Latin American companies look to the innovation-rich workplace

With only one country in the global top 50 index of innovative nations, Latin America has a lot of ground to make up in the race for innovation. But this represents a real opportunity for companies in the region

WORKTECH’s growing presence in Latin America has coincided with a surge in interest among companies operating in the region to create workplaces more geared towards innovation and value creation.

At WORKTECH conferences in Bogota and Lima last autumn, WORKTECH Academy director Jeremy Myerson explained the reason why collaborative innovation is becoming so important to workplace communities in the major cities of Latin America. ‘In a global race to innovate, explained Myerson, ‘your region of the world has a lot of ground to make up.’

Huge untapped potential

According to the Global Innovation Index compiled by Cornell University, INSEAD Business School and the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organisation, the only Latin America company to make it into the top 50 listing of the world’s most innovative countries is Chile, in a hardly conspicuous 48th place. Mexico and Costa Rica scrape into the top 60, but the rest of the continent fail to register at all in the global index for innovation. Given the size of countries like Brazil or Argentina, this is major omission.

The good news, according to Myerson, is that there is huge innovation potential still to be tapped in Latin America – and designing the right spaces, settings and technologies for companies to make collaborative innovation happen is a fantastic opportunity. This message was backed up by other international speakers at WORKTECH Latam in 2019. Kay Sargent, director of workplace at US architects HOK, reminded her audience that ‘the future is about those who let it happen, those who make it happen and those who ask – what just happened?’

People-centred approach

Sargent explained how real estate globally was being disrupted by new technology – the Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming the Internet of Experience; now was a great time, she said, for Latin American companies to get on board with a more people-centred design approach geared to the human senses. In the region’s advance towards new ways of working, the practice of activity-based working (ABW) was also a useful model to adopt, according to Dutch speaker Louis Lhoest of Veldhoen+Company.

While external influences and practices will inevitably shape the Latin America workplace to some extent, many new characteristics are likely to be home-grown.  Soft skills expert Annarita Nieri, for example, proposed that organisations in the region should embrace ‘liquid thinking’ and learn from Latin American dance and drama about working as a team. An occupier panel on customer experience discussed the need for companies to provide pre-work facilities as so many employees arrive at the office very early in the morning to avoid the notorious traffic jams choking South American cities.

Plans put on hold

Plans for the WORKTECH conference series to return to Latin America with a bang in 2020 are currently on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A record seven events were planned for the year in partnership with long-term collaborator Contract Workplaces, bringing WORKTECH Latam to Santiago, Quito and Mexico City in June, Bogota and Lima in September, and Montevideo and Buenos Aires in October. Now events must be rescheduled. But whenever WORKTECH Latam returns, there’s plenty to play for the region in building more innovation-oriented workplaces.

Video on WORKTECH Bogota 2019 here

Video on WORKTECH Lima 2019 here

Video on WORKTECH Mexico City 2019 here

Video on WORKTECH Quito 2019 here

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