In this edition we are turning to a company that started about the same time as BrainSourcer did and placed the first external challenge on our open innovation platform. To name it, it is Habitectur founded by Danjela Hüsam.
Danjela is working to carry an open corporate culture in the field of work environment into European companies in order to improve the wellbeing of employees with the ultimate goal to raise their productivity and creativity.
BS: Danjela, what does the name Habitectur stand for and what brought you to the idea to start this enterprise?
DH: Habitectur is composed from the Latin Habitat, (living environment) or Habitus (in the sense of behavior) and architecture. To start it was mainly motivated by my very own interest and todays demands and possibilities.
In my opinion we are in the need for a social and economic transformation to survive as human beings on our own planet and to enjoy a relatively lucky and peaceful life. Innovation for me is the capability to think and create the unthinkable thus resolving pending problems. In this transformation process new environments deliver a supporting role and have to be aligned with other factors like corporate culture.
BS: Let’s get back in time a bit; can you please give the reader a short overview of your professional career?
DH: I have a diploma in design and interior architecture and I have been working in this sector for about 20 years. My coaching experience (since 2007) has brought up in me a kind of rethinking and new orientation. I wanted to include into my work much more my very own values and capabilities. Up to 2007 I developed in the first place shopping malls. But then I wanted to focus more on the wellbeing of people. Then in 2012 I received my master degree in Business Innovation at the EBS University Wiesbaden. As a result from my master thesis, first orders came across and a participation in a research program. In October of this year I will start my research at the d.school Potsdam/Stanford in the Hasso Plattner Design Thinking Research Program. This makes me particularly happy, as I’ll be able to exchange myself with like-minded persons.
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BS: In how far have you been inspired by Google
DH: Google demonstrated two thinks very clearly: Already during hiring interviews all applicants are interrogated for their own values and only those who fit with the company values are considered. At the same time structures have been created that enabled life and existence of those values in the offices. Clearly the spatial conditions belong to the structures.
Studies have shown that the increasing dynamics in the economy are accompanied with increasing self-organization processes; signaling a progressive change away from hierarchical controlled processes to self-organization. The connection to environment (rooms) arises from the creation of underlying conditions which are characteristic of dynamical self-organizational systems. Google has recognized this and focuses precisely on the underlying conditions rather than on fixed detailed processes. This is particularly valid for development and dynamical markets.
BS: Some people may say this is just playing around wasting time and money. Is there any empirical data that can prove the efficiency of such measures?
DH: Indeed, the Fraunhofer Institut in 2007 (Office-Excellence-Check) came to the conclusion, that 36% of the disparity in performance among companies are based upon environmental factors. Older studies talk about 17% (BOSTI-Studien). Considering the growing dynamics and the theory of the growing impact of the underlying conditions, those different results explain themselves.
BS: It looks like BrainSourcer has an advantage with interior architects (thinking of ANNA morphs). What was the main driver for you to use this Open Innovation platform?
DH: I wanted to know how the users of workspaces think about this subject. With the help of the ideas and comments I received a wonderful overview. The main focus for me was what people are missing in their offices, a certain type of market study. To develop real new ideas I prefer the personal contact for instance using workshops.
BS: Considering the early stage of the platform, your challenge brought up quite a lot of ideas and suggestions. Could your expectations be met?
DH: Absolutely, my expectations were entirely met. The biggest surprise for me was that the results were pretty much in line with empirical findings from brain research. Since the start of the industrialization we got accustomed to work and living environments which do not meet the skills we acquired in the course of the evolution. Just to quote John Medina: ‚who wants to create a work environment that is diametrically adverse to the capability of the brain, will end up in a small office room.’ In analogy to this statement, about a third of the participants missed elements from nature. The preferred sphere would have been a garden or even pure nature at a pleasant temperature within the office building.
BS: Let’s now turn to your projects. Can you disclose to us for which companies you already improved the work conditions and has everything been implemented?
DH: You see, Habitectur has only started in 2012, meaning most of the projects are still in the planning phase. However for Swisscom we already developed furniture that will be shown on our website eventually starting in October. Habitectur has secured the rights for the design and we are considering selling them online. Our spectrum reaches from furniture design to office gardens – using partners like carpenters or landscapers.
BS: Where are the difficulties, or who do you have to convince more, the management or the employees?
DH: Now, the decision making is not on the employee side, therefore we focus clearly on the management. However as long as the employees are enthusiastic about the ideas from the workshop, it can influence the decision maker. Important for the approval of a project is always to bring cost and benefit into an advantageous constellation. The difficult task hereby is that you can only predict the benefit with the help of studies and experiences – there is no guaranty. I really hope my research program precisely to this subject will ultimately alter the planning certainty for myself and off course for my customers.
Danjela, an extremely fascinating subject and I would love to continue eternally, but I fear we will then go beyond the constraints of most of the media, therefore I would like to thank you for the insights and who knows, maybe we will make a continuation of this interview.