HBI Inc. :: Blog http://blog.hbi-inc.com Mon, 12 Nov 2018 23:05:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.9 Building the Classroom of the Future http://blog.hbi-inc.com/building-the-classroom-of-the-future/ http://blog.hbi-inc.com/building-the-classroom-of-the-future/#comments Thu, 01 Nov 2018 12:00:56 +0000 http://blog.hbi-inc.com/?p=19312 Continue reading ]]> Building the Classroom of the Future

How one university is using Steelcase Education classrooms to prepare students for a rapidly changing world.

21st-century skills — adaptability, empathy, global awareness, creativity, innovation — they’re the skills employers are looking for, and the one’s students at the Munich cultivate and grow. Located in the city-center, UAS is the largest university of its kind in Bavaria with almost 18,000 students and one of the largest in Germany. With more companies on the German Stock Exchange headquartered in Munich than any other German city, UAS exists in a business ecosystem that is rip with entrepreneurship from startups to international powerhouses. With a strong connection to industry, the school’s curriculum integrates practical, hands-on work experience into the student education journey, living the belief that knowledge is gained through active participation in the classroom versus the traditional lecture-based passive role that university students play.

This behavior shift from passive student to active learner is what Dr. Klaus Kreulich, Vice President of UAS, is trying to accomplish with the Classroom of the Future program, a transdisciplinary project that deals with the impact of physical space on the quality of teaching and student learning. The program is an element of a major project the university won called Fit for the Future provided by the federal and statewide ministries of education to develop quality learning and teaching programs. “The main idea was that all throughout the university should be classrooms which allow developing soft skills. And which in the second step, should be equipped with digital technology,” says Kreulich.

Building the Classroom of the Future001


Soft skills are an emphasis for Kreulich, as they are one in the same as the 21st-century skills so often discussed. “The university and I are convinced that soft skills are very important in the future, more important than 30 years ago,” he says. Kreulich divides soft skills into three main dimensions — entrepreneurship, sustainability and interculturality — and knew the traditional learning environments and teaching methods at UAS needed to change to foster them. “To develop competencies in these interdisciplinary fields, of course, we need special learning methods, special concepts, and special learning environments, classrooms which allow us to build skills in these fields.”

Professor Peter Duerr, chair of knowledge and communication management, is another key change agent for updated educated environments at UAS. He knew from the moment he arrived that the classrooms would need to change if students were to thrive. “When I started 10 years ago at the university, I was absolutely depressed by the environments that we were performing our teaching tasks in. So little has changed in education environments, what happens in the average classroom is the same as it was in the middle ages.”

Movement Shifts Mindsets

Movement Shifts Mindsets

After experiencing success working with Steelcase Education to create the Steelcase Creative Hall in the Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship, UAS knew Steelcase was the right partner to develop ideas for innovative education spaces. The university formed a cross-functional group of professors, facility managers, information technology professionals and experts in education space design from Steelcase Education to evaluate needs and goals. The result — move forward creating three new classrooms, changing spaces in traditional departments like mechanical engineering. “Before with the blackboard, the goal was to tell as much as possible in our hour. But now, based on this new room, more and more of the mechanical engineering professors want to try new teaching methods. I’m very sure that we will, step by step, develop more creativity within our mechanical engineering students and that’s great.”

It’s the movement and flexibility of the Steelcase Education furniture that creates the right environment for UAS. “In one room we used the Node chair, which is one of the popular elements and did something very simple,” describes Duerr. “We created two fronts. We have a digital front, which is the beamer projection front, and we have an analog front which is where we write on the wall. You can only realize these new kinds of setups if you have the furniture that allows you to turn and change your focus. That is the physical realm, changing the perspective for me is equivalent to the mental realm, the cognitive realm.”

Movement Shifts Mindsets001

As students shift their chairs and tables, they simultaneously shift their mindsets. “To have flexibility in a classroom, which gives the teacher the chance to act more as a coach than as a teacher is a big thing from my perspective,” says Kreulich. “That means that students work together, talk together. They are activated. They leave their role as listeners and change to active people.” Duerr echoes Kreulich, saying the biggest change in students in the new classrooms is that they, “become creators and not consumers. It’s that simple.”

Collaborate to Innovate

Collaborate to Innovate

Collaboration sounds simple, but traditional classroom setups with the teacher at the front talking for an hour while students sit in chairs that only face forward hinder the ability for students to engage. “If you have a room where the chairs and the tables are fixed to the ground, and you ask the students, “Talk to your neighbor,” and they cannot move, they will do it for a few minutes, but after five or 10 minutes, everybody is working by themselves,” says Kreulich. By swapping fixed furniture for Steelcase Education solutions, UAS influenced both the students and professors to change bad habits. Students no longer walk in and expect the professors to do all the work during the lecture and professors don’t see the classrooms as a place to preach what they know, but a place to engage students in the material through movement, interaction and collaboration.

Kreulich identifies collaboration as the most important aspect of creativity, critical to the key soft skill of entrepreneurship. “The most important thing to build up creativity is to solve problems together with other people. That means, we have to offer learning situations in which students can work through problems, and people with different kinds of knowledge can come together.” Movement again is what UAS identifies as a catalyst for the entire classroom, sparking ideas and opening up new avenues for conversation. “There’s a completely different kind of conversation that happens if you don’t stay in in one place, but move around, walk around,” says Duerr. “Having different people lead the conversation, changes the dynamics of the conversation. Movement is essential because it’s the only thing that brings the students out of this passive role of consuming input.”

When it comes to sustainable entrepreneurship, creativity is vital to innovation — another crucial skill students need says Kreulich. “After finding an idea, it is important to bring this idea into life. Students need to reflect where it could be used and who can profit from it and that means innovative thinking.” Experience innovating is where UAS’ close ties to industry leaders comes in, providing a differentiating factor for students. “To develop innovative thinking, we bring students in contact with companies. We ask the companies to get into a discussion, figure out new methods of problem-solving and how the students’ ideas could be used in the company. So, design thinking, for example, is a very important method.”

The Future of Education

The Future of Education

To get professors on board with the new classrooms was no easy for Kreulich. “There were a lot of skeptics. It was more a favor for me to try it from the perspective of the department, but later on, when someone from Steelcase Education came to Munich to open the room, they introduced and explained all the things the professors could do in the room, that was a great starting point,” explains Kreulich. Duerr says today the redesigned rooms are the ones in highest demand by professors experimenting with innovative teaching formats.

UAS sees more changes for their university and education in general as the future of learning continues to evolve. “The whole idea of space will be more permeable, inside and outside, public and private space will be much more interlinked. There will be no strict distinction between formal and informal learning,” says Duerr. “You could even claim the university that we know today will disappear. This whole concept that education has to take place in a separate facility could be outdated. Then, maybe what the university is today, will be a different kind of place. It will be one of encouraging specific kinds of interaction that is more similar to the old Greek agora than to the church schools of the middle ages.”

