The need to be there

Models Toni Garrn and brother Niklas Garrn wearing Google Glass and the latest fall fashions at a Vogue (magazine) (2013)
Wikipedia Commons:

Models Toni Garrn and brother Niklas Garrn wearing Google Glass and the latest fall fashions at a Vogue (magazine) (2013)
Wikipedia Commons:

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The MAIM Class of 2014 shares their individual experiences of innovation, in the lead up to their Degree Show, Exploiting Chaos: Innovation in the Making. The Networkers are interested in exploring the innovative potential that emerges from individual and collective interaction between people. In her research, Laura Lutz examines the challenges of digital and physical interaction in creative environments.

In a world increasingly connected through digital technology direct human interaction becomes ever more important. At the same time, digital communication tools often lack the means that face-to-face interaction can offer in order to establish a trustful rapport among peers and hence collaborate effectively, especially in creative environments that demand intense interpersonal and often emotional exchange.

I was keen to find out, whether a combination of physical and digital spaces, especially currently very popular co-working spaces can enhance user experience, facilitate network building and increase creative collaboration. The aim was to find ways and means that help us to connect to our fellow human beings in more effective and meaningful ways to enrich business-, as well as personal life.

In order to experience how the discourses of trust in digital networks, serendipity and face-to-face interaction impact on innovation-related tasks, I joined the social entrepreneurs from the co-working organization Impact Hub in Islington. I experienced working with their internal digital network HubNet and found out how it creates value for members of the Impact Hub community worldwide. I also looked at various other co-working organizations and how they managed to bridge the gap between the digital and the virtual space.

My research revealed that digital technology is a valuable tool in order to connect with each other and build useful business networks. By using location-based digital applications, “third places” that serve as hubs to facilitate these valuable connections the dichotomy of the digital and physical can be overcome to create a richer experience of interaction. Ultimately, the use of such digital applications can help to connect people to each other in more meaningful, more intense and personally fulfilling ways and an increased chance of value creation in the pursuit of innovation.

Despite the positive potential resulting from linking physical and the digital space, face-to-face interaction within creative collaborative environment remains key. Digital technology cannot (yet) offer the experience reality can offer, because the exchange of subliminal emotions through body language and gestures is missing which again is essential in order to build trust among peers. Until now, only direct human contact can trigger the formation of emotions and empathy through mirror-neurons – which is essential to creative processes that rely on trust, intuition and decision making.

According to W. Brian Arthur (2009) `technology is a means to fulfil a human purpose’ – and that’s exactly the big challenge for the innovation of future technology. In creative environments, the usefulness of technology will not have to be measured by performance or practicality, but by how well it helps people in engaging with each other. For one thing will remain unchanged: the need to be there.


Arthur, B.W. (2009) The Nature of Technology: What it is and how it evolves, New York, Free Press


To learn more about how to lace physical spaces with the digital and details on Laura’s research, please join us at the MA Innovation Management upcoming Degree Show, Exploiting Chaos: Innovation in the Making, from the 18-22 June.