The Business Improvement Network

How Space Improves Business Improvement

By PJ Stevens

Venue

Given the current state of affairs, it is more important than ever to think about the impact or outcome you want from business events, before price. The value of improving business will far outweigh the short term event costs.

Change the notion of booking an hotel or venue for a meeting, to a mindset of selecting the right space for people to improve business; how does it impact on your criteria for selecting a venue?

I find that the conversation about price and discount is still high on the agenda for business events. During a recent planning meeting for a leadership workshop with the view of improving strategy, business and culture, the person tasked with finding the venue stated they had chosen the venue because it had the best value 24 -hour rate in the chosen area and offered a 3-course buffet lunch.

Sadly, we ended up at the chosen venue, despite my best efforts. It did indeed offer a 3-course buffet lunch, albeit tasteless. The venue offered a discounted package for a reason, and the environment – or space – felt cheap and sapped people’s energy. At best the venue did not help with creativity and problem solving, and it worst I suspect it suppressed innovative thinking required for quality business improvement thinking. 

Why does working in a good space enable better behaviours and increased performance? 

In 1943 Lemin noted that behaviour is “a function of both the person as well as the physical environment they are in”. Therefore creating (or choosing) a physical environment that puts people at ease and enables them to feel relaxed and safe, is likely to elevate people’s thinking, creativity and behaviours. 

Choosing the ‘right’ space and environment for your business meetings, it seems, does impact on the wellbeing and creativity of people and their improvement ideas and outputs. 

Research found that colourful spaces can make people feel more childlike, playful and adventurous. These moods are conducive to new ways of thinking and problem solving. Colours create visual interest and can help fight fatigue, which might explain why the previously mentioned ‘bland’ environment sapped energy. Exposure to both blue and green has been shown to enhance performance on tasks that require generating new ideas, which includes business improvement.

Further, it is a known fact that nature has a positive effect on our physical health and mental wellbeing, but did you know that time spent in the great outdoors can also have a huge impact on your creativity? Perhaps this is linked to the findings that blue (sky) and green (plants) colours support the generation of new ideas. Either way, it is worth planning time out of the meeting room for a walk in the outdoors, here’s why. Studies show that taking breaks from technology - laptops and smartphones - to step outside into our natural surroundings can activate the brain to enter a stage called ‘restful introspection’. This gives the brain a chance to recharge and reset, further it creates space and opportunity for our ‘creative juices’ to begin flowing again. This seems to suggest that choosing a venue with good outdoor space will add more value to your participants experience and performance.


So how exactly do outdoor spaces and gardens inspire creativity? Perhaps it’s just the space in which to sit and reflect, build understanding and relationships with others or get those creative juices flowing. 

The value of booking a good space for your business event will prove an investment in people, business and improvement.


Here are 6 Top Tips to help choose the right meeting space for your business event:

Access and location – look at the journey to and from the space and what emotions or thoughts that journey might trigger, and think how these might impact on your guests or participants. Notice the surroundings and location, and how this might help or hinder the creativity and innovative thinking within the group. Driving through a forest and up a tree lined drive will have a different impact than arriving at an hotel just off the motorway by an industrial park.  

Meeting space – space has many levels to consider; the conference space you have the meeting in, the bedroom spaces, the breakout areas and the overall space. Visit the spaces in person as the feelings you get from being there is likely to give an indication of how the group might feel. Dark dismal surroundings are likely to reduce cost but they will reduce participants energy too. Take a moment to notice smells and cleanliness or the space and what messages they send out. 

Facilities – what facilities do you need to achieve the desired outcome from your business meeting or improvement event.  Do you want easy access to break out rooms or outdoor space for conversations and fresh air? Think how much space you need for the group to operate in, how much wall space you need for posters, flip charts and creativity. Check out where you might eat, the time it will take to be served, how this might impact on your day and how you will mitigate long queues at the buffet lunch.  

Break out rooms and communal areas – in my view, these are often underutilised, and can offer very useful additional space for smaller group work and conversations. These areas may not seem like key resources, but used well, they can be. Equally, poor areas, can negatively impact the experience and energy of guests, indeed poor areas can become topics of conversation which is not helpful in delivering a business improvement event and worthy outcome. Finally, check if the communal areas will be available for your event, as Weddings are taking over the world.

Sleep – rest and sleep have a greater impact on our mental health than many of us give credit. A good night’s sleep is better for us than a big meal and wine.  A comfortable bed and restful space will pay dividends. Good sleep is important for various aspects of brain function, including cognition, concentration, productivity, and performance. It’s worth ensuring the bedrooms offer a comfortable and restful space, as a good night’s sleep is a factor in helping people to be at their best and more likely to come up innovative solutions, business improvement and better business outcomes.

Nutrition – eating sweets all day or having a heavy meal can adversely affect wellbeing, creativity, sleep and productivity. After a poor night’s sleep people are more likely to snack on sugary foods or carbs. Check what snacks the Hotel offer, and if necessary, order or buy more appropriate ones. Understanding the full experience and the impact elements of the event have on people, gives you a better chance of creating the right space for the guests, to be in the right space – mentally and physically – to perform at that their best. 

Finally

In closing, before booking an event, think about the outcome you want and the value that it can have on the business. Take a moment to visualise the meeting and what participants will be doing and saying. Will people be networking, actively learning, and developing business improvement ideas together or will they be sat ‘lifeless’ in a dark windowless tomb clock watching?  

The outcome of the event may depend more on your choice of meeting space than you may have thought until now. The better the space, the better the outcome is likely to be. 

About the author

PJ Stevens is an expert in organisational change, performance and improvement, with 20 years experience. He is chair of the business improvement network.

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