Strap line 2015

monthlies OnOffice July9

07 Feb 2019

The most successful businesses understand ideas come from everyone

Words by  Photo by Mike Kononov

Katrina Larkin, co-founder of Fora, says agile working and a creative culture lead to innovation and new solutions

Katrina Larkin, co-founder of Fora, says agile working and a creative culture lead to innovation and new solutions

This year’s most successful companies run on a secret sauce. Fifty years ago, 80% of the value of the stock market was in tangible assets, in the form of factories, machines, people or patents. Today it’s almost the opposite. Most of the value of leading companies is held in intangible, mysterious “know-how”. The all-important culture that makes these firms tick is hard to define, but you can sense it the moment you encounter it, and it’s something precious that needs to be nurtured.

In this age of constant disruption, it’s a work culture that encourages agility and creativity that gives most companies the best chance of sustained growth. Innovation is what allows a company to offer something distinctive – more than that, it’s something customers increasingly demand. Being able to rip up the rule book is exactly the kind of culture that lets many startups challenge big, established players which are all too often fixated on process and hierarchy. This hot-house laboratory mentality also helps companies find new, untapped markets. And those opportunities keep growing as existing customer loyalties continue to weaken; 69% of global consumers say they want to see greater brand innovation to improve the customer experience.

An innovative work culture is so essential to success that many corporations, such as Unilever, General Electric and Ikea have set up their own innovation spaces. They’re trying to catch that intangible magic that makes certain neighbourhoods of London, Berlin, New York or San Francisco such hotbeds of invention. Ikea’s Space10 in Copenhagen has produced everything from energy harvesting furniture to 3D-printed meatballs in an inspirational setting.

But it isn’t just about using physical space to foster an innovative work culture. It’s also about a culture that brings different people together. And some of the most left-field collaborations can be the most productive. For example, American DIY brand Lowe’s teamed up with sci-fi writers, challenging them to imagine the home of the future. The result was Holoroom, a virtual reality skills clinic. They found people learnt 36% faster with the VR system.

If an innovative work culture is truly going to drive a company to success it can’t simply be restricted to a small group of specialists. The whole company needs to support and share in that culture. Every time I see the London Tube map I remember it was first designed, not by a designer, but by Harry Beck who worked for London Transport as an electrical draughtsman. Back in 1933 the iconic design was initially rejected several times before being adopted worldwide.

In contrast, today’s work culture increasingly emphasises “intrapreneurship” – tapping into entrepreneurial approaches across the whole organisation. US software company Adobe even hands out Kickbox kits to staff. The box contains a $1,000 prepaid credit card and an instruction manual of Adobe’s innovation process. In the last six years 27 Kickbox ideas have gone on to become Adobe products.

An innovative work culture not only produces more ideas, it produces better ideas. Innovation agency Ideo found that when the majority of a team is prepared to challenge the status quo, the chances of a failed product launch are reduced by over 16%. Increasingly we are all living this work culture that emphasises speed and creative thinking – living life in beta.

At Fora we work hard to support the innovative work cultures of our customers. We also see how important that secret sauce is to their success. With the recent launch of our sixth Fora in Spitalfields, and with more locations opening soon, it’s a culture we share too.

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