Spaces for Innovation: Kursty Groves proposes blueprint for transformative work environments.



February 15, 2024

This blog is inspired by our chat with workplace health champion Kursty Groves on the Workplace Geeks podcast. Have a listen.

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In our very first podcast interview, we delved into the fascinating career of Kursty Groves; a multifaceted professional serving as an adjunct professor at IE University in Madrid, an accomplished workplace strategist, and a sought-after innovation consultant. Kursty, a regular speaker and podcaster (check out Office Chronicles), brought her diverse expertise to the forefront in our discussion about her book 'Spaces for Innovation: the design and science of inspiring environments.'

Kursty's unconventional career trajectory—from engineering to a postgraduate program at the Royal College of Art—saw her immersed in a melting pot of design perspectives. Her ventures into product design and innovation with notable companies like Seymour Powell and PDD propelled her into the realms of future technologies and human-centric design.

However, it was during her tenure in innovation consulting, where she fine-tuned her skills in facilitation and creative behaviour, that Kursty recognised the pivotal role of the environment in fostering innovation.

“So I became very practiced at facilitation, moving capability into other people, teams, and organisations, specifically around creativity, creative behaviours, and innovation. And it was at that point that we were talking about how, you know, there are certain barriers to innovation in organisations. And one of them was the environment.”

Kursty's second book, Spaces for Innovation, spoke directly to that barrier.

It all started with a response to a call for tender from Nesta, the innovation organisation, and led to her collaborating with Tilt Studio and IE University on what would become a huge project blending academic rigor with practical insights.

"Codifying" creativity is inherently challenging, but Kursty and her co-authors explored models to bring concepts to life. For example, they build on the three E's—Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Expression—the brainchild of prolific workplace thinkers DEGW, adding layers of Empowerment and Evolution, creating a hierarchy aligning with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

While models are crucial, Kursty highlighted the significance of metrics in gaining organisational attention but advocated for a balanced approach, considering tangible and intangible metrics, utilising stories and anecdotes to convey less tangible objectives.

“What we do is we talk about stories, we share stories, and that's the qualitative evidence that sits underneath it. But the story is, I think, a way to be able to say, okay, I've got this data, I've got these results, but let me tell you a story about how this played out in reality.”

Talking of stories, in the book she explores co-working spaces through case studies on Impact Hub, a global operator focusing on social innovation, freelancers, and micro-businesses. These stories showing how role of community also played an important role in fostering innovation, beyond space.

It was these stories, and others like them, that help form the basis for the Space for Innovation Blueprint, the framework that serves as a guide for creating environments that foster innovation. Moving beyond physical considerations and including virtual, cognitive, and social spaces.

Intriguingly, Kursty placed ‘multipliers’ between the layers in the blueprint rather than simple ‘addition’. We had to ask why….

“Yeah, I usually talk about the innovation process as [having to] identify the problem, have insights, create ideas, then implement. And if any one of those is zero, then you don't have innovation. You can have great insights but not get it through the organisation is exactly the same.”

Kursty’s insights feel particularly relevant in a post-COVID world as organisations seek to rebrand corporate spaces as creativity hubs. Well-designed space alone won't suffice—it requires thoughtful consideration, a sense of community, effective management, and meticulous measurement.

For an in-depth exploration, grab her book Spaces for Innovation and listen to her interview.

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