Skip to content

the latest // BLOG

September 28, 2020



So what does innovation mean, anyway?

Take a shot every time I say “innovation.”

I write about innovation every day. When you’re branding shiny new buildingsnimble workspaces, and all sorts of other compelling places, it’s pretty easy to talk about the latest and greatest in the industry.

Despite how much I speak on innovation, I’m still working to understand its true definition — or, more accurately, its true power in place-branding. It’s so frequently used that its edges are worn down, its meaning as dull and clouded as the “authentics,” “artisans,” “dynamics,” and “synergys” of the world.

What does it really mean to innovate? 

Ask Charlie, a strategist here at Proverb, and he’ll tell you it’s the process of making something better, more useful, and more suited to modern life. He’ll also point out that it’s not the same as invention — inventors create, but innovators improve.

When I asked Alisa, our Senior Art Director, she recalled the first time she encountered the concept: on the Carousel of Progress in Disney’s Tomorrowland. Like most of our rose-tinted childhood delights, the excitement was finite; the aura of innovation inextricably bound by time.

To innovate™ in a world where time doesn’t stand still, we have to design places where people can get together and build. But what does it take to make an innovation center? How do we create spaces that scream, “Come in and innovate!”?

Inventors create, but innovators improve.
To answer these questions, I turned to the most innovative square mile on the planet: Boston’s Kendall Square. Access to smart money, together with the spirit and network of MIT and Harvard, means that Kendall Square has the energy and creativity to solve the world’s greatest challenges.

And Proverb just gave one of Kendall Square’s most desirable addresses, One Broadway, a complete rebrand—despite its endless stream of tenants and longstanding reputation as an innovation ecosystem. Why? Because even if something is working, it can be made better — and more suited to society’s evolving desires.

I’m taking a page from design thinking here: true innovation is about empathy. In the words of our design intern, Cody, being an innovator means being an observer. It’s about identifying the things that resonate with real people and building upon them — over and over, in a never-ending process of learning, adapting, and improving.

Even if something is working, it can be made better.

By reimagining its private lobby as a public amenity, the new One Broadway is meeting the needs of the people and then some. This groundbreaking ground floor is filling key gaps in Kendall’s landscape with a suite of much-needed public spaces: a vibrant public forum, an iconic Boston grocery store, free(!) rentable workspace, an imaginative art gallery, and a café/rotisserie/wine bar called Shy Bird. Combine that with a captivating visual identity and a friendly, future-focused website, and you guessed it…corporate just got cool.

“We think there will be a bunch of people in the lobby who have no business in the building, and, in our eyes, that’s a huge success. We’re using thoughtful design to create spaces that facilitate collision — that’s how the best ideas get off the ground,” remarked Ken Williams, Director at MITIMCo, the developer on the project.

All of this brings me to my working definition of innovation. It’s not about new tech or never-before-seen ideas. It’s about listening to the people we want to reach, and creating places that matter to them. It’s about using empathy to solve problems. Then doing it again. And while there is no one path to innovation, it is an act of optimism; every single day is a chance to do things better than we did them yesterday, to bring new meaning to the world, and to celebrate each small step toward the future.

Related Posts