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Pushing Ahead For The Future: Creating Innovation Centers

Mattel headquarters in El Segundo

There’s an old saying: “You either catch up with the times or get left behind.”

For most of early 20th century, large companies segregated themselves from other companies by creating large corporate campuses outside of downtown or a bustling city environment, Innovation Leader co-founder Scott Kirsner said.

But for the past couple of years that mindset has been changing.

Space X headquarters in Hawthorne

More companies are relocating, opening second headquarters or placing workers inside the city in WeWork spaces or near universities and college campuses, Kirsner said.

“What we’re seeing now is a lot of these innovation centers are now in vibrant entrepreneurial neighborhoods,” Kirsner said. “It’s a trend away from the giant office towers, traditional office spaces and corporate campuses.” 

Kirsner’s Innovation Leader, which provides innovation research, strategies and networking for corporate executives, recently held a Los Angeles field study looking into how companies are using location and creative office design to attract, keep and inspire workers. 

It is a trend that commercial real estate developers and landlords, especially in downtown Los Angeles and other areas across the state, are taking note of as companies pour money into research and development

The two-day event brought 50 executives to places such as CBRE’s global headquarters in Los Angeles, Northrup Grumman, Jibjab Bros. Studios and Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator. 

“The design of office space has an impact on work culture and an ability to attract and recruit workers,” Kirsner said. “It’s not just the vibe but it inspires new ways of working.”

Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator in Los Angeles

For example, Kirsner said, he chose the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator as a tour stop because of its unique business model catering to cleantech startups and location in the growing Arts District in downtown. Inside, there is lab space and a clean, open design, and there are plenty of outdoor areas to work. 

The Marina Del Rey headquarters of JibJab, a digital entertainment studio, looks like it is inside an old airplane hangar, he said. There is a huge slide where workers can race down to the floor.

"It fits the company," he said. "Jibjab is known for making comical digital e-cards so their office reflects that — it's fun and playful." 

He said the companies that do not invest in innovation and change their workspace are going to become irrelevant.

“We see what’s been happening at big-box retailers, they are not investing much in innovation,” Kirsner said. "And those are the companies that are going to be left behind."