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Established Companies Hope Interaction With Others Will Spark Collaboration
Taking a page from start-ups, some established companies are opting to share their workspaces.
In downtown Grand Rapids, Mich., workers from five large employers, including furniture maker Steelcase Inc., SCS -3.14% shoe company Wolverine Worldwide Inc. and food retailer Meijer Inc., share an open, lofty space in a recently developed building.
The Grand Rapids Press/Associated PressBusinesses, such as Amway and Pennant Health Alliance, are opting to share space in the Grand Rapids, Mich., Grid70 building, shown here.
Employees are urged to wander from floor to floor, bounce ideas off one another and test out new products in the hope that such informal interactions will help spark collaboration, solve problems and generate new ideas.
In some cases, companies are renting desks in co-working spaces, with an idea that workers from different companies, and with different skill sets, can complement one another. Some companies are also turning to shared workspaces as a way to save money on pricey leases or to house employees in areas where they don't have other corporate offices.
While some companies say these co-working initiatives are too young to point to new products created from intercompany mingling, managers add the practice can help inject older firms with a start-up mentality and bring in new talent.
Teams from consumer-products and sales firm Amway Corp. and health-care provider Pennant Health Alliance also work out of the Grand Rapids building, called GRid70. About 30% of the building is shared space, such as meeting rooms and lounge areas. A "skunkworks room" to develop new projects is shared among the five employers, and workers are welcome to pop into meetings.
"One of the core design elements [of the building] is this idea of happy accidents, where people do not only collaborate with their core team, but they bump into somebody from somewhere else and it triggers some...