IKEA is a special kind of company, they succeeded in making low-cost everyday furniture desirable. IKEA has always gone against the grain and did things their own way. One example is how they reinvented packaging to reduce the production cost. How? The packages weren’t designed to fit the products, instead, the products were designed to fit the packaging.
IKEA's innovation capabilities are naturally limited to operations and manufacturing, and rightly so, this is their DNA. But in order for IKEA to stay relevant in today’s fast-paced modern environment, it needs to embrace digital transformation and become a technology company….enter SPACE10.
SPACE10 is a research and design lab based in Copenhagen that has exclusively partnered with IKEA to pursue new technology ideas. Founded in 2015, the 27-person nonprofit has been IKEA's guide to what’s next. SPACE10 has created a creative playground and the job is simple: Research important macro trends and explore their opportunities.
SPACE10 refer to themselves as an interface for innovation, where they can plug into their existing network of collaborators. They identify problems and involve specialists to help devise a solution. They’re the connecting layer between a problem and a solution. On a given project SPACE10 will assign 2 full-time employees to manage the project and invite qualified outsiders to contribute.
Many companies struggle to find the talent needed to propel their company forward, SPACE10 solve this by sharing their ideas in the open. By going big on transparency, they attract the right folks that speak the same language as them who then become potential collaborators.
Every idea SPACE10 develops goes through a repeatable 3 step process. It begins with exploration, where the idea is examined in different formats. Nothing is set in stone, but remains open-ended, allowing new solutions to emerge. By considering all angles, they have the necessary insights to prototype the right thing.
The second stage is to prototype. This is where the idea becomes more real and more tangible. Prototypes allow for small scale testing which helps validate the solution. At this stage, the goal is to go through several iterations rapidly. The prototypes serve to keep the project grounded in reality and ensures a clear focus remains throughout the project.
The final stage of the process is called the pilot, where the prototype is stress-tested in a real environment. User feedback then takes centre stage and defines the product direction. The reason why feedback at this stage becomes a priority is that one is able to see what’s working and what needs to be fixed. It’s also an opportunity to assess the feasibility of a concept in a business setting.
SPACE10 explores a wide range of projects dedicated to creating a better and more sustainable way of living . These include societal challenges, climate change, or even loneliness. Examples of their most recent work include:
The Ideal City: A book that gathers world-renowned experts to explore a better urban future for all of humanity.
Everyday Experiments: A series of digital experiments which challenge the role of technology in the home.
Bee Home: A free and open-source design that enables anyone, anywhere, to support their local pollinators and take action in preserving the world’s biodiversity.
The project that has had the most impact in terms of adoption has been IKEA Places. The app is a perfect reflection of our times, where more people are shopping online. In acknowledging this big trend, SPACE10 and IKEA have been able to innovate and find new ways to reach more people through augmented reality. This unlocked a new experience where consumers were exposed to a new buying paradigm where they themselves could act as interior designer and plan their own home like a pro.
Overall, a common theme that runs throughout SPACE10’s project is playfulness. For them, playfulness is an effective communication method, translating important topics into something that people can relate to and get excited by.
SPACE10 is the perfect case study on how organisations can innovate by partnering with a design studio. Because SPACE10 operates outside IKEA, they have the autonomy to pursue radical solutions which in turn helps prepare IKEA for the future. IKEA’s mission is `to create a better everyday life for many people`, and SPACE10 are committed to finding new solutions that exemplify this.