Connect and innovate

Connect and innovate

There are two things that you can, as it were, wake us up at night for here at Spark: innovation and connection. The importance of innovation will be clear, but connection sometimes raises questions. For us, it’s simple: innovation isn’t possible without the connection between the knowledge and expertise of one person and the drive, vision and resources of another. With genuine commitment and mutual trust from all parties, the purposeful and unbiased search for connection can lead to beautiful and even unexpected results.

November 14, 2018

La Marzocco

Italian company La Marzocco has been producing phenomenally good espresso machines since 1927. Google La Marzocco and you’ll read how blogging baristas all over the world effuse about these machines, which they don’t have enough words for. What makes the company even more special, besides its machines, is the way in which connection is the foundation of their business. Anke Kempen is designer at Spark and visited La Marzocco recently: “Everything there is focused on connecting, on getting people talking to each other. For example, they organized an open application event for anyone who wanted it. Come along and tell us what you can or want to do. Let’s see if we can mean something to each other. A lot of people turned up. That’s really great.”

In 2016, a delegation from Spark organized a creative session in the old, empty La Marzocco factory in Florence. The aim was to help the company give the buildings a social, connecting function. By sketching possible implementation methods and new ideas (we brought a draftsman from Spark along), we got the process going. Spark’s Diederik Augustijn led the sessions. “At the time, we did nothing more than make it clear and bring to life what is possible. After that, a local architect took over the baton.”

That La Marzocco also makes connection central is hardly surprising. Connection is really in the DNA there, says Augustijn. “The Accademia is not just about connecting the present with the past, the old factory with the new. It is something social. They work together with a local school. They ensure that students can go there, to the Accademia, to learn or follow a course. In addition, it must also be a space for research, to experiment and to create and share knowledge. An open source idea.’

The Ocean Cleanup

The Ocean Cleanup needs little explanation, but we’ll give it anyway. In brief: a Dutch initiative that – using the natural sea currents – is successfully extracting plastic waste from seas and oceans. An ingenious system with ground-breaking thinking that Spark had absolutely nothing to do with. We can only wish we had.

From the start, the organization’s plan had been to (partially) cover the project’s operational costs by monetizing the material it recovers from the oceans. They asked Spark for creative input. Spark designer Diederik Augustijn: “A beautiful challenge that we knew we should tackle with various experts. After all, that plastic has a history and will not necessarily be reusable just like that.” Spark sought the power of connection and organized a creative brainstorm with The Ocean Cleanup, Sparkers and experts from diverse disciplines. Intensive sessions in ever-changing teams produced a wealth of innovative ideas. Augustijn: “This was the result of our collective brain power and applying it to a good, worthwhile cause.”