MEREDITH Strategy & Design

We design great places and spaces that advance the purposes and performance of work.
Our mission is to help companies and organizations of every scale
more effectively achieve their goals
and capture value from what they and their people do.

Jim at meredithstrategyanddesign dot com

(248) 238-8480

Filtering by Tag: workplace strategy

Creatives like Cities, Engineers like suburbs
True in office design as well as in urban design

Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.

It's a phrase that I somehow picked up in fifth grade or thereabouts and went around repeating it as a mark of erudition without any comprehension. It's a concept, now discredited, that implies that an organism's path from embryo to adult replicates all of its evolutionary forms.

Never mind. It's just that it came to me as I found a reference to a recent study about urban form.

That study found a pattern of differences in the location choices of creative organizations and science-based organizations. Looking at company location data for three of Canada’s largest metropolitan areas, the research showed that creative firms like urban locations and science-based firms like suburban locations.

The data presented show that firms in ‘creative’ industries tend to be located in dense, mixed-use neighborhoods near the city core, while ‘science-based’ industries tend to be concentrated in low-density, single-use neighborhoods in the suburbs.

The differences are actually quite striking across multiple characteristics. 

CREATIVE NEIGHBORHOODS SCIENCE NEIGHBORHOODS
Urban Suburban
In/near core Near highway interchanges
Historic or older neighborhoods Newer developments
High density Low density
Diverse Similar
Walkable/transit Commute by car
Multiple use Single use
Diverse Nerdistan
Bars, coffee shops Conference rooms

The authors of the study speculate that communication patterns and characteristics may be at the root of these choices –

It is argued that these spatial patterns are related to the fact that inter-firm networks are more important in the ‘creative’ industries, while ‘science-based’ industries rely more heavily on intra-firm interactions and learning.

What we found interesting from our work is how aligned the choices that these types of organizations make in the design of the workplace are. It also seems not too far of a stretch to also find an alignment in the recent conversation about extroverts and introverts. 

The creative organizations we work with seem to like high-density, high-interaction working spaces interspersed with a mix of social and meeting spaces of different characteristics and services. Creative organizations have cultures that are naturally more collaborative and social. For example, creative work includes frequent “pin-ups” where work is openly discussed and evaluated. People tend to be more extroverted.

Engineering or science organizations seem to have cultures that are mostly introverted. Innovative work at these organizations has traditionally been individually authored and created in isolated or closed spaces intended to preserve focus for writing or for work on critical calculations. The engineering organizations we work with seem to cling to a hierarchical distribution of larger offices and formal conference rooms with closed service areas where one can get a cup of coffee but rarely stay to converse. 

It appears that perhaps at every scale – from office to neighborhood to city to region – the characteristics of organizational cultures derived from communications patterns define the form of the places they choose or develop to do their work.


Here, too.

Metrics shmetrics

I am very appreciative of the ongoing shift in the metrics that matter to corporate real estate. I sense that among those responsible for providing work settings there is a growing appreciation of the importance of the variety of settings that people need to fulfill the purpose of the organization.

A good illustration of this value migration is the data presented in this article. Using better terms than the I/we personalization framework of the furniture industry, the data is built around a workplace activities framework of concentration, collaboration, and community.

via Work Design Magazine

via Work Design Magazine

The things you'll miss

In a couple of recent discussions on LinkedIn about the evolution of the workplace, I could sense the signals of an anxiety or fear in justifications for resistance to a more open and agile workplace. Much of the concern seem to come from paradigms around the term "mobile" as implying a necessity to give up the company workplace. Other resistance is more superficial having to do with the old conventions of why someone just has to have an "office." I find in these discussions the fault of a tendency to go to assumptions about the form rather than to comprehend the personal benefits of these emerging workplace concepts.

A day later some rather interesting citations showed up in a couple of posts by Diego Rodriguez of IDEO on his excellent Metacool blog. He wrote about the considerations of both Joichi Ito (CEO of Creative Commons) and John Lilly (CEO of Mozilla) reflecting on the power and opportunity in chance encounters.

Joi Ito referring to some of the things he's learning from Hagel and Brown's book, The Power of Pull, says "…you should set a general trajectory of where you want to go, but then you must embrace serendipity and allow your network to provide the resources necessary to turn any random event into a highly valuable one and developing that network comes from sharing and connecting by helping others solve their problems and build things."

He then is reminded of Edwin Hall's descriptions of monochronic and polychronic characteristics of space and time as organizing frames for activities saying, "In M-time, we delineate time and space into meetings and cubicles allowing organizations and institutions to scale massively. P-time is like a Arab majlis where everyone is invited at the same time and they all mill around in the waiting room of the sheikh while the sheikh has a series of meetings in the open inviting people into the meeting like a long flow of consciousness. P-time lacks scalability and order, but it is rich in context and serendipity. At some level, if you plan everything, you are very unlikely to be able to embrace serendipity or be as 'lucky.'"

