Spatial Identity and Innovation Spaces

When setting up innovation spaces, such as innovation labs, coworking spaces, and incubators, few managers reflect on the power of space as leverage for success. Busy planning activities or designing the business model, the “look and feel” of the space might feel secondary. Yet, spatial identity is a fundamental component of successful innovation spaces. In this blog post, we explain how.

What is spatial identity?

The Starbucks’s example suggests three relevant takeaways about spatial identity that are relevant for innovation spaces:

  • Establish a clear positioning
  • Communicate mission and values
  • Promote belonging
A girl working at Starbucks in Dublin

How does spatial identity help innovation spaces?

Establish a clear positioning

IndieBio — San Francisco, US

Communicate mission and values

Manifesto at District 3 —Montreal, Canada

Promote belonging — San Francisco, US

How to balance individual and collective spatial identity in innovation spaces?

The answer is probably both. Unless the innovation space is created in a void, it is reasonable to expect that its managers will define a starting point. However, the starting point should not be fixed, but open for dynamic change. For instance the team running the startup accelerator 500 startups involves every new batch of companies in rearranging the set up of their San Francisco’s office in the first week of the program. Moreover, users of the space that join as teams should be given physical and figurative room to define and develop their spatial identity. For example, incubators and coworking places often assign entrepreneurial teams to rooms where they can develop their company identity, whereas the incubator/coworking place’s identity surrounds them. The picture below, from the Italian coworking Talent Garden, shows how to balance the two identity systems with a shared middle space and surrounding private offices.

Talent Garden Calabiana — Milano, Italy

As more and more organizations experiment with the setup of innovation spaces, the key notion of spatial identity should not be overlooked. It is our aim that this blog post will help managers and entrepreneurs to carefully think about identity before setting up an innovation space.

InnoInsights aims to be a source of inspiration and guidance for how organizations can collaborate with external innovators.