In an always-shifting workplace, where teams meet to collaborate is an increasingly important key to meaningful innovation.
Innovators thrive on the unconventional: The breakthrough, counterintuitive Big Ideas that regularly challenge the “way we’ve always done it” mindset in search of new and better products, processes, and ways of working.
But while the who, what, and how of innovation get a lot of attention, where people collaborate and innovate has become every bit as important. And, in today’s persistently hybrid, multilocation workplace, reimagining that where can be a breakthrough innovation of its own.
The truth is, where teams meet to collaborate and innovate has been steadily changing for years, and not simply because of the pandemic, as we detailed in our recent report, “2023 KPMG Benchmarking Innovation Impact,” which surveyed innovation leaders at 216 companies across a wide range of industries. The increasing sophistication and prevalence of digital collaboration tools have promised no end of innovation acceleration; but those promises are still taking shape and remain largely unfulfilled, as our report notes.
Successful innovators today are harnessing the best advantages of hybrid collaboration while still making time for old-fashioned in-person connections. And that doesn’t mean sequestering teams in some old-fashioned outdated office space, as we at KPMG learned firsthand in our own innovative collaboration with Monumental Sports & Entertainment (MSE).
Much like the changing dynamics of the overall workplace, any remaining debate over where teams innovate risks missing the point: The workplace has been transformed—by forces that were in motion well before the pandemic speeded things up—and where and how teams innovate is following suit.
Even amid back-to-the-office mandates, some mix of hybrid, multilocation work is here to stay. And that extends to the innovation team. Indeed, 81 percent of the respondents in our innovation benchmarking survey say their teams now collaborate in a hybrid model, with another 13 percent saying they are fully virtual. (And nearly half said that hybrid approach was true even before the pandemic.)
One important trend we saw in our survey was to clearly define a collaboration space to fit the changing workplace. For example, 57 percent of respondents said they have at least one dedicated innovation space (regardless of whether people are attending physically or virtually), and 63 percent of them are using their space at least once a week.
Among the key benefits we heard from respondents in this new hybrid collaboration approach:
Even as innovators adjust to the new realities of the workplace—and spending less time physically together—our KPMG teams have also seen an increasing demand from our innovation clients for at least some in-person sessions.
While virtual works well for smaller, shorter meetings, more than half of the larger innovation initiatives we have led for clients over the last year have included in-person sesseions. Whether that’s due to “hybrid fatigue” or just nostalgic instincts for the value of meeting face-to-face, it’s challenged our KPMG teams to rethink our own ideas about innovation spaces—and specifically, our KPMG Ignition Centers.
KPMG Ignition Centers are immersive, multisensory physical spaces that curate innovation experiences for clients using a combination of talent, environment, and leading practices. We strive to continually innovate our innovation space. And we found a great, counterintuitive, “hiding in plain sight” opportunity to do just that in the past year in a unique collaboration with MSE.
MSE’s Capital One Arena in Washington, DC, hosts the company’s professional sports teams (NBA Wizards, NHL Capitals) as well as concerts and other events. Minus sports and events, though, it’s a dynamic space that goes relatively unused over the full 365 days, 8,760 hours a year. And that “down time” presented a real chance to innovate.
So, we worked with MSE to transform one of the arena’s mega-suites into a state-of-the-art KPMG Ignition Center, open full-time and year-round to host client innovation sessions of all types.
The suite’s modular and movable functionality create a unique room design for each business session, fully equipped with advanced technology. A central video wall displays stories and demonstrations to facilitate discussions. Interactive screen displays are scattered throughout the room to showcase relevant visuals during meetings. Plus, video-streaming enables people to join sessions from anywhere.
As Ted Leonsis, MSE’s founder, chairman and CEO noted: “Taking a suite normally used to host clients to watch Capitals and Wizards games and innovate within it—bringing customers into an environment that’s unexpected and creating a destination to engage people to think differently —is such a big idea.”
As Ted Leonsis, MSE’s founder, chairman and CEO noted:
Taking a suite normally used to host clients to watch Capitals and Wizards games and innovate within it—bringing customers into an environment that’s unexpected and creating a destination to engage people to think differently —is such a big idea.
MSE founder, chairman and CEO
In an ever-more digitally connected world, we believe that in-person collaboration continues to play a critical role in successful innovation. Sure, virtual collaboration tools have their own unique superpowers as well. But both our clients and internal stakeholders say that the KPMG Ignition Center experiences are uniquely energizing and productive in ways that virtual simply cannot replicate.
Distraction-free sessions encourage robust collaboration and teamwork, while shared access to advanced tools and data can deliver real-time insights that would take weeks in a virtual-only model. The key, though, is to establish the unique expectations and goals that drive successful in-person innovation. Our KPMG teams focus on these five steps:
Benchmarking Innovation Impact 2023
A definitive guide for leaders in innovation roles within large organizations.
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