2016 Perspectives on Collegiate to Corporate - Lessons Captured

On August 31st and September 1st PDR hosted Perspectives 2016 to explore the topic of Collegiate to Corporate: Workplace Insights from Learning Environments.

We kicked-off the 2-day forum exploring how Rice University attracts top talent to their campus and enriches their students’ multi-dimensional live, work, play experience. During a tour of the campus we visited Rice’s first non-engineering specific maker space that is inside a student residential college. Students from all majors have access to the space and equipment. Interestingly, the space used to be a TV room, but Mark Ditman, Vice President of Housing and Dining, indicated that Rice is in tune with student preferences and was able to quickly respond to meet the desires of students.  Rice uses multiple sources to access student feedback including surveys, in-person observation and informal interviews, and a responsive social media presence. Rice Dining even adapts its menu according to student responses from Twitter for certain dishes.

Student panel at Rice university 

Student panel at Rice university 

We concluded the tour at the Anderson Clarke Center with a student panel discussing student preferences for workplace, organizational norms, and team dynamics. Some participants were surprised that students desired some structure in their work day, as they recognized that their distractions were self-made and resided in the catchy depths of relatable Buzzfeed articles. Above all, balance, trust, and clear communication of expectations were the keys to their happiness. According to one of the panelists, some structure mixed with the freedom to grab a beer at the student pub led to successful team problem solving.  

Drew jones presenting to the group at pdr

Drew jones presenting to the group at pdr

On Thursday morning, we welcomed the speakers and participants to our PDR office where Dr. Drew Jones, from OpenWork Agency began the speaker series with his presentation “Collegiate to Corporate in the Context of Company Strategy.”Drew asked the question, how can organizations connect their corporate strategy with the future to empower young knowledge workers? A successful example lies in IT consulting group Infosys that reorganizes every two to three years to ensure that their structure is supporting desired outcomes. They have also implemented a system that 30% of their board members must be under 30 years old.

How can new tools and technologies empower young knowledge workers to work according to their own rhythms, in such a way that they deliver the best possible outcomes for their organizations? Drew explained that coworking and Activity Based Work environments enable “the right spaces plus the right policies create the most high-performance physical/social environment for Millennial knowledge workers. Without choice, decision rights, autonomy, mobility, and flexibility, the space is just furniture and light.”

Sheila danko leading her design leadership narrative session

Sheila danko leading her design leadership narrative session

Sheila Danko, Professor and Chair of Department of Design and Environmental Analysis from Cornell University led an insightful session through “Storied Reflections at the Intersection of Design and Leadership.” She asked several of her top former students to tell her “about a pivotal moment in their own education and why it was important,” and she shared the stories with the group to dissect. We highlighted leadership lessons, workplace issues, and specific actions to address those issues.

One memorable action we designed to hold at the beginning of our organization’s projects was a Mistake Meeting. In addition to identifying what success looks like for a team, also define mistakes and celebrate what mistakes have taught you in the project process. This will help foster a culture of transparency and embrace the reality that in order to accomplish a success, there will be failed attempts.

Brad rossacci speaking in his innovation session

Brad rossacci speaking in his innovation session

Brad Rossacci, Director of Innovation from 900lbs of Creative, presented on “Human Innovation Science” where he explored the necessary components for successful innovation. Brad’s first imperative was a common and focused belief system among stakeholders. This common belief system ignites members to feel that they are getting a chance to be a part of something meaningful, and not simply record billable hours at work. Essential to this is the role of leadership as the purpose giver to all positions within an organization. Brad asked, “if your business went out of business overnight, who would notice?”

Using original thinking, empathy, and storytelling, the group explored the question “how do you encourage creative collisions across traditionally siloed groups?” Purpose-driven interaction, as opposed to ad hoc coffee bar connections, were deemed essential for cross-group collisions. Traditional evaluation processes are in conflict with cross-group collisions, so organizations should re-think a balanced approach to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in order to match their goals.


Following lunch and a presentation of the Student Survey Results, participants engaged in an afternoon activity designating how and where they spend their current work days. They then noted how and where they would ideally like to spend their time in the future, and we analyzed the difference. As a whole, the group would like to spend half an hour less focusing, an hour and a half less collaborating, two hours more learning, one hour more socializing, and half an hour more recharging per day. The group would like to spend 6 hours less per day in a private office and conference room, but 2 hours more outside, in a dedicated focus room, or at a café / lounge.

Lauri Goodman Lampson, President of PDR, rounded out the energetic day with her presentation narrating how work, workers, and workplace are changing with emerging generations and technology. Shifting from being managed to enabled, the workers of tomorrow thrive in a multi-dimensional freelance ecosystem in which they can turn their talent, expertise and passions in to significant, impactful work. Project based, goal oriented, specialized teams come together to solve a problem or deliver a product. No longer task completers, the future of work lies in purpose fulfillment. The places we work are changing from house to hub, as it is no longer simply enough to provide housing for work and workers. Hubs provide an energetic and dynamic platform for people to come together in community. Lauri explained, “our challenge is to help organizations create places that motivate workers to come to work, encourage them to work together and inspire them to have breakthrough ideas.”


Thank you to all of our Participants who brought our cross-industry collaboration to life

Sheila Danko, Professor + Chair of Department of Design and Environmental Analysis, Cornell University

Mark Evans, Campus Facility Director, JLL

Steven Gonzalez, Associate Manager Strategic Partnership Office, NASA

Drew Jones, Partner and Management Professor, OpenWork Agency + McCoy College of Business Administration Texas State University

Kevin Kirby, VP Administration, Rice University

Lauri Goodman Lampson, President + Principal, PDR

Allyson Patterson, Workplace Consultant, PDR

Drew Patton, Chairman + Principal, PDR

Brad Rossacci, Director of Innovation, 900lbs of Creative

Skyler Rossacci, Strategic Initiatives Special Projects Liaison, Spring Branch ISD

Ellen Street, General Manager Analytics Life Care Solutions Digital Health, GE Healthcare

Heather Van Ravenswaay, Associate Principal, PDR

Kum Yuen (KY) Wong, Strategic Planning Manager Global Real Estate, Environmental & Facilities, ExxonMobil