Small steps to innovation debated at Workplace Futures 2014

Siemens eröffnet Stadtentwicklungszentrum The Crystal in London

New or refurbished workplaces are often described as ‘innovative.’ But while the architect and designers behind a building’s design are often credited with innovation, when it comes to the FMs tasked with managing the property, things are less clear cut. Although the FM sector is increasingly under pressure to demonstrate innovation, whether as services provider or as an in-house department; determining what exactly this constitutes, much less being able to demonstrate it in practice, is a lot more difficult. The 2014 i-FM Workplace Futures Conference, held this week at the Siemens Crystal building in London’s Docklands, bravely aimed to address this conundrum. It was, as the organisers admitted, a tall order to ‘nail this innovation theme,’ but it seems that taking small incremental steps may be the key to success.

As service provider Interserve’s managing director, Tony Sanders explained, 40 per cent of innovation in FM describes basic incremental change, while real radical game changing innovation happens around 10 per cent of the time. This means, he said that it’s often not about the big innovations but the small differences we can make.

Another service provider, Paul Morland of EMCOR took up the theme of small changes reaping big results, and while his examples of using zip walls to solve dust sheet issues during office modifications were somewhat mundane, these kind of innovations had culminated in a value to the organisation of £1.5million.

Another theme which emerged during the day was regarding flexible working. John Spencer, UK CEO, of Regus plc, spelled out the challenge of accommodating an increasingly peripatetic workforce. Aside from those who work from home, or from the office, there is now, he said a 3rd place; which is why Regus is opening business lounges in transport hubs, such as airports, motorway service areas and train stations.

As workers migrate away from the traditional office set up, this could be one innovation which pays off for the office services provider.

We’ll be coming back to some of the other issues discussed at the conference in future posts and for more on Workplace Futures visit: