My third TEDxPeachtree blogpost

Steelcase in the backyard

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One of the favorite things I used to do when moving into a new environment was to explore the workspaces that were accessible to me. I spent the majority of my first week of college life on campus visiting buildings after buildings, hoping to find a perfect space where I would enjoy the most when studying. Six years later and over 8,000 miles away from home, I found here in Atlanta this familiar spirit that I had lost for a long time. No matter which colleges they belonged to, numerous Georgia Tech students came to the Klaus Advanced Computing Building (KACB) at the center of the campus, simply to find their own favorite spots.

Dedicated in 2006, KACB is the home to the College of Computer Science and the College of Computational Science and Engineering. When standing outside the building, you can feel the glass walls and doors are encouraging you to stroll in. The interior of the building beautifully blends a variety of workspaces that are waiting for users’ customization. Tired of the ordinary rectangular seating area and would like to create your own shape? The movable work surfaces and mobile pedestals enable users like you and me to reconfigure the workspace to fit our needs at the moment.

These unconventional workspaces were created by Steelcase, a global leader in office environment creation. For 100 years, Steelcase has been bringing human insight to business by studying how people work, wherever they work. As a longtime sponsor of TED, Steelcase has built immersive spaces that give TED attendees places to interact and collaborate. This global environment creator also launched its centennial anniversary at the 2012 TED Conference at Long Beach in California, inviting TEDsters to dream and think about the future of the world and work.

Jim Hackett, the CEO of Steelcase, has been coming to TED since 1988. “The TED conference has endorsed two key options.” he says, “One: The pursuit of knowledge is of lifelong importance. Two: The power of networks only gets stronger if you include others.” Bill Strickland’s 2002 TED talk was a great example to demonstrate this spirit. Strickland dedicates his life to helping disadvantaged kids and adults pursue knowledge by partnership with big businesses, from Heinz to Hewlett-Packard, from Steelcase to eBay.

Born in the crumbling remains of the Pittsburgh steel economy, Strickland founded Bidwell Training Center, a world-class vocational school in the toughest neighborhood in Pittsburgh with the highest crime rate. He believes that the spiritual cancers embedded in troubled students and displaced adults can be cured by showing them humanity in kindness, and by giving them second chances in an inspiring environment with sunlight, flowers, food, Herbie Hancock’s music, and positive expectations. The school has attracted world-class instructors and guests as Strickland includes others in this belief. I believe after that TED talk he again built at least one new partnership with big businesses.

Like Georgia Tech students and me, the desire to be exposed to new ideas led us to enjoy the innovative design of workspaces by Steelcase. In addition, from Strickland’s talk, we learned that the desire to new ideas that could improve human life is universal, and the inspiration of the ideas can possibly be picked up just from our backyard. In the TED spirit of Ideas Worth Spreading, what ideas would you like to share with other TEDsters at the upcoming 2013 TEDxPeachtree Conference?


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