The interior design is quite minimal. The “beauty” of the space comes from the work that happens inside it: sketches, flow charts, Post-Its full of blue-sky ideas, new product concepts from raw idea to real formation. The space was intentionally left not-too-perfect, so people are encouraged to manipulate it, not be precious about it. It’s intended to serve as a canvas for creative thinking. It’s also very flexible and can quickly change from working studio to lecture room.
The design space has been the ultimate tool in driving behavior change. Even the most analytical team members can’t help but sketch their thoughts and ideas on the table whiteboards while they sit and chat. The casualness of the space puts people in the right frame of mind to go outside of their traditional comfort zones and build stronger relationships with teammates. See the space (and design team members) in action as a part of our work better, live better video.
How did the space come about? How was the value proposition or ROI worked out for management approval?
Citrix was eight months into its journey of building a design practice when three General Managers and I returned from Stanford University’s Customer Focused Innovation class. Much of the class was spent in the d.school — a large, open, collaborative design space — and the benefits of this environment were immediately obvious.
Simultaneously, Citrix was creating floor plans for a newly acquired building. I thought, “We need this kind of space, and now is the time when we can actually get it.” It was indeed the right time to ask. Inspired by the design team’s newly released design principles, the Citrix facilities group had coined the new building initiative “Working Better by Design.” In my mind, crafting a custom design space fit perfectly with their mission to transform the existing building, turning it into a new, innovative workplace and conference center. Still, I worried that we might not be able to make it happen.
One Monday morning I went, together with one of our GMs, to chat with the facilities group. I had all the important points collected in my mind, was ready for the arguments and pushback, was expecting the typical corporate “no” to such a unconventional idea, with a dedicated 12x12 conference room for my team as a parting gift. Instead I was delighted to hear, “That sounds like a great idea!”
Our facilities team was fully on board with the idea of building the space, but it was totally different from anything they had done before. It sometimes took some explaining — and visiting similar spaces at other organizations like Stanford, Proctor & Gamble, and Haworth — to make it clear why some “off the wall” requests, such as putting everything on wheels, made sense. The initial reaction of “people will take everything away” changed to an understanding of how the new flexibility would create new ways of collaborating.
Who uses it? Do people use it the way you expected?
When the studio space opened, the design team immediately took to it by forming project pods and using the full range of tools the space provides. Over the course of the past several months, I’ve noticed more and more non-design teams — such as human resources and engineering — using the space to brainstorm. It’s awesome to see these teams use the space and its tools. It’s even more awesome to see their desire to emulate the design “culture” of uninhibited brainstorming, quick stand-up meetings, and collaboration.
Design team members say their favorite moments are when people look at notes and sketches left on the whiteboard, then go to others to discuss them. It creates a real transparency in the work, sparking conversations and cross-pollination — exactly the results we wanted.
Like all good design, iteration is part of the process. We have discovered that we do need a better system for engaging remote participants and better ways for capturing brainstorming and meeting notes in real time, so that others can see them later. This is something we are investigating for our next “release” in 2012.
What has been the reaction to it so far?
People love the space. Other locations want to replicate the same kind of space, and I’m hoping we can make that happen. We get “tour groups” of visitors or Citrix employees from other locations walking by to take a look at it.
There have been some fun unexpected experiences. For example, parents are often seen bringing their kids to see the new space, and they love it. The daughter of one of our product managers stayed in the space while her mom was in a meeting and created a monster/alien dog using clay, sticks, crayons, and bunch of material in the design space. She told her mom when she returned, “I want to work here when I grow up. This is so cool!”
But it has pragmatic benefits, too — in helping us recruit great candidates, for example. Brian Moose, our Creative Director, says, “Seeing the difference a facility makes in the hiring process is phenomenal…Job candidates shift their attitude from ‘win me over’ to ‘how can I win you over?’”
The fact that Citrix was willing to take a leap of faith and invest in what at the time was considered a very unconventional space, demonstrates our company’s fiscal and strategic commitment to design thinking. The new design collaboration space is a great example of how a nontraditional workspace has fostered collaboration, enabled a different kind of communication, and is ultimately improving the quality of the products we produce for our customers.
Photo courtesy of Citrix