At RE/Journal CRE Forecast Conference this week at Chicago’s Hyatt Regency, the proceedings kicked off with a one-on-one with Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871, the non-profit startup hub located in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart.
1871’s reputation as a hotbed of technology startup innovation companies is for real, and Howard’s philosophies are apparent in all details down to the office layout, which became a topic of conversation naturally enough.
1871 currently sports 325 companies with nine unique incubators and accelerators that use markedly different floor plans reflecting in part key commonalities to the tenant companies, whose business lines exceed the boundaries of just high technology.
Visibility — particularly visibility of project leadership by the newest tenants plays a key role in 1871’s office layout.
Newer arrivals begin by climbing a kind of ladder, settling into a class of workspace that offers the least ameneties, but is still in full view of the nicer digs nearby. The trick is that the nicer space is where tenants whose businesses pass success milestones are moved, producing a kind of conveyor belt of visible success that drives the “Leadership [means] that people need role models and so we live it every day. We figure if they’re watching [mentor and more advanced businesses] and seeing how we are executing and what our responsibilities are, that’s the best way we can model the commitment that we expect from them.”
“I think where we’re headed is a new kind of community. When we talk to our workforce [aged 25 to 55] this idea of proximity [to the workplace] is really significant. They don’t want to own a car — that was a popular talk at the auto show recently […] the idea is that the workers want to be close to where they work.”
A return to focus
Tullman went on in the session to describe a real trend in office layout and work patterns toward focus and away from “openness”.
“Openness I think we’re going to see the next few years is going to go away. Kids today think they can multi-task, but multi-tasking means you’re doing a lot of things poorly. So what we’re discovering is […] they go away so they can focus and get something done. This idea of being in a n open area with constant disruption is going to change and it’s going to change pretty soon.”
Wall unit makers, take note.