Resource:How To Create a Makerspace for a Business School

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What Exactly is a Business Makerspace?

A business makerspace is a place where the focus is on the structure and execution of anything business related. A key feature is an emphasis on the Business Model Canvas. The business makerspace should have a variety of tools to help the ideation process, such as large whiteboards, conference tables, and plenty of sticky notes to help people collaborate with each other on how to structure and execute their businesses. Creating a Business Model Canvas is just the start and further steps can be explored cooperatively such as finding funding, researching, prototyping, surveying, acquiring resources and anything else that fits into the business ecosystem. A business makerspace is a perfect complement to a fabrication centric makerspace such as a 3D printing lab. A person/group may have a great new prototype for a product, but not know where to turn next to make it marketable. Well, this is where the business makerspace comes in. The business makerspace is used as the catalyst to take new innovations into the real world by having a well thought out business model that will take them and their idea further than just the prototyping stage.

Assessing the Need for a Business Makerspace

When first learning about a makerspace and all that it entails, it is extremely easy to become unbelievably excited and want to begin working on one right away. However, one must remember that for a business makerspace (or any makerspace for that matter) to have a true impact, it must be designed for and around those who will be creating in it. A good way to ensure that this is done correctly is to go back to our design thinking routes of empathy interviews. Example ideas of how to assess the need for a business makerspace on your campus are:

  • Conducting a survey

  • Inform students about the difference between a library or study room and a makerspace

  • Gather early opinions on what students envision a space like this being like

  • Ask students how likely they would be to use a space like this

  • Involve students who are very interested in the planning process - there is strength in numbers!

Gaining Faculty Support

It’s necessary for the designer to consider what they would need in their argument to convince administrators that the business makerspace is of critical importance. Student support is a crucial first step, but faculty support is just as important too. A faculty member’s top priority is teaching their student, so if they show support for the project, administration will know that the space will be a positive learning experience for their students.

Creating a Plan

Interpret the meaning of what the students said. Unless the students stated specific examples of what the space could utilize, it would be up to the designer to decide what the students sound like they need. For example, if a number of students stated they wanted an open space to work, that could mean that the room is initially populated with plenty of chairs and tables, but they’re all easily mobile to create the open space they desired. Everything needs to be planned out, from use of floor and wall space to where the electrical outlets will be. Listen to what they want out of the space, put yourself in their shoes, and then “walk around” your completed makerspace to imagine what they would expect throughout the space. The designer can help themself to plan the specifics by hosting an innovation session using post-it notes. Simply start writing down anything the students could possibly want to see, post them, and then see what sticks afterwards. Use these strategies to plan the entire student’s experience inside of your business makerspace.

Creating the Space

Developing an adequate space to carry out the makerspace is essential: the specific tools, materials and furniture that it has to offer will have profound repercussions on the quality and thoroughness of the work produced. The different types of makerspaces demand different tools. Even within a particular type of makerspace –in this case a business makerspace– there are multiple variables to be considered depending on the funding and what the participants want to see. This last bit of data can be quantified from the surveys conducted on the potential users of the makerspace, prior to its launch (as discussed in Assessing the Need for a Business Makerspace). It is important to imagine the environment they would be immersed in, as well as the energy inputs that they would need.

After collecting all the qualitative information, there are a few thing to keep an eye out for. First, the space. As the name implies, this is the heart of the makerspace. Try reaching out to the university’s institutions: they can be of great help in providing the funds to acquire a new space, or they might even offer an adequately suited space that happened to be available. Either way, decide upon a private area where the environment pushes people towards innovation, yet conserving a certain degree of professionalism. Big round conference tables do the trick, especially when paired with high chairs so people are always in a half-sitting half-standing position; in other words, comfortable, but ready to get on the move. Get whiteboards –lots of them– because you can never really tell when the next game-changing idea is going to pop in. Tables with stainless-steel surfaces work great for this matter. Finally, get graphical. Sticky notes are a great way to convey the relevant information in a way that it really sticks to your mind.

Always Making Adjustments

The technological, social, and curricular changes that occur on college campuses are so rapid that they can almost feel continuous at times. Even after all of the planning, surveying, prototyping, building, and creation of what seems to be the perfect makerspace, some things just might not work. Now, this could be something as simple as the long high table working best in a place other than where it was originally envisioned, or a $2,000USD 3D printer that you purchased for the space being used incorrectly and breaking within a week of the space opening. Of course these things may be frustrating and disappointing, but as innovators we should always remember to learn from failures, no matter how big or small, and work to find a solution. Some solutions will be easy to see, such as rearranging furniture or training students on how to properly use equipment before they can begin working with it, but some may require profound and thoughtful conversations to creatively reach an answer. A big thing to remember is that things are always changing, and that is okay!

Equipment will get outdated or overused, never before thought of needs will emerge, and with each incoming class of innovators that will use the space, the dynamic will grow and change. A well designed makerspace will be accepting of these changes and understanding that true innovation will never be set in stone or have a glass ceiling of what can and can’t be achieved. Being open to change is a fantastic way to have your makerspace supply individuals with the tools they need to be extraordinary and truly change the world.

This post has been written and created by UIF Candidates Victoria Cox, Robert Vandemark, Pedro Juan Isaza, Rolando Cruz, and Ryan Janke with the helpful insight of Isaac Prentice, UIF LaSalle University, and the assistance of Brandon Graham, UIF Rowan University.