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Best Workplaces for Innovators
Provide one detailed example of an important innovation that originated from a surprising source within your organization. Include details of impact/outcomes as well.
As technology became an increasingly bigger part of architectural design, MMA saw the need to be different, innovative and offer our clients more than they expected. The static renderings were no longer sufficient. The team in Studio B had assembled the collection of talent to generate unique, high quality cinematic animations and videos, but couldn’t find the computer that had the capability to run them in an efficient and timely manner.
MMA then reached out to several custom computer builders to discuss what we were trying to accomplish. Upon delivery, we quickly realized that these computers would give us the chance to pursue new market segments, as well as offer our clients a high-quality deliverable.
We began incorporating these new capabilities into projects for some of our clients in the retail sector which included Walmart. They saw the potential we did and that is what sparked the new program that they choose to have MMA lead; Walmart Reimagined These projects were created to transform the way people shopped, gathered and relaxed. It was Green Space, Food, Beverage & Entertainment all in one location, that also features community connectivity via bike paths and jogging trails to event spaces and community activities. MMA was also given the opportunity to brand this project and handle its web development and marketing.
Walmart also choose MMA to design and develop Walmart Health. In the past few months, we have opened two locations in Georgia and one which is about to open in Arkansas. Walmart Health brings quality medical care at low prices and no insurance is required. Walmart Health provides primary care, optometry, dental, x-ray, audiology, diagnostic labs and counceling all under one roof.
Investment in Innovation
Detail your organization’s investments to encourage and support innovation. Examples might include R&D spending, incubators, corporate venture capital programs, etc.
Gabriel Massa, Principal of MMA, challenged a young group of designers to go beyond the standard process of rendering. The team soon realized that they had unlimited opportunities to grow, and as their innovative spirit became an integral part of everyday life, Studio B, as it’s known in our office, was born. It seemed that with each project, their design methods evolved, as they incorporated the use of new computers, more complex software and their own desire to produce a superior product.
Unlike the standard design process, 3-D modeling quickly became part of our design process. With this approach, we were able to incorporate simple animations. We began to bring in new members with diverse backgrounds in video editing, web and graphic design, photography, branding and retouching. As new team members joined Studio B, the typical drive-by animations soon became more cinematic as the architects were taught to see these projects through a new lens. We then began to use audio elements such as the incorporation of ambient noise which simulated things like pedestrian traffic, nature and customer interaction. Incorporation of after-effects software then allowed for complex transitions and animated call-outs; all of which added to a more cinematic like experience.
These cinematic animations quickly became the stepping stone to move on to Virtual Reality, which now enables our clients to be dropped into their project and experience the space prior to construction instead of just seeing it as a more traditional animation.
Key to the success of Studio B, was MMA’s commitment to invest in the necessary tools and people for success. The traditional computers were quickly replaced with something closer to a gaming computer, thereby allowing the designer to work more efficiently and produce a more technologically advanced final animation/video or short film.
Innovation Initiatives and Programs
Describe the programs/systems/initiatives that your organization has in place that encourage an innovative culture.
MMA is a trusted, passionate, growing and innovative Architectural Firm with offices in Neptune, NJ, Washington D.C, Greenville, SC as well as small satellite offices in Tallahassee and Tampa, FL. MMA strives to be at the forefront of technological innovation. (Fast Company Article on MMA) We invest heavily in our staff, software and hardware to ensure that our team is able to provide the latest multimedia experiences to our clients. There are several key services that MMA provides that define us as leaders in technology.(Thinking Outside the Big Box) These services include but are not limited to BIM, Revit, animations, wayfinding, website design and virtual reality.
A prime example of MMA’s innovation was our Montgomery Promenade project located in Montgomery Township, NJ. Our client came to our office to begin discussions on what their vision was for a ground up shopping center. Prior to the meeting, they gave us a few sketch plans, a few sample images, and a few reference projects that depicted the general direction that they intended to go. We knew the competition for this project would be fierce, as it was truly a dream project for any firm to take on. As such, our team of 3 people took the information they gave us and went to town for 5 days, in preparation for the next meeting. We then met with the client in our conference room and we used all the technology we had available, to tell our vision and story. They expected a conversation, but we gave them a vision, based on the examples and expectations that they had sent over. The presentation was filled with animations, renderings, and a virtual tour models that allowed us to walk them through the project, area by area, so they could study it from a human eye perspective, in lieu of the standard elevations and stagnant still rendered imagery. Our story to them was simple. By using technology and innovation, we brought together all the stakeholders of the project (from development and construction, to leasing and marketing). By using the most common of all languages, visualization, we were able to eliminate the losses in translation that typically occur. Although our model at the time was primitive, their team was immediately engaged, and we were hired for the project prior to anyone leaving the room. This project had gone through 9 years of turmoil and iterations and in 1 preliminary meeting, the technology used was able to bring the entire team together to a point of common agreement. 19 months later, we received our site plan approval from the Township and commenced the construction documents for the project.
The technology and innovation used on this project has since become a cornerstone for our daily workflow. This evolution occurs daily within the walls of our office and will always continue. We are driven as a company to find more effective and efficient ways to use innovation and technology to our client’s advantage.
The architecture industry is going through a revolutionary period. Various technological offerings can be harnessed in many ways to design projects and improve the way projects are delivered and experienced by the client. We pride ourselves in our involvement with technology and know this is just the beginning.
What steps has your company taken to foster a workplace culture where employees feel empowered to innovate? Describe your organization’s inclusion and diversity efforts, and the role diverse or unconventional perspectives have played in the organization’s culture.
MMA has always been proud of our firm’s diversity. We have come to learn that having the most talented individuals on-board will allow us to grow and grow efficiently and effectively. Our firm’s motto is “forward thinking”. Bringing the best employees on-board, regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion or thinking style, is clearly visible by MMA’s staff breakdown. Our selection process has enabled MMA to bring together a very talented and diverse group of architects and designers from around the world. There is so much to learn from those that come from beyond our border, and it’s inspiring to see what this creative talent has to offer. Our firm is extremely enthusiastic about the culturally diverse design input we see every day.
With a current staff of 63 employees, 29.5% of our staff members are female and 35.4% of our staff are foreign born. We are proud of the fact that they represent the following countries:
MMA’s approach to inclusion benefits both the company and the client. Working as a team, where the input and opinions of team members are valued, allows us all to see things from various perspectives and gives us the opportunity to incorporate each other’s ideas and views, as we approach new projects. This in turn gives our employees a sense of worth and the empowerment to innovate.