StartUp Culture Series – Part 2: Dean Strombom of Gensler

Dustin Staiger

Our event “Understanding StartUp Culture and its Impact on Businesses” featured panelists with unique perspectives on startup culture in today’s evolving office environment. One unique perspective is that the same entrepreneurial spirit driving small and medium businesses forward is also at work in the world of large corporations.           

That’s certainly the perspective at Gensler, a design and architecture firm with offices in Houston. Gensler Principal Dean Strombom sat down with us to discuss the role of innovation and startup culture in large corporations. These are organizations you wouldn’t typically expect to harbor a startup culture. “A lot of our clients are larger, corporate clients. We’re finding that companies at all scales are looking for that entrepreneurial spirit, especially those that have been around for a long time,” Strombom said.


“What can designers do to create spaces to accommodate innovation?” That’s the question Strombom and the team at Gensler asked this year. In order to answer this question, Gensler conducted the 2016 US Workplace Survey.      

Prioritizing innovative workplace design actually leads to innovative ideas.

What did their research discover? There is a direct correlation between prioritizing innovative workplace design and actually coming up with innovative ideas. In other words, startup culture isn’t just for startups. Larger corporations who scaled their business through standardizations and procedures are noticing the impact of a startup mentality. 


Strombom’s research shows that today’s best employees need flexibility when it comes to where they work, when they work, and with whom they work. This approach enables employees to choose their work environment on any given day rather than committing to a specific setup and rigid schedule.

“People are really asking for, and sometimes demanding, more choice in the workplace so they have the freedom to work in the most appropriate setting throughout day,” says Strombom. On behalf of their clients, Gensler began to inject startup culture into corporate workplace designs to create the sense of community necessary for creating effective ideas. “If anyone [has] ever worked in a startup, they know it’s really about the community and the ‘we’re all in this together’ feeling.”

In a startup, it’s really about community and feeling “all in this together”

In the end, maximizing the entrepreneurial spirit requires a few simple changes that a startup culture introduces. Ideas as simple as giving options for hot desking, collaborative space and stand-alone workstations are all equipping workers to accomplish their particular tasks as they see fit. In closing, Strombom stressed the importance of this flexibility, “Our research has found that people who can get up and move to different places are generally more enthusiastic, energetic and ready to conquer the world.”

KEY TAKEAWAYS:                    

1. If workers are to be creative and succeed, they’ll need a workplace designed to accommodate their innovation.

2. Startup culture introduces the right changes so even corporate cultures that have been around for a long time can maximize collaboration and workplace flexibility.