Kreulich also underscores the idea that learning will move beyond university walls and the nature of the university itself will change. “Learning will accrue at every place, at every time, it will not stop at the moment when you leave the university. Knowledge is everywhere. A lot of people think this will end up in a situation where everybody is learning by himself, but I’m absolutely convinced that one important part of learning is the social environment,” he says.”

It’s this continuous learning and thirst for education that UAS hopes to ignite in their students. “Every time I see learning situations in the Steelcase Education room, my perception is that students are move motivated, enthusiastic.” With Steelcase Education classrooms UAS is getting students excited about learning and instilling the skills of collaboration, creativity and innovation which they will continue to hone throughout their lives.

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The Secret to a Happy Workplace: Ron Friedman Q+A http://blog.hbi-inc.com/the-secret-to-a-happy-workplace-ron-friedman-qa/ http://blog.hbi-inc.com/the-secret-to-a-happy-workplace-ron-friedman-qa/#comments Fri, 12 Oct 2018 15:56:40 +0000 http://blog.hbi-inc.com/?p=19279 Continue reading ]]> The Secret to a Happy Workplace-Ron Fiedman Q+A
There’s a strong business case for creating a great workplace and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

“The secret to happy workplaces isn’t spending more money. It’s about creating the conditions that allow employees to do their best work.”

DR. RON FRIEDMAN | Author, The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace

Dr. Ron Friedman is an award-winning social psychologist, author and leader of ignite80, an organization dedicated to helping leaders improve employee engagement in their creative spaces, Friedman’s book, The Best Place to Work, turns thousands of academic studies into practical tips anyone can use to transform their office into a happy workplace. He sate down with 360 to share what works and what doesn’t when it comes to offering people a great place to work.

360: What’s the connection between a great employee experience and the success of a business?

Ron Friedman: There’s a business case to be made for building great workplaces. Research shows when people like their jobs they’re more creative and more productive. They invest more of themselves and find the work more interesting so they get more done. You have better customer service when people are happier at their jobs. That tends to improve their customer’s experience which leads them to spend more and be more loyal. You also get lower turnover and fewer sick calls. There has never been a more important time for companies to be aware of the benefits of creating a great workplace that helps translate to greater profitability.

360: What is the number one myth when it comes to creating a great employee experience?

RF: The biggest myth is that it costs a lot of money. There’s been this trend by a lot of companies you recognize to invest in outlandish extravagances like swimming pools, volleyball courts and 30 restaurants and cafés. They get the impression that to be successful they’re going to have to build an all-inclusive resort. Nothing could be further from the truth. At the core of a great workplace experience is the satisfaction of basic, human, psychological needs. You can satisfy those in a way that doesn’t cost a lot of money.

360: What are some of the mistakes you see leaders make when they try to improve their teams’ experience?

RF: There are a lot of mistakes and they’re all well-intentioned. The most common ones are people thinking in order to motivate, they need to pay people a lot more. So, they implement all kinds of bonus structures that are, in fact, so motivating they work better than we anticipate. When you give people an outcome you’re looking for and put money behind it, they’re going to do everything they can to reach that goal even if it means bending rules or doing things that may not be in the organization’s best interest.

Another mistake can be rewards. You often see companies name ‘Employees of the Month’. Those tend to backfire because it turns recognition into a competition. And, even if you do win, the chances of you winning again next month are slim to none. Another thing I see is that often new managers make the mistake of rewarding an employee who’s done something well with additional time off. That sends a signal that work is punishment. A far better approach is actually to reward people with additional responsibilities because that motivates people to want to do more, enhances their competence and gives them more control over their work.

360: What keeps people engaged at work?

RF: One motivator is our basic human need for competence and it’s not simply doing a good job. It’s also having the sense of growth as your role in the organization grows. If you can make people feel like they’re growing their skills over the years, they’ll be more engaged and more invested in the work they do. That doesn’t require more money or a bonus. It doesn’t require having a swimming pool. People just want to get the sense that they are doing a good job and growing their skills.

360: What prevents organizations from doing a good job motivating people?

RF: In many cases, managers and leaders have the goal of doing their job well. That often involves getting new clients, delivering presentations or speaking to the press. They don’t have time to worry about whether every single person in their organization is feeling sufficiently motivated every single day. It’s really critical to have practices in place that automate this. And, when I say automate, I don’t mean having a computer program run something. I mean having it happen without you as a leader having to worry about it.

360: Can you give us examples that do work?

RF: Simple ideas don’t have to cost a ton of money and can lead people to experience growth on the job on a regular basis. One idea is to provide every employee with a reading budget. Imagine if once a quarter you could buy a book that is relevant to your job. It’s when we’re exposed to new ideas and fresh perspectives that we feel our competence grow. When we’re able to apply that to the work that we do at the office, we feel like our skills are growing. It’s such a simple and basic thing and yet so few organizations actually do it.

Another idea is to start a “You Don’t Have to Read the Book, Book Club.” One person is charged with reading the book and sharing concepts from the book. Then, you can have a discussion over what ideas resonate. It opens it up for conversations in a way that’s not threatening. And, if everyone reads one book a year, you’re not asking too much from anybody, yet everyone is still learning. If every employee comes up with one good idea per year as a function of having purchased books, the program pays for itself.

360: Beyond continuous learning, what other benefits do you see as motivators?

RF: Radio Flyer has done something that’s interesting. They provide mileage reimbursement to people who ride their bikes to and from work. It’s not just for people who drive their car for business. Now, if you’re exercising with a bike, you can log your mileage and receive a financial incentive for having exercised at work. And, we know there’s so much research showing that exercise is not just something that lowers our weight, or makes us look or feel good, it actually improves our mental acuity at work.

Another example is this growing number of companies that reward people for not working around the clock. Rand Corporation in California figured out a financial formula so that people get a set number of vacation days and when they’re on vacation, they actually get paid time-and-a-half. It’s a very clever approach to getting people to actually use their vacation because as we know a striking number of Americans do not. And, we know restocking our mental energy enables us to perform at a much higher level.

360: How do you encourage organizations to put permissions in place that let people take advantage of these benefits?

RF: There’s no greater granting of permission than modeling the right behaviors. It doesn’t matter what’s in your handbook. What matters is what the people at the top are doing. We often have companies bring in all of these athletic facilities that nobody uses because it’s perceived as wasting time during work hours. What we should be doing is having leaders take walking meetings. If you do that, then it encourages other people to move during the day and movement improves their stamina, mood and energy.

In the second part of our conversation “How is Our Work Experience Changing,” Friedman tells us what’s changed since his book was published four years ago and what remains at the core of a great workplace experience.

