059: How do you create a unified culture in a firm with 5,000+ international employees? With Ken Baker

Ken is a member of Gensler’s Board of Directors and the Gensler Management Committee and the Co-Managing Principal of Gensler’s Southeast Region. Gensler is the largest global architecture, design and planning firm with more than 5,000 professionals networked across Asia, Europe, Australia, the Middle East and the Americas.

Ken Baker is considered a global expert on workplace design and planning, having designed more than 10 million square feet of corporate headquarters and offices for law firms and financial institutions around the world. His background is also fine arts, music, 20 years of piano and voice, acting, and drama.

In this interview we discuss:

How do you create a unified culture across a firm with more than 5,000 international employees?

How do you maintain innovation in the workplace through design?

Why is it important to keep listening to clients and being receptive to new ideas?

1:08 – Introducing Ken and some background on his career.

1:55 – Digging into what makes Gensler so successful.

3:03 – Creating a unified culture across a firm with more than 5,000 international employees.

6:38 – The importance placed on people in the company and how Gensler is innovating on the traditional ideas around architecture and design firms.

9:01 – What drove the move away from older models of architecture businesses and how Ken’s artistic background influenced his approach.

10:55 – Using interior design as a key differentiator in the field.

13:20 – Ken’s memory of his first client meeting and his mindset around the meeting.

15:32 – Getting a perspective on how much Gensler has grown since Ken came on board and how that molded their business model.

17:31 – Understanding the importance of culture in a growing business.

18:44 – Providing a link between design and the bottom line of businesses through the workplace surveys.

21:38 – Wielding the learnings from the surveys to develop the Gensler Experience Index.

23:12 – Maintaining innovation in the workplace through design.

25:01 – Surprising findings from the surveys.

27:07 – When companies began understanding the importance of people and culture.

28:33 – Gensler’s big hairy audacious goals and projecting where they’ll be down the line.

29:53 – How Ken sees people working in 10 years and how offices will evolve to foster productivity.

32:40 – Playing the long game and constantly trying to improve and find new things.

34:44 – The changes that Gensler has been driving through their design and research.

36:36 – Why it’s so important to just listen to clients and stay receptive to new ideas.

39:33 – Clients that Ken has worked with for over 20 years and the importance of accountability.

42:45 – Authentic passion and trust as underpinnings for successful client relationships.

46:40 – The questionnaire.

49:22 – Learning more about Ken and Gensler.

50:31 – Ken’s story about inviting people in to check out the Gensler offices.

Resources and Links Mentioned:


Art Gensler

Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill

Gensler Workplace Surveys

Gensler Experience Index



Moonshots versus Roofshots


Diane Hoskins

Gensler Research Catalogue Volume 1

Gensler Research Catalogue Volume 2