Innovant: Evolution via Innovation

By Mallory JindraimageThe ability to successfully transition into a new market in order to grow is perhaps the defining measure between maintaining a business and skyrocketing into a sphere of innovation inhabited only by the top talent. To say this is a ‘tricky’ venture is a gross understatement, but it’s what growing a business is all about, and it’s certainly attainable.

Innovant is a growing company taking smart, conscientious stops to evolve itself from an expert in one area, in this case the trading desks of the 1990s, to a viable competitor in the broader furniture manufacturing market. The company’s very name self-prophesizes its ability to do so, but only recently has it begun to branch out into new product categories. Now, in its 25th anniversary year, Innovant has 160 employees in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut tri-state area, plus Chicago and San Francisco who are busy elevating the company to the next level with a broad product offering.

Innovant formed in 1990 (originally known as CBA) as a supplier of trading desks to the financial and energy companies. Its signature claim was introducing to the marketplace the concept of tailoring catalogued product without increasing cost or adversely affecting lead time. In 2008, after opening an office in London, England, Innovant recognized the workplace shift to benching products and decided it was ready to spring from trading out into commercial offices.

“Trading desk manufacturing has changed little in 10 years,” said Bruce Wells, Innovant Director of Marketing and Development, “and trading desk design innovation has plateaued. Trading often cannot take risks – it goes with guaranteed techniques. We knew that benching was going to be the future, and we made a decision to rebrand and expand our offerings.”

Once a company makes the decision to jump into something new, it must address a list of predicable but important questions. What does this new customer segment need? What have they always wanted, and what have they not experienced yet that we can provide? Do we have the knowledge to successfully execute? Or is it too far off the mark/too big a leap? In its leap to benching, Innovant found logical, intuitive answers to all of the important questions.

“A trading desk is similar to a benching workstation, but more sophisticated,” said Mr. Wells. “It has a similar footprint, but there’s about three to four times more technology than normal. And the end user is different. Traders are high-strung, high-demand alpha personalities. It’s easier to scale down a trading desk to suit a typical workstation’s needs than to scale up a typical workstation to a trading desk. In that sense, it was a natural progression.”imageFORm_office™, Innovant’s benching system, offers four types of benching/workstation solutions, all designed with Innovant’s “trading eye” expertise in integrating technology above, below and within the furniture: the full product overview reads, “The other side of the story is inside the bench, where superior cable management, technology accommodations, and rugged superstructure make FORm_office a benchmark of intelligent engineering and clean, contemporary design.” FORm_office Adjustable Height, which won Best of NeoCon Gold for Benching in 2012, utilizes sleek control switch options, and the system can be built with shelving in between workstations to minimize the oft-awkward feeling of not using the same height as the person in the spot next to you.

At NeoCon 2014, Innovant displayed the newest innovation to its benching solutions, FORm_office Standing Height, a fixed standing height open plan workstation that, when combined with stool-height task chairs, allows users to work in a seated or standing position without the cost of adjustable height mechanisms. The solution proposes to benefit “collaborative offices concerned with employee health and workplace aesthetic”, and the logic is there; why not just start with a fixed standing height option and then use a stool height chair to sit? And aesthetically speaking, who wants to sit at an adjustable height desk working lopsidedly three feet below your co-workers on either or both sides? Because the workspace is kept level, the solution is also much more conducive to teamwork and can double as a conference table.

Visiting Innovant’s showroom, one sees the full range of its expanded lines of conference and private office solutions, which it debuted in 2013 and continued to enhance at NeoCon 2014. Freed from the constraints of the concise, predictable trading desk aesthetic, Innovant has also put serious thought into how its product looks. Wells describes the brand as clean, sophisticated and robust, with a determined move to sidestep the Ping-Pong conference tables and beanbag chairs of so many playful workspaces existing today.

“We have a product that balances the drastically different aesthetics of both Silicon Valley and Wall Street.”

Wells cites the company’s strong history of offering affordable customization as an asset that has allowed it to accelerate its position. “The ability to tailor to the extent we can is exciting, and the quality of the full experience we’re offering our clients is so high that they find they can actually achieve much more than what they had expected and still stay within their budget. When they come to our showroom, they receive a tour of what’s possible, rather than just what’s available.”

Securing the fundamentals of excellent customer service and the design quality of product is certainly top of the docket when you’re in transition. And Wells notes that Innovant’s reach extends far past its regional tri-state home market (both its main office and factory are located in its home market) so that a large percentage of its business is now conducted on the west coast. But as Innovant moves past these initial years of expansion to more involved projects, we wonder, what’s next?

“We want to shape the team room. The true collaborative team space, which exists somewhere between the workstation and the conference room where employees can act as a team rather than simply co-workers, is a complicated one.” Innovant’s recent work with two notable technology giants has provided a window into what the needs and parameters of this type of space are.

“This type of space is becoming more and more important in the work environment, especially in light of the mobile nature of how people work and the fact that they very well might not have a personal cube to themselves anymore. We don’t think it’s been done justice yet, and we want to lead that effort.”

Innovant’s recent products demonstrate its ability to evolve through innovation. Its lineup is strong, and we’re paying attention.

Originally published in the Office Insight, August 25, 2014.