Dr. Ron Friedman is an award-winning social psychologist who specializes in human motivation and top performance. He’s the author of The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace. And, leader of ignite80 — an organization dedicated to improving employee engagement by giving leaders and their teams science-based practices for enriching engagement and improving everyone’s experience at work.


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Drawing Elements of Home to Create Happiness at Work http://blog.hbi-inc.com/drawing-elements-of-home-to-create-happiness-at-work/ http://blog.hbi-inc.com/drawing-elements-of-home-to-create-happiness-at-work/#comments Mon, 01 Oct 2018 12:00:59 +0000 http://blog.hbi-inc.com/?p=19255 Continue reading ]]> Happiness at Work-Lessons from HomeShared experiences help create the sense of belonging we need together whether we’re at home or at work.

By Dr. Tracy Brower, PhD., MM, MCR

Happiness at Work: Lessons from Home

Thanks to technology and mobility, our work has come home with us.

So it’s only fair that home should come to work, right?

It would seem logical that if people sit in front of a TV on the sofa at home while they work remotely, employees would be thrilled to have a similar set up within their office. However, in the workplaces where we’ve seen companies install couches and big screen TVs, those work spaces are almost never used by employees. Those companies missed the bigger picture. Home is as much an emotional experience as a physical one. It’s more than just about comfy seating or watching the game.

Work isn’t where you go; it’s what you do. Home is similar. Yes, it is a place you go, but more than that, it’s an experience you have. Similarly, the best workplaces create memories, capture events and tell stories. In the classic Management by Storying Around, David Armstrong advocates for more storytelling by leaders who want to cement experiences, communicate values, and reinforce membership in the organization. Shared experiences help create the sense of belonging we need whether we’re at home, or yes, at work.

Family sociologists like to invoke the Anna Karenina rule, named for the opening line in the Leo Tolstoy book: ‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ Not all home life is happy, but there are some shared principles that work really well when we take them to work. Belonging, trust, and safety make the list, but there are more to these.


Clearing the Table

At home, we have a role to play. The best home experiences aren’t where we get to do whatever we want, but where we’re counted on for specific tasks and contributions. In our home, for example, our son and daughter alternated clearing and wiping the table after dinner each night. While they detested the chore and would argue about whose turn it was (and still do), deep down they knew they were important to the household and had a contribution to make. Work is like this too. In an effective workplace, we each have a role to play and having meaningful work gives us purpose. When we’re valued for what we do, recognized for it and held accountable, we see how our contribution matters to the business.

No Dirty Socks

I’ve always thought if we’re not driving our kids crazy, we’re probably not doing our jobs as parents. We ensure they rinse their cereal bowl before putting it in the dishwasher and don’t allow them to leave their dirty socks laying around. The best home life allows us to truly relax and just be ourselves, but it also holds us accountable. Work should be like this too. A culture is defined by the worst behavior it is willing to tolerate, and a workplace where we’re held accountable for what we do and how we do it is one where performance and people get the payoff.

We once worked with a client who believed there were brilliant ‘people-to-people’ – those good at building trust and teams, and there were brilliant technicians with pedigree and stellar resumes — who also happened to be jerks. The brilliant technicians weren’t held accountable for how they approached other people. The environment quickly turned toxic. As they built their way to a more constructive culture, it was important that all employees were held accountable for how they treated others and how they achieved results. No one was allowed to leave their dirty socks around for others to pick up.

Teenagers and Toddlers

They say the times where home happiness declines are during the toddler and teenage years. That’s because these are the years children test limits and push boundaries most significantly. While challenging, these are also the times when humans are growing most into themselves, finding their voices, and exercising autonomy. These are the things that make for healthy adults – and as it turns out, healthy workplaces.


Putting home into work involves giving people more choice and control. In Steelcase’s global study on engagement (Engagement and the Global Workplace), we found highly engaged people also tended to have more choice and control in their work experiences. Workplaces that offer choice in where people work, when they work, and how they work (what they work on) have the right idea. They are places where people get to be grown-ups and make meaningful contributions.

Being Appreciated in Spite of it All

Perhaps most of all, at home we’re able to just be ourselves. It’s a place where people know us well, and beyond liking us because they know us, they like us in spite of what they know about us – warts and all. The best workplaces are like this too. Employees at one company we worked with said they felt like they had to ‘put on their armor’ when they walked in the door. This is antithetical to a great experience. Creating the emotional experience of home at work means people feel safe to truly be themselves and they can trust others to hold them in positive regard.

Our daughter’s university rowing coach likes to say to her perfectionist crew, ‘You will never be perfect, you will have to settle for being excellent.’ This is the idea. Work doesn’t allow us to be complacent. It spurs us to be better and to stretch and develop. When we bring home to work, we are able to bring our best selves and our fullest selves to work. In turn, the workplace brings out our best and pushes us to be better.

At the end of the day, home is a place where we have an attachment. It’s our territory and our cocoon. It’s a place where we care about the people and the circumstances. This is the best of the work experience, too. Just like the Anna Karenina rule, great workplaces have similar characteristics. At its best, the workplace engages us, pulls us in, and requires our passion. Slacking isn’t fulfilling, but being challenged to exercise our skills and talents is. This is the best of bringing home to work: a workplace that creates conditions for us to be our best, alongside colleagues whom we value and who value us.

Dr. Tracy Brower is a sociologist focused on work, workers, and workplace. She is a Principal with the Applied Research + Consulting group at Steelcase and the author of Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work: A Guide for Leaders and Organizations (2014). Tracy contributes as a board member with the IFMA Research & Benchmarking Institute as well as an executive advisor for Coda Societies and for Michigan State University’s Graduate Mathematics Program.

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Coaching Students for the 21st-Century http://blog.hbi-inc.com/coaching-students-for-the-21st-century/ http://blog.hbi-inc.com/coaching-students-for-the-21st-century/#comments Mon, 17 Sep 2018 12:00:10 +0000 http://blog.hbi-inc.com/?p=19204 Continue reading ]]> Coaching Students for the 21st-Century

The Institut International de Lancy and Steelcase Education join forces to break the traditional classroom mold.

Settled in the international hub of Geneva, Switzerland, the Institut International de Lancy (IIL) is a school at the forefront of change. With students who represent over 90 nationalities and span from 3-18 years old, 80 percent of whom are bilingual, IIL brings a new meaning to the term diversity. Beginning as a small French-Catholic school, the school has transformed its curriculum, campus and philosophy to become a thought-leader when it comes to the future of education.

“The traditional lecture-style classroom with a blackboard and the teacher up front leaves little room for creativity. Creativity needs space and mobility such as you might find in a start-up modern office building,” says Norbert Foerster, General Director of IIL. As a trained child psychologist, Foerster has had a successful tenure promoting this bold vision for IIL. He implemented the school’s English international section, advocated for technology to be woven into IIL’s DNA and pushed for the necessary evolution of the campus to teach 21st-century skills such as creativity.

