Work looks different now...
Although Crain's seems to have missed the point with the headline they composed for my guest blog, I was pleased to have them publish a brief digest of some of the things we've been working on lately.
Here's the link (http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20130821/BLOG113/130719880/work-looks-different-these-days-so-shouldnt-we-work-differently) and here's the text of the post –
“Work looks different, now.”
A client used this mantra to open the minds of her team as they considered plans for new offices. It cued them to the fact that work either shapes the workplace or is shaped by it. Design either advances the purposes of the organization…or it doesn’t.
We note that everything about work has changed but very little of the workplace has. Technology has made us mobile but we get assigned seating. We try to achieve flow but can’t get the team together except in scheduled conference rooms. Work wants to be social but we can’t find a place to talk over a cup of coffee. We are expected to learn but if we’re not in our workstations our managers grumble.
Everything in the conventional workplace now interferes with getting stuff done. To achieve success and move our economy forward, we have to stop interrupting what people are doing. We have to give them the design that helps them advance their purpose. We have to design for the new “look” of work.
Here are three industries that play a large part in our regional economy – healthcare, research, and product development – and how workplace design will advance each of them.
Design for new behaviors in health insurance
Legislation, costs, and demographics are reshaping every part of the healthcare industry. One major shift is the strategic reframing of the health insurance business from B2B to B2C – from employer-centric to a consumer-centric services.
As the CEO of Aetna said recently, “the end of insurance companies is here.” A regional insurer is therefore redesigning its business model. Moving its focus from illness to wellness, it is moving from a claims processing model to a health consulting model.
Caring that insurance decisions are the second most stressful in their customers’ lives, they want to act as peacemakers. A new workplace would support their staff in this cultural transformation. We identified six key behaviors of peacemakers and then designed workplace concepts to nurture those behaviors.
Design for new modes of research
Improving our community’s health is a complex challenge and we expect science to contribute solutions. Urgency requires multidisciplinary teams of traditional, social and computational scientists. University research, however, is famously siloed around individual scientific disciplines.
Creative initiatives can start us along an integrated path, but what we now need is a new science of team science to make big breakthroughs. And team science needs a totally new kind of workplace.
A local university is constructing the space to meet these challenges. Planned for teams organized around complex research themes like obesity, it supports them with advanced wet and dry labs. The breakthrough concept, however, is an open, agile, interconnected workspace where hundreds of local and visiting researchers and students, university professors and business professionals will see and socialize with each other and use the building’s tools to collaboratively generate and deploy solutions for some of our community’s most difficult problems.
Design for integrated product development
Manufacturing is returning to America and the auto industry is on a rebound. But our car companies are having difficulty attracting the highly-educated and creative engineers they now need.
Part of the problem is the industry’s obsolete workplaces. Their irrelevance and ineffectiveness will not be solved with a refreshing investment flow after a long hard freeze during the recession.
The industry’s global competition, the innovation imperative, and the value migration to technology content require a rapid rotation to new generations with new skills and workmodes. And they need a new workplace.
We’ve identified four factors – product, process, proximity and presence – that shape a major innovation that we call “The New Technical Workplace.” This is an environment that supports rapid iterations between workmodes, connects disciplines, helps new talent find ways to contribute innovation, and advances the development of technology-embedded mechanical platforms.
Some questions to ask before beginning design
Are there behaviors that characterize your culture and your values? How does the planning and design of your workspace support those behaviors and make them visible to others?
Is your workplace designed around the organizational diagram? What would it look like if it were designed around the work that you do, your organizational purpose, and the way you create value?
Consider the object of your work and the objects that your work produces. Do conventional office artifacts like workstations and conference rooms have anything to do with that, or are there other tools you should deploy?
If you avoided the conventional lexicon of the workplace – office, and workstation, and conference room – how would you describe the spatial tools you’d need to get stuff done? What does that design look like?
Work looks different, now. Shouldn’t our workspaces?