In 2006, IKM was a tired firm with top-down leadership and design that was in the process of winding down. There was little to inspire the staff, and longstanding clients began to wonder if they were really being well served. Early summer of that year saw a change in ownership that believed we could be more, and could once again be relevant in our design community. Despite the steep decline in the economy, we maintained our staff and moved forward, but the turmoil of the time gave us pause.
Through some introspection, our leadership decided that it was time to commit to why we wanted this practice to not only survive, but thrive. It had been a long time since we really thought about what we wanted, and were struggling to find a narrative that rung true. It was amid this meandering that we understood that we needed to subject ourselves to the same process we asked our clients to go through for their foundational work. We needed to understand what we had and what was holding us back, and to ask tough questions.
By establishing strategic work groups, we began to discover our strengths and what our people really wanted in their professional life. We understood that before substantial changes were possible, people would need to trust that leadership really stood behind them and were ready to listen to the good, the bad, and the ugly. Out of this came three primary themes for the next chapter of the firm: collaborate on everything, work with people not for people, and fill the office with the best people and the best tools.
In Fall of 2015, we began using an office wide engagement event that we named, “The Round Robin.” This half day workshop revolves around a single theme meant to improve workplace issues. The theme is explored through small group discussion and concludes with an all-hands meeting to discover common themes. While the information gathered was important, it did not compare to the cultural changes. Suddenly the staff was talking to each other and excited to share ideas. Our people were starting to embody the Mission, Vision and Values that had only to date been words on a page.
About the same time the Round Robins started, we were faced with the decision to either remain in our workplace for nearly thirty years, or begin looking for a new home. The Round Robins left us with a reformed identity that was transformational to the organization, an identity that needed a new home. We needed space that would allow us to become an idea factory that inspires big thinking and risk taking, space that would allow us to re-establish a studio culture, and a place where we could make a difference.
We turned to the newly renovated Westinghouse Tower, now known as 11 Stanwix. This mid-century gem had new life and energy. The available space had the potential to inspire, and it seemed like the right place to begin the remaking of our firm. The commanding views of the Point – the confluence of the Three Rivers – would remain a shared resource for the entire office. The view was more than a luxury aesthetic, it symbolized the transformation of the firm. The space would allow us to live our values.
Perimeter-distributed workstations take advantage of exterior views, while transparent private offices dissolve physical and psychological barriers between Principals and staff. A range of meeting spaces support collaborative efforts both structured and unstructured: an intimate critique space, technology-rich base camps, an open marketing and business development area, and a breakout room that supports anything from large group gatherings for community education to Yoga. Incorporating smaller individual work stations allows the firm to accommodate team-based work, but not without providing ancillary space for respite, privacy, and security. The Point Lounge is the cultural heart of our firm and is supported by lounge seating that encourages informal connections.