Breaking the Mold

Breaking the Mold

“We wanted to move away from the traditional classroom set-up,” notes Foerster. When initiating change he and his staff comprehensively researched potential partners. The school realized that to prepare the students of today for the workforce of tomorrow, the classrooms needed to be redesigned. “That’s where Steelcase came in,” says Adrian Hirst, a robotics and coding teacher at IIL. “The kind of furniture and the design of the spaces to which our students now have access to in the Steelcase classrooms are well adapted to the types of task they are asked to carry out, these being independent, student-driven, student-centric challenges.”

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These challenges are steered by the school’s desire to mirror life off campus and to encourage students to practice skills like collaboration, critical thinking and digital citizenship, which is hard to do in the traditional learning environment. “In a traditional classroom with traditional furniture, unfortunately, it’s very difficult to break out of the mold of a traditional teaching style,” describe Hirst. “We’re moving further away from a traditional school setup and into a realistic, collaborative and productive environment where students are working toward goals which are relevant to them in the real world.”

A Fluid Learning Experience

A Fluid Learning Experience

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A significant influence at IIL is the permanence of technology. IIL was the first Apple Distinguished School in Switzerland and implemented the first one-to-one iPad program in the country. Each student has their own mobile device and technology is fused into the way lessons are structured. Hirst says integrating technology is vital to IIL’s success because “as a school, we are obviously expected to prepare our students for the real world. If we are not reflecting that, we are left behind. That’s why we made these decisions as regards to furniture and the way the spaces were designed. They allow students to perform in a completely different way.”

A Fluid Learning Experience002

The integration of technology at IIL, coupled with a variety of spaces to study, meet and collaborate outside of the classroom, is what makes the entire campus and immersive learning experience. Students are encouraged to use the diverse mix of spaces and choose a place between classes and during breaks that best suits their needs. Learning is fluid, emulating the real world at Hirst describes. With mobile devices, mobile furniture and the choice and control students have to explore an ecosystem of spaces, ILL fosters teaching and learning beyond the formal learning environment.

This emphasis on a dynamic and flexible environment is critical to the classrooms’ updated design. The Steelcase Education Node chairs, now used in many IIL classrooms, were a deciding factor for IIL. The chair’s mobility and personal worksurface allow teachers to practice an active learning pedagogy where technology seamlessly blends in. Teachers take on the role of a coach with their students, which is central to IIL’s philosophy towards education, by guiding them towards autonomy and allowing them to manage their devices.

A Fluid Learning Experience003

A Fluid Learning Experience004

Caroline Duret, a teacher at IIL, describes the Steelcase Education classrooms as the third teacher, a theory that emphasizes the major role space plays in any learning environment. “Here learners do not turn their backs on each other. They can talk and communicate as they wish. The classroom is also decentralized, the teacher is among the students,” which Duret notes is how she often teaches, sitting side-by-side with her students in a Node chair. Another highlight for Duret is the rhythm of learning that the classroom fosters, which she says keeps students engaged. “This rhythm of learning is very important; students are more active, they get less bored, they get up and move. When I see smiling students who are happy at school, they don’t need to tell me they enjoy learning, their body language speaks for them.”

A Fluid Learning Experience005

An Organic Evolution

A clear sign of success that the classrooms are effective is the reaction staff get from students. “Students are completely at ease and have adopted the classroom as their own,” remarks Foerster. Instead of rushing out to leave school, he says that students are specifically asking if they can stay and continue working well after normal school hours. Hirst seconds Foerster, agreeing that students use the classrooms in ways they didn’t predict. “This is a great sign that things have worked and will continue to evolve almost by themselves in a very organic way.”

As early adopters of technology in the education environment, IIL believes it will play a significant role in the future of education, a future where learning is more personalized and teachers coach students to discover and acquire new skills and knowledge for themselves. The future is impossible to predict, but Hirst knows change takes an open mindset and that’s what the school is creating in their own revolution. As he says, “Education needs to change. We’ve been doing our best to follow the evolution of education but has been said many times before; we don’t need an evolution, we need a revolution.”

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Headquarters Invigorates a Company’s Culture and Image http://blog.hbi-inc.com/headquarters-invigorates-a-companys-culture-and-image/ http://blog.hbi-inc.com/headquarters-invigorates-a-companys-culture-and-image/#comments Thu, 06 Sep 2018 13:01:47 +0000 http://blog.hbi-inc.com/?p=19168 Continue reading ]]> Headquarters Invigorates a Company's Culture and Image

Growing a business is essential to success. But as a company expands, other aspects of the organization may lack for attention. Communication and collaboration decline when silos form in the organization. The company’s culture and brand can suffer, too.

Company Culture and Image

As GeoBlue grew from start-up to a major player in the insurance industry, organizational issues began to emerge. “We had four different offices in three different buildings, and we ended up with the little mini-cultures” says Andrew Conn, GeoBlue COO.

“We needed to get all four hundred of our employees back together, not only for efficiency, but to make sure everybody got the benefit of the same company culture. Plus, we needed to be able to handle future growth.”

In a company of this scale, people have varied roles. GeoBlue claims processors are focused on heads down work. Other workers spend the day on the phone, taking calls from customers all over the world. Salespeople are mobile, meeting with companies by phone or in person, and making presentations. Meyer Architecture + Interiors understood GeoBlue’s new workplace had to support a wide variety of work and workstyles and to communicate the company’s organizational culture. “We designed in the new building to create connection points for people, to make it easy for them to meet, work together and continually feel a part of the larger organization,” says Deb Breslow, principal at Meyer.

A New Way of Working

A New Way of Working

Answer systems furniture 120º workstations support task work, collegial collaboration, seated privacy, and more.


Employee workstations in an open plan are a foundational element. Built with Answer systems furniture, the 120-degree workstations “are not like traditional rows of workstations or cubes; they are more dynamic, and it’s surprising how much workspace you have in the configuration,” says Laura Price, Meyer furniture and resource manager.

“People were concerned initially about having such an open workplace, but once they moved in they realized that they do have a level of privacy. We also have small rooms and enclaves where you can go for a private call, or just work closely with someone. Sometimes people work in one of the collaborative spaces because they just want to work in a different location,” says Lynn Pina, GeoBlue’s chief marketing officer.

media-scape collaborative setting001

Dozens of collaborative and private work areas are integrated into GeoBlue’s workplace. This media:scape collaborative setting, with dual monitors and a standard-height table, encourage active engagement between coworkers and content.


media-scape collaborative setting002

media:scape Lounge brings GeoBlue staff together to collaborate. “People marvel at how easy it is to connect,” says Lynn Pina. “They were kind of shocked. ‘Okay, I just plug this in and press this button, and it appears on the screen.’ People love it.”


