MatterLab: A Culture of Innovation

“What would you do if you had the time?” We asked our LandDesigners this very question five years ago with the hope to inspire curiosity and spark innovation. At LandDesign, we have always valued innovation as a means to advance our practice, but at the time we made an intentional decision to be a firm that fosters a culture of creativity both in and outside of the work. Our solution was MatterLab: an internal innovation incubator program that provides the opportunity for employees to explore passions, test ideas, and produce results outside of their day-to-day workload.

As we began to craft the framework for MatterLab, we asked ourselves how we could redefine the creative process to be accessible and collaborative while also challenging participants to push boundaries. The program does not limit ideas to the design profession so any employee from any office or department can engage in MatterLab. A timeline for completion was defined so participants could set achievable, realistic goals for their project. A sounding board of internal experts was formed to serve as mentors to participants and be available to bounce ideas off of if participants experienced a creative block.

This platform for exploration has inspired forward-thinking ideas, from reimagining wastescapes as public parks to digital marketing resources for animal shelters. Year after year, participants invent solutions for today’s social, ecological, and environmental challenges, pushing the boundaries of technology, innovation, and creativity. MatterLab has changed the way we view innovation at LandDesign and has created new opportunities for research and development in our process. LandDesign Partner, Richard Petersheim, says that “MatterLab has transformed the way we collaborate and innovate as a firm. We have learned so much about the people we work with and their strengths, which has allowed us to better shape their experience at the firm.”

Today, we are still asking our LandDesigners the same question, “what would you do if you had the time?” Every year a new class of MatterLab embarks on a journey to develop their ideas, investigate solutions, and produce results that leave the firm inspired.

To learn more about the origin of this unique initiative and some of the creative ideas LandDesigners have explored as a result, listen to our podcast, Pragmatic Visions.