How WeWork helped IBM fuel collaboration and innovation with key clients
40 Desks in WeWork National Building
Looking for an innovative way to work with one of its biggest clients, IBM created a "neutral space" where they can collaborate on great ideas.
Near the top of one of Chicago’s longtime landmarks — the 1907 Classical Revival-style National Building — is one of the city’s most inventive offices.
The first thing you’ll notice is that it doesn’t at all resemble a traditional office. It’s large enough to hold nearly 40 desks, but the room has broken up into various types of workspaces: over here a couple of couches, over there a high-topped table surrounded by stools. Most of the furnishings are moveable, so the configuration might be totally different from one day to the next.
And this space at WeWork National Building is almost always in use, often by several clusters of people at once. These are IBM staffers engaged in “design thinking” sessions with one its most important clients.
That’s the novel approach IBM is taking here: Creating a workspace that IBM Vice President Romas Pencyla likes to call “neutral ground.” The official name is the Cognitive and Advanced Analytics Garage.
“It’s a dedicated space just for IBM and our client, being at a WeWork building lets us both get out of our own office environment where there’s always a meeting, always a call to take, always someone tapping you on the shoulder with a question.”
Pencyla says the work is intense, rapidly putting together proofs of concept on various projects. But the environment — both in the dedicated office and in the rest of the WeWork space — fosters creativity.
“Getting people out of a traditional office culture and into a collaborative area accelerates the process for us,” he says. “Both our folks and the client love coming here.”
The office on the uppermost floor of WeWork National Building has been open since January, but Pencyla says it’s already a success.
“This is exactly what we’ve wanted to do with a lot of our clients,” says Pencyla. “We already have a space in New York so we can do the exact same thing. Our vision is to continually use WeWork in this fashion to help us think, collaborate, and innovate with our clients.”