Throughout the 110,000 square foot workplace, GeoBlue staffers have access to dozens of shared spaces: enclosed conference rooms, collaborative settings equipped with media:scape technology that integrates technology and furniture to bring people, space and information together for a greater collaborative work environment, lounge spaces, pantries with tables and stools, phone rooms, and various open and enclosed spaces for groups of two or six people. “Having so many options where people can work together is important to encourage a collaborative culture,” says Jessica Nixon, Meyer senior interior designer.

Helping People Move, Think and Feel Better

Helping People Move, Think and Feel Better

Booths for dining, meeting or relaxing, built with Regard module lounge furniture. The café connects to a training room via movable walls so GeoBlue can hold quarterly all hands meetings and other events.


GeoBlue’s headquarters reinforces the company’s focus on health and wellbeing with a fitness center, catered lunches in the café, and various spaces for rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. Greenery throughout the space contributes to a healthier environment. Daylight bathes the open plan thanks to exterior glazing and glass fronts on private offices on the perimeter. Employees are encouraged to move and use spaces that offer seated, reclined and standing work postures. Together with a design that encourages interaction, collaboration and teamwork, this is a workplace that reflects one of GeoBlue’s core beliefs: “An enjoyable company culture is central to delivering positive employee experiences.”

Environmental branding tells the GeoBlue story though wayfinding, graphics, color choice and meeting spaces. Large conference rooms are named after the cities around the world where GeoBlue does business. “We have a story to tell about our brand,” says Pina. “This workplace is a great representation of our company, what we believe in, how we work.”

Side-by-Side Collaboration

Collaborative and individuals work, side by side: a conference room with cobi seating, Brody WorkLounges with adjustable worksurfaces and ergonomic seating.


COO Andrew Conn says the company’s new workplace has become an effective marketing tool for GeoBlue. Prospective employees are wowed during building tours. Customers are equally impressed. “We work on a business-to-business basis and it’s a very competitive market. We had a final presentation for a large company and we brought the prospective customer into our new space. We wouldn’t have done that before. This workplace helped us show how we’re a credible contender for a new business project.

Collaborative Environment

An essential element of a highly collaborative environment, informal spaces are used for discussion, relaxation, or just as a change-of-pace place to work.


“Our new space allows us to present ourselves in a very specific and professional way, a way that’s unique, and that demonstrates who we are as an organization.”


Design: Meyer Architecture + Interiors

Steelcase Dealer: A. Pomerantz & Co.

Steelcase Inc. Products:

Answer systems furniture
Elective Elements
media:scape collaborative settings
cobi, Jenny, Scoop and Think seating
Brody Worklounge
Regard modular lounge system
Akira height-adjustable tables
Campfire Paper Tables
Slatwall worktools
FYI monitor arms

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Coworking Redefined http://blog.hbi-inc.com/coworking-redefined/ http://blog.hbi-inc.com/coworking-redefined/#comments Wed, 29 Aug 2018 15:23:00 +0000 http://blog.hbi-inc.com/?p=19114 Continue reading ]]> Coworking Redefined

Atlas Workbase offers a diverse ecosystem where professionals can (really) get work done.

Coworking Redefined

Coworking spaces are hot. There are over 7,000 around the world, and the number keeps growing. Also called shared workspaces, these work environments have proliferated along with the growth of mobile work. They act as outside offices, or even as the primary office, for workers in practically every industry.

But as some aspects of knowledge work become increasingly automated, business professionals are being asked to be more creative, more collaborative, and help spur innovation and growth, and that takes more than just a walk-up desk and good coffee. Workers need coworking places that support individual focused work, shoulder-to-shoulder dyadic work, collaboration that generates new ideas, as well as places to relax and rejuvenate.

Atlas Workbase is built to meet these needs. Located in downtown Seattle, the 20,000 square foot facility, designed by Gensler, features a diverse ecosystem of spaces that gives people great choice and control over where and how they work.

Atlas Workbase

The 20,000 square-foot facility, designed by Gensler, features a diverse ecosystem of spaces that gives people great choice and control over where and how they work.


Early coworking spaces were essentially open, offsite locations for tech workers used to loud, start-up environments, places where you could “forget privacy,” as The Wall Street Jounral put it.

Atlas recognized people’s need for focus and concentration and addressed it in the development of their work environments. All major interior walls and conference rooms are formed with V.I.A., movable intelligent architectural walls that not only provide true acoustical privacy, but also host technology. V.I.A. creates private, confidential workspaces while giving Atlas the flexibility to reconfigure interior spaces without costly, disruptive construction.

“In the past, demountable partitions didn’t provide acoustic separation. But V.I.A. performs really well from an acoustical standpoint,” says Susana Covarrubias, principle and design director of Gensler Seattle.


Recognizing people’s need for focus and concentration, Atlas used Steelcase V.I.A. movable intelligent architectural walls to build all major interior walls and conference rooms. V.I.A. creates private, confidential workspaces while giving Atlas the flexibility to reconfigure interior spaces without costly, disruptive construction.

Andrew Dombrowski, an Atlas user, enjoys the quiet. “It’s very easy to come here and concentrate. And there are numerous, very innovative spaces to work in that allow you to feel different degrees of either isolation or preferred place. Like you’re in a different space entirely.”

Atlas CEO Bill Sechter says V.I.A.’s architectural, acoustic and aesthetic performance “has proven to be a key differentiator in what we’re offering our members. The environment that they’re working in is a representation of their brand, so the space makes a difference for them, and for us, in the marketplace.”

People can also choose to work in Brody WorkLounges for focus work. Similar to an enclave, these popular semi-private destinations provide adjustable ergonomic support and integrated power and lighting, but are open enough to allow users to keep in touch with the vibe of the overall equipment.

Brody WorkLounge

Brody WorkLounges provide people with a semi-private destination for focus work.


“The functionality of the Brody, the feeling of the comfortable seats, the lighting, privacy, you can put your feet up, have a place for your laptop and phone. They’re just a great place to work,” says Chief Real Estate Officer & Co-Founder Alan Winningham.

Create & Collaborate

Since work is so often projected-based, places to easily connect and collaborate are also prized. Atlas has enclosed rooms for team meeting and brainstorming, as well as open spaces for impromptu discussions. “Access to folks that are launching new ideas, becoming entrepreneurs, or serial entrepreneurs, it’s important to be within those circles and have access to have conversations with those folks,” says Atlas user Nick Jordan.

Creative work can be solo or collaborative, and having workspace options to fit each kind of work is key, says writer Anna Minard. “Here I can go from individual writing or other creative work by myself, to working with someone across from me to a group of six or seven people, with stuff on the wall, and we can go through an editing process in a shared way. And then break out again for relatively private work.

work environment

The work environment includes spaces where people can work alone, collaborate in a team space or easily connect in the open lounge for a quick discussion.

work environment001

work environment002

“This is a great place for someone doing creative work, because the work can be really different from day to day, and I have the flexibility to choose where I need to work.”

