“We're very much in a high-growth startup mode,” said Laurel Donaldson, Principal Design Strategist at Convene. “We’re now over 850 people and we’re constantly refining our current offerings while exploring the launch of new products”.
Convene is savvy to the reality that workplace design is evolving to meet changing consumer expectations. Across industries, strategists and designers are incorporating methodologies such as human-centered design to meet the needs of communities and entire cities. For Adam Winski, Principal Design Strategist, Convene bringing together varied perspectives and a shared set of values around putting stakeholders at the center of what the company does is paramount.
Is this Convene’s secret sauce? I spoke to Adam and Laurel to find out.
Alex Pavlou (Founder and Head of Growth, Bamboo Crowd, North America): Can you please introduce our readers to your team at Convene? What are the moving parts of your work and how does design and innovation factor in?
Adam: When I started at Convene 3 years ago, we were a 3 person Innovation team with responsibility for defining and bringing to new products to market, starting with Convene WorkPlace (our flexible workspace offering). Now, with the growth of the company our team has expanded to be one part of the broader Design Research & Brand Strategy team with a much wider set of responsibilities. In short, we are in charge of being the main voice of the customer and key stakeholders and defining the customer experience across physical and digital. Each of us comes from a slightly different background, representing everything from urban planning at the city and neighborhood level to interior design to business strategy.
Laurel: As a business, we’re constantly redefining, refining, and exploring new products. We’re starting to rethink what Convene can do as a space-as-a service provider, partnering with landlords and offering a turnkey solution that leverages our design services and hospitality standards. Our team, in a way, is riding with the uncertainty in the shared office market. In our own rapid evolution as a company, we evaluate what we’re doing now while we try to foresee where the world is going.
Alex: So, how do you set priorities for different initiatives and opportunities at Convene?
Adam: In collaboration with Convene’s Chief Design Officer Joyce Bromberg who leads our group and the broader executive team, we prioritize based on where we can have the most impact on our business. As one example, we just wrapped up a project to understand what people value in a modern workplace experience. We surveyed close to 400 people, 200 current members and 200 non-members, in major cities across the U.S. One outcome was deeper understanding, from the building itself and where it’s located, to the actual work suite and the furniture, to space types and amenities. It gave us a sense of what is valued and what matters to people. As just one small example, we anticipate that in five years, more people will be biking to work so access to showers will be more relevant. On top of this, we work closely with our product teams to support their priorities.
Alex: In our current co-working space, no one has never asked us what we'd like! How do your members react to this? I’m interested because there’s a parallel need among many cities and communities for more space to collaborate or to encourage more local businesses to flourish.
Adam: Sadly that isn’t surprising, although there is a misconception that people are going to be annoyed if you reach out to them for their opinion. What we've seen is that people are thrilled to be asked their opinion. It's been fantastic to see the engagement, excitement and interest that we've gotten from our customers through this process.
To understand our customers’ perspectives, we do quarterly NPS surveys, as well as after every big meeting and event. Last year, we also created a series of key stakeholder and customer advisory councils that gather quarterly for participatory design workshops. For these, we work closely with our product and technology teams to surface the questions that are most top-of-mind.
Alex: So, in some ways, you’re a type of gatekeeper to ensure the business remains user-centered while looking to the future and potential trends.
Adam: Yes. I think it’s looking at what the world might be like in five years but also what's needed right now. We aim to understand the specific needs of a city or even a neighborhood within a city. In combining all of our different perspectives, we’ve developed a decision-making framework that is incredibly valuable and a really powerful alignment and shared language tool.
Laurel: A key part of that framework is also a somewhat traditional cost-benefit analysis. We’re able to say, Okay, this is what we're hearing from the customer, here’s how much value our users would find in this product intervention, here’s how expensive and complex it would be to implement, and here’s the implication for our current and future brand differentiation. And then we’re able to make a recommendation to company leadership and our Product colleagues.