Les innsikten fra Romane Gardet, vår kjære, franske masterstudent fra UQUAM Management Science School, Montreal, som gjorde internshipet sitt hos oss i vår.

Last winter I got the opportunity to spend some time within Demos for my master’s thesis project and to help its two founders to get useful insights for the future Sustainability Lab (part of the Blue House project).

I was excited to be autonomous and to work on this ambitious project. It was an adventure rich of new developments especially when the most unexpected event of the year and maybe the decade happened. Indeed, the methodology had to be rethinking due to the pandemic and the lockdown, but it fits well with the spirit of the project. Being able to be creative and to show resilience in order to face the sustainable development’s challenges.

I you are a fellow researcher on space, creativity and sustainability, a space manager or simply curious keep reading!

My first step was to realize a benchmark, I needed an overview of what is considered as an innovation/creative space in Bergen. Firstly, it was the opportunity to discover what inhabitants, entrepreneurs and companies picked for their own needs. Secondly, having an idea of what already exists around avoided the risk to copy paste a space’s features.

PwC Bergen, Innolab, Impact Hub Bergen, Tryg insurance, Netlife and VIS accelerator (where Demos’ office is located) kindly opened their doors to let me observe their offices and creative/innovation room.

 

After an enjoyable spaces’ study throughout the city, it was time to dig into the literature to find out the do’s and don’ts already identified by fellow researchers. Once the endless readings and analysis tasks about creative/innovation spaces were done, questions naturally popped up : would those features apply in our context? Is there some specificities when the focus is on sustainable development? To figure it out, I built up a model with six dimensions, namely singularity, heterogeneity, flexibility, organized-organizing, exemplarity and third-place.

Those are supposed to have an influence on the ability to co-create and be creative when it comes to sustainable development projects.

 

Dimensions influencing the space ability to help its users to be creative and innovative when they work on sustainable development projects and their degree of influence

Then I moved to what every former master thesis writer can call the fun part : confronting literature findings to reality. I interviewed a sample of Scandinavian creative minds working in different fields and who have been in charge of project facilitation.

Getting through the results some of you will probably think “Yes that point seems quite obvious or was expected”. However, according to literature and what we can observe in real life some mistakes are repeated again, and again. Thus it will not hurt to write it down and spread the word one more time!

Singularity is a winner

Adopting standard spaces can be seductive and easy BUT it is a creativity killer option. Take a second to think about it, creativity and innovation required experimentation, especially when disruption and big changes are expected. How could you do that if you follow a pre-defined path in a space designed by people who are convinced that what is great for a category of person is great for all?

The space is not everything

You can deliver the most good-looking/modern/digital/… facilities it will not work if you do not also bring the right person to keep the space alive. Human facilitation is a key part of the co-creation process. Besides, facilitation is more about enabling a process and empowering workers than managing them. It gives more freedom to express and to experiment.

Do not lose the focus on the way

The main objective of the lab should be to enable sustainability projects instead of integrating sustainability aspect in every micro-detail of its daily life. For instance, building certifications are not a bad thing but it is not a game-changer to provide a creative framework in order to help people to develop sustainable business models. So it’s about doing green instead of being the greenest.

Do not bet everything on flexibility

Flexibility should be considered as an ingredient not as the main course. Indeed, excess of flexibility such as 100% open flexible office is counterproductive, it can decrease cross-pollination and well-being at work.

Diversity is not only for people, but also for spaces

Creating different atmospheres thanks to different rooms or with boards on wheels for instance is essential. Even one single person needs change through its day to take real breaks and be able to go back in the creative arena, or simply to think alone before sharing. Moreover, assuming that we all have the same needs and react the same way to spaces is terribly wrong. Famous open offices are an example of workspace designed for extraverts, introverts’ creativity will not thrive in this environment. It is a definitely a loss since the second one’s ideas do not worth less.

All in all, an inspiring space for sustainable development is not the greenest settings that we have ever seen, where you see, breathe and eat sustainability. It is the place where good management or even enabling practices are implemented. In other words, forget about productive use of the space trying to put as much room and people as possible (overcrowded workspace, no privacy, lack of natural lights, standardized spaces creating an injunction to creativity). That was true before the coronavirus pandemic and it is even more relevant nowadays since people have been stuck at home and tend to wish for more space, freedom and contact with the nature.

Vi takker Romane for en strålende innsats i en vanskelig tid hvor alt kollapset på alle kanter, og hun var forvist til en liten studenthybel i månedsvis. Til tross for dette leverte hun strålende arbeid og holdt seg selv gående. Vi bøyer oss i støvet!