The Lounge here is a kind of third place: a casual, open seating area requiring no reservation, based on the concept of an airport lounge.

Spaces like this are often power deserts. Not at Atlas. There’s a power throughout the open and lounge areas here, provided by Thread, a power distribution system that lays underneath carpet and brings power to furniture and users without affecting foot traffic.


Atlas users can rest and rejuvenate in various places, from the Lounge to an enclosed office. There are workspaces that support work while sitting, standing, or reclining. Concierge and IT services give users a respite from any routine business problems.

Atlas’s broad ecosystem of workspaces designed for a range of work needs and workstyles clearly resonates with users (see What’s It Like To Work At Atlas Workbase?).

“I’ve never had a more productive work day in my life.”

“From the start, the objective was a place designed more for ‘grown up’ companies, different than a place for new start-ups,” says Gensler’s Covarrubias. “This is a place to conduct business.”

“Every day,” says Winningham, “literally every day, I have someone tell me some variation of, ‘I’ve never had a more productive work day in my life.’

What’s It Like to Work at Atlas Workbase?

We spoke with several Atlas clients and here is what they had to say:

“I use Atlas because of the thoughtfulness they put into the design of the place. The way they use space to support coworking. It’s comfortable, highly professional, a great environment.”
—Jen Briggs, executive coach

“Atlas is so much different than any other office space that you could experience. The thing that’s always impressed me …is the ability to walk in here and feel the professional environment.”
—Tolis Dimopoulos, managing partner, Sophos Law

“It’s a comfortable, well designed, cool place to work. We like the versatility of spaces, so different people can find a place to work that’s right for their style and the type of work they have to do.”
—Carlee Swihart, vice president of operations, Lumenomics

“There’s a variety of different kinds of space to work in where you don’t have to feel like you’re in a fishbowl, you’re not confined to four walls. You’re not confined to the typical environment. I love being able to move around from space to space and sometimes feel like I’m sitting in my living room. There’s great furniture here, there’s great couches. There’s comfortable lounge chairs. So that also allows me to work more effectively and efficiently as I clear my mind and move from space to space.”
—Tom Woodcock, regional director, Bisnow

“I’d say you probably don’t realize ow big of an effect the place you work has on the way you do work, until you come to someplace like this and really see the difference. I think you can talk about it and what I’ve seen is, until people get in here, they just don’t get it.”
—Nick Jordan, business development, Logic Inbound

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Create Comfort & Your Own Work Vibe with Mackinac http://blog.hbi-inc.com/create-comfort-your-own-work-vibe-with-mackinac/ http://blog.hbi-inc.com/create-comfort-your-own-work-vibe-with-mackinac/#comments Fri, 17 Aug 2018 12:00:14 +0000 http://blog.hbi-inc.com/?p=19096 Continue reading ]]> Create Comfort & Your Own Work Vibe with Mackinac

Mackinac’s robust options let designers craft a unique version.

Mackinac: Make It Yours

Our smartphones are a portal to a world of ideas and inspiration. The minute a new concept is shared online, it spreads with lightning speed to far-reaching pockets of the globe. Our ability to shape our own identities has never been greater. We can instantly access a plethora of styles and determine what feels most authentic. And, it’s never been easier. Some of the biggest retailers in the world are making it incredibly simple to customize items with a touch of a button.

It’s not a surprise people want the bespoke experience they’re used to in other parts of their lives in the places where they work. A diversity of spaces and materials gives people access to things that are relevant to them.

High-performing and beautiful, the cantilever worksurface created for Mackinac (pronounced MAK-uh-naw) puts the person at the center of the design. Mackinac’s microzones let people easily shift from working alone to working with others to a moment of respite, all within a compact footprint. Its visually light, yet incredibly strong expanse invites an array of applications and materials — giving people the ability to create an environment that meets their performance needs and their personal vibe. A shelving tower and shroud also offer opportunities to create a sense of coziness and comfort. Robust materiality options let designers craft a unique vision customized for any space.

Honest + Welcoming

Honest + Welcoming

Like a lighter look and feel? This tranquil, cozy style embraces the Scandinavian concept of “hygge.” A planked maple worksurface, backpainted glass and plywood and Forbo* shelving create this airy experience.

Confident + Luxe

Confident + Luxe

Meet in a stylish, sophisticated space. Authentic materials highlight texture and depth in this luxurious setting. Dark, marbleized corian and a tapestry-like shroud allow for the duality of work — either alone or together.

Optimistic + Fresh

Optimistic + Fresh

Bright pops of color add energy to spaces made for connection. Colors and materials help signal a connection and delineation between spaces.

* This option is expected to be available in 2019.


Explore Mackinac

Make Mackinac your own with our interactive visualization tool.


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Steelcase Helps Design Space to See New Ford Culture http://blog.hbi-inc.com/steelcase-helps-design-space-to-see-new-ford-culture/ http://blog.hbi-inc.com/steelcase-helps-design-space-to-see-new-ford-culture/#comments Mon, 23 Jul 2018 12:00:26 +0000 http://blog.hbi-inc.com/?p=18889 Continue reading ]]> Steelcase Helps Design Space to Se New Ford CultureWhen Jim Hackett held his first global leadership meeting as Ford’s CEO, he called on Steelcase Events to help design a space to signal change.

When Ford Motor Company named its newest CEO, Jim Hackett, the company’s public announcement described it as “extraordinary times” for the organization in need of “extraordinary leadership.” Extraordinary indeed. Today, Ford describes itself as much more than a company that makes cars and trucks. Through innovation and acquisition, it’s accelerating its mobility strategy to delivery products and services to individuals, fleet owners and global cities. The 114-year-old iconic company founded by Henry Ford — the man who brought automobiles to the masses — is following its roots rich in invention and innovation.

Digital transformation is changing the way businesses operate and, at the same time, consumers are trending toward service-oriented business models. To response to charging infrastructure and changing habits, Ford is moving quickly to test, develop and launch new ideas and solutions for the market.


Steelcase Event Experiences

Learn how to create a customized event experience

Learn More

Jim Hackett was appointed the new Ford CEO in May 2017. Described as a “transformational leader,” he was known for bringing design thinking to Steelcase during his nearly 20-year tenure as CEO. To introduce Hackett to the Ford global leadership team, a two-day meeting was planned with several key goals to begin to cultivate a culture of innovation.

Ford Global Leadership Meeting Goals

  • Executive alignment & group discussion
    Orchestrate a shift from traditional meetings where the audience listens to the stage presenter and, instead, encourage the 300 attendees to participate and engage in discussions with peers.
  • Flip the hierarchy
    Provide a premium atmosphere for the audience to let them know they are just as important as the speakers.
  • Signal change
    This couldn’t be like any other meeting. It needed to communicate this was a new kind of exchange.

