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Recap of Chicago Ideas Week 2013 

Image © Seth Unger

Each October in Chicago, approximately 25,000 people convene at Chicago Ideas Week, a premier annual gathering of global thought leaders created to provoke new ideas and inspire actionable results. Through the cornucopia of speaker series highlighting thought leaders from around the world, panel discussions representing diverse voices, and engaging lab events, the week-long event serves as a global hub for new ideas. It’s an ecosystem for innovation and a playground of intellectual recreation.

This year, Gensler hosted a lab event, ‘Designing a Place that Works’ in our own Chicago office. Roshelle Ritzenthaler, Seth Unger, Melissa Mayer, and Julie Hutchison, all workplace strategists and/or practitioners, orchestrated an engaging three-hour interactive workshop focused on exploring the explosion of choices affecting the future of [work]place.

Findings from our recent 2013 Workplace Survey provided a framework for the conversation, focusing on how choice is shifting the power—and the responsibility—away from workplace leadership and to the individual worker. Participants learned more about how research informs the design process, and how process informs design research. Leveraging a discovery tool, Design Futures, participants had an opportunity to team up to explore a working world around three themes: Renaissance of American Manufacturing, Art of Attention in the Information Storm, and the Quantified Evolution. The result: unscripted and hands-on mind melds based on the perspectives of our diverse and engaging attendees on the future of work and work environments. We couldn’t have been happier to geek out with such a great group of people. Thanks Chicago!

In addition to inspiring others, the Gensler team hoped to find inspiration. One of our workplace experts, Alice Kao, attended an engaging event titled ‘Fueling Performance.’ Though speakers spanned diverse careers and industries, all shared similar insights on how to support and grow talent. This is an important topic for Gensler, because we are continuously focused on improving the physical work environment in ways that facilitate improved worker productivity and performance. Here’s what the presenters had to say:

People bring their own assets and life experiences to work.

Renetta McCann, Chief Talent Officer of Leo Burnett spoke about the “Future of Workers.”

Within each person, there are qualities which are not visible to employers. These assets increase value. Humans have a need to create and benefit from their own creations. Creativity and emotions are linked and provide great benefit to employers. Work is not really about labor; people work together to achieve outcome. Learning and training have to be done in real time and must be self-directed.

People are frustrated about doing work ABOUT work, not the actual work.

Justin Rosenstein, co-founder of Asana, a company that builds software to help organizations coordinate their collective action, spoke about how people work.

People should work with clarity of purpose, clarity of plan and clarity of responsibility. Working as part of a single, global community provides more leverage. Employers should focus on flexibility and educating their employees.

Signals have changed today, but signaling continues.

Alison Wolf, professor, King’s College, London and author of The XX Factor: How the Rise of Working Women Has Created a Far Less Equal World talked about “signaling” in the workplace.

“Costly signaling” is when we want to show that we are fit, successful and highly rated. Women can signal like men, but signaling is not always a good thing when you are being deceptive. Perception and deception go together. Do not suppress what you cannot suppress; encourage it. Understand what is going on, but look beyond it too.

People don’t change until their practices change.

Keith Ferrazzi, founder & CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a strategic consulting firm, shared several messages on how to help people work effectively.

People don’t change until their practices change. There must be willingness and capacity for influence. Ask people if they are willing to change. With that question, there must be empathy and vulnerability. People should ask themselves if this change is going to make them more joyful.

Leverage the talent of our military veterans.

Gary Sinise, founder of the Gary Sinise Foundation, talked about programs to assist veterans with career training.

He is championing a ‘Get Skills to Work’ coalition and has partnered with GE to teach vets about 3D printing. The military provides great leadership and teamwork training.

Image © Seth Unger

Alice Kao is a senior associate and studio operations leader in Gensler’s Chicago office and she has extensive experience with corporate and financial clients. She has worked in the New York and Shanghai offices during her long tenure with the firm and has a passion for mentorship and talent development. Contact her at alice_kao@gensler.com and follow her tweets at @AliceKao1.
Melissa Mayer is a director in the analytics consulting team in Gensler's Chicago office. A self-professed Excel geek (colleagues would agree), Melissa seeks to leverage and advance quantitative analysis that informs planning and design decisions.

Reader Comments (1)

sounds super fun!
12.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia Hyde

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