A little while ago, I spoke to Gene Castellano, Project Director of W.L. Gore & Associates. Gore, of course, makes fluoropolymer products for various manufacturing and electronics industries as well as its famous Gore-tex fabric and Glide dental floss.
Last year, with the help of design agencies Carbone Smolan, IDEO and Homsey Architects, Gore opened a “Capability Center” at its Barksdale, Delaware site in order to show off a bit. Not just to clients. As Castellano describes it, Gore’s own business model means that the company’s thousands of employees are widely dispersed around the site. “Bill Gore had ideas about organizational dynamics and as he evolved his company, he tried to maintain a culture that fostered small teams.” As a result of this, employees focus on individual businesses and are scattered across many buildings with little sense of the overall corporation.
In an effort to build a better team spirit, the Capability Center was built in an old electronics assembly plant. It houses a museum/educational installation outlining the company’s proprietary science capabilities while there’s also a large conference/meeting room to act as a central hub for employees. I haven’t seen it in person, so I can’t vouch for whether it’s used as such, but it’s good to hear of a corporation thinking about its staff. And, of course, it’s also helpful for selling Gore to clients. Castellano wouldn’t name the client, described only as an “automotive manufacturer”, but he said that the Center acted as the clincher of a business deal. “It accelerated that program and eliminated any uncertainty,” he said.