Hackett’s experience at Steelcase meant he knew the physical environment could be a powerful lever to communicate company culture. Words can only go so far. His team reached out to Steelcase Event Experiences and with a short timeline, the team got to work. They connected with Ford’s event and marketing agency, Imagination, a critical partner as designers began envisioning the space for Hackett’s first global leadership meeting at Ford.

Steelcase Event Experiences was created for just this kind of situation. This service-oriented team uses Steelcase research and insights to transform event spaces through experience design and a broad portfolio capable of creating a diverse array of experiences. They partner with customers to identify objectives and create custom spaces that inspire and encourage.

Ford Global Leadership meeting space

The Ford global leadership meeting space before Steelcase Event Experiences went to work.


The space the Steelcase team set out to reimagine included all-too-familiar conference room arrangements. The prior leadership meeting space included a sea of homogeneous round tables where inevitably, many people, would have their backs to the speaker or have to crane their necks to see. A raised platform and podium suggested whose voice was most important. And, a color palette that lacked inspiration.

Ford Leadership Meeting Design

Ford Leadership Meeting Design001

A variety of seating options gave attendees a chance to change their posture throughout the event while retaining meaningful groupings for intimate conversation.

Ford Leadership Meeting Design002

A tiered seating design ensured everyone a good view of the stage. Access to power, florals and small touches like mints and writing tools sent the clear signal that each setting was designed with the audience in mind.

Ford Leadership Meeting Design003

Attention to detail such as colorful pillows, floral, decor and throws added comfort and inspiration to the space.

Ford Leadership Meeting Design004

Strong swaths of blue and white ensured that the iconic Ford brand would shine through at the event.

Event Reimagined

In order to accomplish Ford’s goals, designers transformed the traditional setting int a vibrant comfortable and welcoming event space.

“We know people are more satisfied with their work environment if they have choice and control over where they sit. We wanted to give each of those 300 attendees the opportunity to sit in a posture that’s comfortable for them and change positions throughout the two days to reenergize and stay connected,” said Tom Condon, Steelcase Event Experiences Creative Director.

Stools and tables, task chairs and lounge seating meant everyone in the audience could choose a posture that felt good to them. Risers and an arced seating arrangement gave everyone a good line of sight to the stage. The stage of blue and white connected everyone to the Ford Motor Company brand. And, colorful and plush accessories like pillows and throws signaled a more informal, conversational setting where everyone was encouraged to engage.

New Tone

Hackett said, “We were able to give pause to the leadership of Ford Motor Company that our meeting wasn’t going to be a traditional leadership meeting because of the space. They applauded when I asked them how it felt.”

“I wish we would have filmed people’s faces as they came into the space. It definitely set a new tone for the two days,” said Clare Braun, Ford CEO Chief of Staff.

The space helped signal to the team in the audience that they were just as important as the speaker. Ford organizers said it helped elevate a new tone where it wasn’t about a new leader, giving new orders, it was about engaging the team in a new way.

“The Steelcase team really opened our eyes to how we could create a meeting setting and atmosphere that communicated to our leadership that we are going on an exciting new journey — and that each member of the team was as important as the presenters,” said Mark Truby, vice president, Communications, Ford Motor Company.

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Comfort for All: Q+A with Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams http://blog.hbi-inc.com/comfort-for-all-qa-with-mitchell-gold-and-bob-williams/ http://blog.hbi-inc.com/comfort-for-all-qa-with-mitchell-gold-and-bob-williams/#comments Mon, 09 Jul 2018 12:00:25 +0000 http://blog.hbi-inc.com/?p=18916 Continue reading ]]> Comfort for All - Q+A with Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams

When Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams, co-founders of the North Carolina-based furniture design and manufacturing company of the same name, say they stand for “Comfort for All,” they don’t just mean a luxurious and beautiful sofa—though that’s certainly true. Comfort extends to their people, their families and their community. Driven by a strong ethos to make the world a more comfortable place for everyone, they’ve grown from a startup of 23 employees in 1989 to a family of more than 900 today—proof that their values make good business sense.

360: How does your company’s sense of purpose manifest itself in your business?

Mitchell Gold: Bob and I want everyone in this company to feel they have equal opportunity. We want everyone to know that at work there’s no such thing as discrimination. We are a family business in the sense that we all care about each other. More than 20 years ago, we told our new head of human resources we wanted him to be an advocate for our employees, not a person they feared. People should know they can come and talk to his team. That’s been a really great part of the company.

360: When you started your business, you considered housing your organization’s corporate offices in a new building. Why did you end up deciding to keep them inside your manufacturing plant?

Bob Williams: We wanted everything that we do, whether it’s finance, product development or marketing, to work together. People have to talk to each other. It’s really worked for us. When you’re in the cafeteria, everybody’s together. In fact, in 20 years, I’ll bet we’ve only had a lunch meeting in a conference room three times. When we have guests or board meetings, we all go the cafeteria because we want to be together.

360: As your business has grown, you’ve emphasized investing in your people, adding benefits like an on-site clinic, a gym and scholarships for employee’s kids. Do these benefits help you realize business objectives?

MG: We respect our employees and, in turn, they respect us. We have really low turnover. Our motto is “Consistently Good Quality, Consistently On Time.” We can only do that with employees who know their job and are here. If you have high turnover, you’re constantly training people. We are able to run very lean because we have a consistent workforce.

BW: How can you justify the cost of some of these things? Instead of looking at them as expenses, we see them as assets because of what they add to the bottom line in terms of productivity.

We are a family business in the sense that we all care about each other.

360: You have an on-site daycare center as well. Why did you decide to take that on?

MG: I was meeting with an employee at 4 p.m. one day and realized halfway through she wasn’t paying attention. I asked why? She said “I have to pick up my son at daycare. If I get there past 5:30, they charge by the minute.” It made me say, “We need a daycare here. We shouldn’t have employees at the end of the day who can’t concentrate.” Lawyers, accountants, insurance people all had reasons why we shouldn’t. But, it’s good for business. It’s one of the best things we’ve done in our career.

BW: The daycare even attracts people who don’t have kids. We’ve had job candidates say, “I figure if you have a daycare, this has to be a good place to work. That’s why I wanted to come here.”

360: You’re both fierce advocates for the LGBTQ community and have received accolades for your bold marketing campaigns featuring diversity. How have you seen this inclusive culture impact your business?

MG: We get incredibly positive comments and I believe we do a lot of business because people have seen our advocacy and philanthropy. They want to buy from a company like ours. Even the bank we borrow money from, our investors, our business partners, they all want to be part of doing good in the world. And, they see it’s helped our profitably. At the end of the day, we want to be role models for vulnerable kids.

