Open Innovation

Purina's 2T Innovation Center: A lounge designed around spontaneous interactions and thoughtful discoveries.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. At the Purina 2T Innovation Center, ideas are inspired by everything from movies to coffee.

The working lounge was the brainchild of an interdepartmental team, led by Gary Etheridge, Director of Design at Purina and an industrial designer by trade. The team found inspiration in the thinking behind the headquarters of Pixar Studios, and as its co-founder Ed Catmull described it, how a space can "maximize inadvertent encounters." 

While Pixar's environment was designed and built from the ground up, the 2T center opened in January 2011 after retrofitting half of the second floor in the main tower at Purina headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri.

"Our take on that was to give people a reason to come there on a daily basis," said C.J. Campeau, Innovation Marketing Associate with the Purina Innovation Team. "That's why we put the coffee down there."

The way they saw it, chance encounters create conversations, and those conversations can tip the first domino in the creative process. They hoped these cross-departmental chats would lead to questions that urged staff to dig deep, and ultimately arrive at an innovative solution.

If the coffee doesn't provide visitors enough of a jolt, the bright and energetic décor certainly will. Comfy chairs and stylish stools are all easily movable, so whether you gather around the coffee bar or pull together for a screening of a film, it makes it easy to bring people closer.

"You see a lot of people moving furniture around," says Campeau. 

Campeau says the center was built around the Four D's:
 

Discover
A media wall houses magazines, newspapers, product samples, and infographics, all readily available and refreshed on a quarterly basis. "We have a lot of things that should spark an idea," says Campeau.

Define
This is all about framing the problem and the goal. "You see that a problem well-stated is a problem half-solved."

Develop
The space was tailored to encourage people to talk about their processes and ideas, even if they're not product-related. "This is the brainstorming piece."  

Delivery
"We have a prototyping lab on one end of the center that has modeling clay, glue guns, packaging samples and construction paper - anything you need to bring a 2D idea into a 3D prototype that you could test or expose to people."

Unlike a lot of meeting spaces within a corporate environment, another neat feature is that staff can't reserve time here. It's all left to chance.

 "The second floor meeting space isn't a conference room that you need to reserve.  It's really built around the idea of spontaneous collaboration," says Campeau. "Anybody can go down there any time. You see people bumping into each other that normally don't see each other. They might have a conversation that leads to an idea that you go back to your desk and think about." 

That's the thing about creativity and innovation. You can never predict where it will come from.