This morning I swung by the Harvard Innovation Lab. Honestly, I’m pretty impressed with the layout- the feel- the culture there. I can imagine Harvard is not one of the easiest brands to work with when it comes to expressing flexibility, creativity, cutting edge, openness- but Hi successfully creates a vibe that feels collaborative, creative, and inspiring. Here I’ll go through some of the elements which have made the space conducive for creativity- notably- (1) dividing the space to target companies at different maturity levels, (2) allowing for flexibility in the layout with movable walls (actually whiteboards) and tables, and (3) open spaces.
As you approach the building you first notice all the windows, and a giant “Hi” sign high above the entrance, the acronym for the lab.
When you walk into the building you find an open space with tables- a cafeteria/cafe area with a couple TVs. Around 9 in the morning and a group was just getting together opening laptops, some members arrived with a poster for the project. Sergio, founder of USAdelante, walked me through the spaces on the first floor.
From the front room a key card will get you into a co-working space. Here there are three pseudo-subdivisions. I say pseudo because the boundaries between the areas are blurred, one area flows into the next. There are lockers for valuables along one wall, and along another is a screen above a table with a bunch of number-stands. Now this is pretty cool- when you come in you can check in on an iPad and your company becomes listed on the screen, with a brief synopsis of it. You’d take one of the number stands and put it next to you as you work on the tables in this area. This is the first of the three areas- the most transient, meant for drop ins. People who come in can glance at the screens and if a company jumps out, they can find the people involved with the numbers. A great way to spark conversations, which is immensely useful for early ventures.
Next after passing a kitchen/cafe we find an area that is less transient, but still flexible. The walls are actually rolling whiteboards, so you can divide the area as you wish. The tables and chairs also roll around. Here you see all sorts of ideas drawn up on the white boards, some with company names or logos.
The third space we check out is the most permanent looking, with companies that must have been there longer than a few months. Here you see more mockups, more monitors set up around, but still in a very open space. A few nerf guns sit on the window sills.
I find the environment very inspiring, it felt like a great place to cultivate ideas. We sit in the cafe and talk developing ideas, and finding ideas that truly reflect your passions. Sergio mentions he’s going to host a workshop session in the space – on design thinking as it applies to public narratives- so honing down on the ideas that are both worth pursuing and personally meaningful.
So if you’re interested in checking out the space, getting a feel for it, and walking away with a renewed sense of personal/entrepreneurial mission, come by the workshop. Here are the details, sign up on the page– once there is enough interest he’ll post up a date. If you have any questions feel free to e-mail him, or I can relay a message.
Your Passion -> Your Business
Through critiquing others, reflecting on your life experiences, and sharing your story the class introduces a process to identify the source of your inspiration and business problems that motivate you.
Design Thinking 000 is an introductory class to help identify business problems that motivate you. We begin by critiquing stories of public narrative and successful entrepreneurs to identify elements of an effective public narrative. Following you will develop your public narrative. Finally we will share and critique each other. Closing, a willing (or selected) class member will share their public narrative and we will help them identify problems integrated into their story.