we like to profile innovative uses of office space. Stephen Jupp
visited top advertising agency St. Luke's Communications Limited
to see a radical approach to stimulating creativity through
Do you really understand your
clients? Before telling anyone what to do, "you must walk
for a day in their moccasins". That is the St. Luke's
approach to understanding their clients, and is reflected in
their office environment.
It is an amazing experience to
enter one of St. Luke's client rooms. You walk into, for
example, the Boots room to be
confronted with bunk beds and images of teen hunks. Immediately
your mind starts to think of the world into which you are trying
to project an image.
Similarly the Eurostar
room is equipped, not with a conference table and chairs, but
with four seats and a table from the train itself. You are
transported into the world you are selling. Interestingly, the
clients find it increases their creativity too.
The whole way of working at St.
Luke's is different. It takes back to first principles the
raison d'etre of the organisation - in this case to release
creativity and imagination to the benefit of clients. What is
your image of creativity? Not, surely, people in suits sitting
at desks in a conventional office going through a linear
process? That must stifle creativity, and yet is the way in many
creative organisations. How would you engender creativity?
Different work settings
The client rooms provide one way.
Another is probably our stereotype of a creative environment -
bold colours and wacky furniture. Don't knock it - because it
works. And this dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist found that,
against his "better judgement", he actually liked it,
and would work there given the chance! Add to this the ability
to work anywhere in the building, for example:
In the excellent Italian
restaurant that is the staff canteen, surrounded by
library rooms and an imaginative patio area in a light
At a desktop PC on a
sweeping curve of desk at the back of reception, backed by
a curved soft seat area with newspapers, fruit and tea on
In the formal meeting room,
where the door, complete with porthole, is an aircraft
On a dais in the main office
area, against a wall of pastel wind squares and above the
engine room of an IT centre;
In the womb, a dark pink
meeting room which feels just like that and incubates
Or with the finance people,
inhabiting a slightly more conventional corner of the
Talk to the Hub staff (reception
is part of the Hub), and you will realise that it is not just
the environment that is different. Moving round the organisation
to do different jobs is almost as easy, either within the day,
or day by day, or week by week. But the sense of responsibility
is there, expressed in the phrases "it's a bit hectic with
most of the hub staff on holiday, so I'm still running the hub
when I'm upstairs". And you quickly discover that you're
talking to the owner, or rather one of them, since St. Luke's is
owned by its staff, all of them.
The free and easy atmosphere
might lead you to believe that they are prima-donnas. Far from
it. Teams are a core part of what any advertising agency does,
and St. Luke's is no exception. You can sit anywhere and work
anytime, but it is your personal responsibility to see that your
behaviour doesn't damage the team. Then you come to the
difficult question "who disciplines anti-social behaviour".
The answer is not as obvious as it sounds.
In a more traditional structure,
empowerment means the handing down of power. If the organisation
is owned by everyone, then everyone can rise to true freedom
from the concepts of authority and power. Asserting power would
seriously damage this concept, so that discipline really has to
be through peers, not from above. A serious dilemma.
The Monday morning meeting
started as a talk by the MD. Then it was a different person each
week. At the moment it is Tai Chi, a form of Japanese exercise.
On the last Friday of each month, there is a party to celebrate
the work for that month. One person tells everyone about their
five favourite things.
When the initial shock of such a
different working environment is becoming a norm again, how can
creativity be re-stimulated? Andy Law, the Managing Director,
describes it as an experimental environment. The environment
evolves as good ideas are tried. Every so often an art student
is brought in to change the work environment and stimulate fresh
thought. "It's not a virtual office, but a resource
centre", says Andy Law, "like the history or geography
departments in a university". This type of working is often
described as a university work style.
Obviously to gain the excitement,
freedom and innovation that this workplace offers, there is no
owned space. Near the hub is a rack of individual in trays and
cordless telephone chargers. Each person also has a locker and a
shoulder bag. Andy Law told me, "We use our lockers to keep
things. If you haven't looked at it for a time, then it's
probably not worth keeping, so we have a skip every month for
people to clear out what they don't need or want to keep."
Computers have gone through
phases. Initially they were private, behind glass partitions
only opened to the few. Then they became personal, embodied in
the term PC. The third age is proving to be the public computer,
available to all. St. Luke's has plenty of computers (ironically
PC's!), some small, some large, etc. There are less than the
number of people, but always plenty. People can also buy their
own PC for home use through the company scheme, using it to work
from home as well.
Before St. Luke's was formed on
St. Luke's day 1995, the London office of Chiat Day was 35 staff
in 11,000 sq ft. St. Luke's moved to an old toffee factory with
five floors totalling 15,000 sq ft., and has expanded to 75
staff. There's still room for more expansion. Of the 75, only
half a dozen are support staff, who operate based on the hub.
See the difference
If you want to see this for
yourself, St. Luke's are planning to hold regular seminars. As
soon as dates are available, we will post them on this site. But
if you are not prepared to take up some of the ideas, then don't
take their time just sight seeing, please!
St. Luke's can be contacted via
electronic mail at email@example.com
(a web site is planned for the new year).
St. Luke's Communications Limited
is one of the top ten advertising agencies in the UK.
Chemist is a major manufacturer and retailer of pharmaceutical
and beauty products. St. Luke's are famous for their updating
(the image) of Boots' No. 7 range of cosmetics.
is the marketing name of European Passenger Services, who
provide high speed (186 mph) inter city train services between
London and Paris / Brussels.