Recent decades have seen a resurgence of the Maker Movement and a celebration of the artisan economy. Consumers have the world at their fingertips and can purchase goods and services with the quick click of a mouse. Perhaps that is why the appeal of custom-made artisanal products has intensified and caused buyers to slow down and appreciate the craft behind their purchases. If you had the opportunity to visit 2018’s NeoCon shows, you caught a glimpse of the Maker Movement at work within the commercial furniture industry. Not only did manufacturers celebrate craftsmanship through the incorporation of unique and intricate pieces throughout their showrooms, they unveiled furniture collections that equip users with the tools, resources, and, ultimately, the space for personal creation, learning and collaboration. These “makerspaces,” most readily associated with the educational field, are finding their way into the workplace, providing physical environments that encourage hands-on learning and engage workers in critical thinking and problem solving. Let’s dive into the Maker Movement’s roots to gain a better understanding of the corporate makerspace and how it is transforming the workplace.
Image Source: Office Snapshots, Gensler Base Camp in London
Origins of the Makerspace
At the root of maker culture is the mindset that we can solve problems in new ways, bringing solutions to life through hands-on brainstorming, experiential learning and building. While our economy thrives on mass production of manufactured goods, the Maker Movement has refocused our efforts on artisan goods and small-batch sales. Appreciation has grown for quality over quantity and we’ve seen a return to the tactile world. Moving beyond its artisanal roots, the Maker Movement has proven that anyone can be a maker and that the ingenuity behind it translates into true business value.
The concept of a makerspace may seem extremely broad, especially for those unfamiliar with its integration into Corporate America. What exactly does such a space look like and how is it relevant to the workplace? The definition of a makerspace takes on many forms, just like its design. In simple terms, it is a space that is designed and dedicated to hands-on creativity and engagement and it fosters the same maker mindset of creating something out of nothing, whether that be idea generation or problem solving. Makerspaces provide a physical space that facilitates a specific activity and the tools and resources necessary to start building.
We most often see makerspaces incorporated into education, shifting away from ready-made knowledge to an environment that fosters creativity and skill exploration within students. These spaces can be a dedicated fixture within the facility, such as a math or science laboratory, or they can take the form of a shared mobile cart, living where and when they are needed. Even the materials may change depending on the activity at hand. Cardboard and scissors or laptops and essential software. Not only are these makerspaces positively transforming the way we educate students and prepare them for their careers, the ideology of maker culture is reforming how we work.
Experiential learning, critical thinking and communication skills built from makerspaces are just as necessary for employees as they are for students. Corporate makerspaces, like those we see in education, can be dedicated areas within a facility for ongoing work or groupings of flexible furniture pieces that are adaptable to short-term projects. These spaces support innovation and are an opportunity for workers to participate in hands-on engagement. While each makerspace will be unique to an organization and its work, the design principles behind these spaces will promote flexibility and collaboration. Employers may choose to build labs stocked with maker equipment like 3D printers, laser cutters or hand tools. Other project work may only require light furniture pieces like mobile work carts, tackboards, whiteboards, tables and stools. Regardless of location or activity, corporate makerspaces are empowering employees to step away from the virtual world and “get their hands dirty,” building their own authentic reality.
Image Source: Office Snapshots, Eventbrite in San Francisco, CA
Companies looking to jump-start innovation within their workplace might choose fun and creative ways in which to engage employees and immerse them into their makerspaces. Kimball® has implemented a handful of design competitions in the past few years that foster creativity and innovative efforts within schools and organizations. In conjunction with the Kimball Design Hack, a Smart Furniture Design Competition, Kimball and Metropolis magazine hosted the Office of the Future Hackathon at Globant Seattle in early 2018. The Hackathon invited engineers, developers and designers to brainstorm new ways in which cutting-edge materials and technology could transform the furniture industry and solve workplace challenges. The competition was so well received that Kimball and Metropolis opened it up worldwide, receiving more than 120 submissions. While only one winner could be chosen, the competition provided an opportunity for individuals and organizations around the world to brainstorm innovative concepts and participate in hands-on problem solving.
Building Your Innovative Workplace
The tangible benefits that makerspaces provide are no longer limited to the artisan economy or our education system. Encouraging creativity and hands-on engagement in the workplace gives employees the power to solve problems in new ways and bring solutions to life. The same design principles that bring adaptability and flexible workspaces to our schools can be used to create corporate makerspaces that facilitate organizational innovation. Contact CDI for further guidance in building your own makerspace and harness the creative power of your team.
Image Source: Office Snapshots, Bombas Offices in NY, NY
Corporate Design Interiors (CDI) is an industry-leading commercial furniture dealership whose award-winning product knowledge, thoughtful design coupled with strategic planning deliver functional and inspiring interiors designed to foster employee well-being, productivity and engagement. CDI’s relentless focus on delivering positive workplaces mirroring the culture and vision of companies while delivering a high value investment has earned CDI diverse clients including; established Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits/public sector and energetic startups.
As a “Select” Kimball dealer, CDI’s excellence in sales, partnership, quality improvement, community involvement and overall business best practices earned it the 2017 Kimball Premier Partner Award. CDI was selected among 52 other Kimball Select dealerships throughout the country for this industry-leading honor, earning additional praise for its company culture and enterprise practices.
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