360: Do you see evidence that opens an inclusive culture you foster in the workplace  encourages your people to contribute ideas and take risks?

MG: We think it’s really important for people to feel comfortable failing. Work is a social activity and that takes trust. We let people know their voices and ideas matter, and ask them to speak their minds. We’re always striving to do more of that, and I think that’s a good thing. And, without a culture that breeds trust and a diversity of ideas, people aren’t going to feel safe trying something even if it doesn’t work. We believe we build on success by learning from failure.

360: You’ve committed to using sustainable materials since you started your company. Why was that so important?

MG: Within a month of starting the company, I read an article able how the ozone is being depleted and that the furniture industry in North Carolina was one of the biggest abusers. I remember calling Bob saying, “We’re going into a business that’s hurting the environment!” That led us down a road to understand what we could do. We tested new kinds of foam, rethought packaging and started sourcing wood from quick-regrowth forests. We wanted to be part of the solution.

360: You’ve said you wouldn’t put anything in your office that you wouldn’t also put in your home. Why is comfort such an important factor in workplace design?

MG: One of our mottos is, “When a home has been furnished successfully, just walking in the door is like getting a hug.” That’s what we think a lot of offices want to be like.

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How Will Artificial Intelligence Shape Our World? http://blog.hbi-inc.com/how-will-artificial-intelligence-shape-our-world/ http://blog.hbi-inc.com/how-will-artificial-intelligence-shape-our-world/#comments Mon, 25 Jun 2018 12:00:34 +0000 http://blog.hbi-inc.com/?p=18718 Continue reading ]]> How Will Artificial Intelligence Shape Our World

The FORWARD Fellowship guides designers to explore the possibilities.

The field of design is ever-evolving. Today, designers must address new client expectations and desires, all while integrating new technologies and producing creative outputs at swift speeds. The majority of technology influencing business in the next 5-10 years hasn’t hit the market yet, and if it has, little is known as to how deeply it will impact our lives. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the perfect example — it has immense potential to shift every industry but remains ambiguous for most. What will AI look like for design? How will it shape the environments we create, live in and work from? Gifted designers from across the globe have intriguing ideas.

“Design-thinking is where the future is going in business,” says Jerry Holmes, principal with Steelcase Design Alliances. Steelcase Design Alliance’s partnered with Steelcase researchers and Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Design Management Program to create the FORWARD Fellowship. Tom Hardy, Design Management professor at SCAD, believes Steelcase and SCAD are great partners in this mission. “There is something about Steelcase and the people who work there. They have the insight to do this. We’ve been focusing since the first fellowship with Steelcase on the concept of design-thinking.”

In its second cohort term, the team invite a diverse group of designers from competing firms and various countries to participate in the global design-thinking fellowship aimed at providing the design community with new methods and ways of thinking to solve the complex challenges clients face today.

The Central Question

Each tasked with solving the central question — “How might we design environments that optimize the combined capabilities of people and machines?” — four teams worked throughout the year juggling time zones and full-time jobs to research, analyze and define solutions.

Each team viewed the central question with a lens that interested them. The lenses of discovery were:

  1. Reduce stress and anxiety in the workplace
  2. Promote a positive work experience through a focus on positive behaviors and wellbeing
  3. Enhance human connection in the workplace
  4. Add value to the student experience by using AI

A Crash Course in Design-Thinking

A Crash Course in Design-Thinking

Starting off as strangers, the participants gathered for the first time last summer in Rome, Italy for a week akin to a design-thinking summer camp. Designers attend workshops co-designed and co-facilitated by SCAD’s Design Management Professors Tom Hardy and Billy Lee, and Steelcase researchers, Melanie Redman and Vanja Misic. The four leaders guided the fellows through the subjects of AI, emerging technologies and design-thinking research methods like scenario planning and the STEEP (social, technological, economic, environmental and political) framework. Once back home, fellows had access to Steelcase professional across the organization to help them navigate questions and roadblocks.

The Future of AI


The innovative ideas the fellows developed on how to leverage AI highlight how deep and wide design-thinking guides research and solutions. Teams showcased how AI personas could work intuitively to turn on a social mode for email so people get the human connection we all need to work. AI could also signal the need for team meditation and infuse biophilic elements like plants into the office when workers are stressed and wellbeing is low.

AI can do more than make things easier and shift environments based on personal preferences. The future of artificial intelligence has the potential to remove cultural and socioeconomic barriers. Speaking different languages is no longer an issue with automatic translation. Learning environments in the future can reach anyone, anywhere with immerse campuses through contact lenses and connect students with tutors and professors worldwide based on interests and needs.

The fellows demonstrated the immense positive impact AI can have on the future. It can make the world more democratic and unbiased. It can help us become healthier, happier and capable of more connect and creativity.

Closing Ceremony

Gathered in Munich for the final week of the program, fellows visited the IBM Watson to IoT Center to learn about IBM’s Augmented/Artificial Intelligence direction as well as how they are leveraging enterprised design-thinking in their business. Host, Dawn Ahukanna, along with Laura Dohle and John Vasquez guided the group. Both Ahukanna and Dohle attended the closing ceremony to hear the fellows’ final presentations and offered insightful feedback.

After final presentations, participants discussed the benefits of implementing what they learned at their individual firms. Julia Leahy noted that the STEEP framework helped her engage teammates. “I gathered a cross-disciplinary team, and we went through STEEP with post-it notes, asking, what are the drivers and coming up with imagery inspiration? It kicked the project off with really good team synergy and optimism.” James Merchant agreed, saying scenario planning, made a big impact on clients. “I’ve introduced scenario planning to my team. It gets people into the human experience, doing a storyboard and day-in-a-life scenarios. I really like doing it now with clients as well, taking them through the experience has made a huge difference.”

Redman highlights the benefit of the fellowship with, “The fellows are able to apply this process to their daily projects. It’s a chance for them to explore something completely different than what they regularly do and make new friends with people they would have never otherwise met.”

Holmes echoes Redman by emphasizing the takeaways of the program. “The richness of what we hope to accomplish is learning the skills of design-thinking. The design industry is under an assault of being commoditized. If you can elevate the game and approach critical problem solving in a different way, you have the potential to fend that off and have a new strategic approach.”


The fellows and leaders met at the Steelcase LINC in Munich, Germany for the closing ceremony.



  1. Aline Browers – HLM ARCHITECTS – Glasgow
  2. Christie Giemza – LITTLE – Raleigh
  3. Dewi Schönbeck – CSMM – Munich
  4. James Merchant – AECOM – Los Angeles
  5. Julia Leahy – IA – Boston
  6. Katie Lin – IA – London
  7. Laura Langlois – ARP ASTRANCE – Paris
  8. Lonneke Leijnse – HEYLIGERS – Amsterdam
  9. Yelena Mokritsky – HOK – NY

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