3 Things the New York Jets Can Teach You About Authenticity

by cv harquail on September 10, 2008

nyjets logo

Who knew that the New York Jets knew so much about being authentic?

The New York Jets moved into their new training facility in Florham Park, NJ, just last week. Stories about the new building (designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP) describe it as huge, high-tech, state of the art, and light filled. Take a look at the photos on the Jet’s website and the New York Times .

The Jets demonstrate in their new facility ways that your organization can use its physical environment — the space where you put yourselves– to help it be more authentic.

Here’s what the New York Jets know:

1. If your organization requires people to punt, build ceilings that are 96 feet high.

kickoff jets

Sometimes, to get the job done, the New York Jets have to kick the ball pretty high, and pretty far. In their former practice space, the Jets had to worry about balls bouncing off the ceiling! And, once a ball hit the ceiling, there was no way for the kicker to confirm his aim and improve his kicks with correct feedback.

Now, in a fieldhouse with 96 ft ceilings, Jets who are practicing their kicks can actually see where the ball goes when it is unimpeded, just like in a real game. Players get to practice and refine the skills that they need to get their job done– without making any physical compromises.

    => To help your organization be authentic, create a physical space that has room for ‘who you are’ and ‘what you do’.

2. If your organization requires focus, mark your territory in ways that frame how you want to think.

At the New York Jets ‘ training center, the design of the physical space helps the entire organization focus its attention on the game of football. Two features are particularly clever. First, the view from every window emphasizes what the organization is there to do: play football. All that members can see when they look outside are football fields. Not highways, not billboards, not parking lots. Just football fields.

jets inside Second, there are yard-line markers not only outside on the football fields, but also inside the building, on the floors, the walls — yes, even the ceilings. You read that right– there are yard-line markers everywhere you look. What do these yard-line markers do for the organization, you ask? They teach everyone in the organization — from accountants to word processors — just how far you need to go to get a first down.

The yard-line markers also reinforce the idea that everyone in the organization plays an important position on the field. And, the yard-line markers remind the entire organization that what matters most is what happens on the football field .

    => To help your organization be authentic, use physical space to shape the ways people think and focus everyone’s attention on what’s most important.

3. If your organization requires professionalism and a winning spirit, create a space that is uplifting and inspiring.

The New York Jets training center is beautifully, thoughtfully designed to be completely professional and ‘state of the art’. The bright, airy entryway looks right out onto the practice field. The materials, fittings and finishes are the highest quality. The classrooms, media booths, and weight room showcase the latest in technology. Everything is designed so that the players, the coaching staff, and the office staff feel proud and professional.

The emotional effect of this design attention? Energy and enthusiasm.

Altogether, as Randy Lange writes on the New York Jets’ website:

The essence of the new complex can be captured in a phrase: competitive advantage.

    => To help your organization be authentic, use physical space to uplift, inspire and energize everyone.

So what can the New York Jets teach you about authenticity?

A physical space 81181366JZ009_Washington_Re

— that has room for ‘who you are’ and ‘what you do’,

— that helps to focus and shape the organization’s attention, and

— that generates enthusiasm and energy throughout the organization

can make it easier for your organization to be authentic.

Does your organization have the kind of physical space that lets you collectively be who you want to be?

Technorati Tags: , ,training facility ,Florham Park , , , , , ,inspiring architecture ,


Sandy Piderit September 11, 2008 at 5:12 pm

Hi CV,

this post is interesting. Do you think there is a tension, when designing a new corporate building, between making it authentic based on its current identity, versus making it inspiring, with a view toward what leaders want it to be, in the future?

When the Weatherhead School of Management moved into its Gehry-designed building in 2002, we were told that it was intentionally uncomfortable in some ways, because the building was intended to challenge us to move in the direction of our aspirations. I’m still not sure whether that worked as a strategy…

CV Harquail September 11, 2008 at 8:41 pm


I think it’s a delicate balance between reality and aspiration, whether that’s crafted in words (e.g., the difference between description and vision) or in concrete (e.g., the ‘old’ building and the ‘new’ building).

The physical environment can ease us or force us to ‘be’ certain ways; often by capturing or focusing our attention on some characteristics and not others, the environment keeps some much more salient. These characteristics can feel comfortable, like a bit of a stretch, or like a misfit… depending not only on how different the vision is from the current reality, but ALSO depending on how effectively leaders help us interpret the built environment and our relationship to it.

Weatherhead’s building is an extreme case in some ways, because Gehry’s style is such a radical departure from conventional ‘academical’ buildings like at UVA or institutional buildings like at so many state universities. … Gehry’s style (probably) requires a bit of an architecture education to ‘get’–to really understand what it’s about. Even though Gehry, his fans, and probably anyone would react emotionally to his buildings, it’s an open question what any building “means”. What’s the label to put on that feeling?
While emotionally resonant, ones reaction to the buildings (since they are so different from the norm) needs to be shaped, by the community collectively and the leaders. Let’s think about this one for a post of its own….?

Joseph Logan September 17, 2008 at 6:09 pm

Brilliant post. Bob Sutton and Huggy Rao have a new article on the ergonomics of innovation; I see some complementary themes there.

I recall the police saying after the Weatherhead shooting that they had a more difficult time navigating the building because of its design, which apparently slowed their (and the medics’) response. Having never been there, I can’t confirm that, but it seems plausible. To your points, organizations might want to focus on how others use their space as well as those within.

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