I propose that a significant increase in the performance of people and value in corporate real estate could be captured and delivered through a more customizable workplace. There are many models around to illustrate how personal activation, amplification or augmentation of provided platforms yields high levels of satisfaction and performance enhancements. Simple examples include the phone in your pocket. Over time, you have explored and tested various “apps” to get your device to be just right for you and what you want to achieve. The device not only looks the way you want it to, but has functionality and features that you selected and the data that use use more frequently. The apps you chose also enhance the way you interact with other people, other systems, and the physical world. Your device, through its customization, is more useful, attractive and valuable to you.
The place where you work probably has very little of these benefits. The workplace is a place of constraint, not of augmentation. Standards and benchmarks for the planning of the workplace define generalized patterns related to positions rather than roles, and to organizations rather than activities. My workstation is a compromise of size, configuration, technology, location, comfort, etc. I have a sense that if I were provided less, but then able to pull up certain physical and technological “apps,” I’d be more satisfied and effective.
Hence, this graph, the Meredith Workplace Attraction Curve, as a representation of a theory and opportunity for exploration and development. I propose that the workplace defined by others has rapidly diminishing return. A workplace that is designed by its users can deliver accelerating returns to people and place.
Push platforms and diminishing returns
“Push platforms” are the kinds of workplaces as designed and delivered conventionally, typically by Corporate Real Estate. One of the defining characteristics of this type of workplace is its diminishing acceptance as more and more people participate in it.
“Distraction” is the almost universal claim representing an underlying fault in the design and delivery of this kind of workplace. The demand for freedom from distraction comes from the inadequacy of the physical workplace to support effectiveness, and is a claim that begs separation – walls, doors, mobility.
At a certain point, the internal separation reduces the meaning and purpose of being in a workplace. Where alternatives are available, people will choose them as preferable to their purposes, and bail out of the provided workplace. This selection is the manifestation and fulfillment of policy that values space reduction over worker potential.
Pull platforms and increasing returns
“Pull platforms” are new types of workplaces we’ve referenced before and have these characteristics –
- A “plug-and-play” nature designed for the convenience of its users, rather than its providers
- Modularity, that is, with components that are both self sustaining and compatible for connection with others
- Flexibility, able to respond to otherwise unanticipated needs of its users and participants
- Agility and adaptability, with features that allow it to support and capture increasing returns
- Evolutionary with the potential for its value to be enhanced by the improvisation, experimentation and improvements generated by its users
- Environmental richness, providing intrinsic rewards to those who are committed to its use and contribute to its value
This type of workplace, inherently attractive to those who seek higher levels of contribution and performance, has an increasing value curve. The more that customization to purpose satisfies personal and organizational effectiveness, the more people are attracted to it. The more people who are attracted to it, the greater the points of connection of the social network of work and the higher probability of growth in personal and organizational potential as a result.
The tipping points
Distraction in the push platforms is a function of scale and proportion – too many people in a space reduces its effectiveness and causes “evaporative cooling.”
However, "distraction" in pull platforms occurs when there are too few people engaged. The intentional collaboration and synergies cannot take place until a critical mass catalyzes an energy and a corresponding acceleration in value as more people connect to the network and in the working space.