Innovative Office: what Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs aspire as their corporate HQs

Digitalisation led to the greatest revolution since the steam machine. Thousands of entrepreneurs see their chance to improve our everyday life. Although most of them fail, some become the new corporations. Many many of them set up their first headquarters in quite usual garages. From Amazon to Zappos they soon outgrew their first resort rather quickly. On the road to success, they were looking for innovative office spaces to drive their businesses to new levels. As one would expect, the startups were creative in their search. Zappos for example currently employs the old Las Vegas city hall. Others went even more radical. Hiring world-class architects and making virtually everything possible for their employees. But why do some companies seem to race for the most extravagant campus? Is it really worth it from a business point of view? Or is it just a matter of ego? On the example of some of the most innovative companies, we will examine the motives behind their corporate headquarters.

1. Can an innovative office make a successful company?
2. Apple Campus 2 – Another well designed Apple product
3. Facebook Campus – A social working place for a social network
4. Googleplex – Mother of all headquarters
5. How does a great campus support success?

Innovative Office at PixarThe Pixar Campus is a great example of an innovative office

1. Can an innovative office make a successful company?

For the movie studio Pixar, the answer is yes. When the company outgrew its old office, the management was aiming for a creative work environment. In his must-read “Creativity Inc.” Pixar CEO Ed Catmull describes the process of creating a new headquarter. Steve Jobs took the lead and crafted every detail of the new office building. The building is by now even called “Steve’s movie” by the employees. One key aspect of the innovative office is to encourage random encounters. There are central meeting places and spaces for creative freedom. Employees are encouraged to decorate their work stations. Almost everything about the building is drilled to boost creative output. Pixar shares some impressions on its webpage.

Apple Campus 2 RenderingApple Campus 2

2. Apple Campus 2 – Another well designed Apple product

In the 1990s than Apple CEO John Scully build the first big headquarter at 1 Infinity Loop in Cupertino. It was functional but fragmented and reportedly Steve Jobs hated it. Since the company outgrew the offices they had to find something new. For years Apple was buying land secretly in the center of Cupertino. The plan was to build a giant open office space, shaped like a UFO. At a hearing at the city council, Steve Jobs revealed its plan. Like other Apple products, the new office space is crafted with perfectionism. The technique to bend glass to the rounded corners of the building had to be invented. On 260.000 sqm Apple will fit 12.000 people in one single building. This shall improve communication. The open structure moreover aims for better collaboration.

3. Facebook Campus – A social working place for a social network

A good 20 minutes from the Apple headquarter lies the center of Facebook. This innovative office was opened in 2011. It has space for 9.000 employees. The area it covers is a mere 24 ha. From the outside, it appears like a gigantic colorful storehouse. It follows the trend of great open spaces and opportunities for random encounters. In addition, it lays more emphasis on short distances than the Apple-UFO. For the outstanding architecture, Facebook employed star architect Frank Gehry.

The Facebook Campus in Menlo ParkFacebook Campus

4. Googleplex – Mother of all headquarters

Google opened a new office in 2004 in Mountain View. Formally this was Silicon Graphics grounds. The legendary workstation creator founded by Jim Clark. During the rebranding in 2015, it was one of the first buildings using the new Google logo. Since the structure already existed, Google put quite some effort into making it an innovative office. The redesign of the old buildings appears now like an amusement park. Google goes for diversity and initiatives on the campus. There are bikes, pools, gyms, solar panels, 18 canteens among others. The office space is “only” 47.000 sqm so it is slowly outgrown by the company.

Innovative Office at GoogleGoogle Campus

5. How does a great campus support success?

To hire star architects is an expense only a few companies can justify. To defer cubicles is a risk. On the other hand, to ask for out-of-the-box thinking is quite a lot of employees are put into them for work. Surely skilled personal and superior management also contribute to company success. Innovative office space is not to make everything colorful. An innovative office enables innovative thinking. Aspects of that are the encouragement of communication. Facilitate random encounters. Allow employees to work in different environments. But also simple things like good lighting and noise reduction. To plan an innovative office is a lot of work. To manage it is as well. There is no single recipe for that. From clean Apple to wild Facebook architecture it has to support the company goals. Office space is the single biggest value statement of a company. Especially in Silicon Valley where the war for talent is tense, an extravagant office can also serve as a recruiting measurement.

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