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“Somewhere along the line someone twisted our perception of space at work, ‘commoditized’ it and made it a balance sheet item, forgetting it is a very powerful tool to support the most important asset any company has – the people.”

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Kevin is chief brand advocate and general manager for Turnstone. Turnstone, a Steelcase brand, believes everyone has the right to a great place to work, no matter the size or the budget. Spaces that reflect your individuality and spirit, in an easy and fast way.

Kevin led the re-birth of Turnstone, centered on the belief that the world needs more great small businesses. A passion for user-based design drives the brand, along with giving back socially and environmentally. Through observational research co-working was discovered, in its fledgling stage, years ago. We have been fascinated ever since! So much so that the team both worked in and ran a co-working facility for several years. Kevin also sits on the board and volunteers at the Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding, a place where horses partner with people to deliver some incredible results.

Turnstone is a Steelcase Inc. brand that exists to unlock human promise through the amplification of entrepreneurship. They are inspired by the spirit of small business, and their primary focus is on creativity-based work and helping workers become more productive, engaged and inspired.

They design solutions that help create great work environments that are easy to own and fun to use. Running a small business is hard enough— having a great space to work in should be easy and attainable.

MO: Can you talk about the concept behind Turnstone?

Kevin: The concept behind Turnstone was to take the very core of what Steelcase does – unleashing human promise at work – and do that for small business owners. We do that through an observational research based process taught to us by the Institute of Design, IDEO and Stanford D School. The very first minute you spend observing entrepreneurs, you see how different the design challenge is. They are very do-it-yourself in nature and typically thinking about space in their spare time, after all the challenges of the day are done. The process is as important as the solutions. We had to make it simple – make it easy so they could stay focused on running their business. For many of them, there is nothing more important than their team, their culture and creating innovation – space can play a huge role in all of these. We partnered with IDEO and some really smart people at Steelcase to design a whole new business, a whole new approach, centered on the needs of a small business owner. For example, when we designed our BIVI line, it was radically different because it needed to be simple to order, simple to install, simple to build your unique personality into and simple to grow and change. While a lot of thought was given to the work that would be done at the desk, as much if not more was given to the journey to get it there, to move it and get rid of it at the end of its life. Check out the fun video on BIVI: http://tv.myturnstone.com/DUFDa.

MO: Can you expand on how the environment we work and live in can shape our moods and productivity and creativity?

Kevin: Mobility is having a dramatic, and much needed, impact on the landscape of work. We have a choice, so why do we come into work? Our research would say there are three main reasons: we need technology, we need people and we need spaces that bring technology and people together. Now that we are free to move, we want to choose the space that best supports the work we need to do, whether that is focusing, collaborating, learning or socializing. A space can either facilitate this or fight it. It can either be a subconscious emotional drag or a source of energy. Our minds mimic our environment.

The environment we work on can also have a huge impact on our health. It can make us healthier – natural light, plants and movement have all been shown to have a significant beneficial impact on our health. Why not leave work healthier than when we came? Studies done by National Institute of Health, University of British Columbia and Ohio State have all shown that color, natural materials and design of the space can either adversely affect our health or actually improve our health and help us deal with stress productively.

We believe there are lots of parallels between planning where and how your team should work and a what a great urban planner does. There should be a network of spaces the team can work in that do four things: give people choice, free people up to move throughout the day, enable buzz and let the ‘inmates run the asylum’. Space and norms need to be designed to encourage serendipity and the casual building of trust through social interactions. A great example is Fracture, a startup based in based in Gainesville, Florida that provides customers with a unique and affordable way to print and frame personal digital photos: http://tv.myturnstone.com/QmtJ2/turnstone-customer-story-fracture/.

MO: What are some trends in your industry that you’re excited about?

Kevin: I’m excited about change – historically the world of office furniture and design has been an industry of long life and long purchase cycles. The rapid pace of innovation related to materials, technology and real estate are creating great opportunity to create new models, better solutions and re-think old behaviors. Out of those changes will emerge an opportunity to create a network of places to work, places that ideally fit what we need to do at that moment, regardless of where we are – home, at work, in public places or in shared work environments. Those places will also have positive impacts on the people who work there (they will leave healthier than they came) and the environment they exist in (they will contribute to the environment versus take from the environment).

MO: Can you recall the first time you truly understood the impact that space and environment could have on an individual? Was it an “aha moment” or a gradual realization?

Kevin: It is funny, but I think we all start our lives knowing that space matters. We care a lot about where we build our first fort, where we go on vacation, where we buy a home and what goes in our homes. Somewhere along the line someone twisted our perception of space at work, ‘commoditized’ it and made it a balance sheet item, forgetting it is a very powerful tool to support the most important asset any company has – the people. In my work career, this realization came pretty early. I was lucky enough to be part of a small team, at Eli Lilly, that quite simply made things happen so much faster and so much better than any other team I had worked on. We were scaling-up a new blockbuster product. When the project was done, I spent a lot of time asking, what was different? The realization had a lot going on all at once – the power of a truly empowered small team, a project where we had all the tools and freedom to work the way we needed. This was the first time I connected space to what I did while at work.

MO: What advice do you give a start-up that is more concerned with survival than creating a dynamic workspace? Is it possible to create a great workspace on a tiny budget?

Kevin: The good news is that today more than ever there are lots of options to do create a great workspace on a tight budget. Ironically, I often advise early-stage entrepreneurs not to buy furniture, not to sign a lease. There are better options for that stage of the lifecycle, options where you don’t have to give up on having a great place to work. This is why, as a brand, we are such huge fans of shared spaces – co-working, business centers, incubators and accelerators. A start-up phase company should be focused on proving out their idea and scaling, not worrying about the copier, the lights or the furniture. There are some additional great benefits – you become part of a social network, you have ready access to a great set of peers, there are support structures and a chance to barter / work with other great entrepreneurs. Some great examples – VeelHoeden in Iowa, Link Coworking in Texas, Rocketspace in California, Workbar in Boston and The Coop in Chicago. Here is a great video on co-working and its rapid growth – http://tv.myturnstone.com/nUr8M.

As entrepreneur’s needs scale and become more stable, there are some easy ways to plan a great space that doesn’t mean you have to pay a fortune or spend a ton of time on, that is what our design professionals help clients with every day.

MO: What advice would you give to someone working from home who’d like to make their personal space a bit more inspiring?

Kevin: First I would say, if you don’t already have a vision of what you want, get inspired. Second, unless this is your passion or career, get help. There are online tools, like our 3D space planner or we offer a free design service to help people who have an idea but no way to translate that to a plan.

There are lots of great places to be inspired – pinterest, design blogs – Carla Turk, Steven Searer at office snapshots, Sarah Pezeshki at the office stylist, companies like Poppin.com, FLOR.com , workawesome.org and apartmentherapy.com.

Here are two great home office stories: Heyday Footwear and The Hopeful Company.


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