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Mapping Human Dynamics to Design Innovative Spaces

Sensor-based mapping to measure the success of start-up teams working in MIT’s coworking space

Mapping Human Dynamics to Design Innovative Spaces


This project analyzed the impact of architectural design and space programming (i.e., office layout) and behavioral patterns on the success of entrepreneurial ventures in a collaborative space at MIT’s delta v student venture accelerator at the MIT Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship. This research allows us to understand how to optimize working spaces to boost creativity, participation, idea sharing, and success for entrepreneurial and innovative ventures.

The Challenge

Entrepreneurial ventures often struggle to achieve their full potential, in part due to suboptimal working conditions and team dynamics within co-working spaces. MIT wanted to know how and to what extent different working conditions (e.g., building location and architectural space layouts) and behavior patterns (e.g., team dynamics space utilization, social network interactions) impacted the performance of student teams participating in their delta v entrepreneurial program.

Aretian’s Solution

We studied 63 students and researchers (16 startup teams) and their four mentors (Experts in Residence or EIRs) over 2 weeks using a combination of qualitative surveys, sensor-based Open Badges for tracking movement and social interactions, and architectural space analysis to identify factors that enhance team performance in co-working environments. Metrics included openness, privacy, comfort, and social network interactions.

The survey included measuring team performance outcomes based on their own and expected goals established before the incubator program. We used social network theory and behavioral science principles to evaluate human movement and interaction datasets within the co-working space. 


  1. Our study found the following factors as strong predictors of entrepreneurial success:

    1. Consistent team member attendance

    2. Focused, frequent in-person interaction among team members and other teams

    3. A central, accessible campus location

    4. Well-distributed room types, balancing architectural complexity with organic disorder

    5. Engaging with well-qualified, experienced advisors to support highly technical business, product, and service development

  2. We also found that student teams that work isolated from the group tended to perform lower than those with broader social network interactions throughout the study. 

  3. Our results suggest that in-person, social working relationships, combined with the proper distribution of architectural characteristics in working spaces, such as comfort, privacy, and visual appeal, can support the success of innovative teams.

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