referees, and after an hour, we had a working floor plan — as well as their buy-in.

Another instance where the LivePerson design process included a sense of play was with the small collaboration rooms. The rooms were created with writable walls and pin-up surfaces to be used as blank canvases — perfect for a design competition dreamt up by LivePerson employees. Teams were given a budget of $500 per room and we asked them decorate the rooms as they wished. In the end, everyone got a chance to vote on the best design, and that team got a prize.

Said Mota: “I think the response to the competition was good, and the mystery about what was going on in each of the rooms during the week they were being decorated was really fun. Some rooms turned out pretty cool and really showed each team’s creativity and personality.”

Of course, design by committee is not without its challenges. Brainstorming and themed work sessions must eventually lead to concrete decisions, and sometimes that requires compromises.

For instance, Mota reminded us of the indecision on whether to have a gym or a fitness studio. On one hand, it could be a room with equipment or machines, on the other it could be a space for classes. In the end, it became a hybrid of some equipment and enough space for a class with eight to ten people, and it’s called the Wellness Center.

In this video about creating the LivePerson workspace, LoCascio shares what he heard repeatedly on move-in day: “There was one reaction I heard from everyone: ‘It feels like home.’ And that’s because we created it.”

Mapos co-founder Caleb Mulvena also makes an important point: “It was a journey that had these chapters that not even the architects — the quote/unquote designers — knew how it was going to turn out. And to see that it actually came together as something incredibly coherent I think speaks volumes about the power of how a community can really create something — much more than an individual.”

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