“Innovating Your Approaches” is Part 4 in a five-part series on workplace transformation that recounts a recent journey to Barcelona- a hub for social innovation and ideal setting to activate impact creation.
Drawing inspiration from Casa Batlló and Antoni Gaudí’s legacy, this article explores how businesses can renovate their workplace experiences to create powerful social impact.
The challenge in today’s progressive business environments extends beyond adapting to unprecedented changes. It lies in transforming with the expectations of the modern workforce.
Leaders are pressed with what to do now, as the ways people work evolve. At the same time, social movements are motivating the renovation of our systems and structures.
How can businesses innovate their approaches for sustainability and make a meaningful impact on the world?
Now is the time for workplace renovation, and the workplace experience is an acupuncture point for systems change.
Architecting A Home for People & Culture
During my time in Barcelona, I was fortunate to get a tour inside the Casa Batlló, an exceptional demonstration of workplace experience that you would likely overlook if you didn’t take the time to go deeper than the exterior facade.
A masterpiece in innovation, the home- now a museum- demonstrates the profound effect a thoughtfully designed workplace can have on employees, visitors, and the broader community.
Casa Batlló stands as an aspiration of the social impact of integrating more identities into the workplace experience.
Constructed by Antoni Gaudí at the turn of the 20th century, the Casa Batlló now serves as the home of his legacy: a neurodiverse workforce.
While Gaudí is well-known for his beautiful modernist architecture, he is less known for his internal world. He was neurodivergent.
Gaudí’s attention to detail, appreciation for structure, vivid imagination, complex methodologies, and intense sensory awareness is on full display at the Casa Batlló.
Naturally, I felt instant resonance with Gaudí. My autistic creative processes are quite differentiated from traditional business approaches.
And just as the Batlló family commissioned Gaudí to design a residence distinguished for its modernism and functionality, I recognize my unique part in supporting businesses through their workplace renovations.
Inspiring Workplace Renovation
For any business who cares to build a home for people to thrive, Case Batlló is an excellent case study for innovating the workplace for modernity. If you have the opportunity to pay a visit, you’ll be inspired by more than the architecture.
The tour evokes tremendous hope, inviting visitors to examine the ways we can innovate our approaches to be neuroinclusive.
With people operations designed and enabled by the strategic consultancy Specialisterne, Casa Batlló is the first cultural entity worldwide that has committed fully to neurodiversity.
Inspired by my tour of the Casa Battló, I’ve put together 5 lessons in social innovation that apply to any business who cares to innovate their approaches to build a better world.
#1. Renovation Doesn’t Require Demolition.
It was fascinating to learn about the level of consideration that went into Gaudí’s renovations at the turn of the 20th century.
Rather than demolishing and starting anew, he chose to preserve the building’s essence while implementing significant updates. This approach highlights a valuable lesson for businesses: you can innovate without discarding what works.
Maintaining the core- while modernizing aspects like policies, environments, and strategies- can breathe new life into a workplace, without erasing its heritage.
#2. Transformation Varies Person to Person.
Exploring Casa Batlló at my own pace, guided by a handheld device, underscored that transformation is deeply personal. Observing others, I saw varied engagement levels, reflecting the diverse ways people connect and absorb experiences.
Similarly, in the workplace, DEI initiatives and other programs meet employees where they are, resulting in a spectrum of adoption rates and varying degrees of impact.
While leaders and facilitators cannot determine the pace of change, we can foster environments that support each individual’s transformation.
#3. Presence Makes a Difference.
The neurodiverse tour guides at Casa Batlló model the subtle yet profound impact of presence. One guide was present to my use of the handheld device. He came to my assistance when he saw that it had turned off mid-way through the tour.
Another guide in the gift shop was present to every item in inventory. I made a request for an umbrella, and he brought me to see all four umbrellas in inventory.
The mere presence of diverse individuals significantly enhances an environment, because diversity brings unique talent.
Additionally, thoughtful role assignment according to individual skills and interests promotes engagement and optimal contribution.
#4. Collective Interest Drives Innovation.
Casa Batlló’s dedication to neuroinclusion demonstrates that collective interest is a cornerstone of social innovation. When people unite around a shared cause, our combined efforts can lead to significant change.
Collective interest isn’t born overnight; it’s nurtured through various functions including recruitment, onboarding, learning and development, and social impact.
I speak for myself- and I’m sure other neurodivergent leaders- in saying:
Interest is an engagement lever and untapped source of motivation within traditional workplace structures.
Connecting around shared passions and causes at work can unlock potential, fostering cultures ripe for innovation and positive impact.
#5. Immersion Fosters Social Integration.
Participating in the Casa Batlló tour offered me much more than I could have ever anticipated when I first stepped through the doors.
In this space, I connected deeply with my innate wonder, natural pace, appreciation for detail, and love of structure. And in feeling perfectly at home, I reaffirmed my commitment to neuroinclusion.
For businesses invested in social impact, it starts at home.
My experience underscores the value of immersion in fostering a sense of belonging and purpose – whether it be for an employee, a visitor, a customer, or any stakeholder of a mission.
Creating immersive workplace experiences is a strategic way to break down barriers and bring people closer together.
Designing Workplace Experiences
This journey through Casa Batlló inspires a reimagining of the workplace experience and showcases the powerful impact of neuroinclusion in creating a better world.
In the next and final part of our series, “Humanizing the Workplace,” I’ll share conscious steps forward that businesses can take to unlock human potential and create environments where everyone can thrive.
Ultimately, the workplace is a container for the impact that a business is here to create in the world. Now is the time for leaders to get super creative in how they innovate their workplace experiences to serve a higher purpose.
And as we continue to discover how we can innovate our approaches, Gaudí leaves us with a powerful reminder: “To do things right, first you need love, then technique.”