Within the AEC industry, IT is typically perceived as a support function – provisioning hardware, software, network services to enable architects and designers to do their work.
We have a higher purpose though…
With a seamless global technology platform in place, in 2017, we set out towards higher goals and aspirations – how do we radically innovate our entire business and project pipeline using technology as the driving force?
This has led to the formation of our own internal start-up – we call it i/o. Our purpose is to reimagine – our business strategy and work process, our clients’ and teams’ digital experience and our work process…through a digital lens.
The early days
In the early days (circa 2017 and 2018), the i/o lab was primarily focused on internal business strategy and work process – how do you reimagine project management, relationship management, document management within the internal walls of the firm?
Our firm has a very robust Research Lab and a formidable Digital Practice group. Our intent was not to be redundant with these functions, but work towards a ‘unique product’ focus – akin to operating like a start-up focused on product ideation, design and development.
Our Chicago i/o lab
We started in Chicago and started hiring unique candidates into the i/o lab. To date, we have had creators, architects, software engineers and other experts from very diverse backgrounds joining our labs – either as full time employees or student interns.
Our philosophy of the lab or studio is based on simple principles:
- Diversity of thought drives innovation – to enable that, we will intentionally focus on recruiting candidates with diverse backgrounds, points of view and expertise.
- Place matters – our Chicago i/o lab is designed to be the center of ideation. While we can all do remote work, we also thrive when we are together. [picture of lab]
- Flexibility matters – digital innovation teams flourish when they are unencumbered from typical AEC project responsibilities. They should have the freedom to pick problems to solve.
- Bullets over cannonballs – to borrow from Jim Collins’ seminal book, our approach is agile. We don’t sweat over cannonball solutions (yet!), but are focused on developing quicker, meaningful, delightful applications.
- Purpose matters – Our hope is work on meaningful, purpose-driven digital problems – ones that have positive impact on the built environment and its inhabitants
Today, the Chicago i/o lab is much more mature and is centered around ‘bigger’ or more complex problems – mostly client facing solutions with a keen focus on compelling digital/spatial experiences. We continue to build out this center of excellence out of our Chicago studios.
i/o continues to be a work in progress for our firm and our profession. Please feel free to reach out if you have ideas or thoughts about i/o – start up within a large AEC firm.