And he concludes, "I feel like I am floating in a rich network of highly charged people and serendipitous events, not a single day going by where I don't feel like 'Yay! I just did something really good!'"

He does also reflect on a matter of context. "I find that this P-time method allows me to have a much richer high context thought process involving more people. The problem is, it's hard to then get anything structured done."

John Lilly John first reflects on his youth when, falling asleep in a lecture, he misses perhaps the very first demonstration of the World Wide Web. He is talking about turning points in life and the things that influence them and says, "a bunch of decisions that I thought were really important turned out to be not important at all, and some things I decided to do just for fun changed everything."

He reflects on this, offering that "you never know when a decision you make is going to have a profound effect in your life. At least, I’ve never been able to tell. So my coping strategy — what I do to make everything work for me — is try to put myself into situations where there are tons of great choices, tons of great people, tons of great outcomes possible — so that it makes the odds that I make some really important & good choices that much better."

These are great illustrations (even more illustrations!) of the benefits and achievements that come from more open approaches to the contexts in which work is done. Yes, Ito will need to find a way to shut out some stuff when he wants to concentrate and focus, but I assume that neither he nor Lilly would be proponents of conventional office space.

As Hagel and Brown point out in their book, this time we are in is no longer about stacks of information, but about flows, and to be successful, you have to get into the stream.

http://joi.ito.com/weblog/2003/08/06/going-ptime.html

http://joi.ito.com/weblog/2010/05/13/focusing-on-eve.html

http://john.jubjubs.net/2009/08/21/adventures-of-the-mind/

B2B2B2C – How should we design for the emerging business models in the health insurance industry?

The design of the insurers workplace will become one of the most effective devices in the strategic toolbox of breakout industry leaders.

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Will Instagram displace Apple as the great strategic story of the decade?

Will Instagram displace Apple as the great strategic story of the decade?

 

The most important part of the Instagram story may not be the billion dollar purchase prize, but the transformational influence that Kodak's failure in the light of Instagram's success may have on corporate strategy and design.

Corporate cultures are influenced by short horizons. In a recent Forbes assessment of the Kodak bankruptcy, Larry Keeley observed this condition –

At least once a week, top executives tell me that new growth businesses in their firms are intriguing and potentially important, but they simply "don't move the needle." Said in plain American: "The hot new thing simply cannot produce enough revenues this quarter to improve my bonus as a senior executive." So those projects are starved of resources instead of nurtured.

And in the New York Times, Nick Bilton observes that –

Even if Polaroid or Kodak could have developed Instagram, it’s likely that the project would have been killed anyway. What would be the reaction of almost any executive presented with a business plan to save the company with an iPhone app that had no prospect for revenue?

We've become very interested in this concept of "stock and flow" from other influences, but highlighted by the Instagram story.

What are your experiences with this "stock and flow" pattern?

How car dealers uncovered a surprising key to greater customer satisfaction

 

One of the more active and heated debates on the value of design to business is over what are called "factory image programs" for car dealerships.

Most car manufacturers, concerned about the alignment of dealership appearance with their product programs, periodically impose or strongly influence updates to the physical quality and character of dealers' facilities. Most dealers resist the programs because they are unable to link a measurable business benefit like increased sales to the high cost of these programs.

So the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) commissioned an independent study to uncover and identify the value in the programs and recommend a resolution to the ongoing conflict between them and the manufacturers. The study was just released at the annual NADA convention a couple of days ago.

I expect I'll return to comment further on the study in the near future. But I did want to offer an initial and very interesting out-take from the study.

After discussing the diverse and complex array of considerations and influences that made solid conclusions almost impossible to derive, and especially after uncovering that the annual costs of billions of dollars spent on dealership facilities meant very little, if anything, to people buying the cars, the study uncovered an unanticipated yet solidly expressed value in the programs.

…dealers expressed pleasant surprise that, after they completed a store upgrade, it became much easier to attract, retain, and motivate good staff. One multi-point dealer even told us that "I modernize as much to attract good staff as to impress the customers." Another pointed out that with improved employee morale came improved CSI scores, which makes sense. The impact seemed especially powerful in the service area: as one interviewee put it: "A dropped ceiling in the service bays will do wonders in attracting and retaining good technicians, who are pretty used otherwise to being ignored."

Despite the experiential evidence that there was this direct link between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction (CSI = Customer Satisfaction Index), there apparently has been no survey by the manufactures or the dealer association to uncover and verify these anecdotal, and logical, findings.

And I think that's where I'll return in future commentary. I have some significant experience in factory image programs and have consistently been surprised with the fact that they align things (store fixtures) with things (car designs) but not the real experiences with and in these things.

That to me is the most important point of this study, affirming what we know from other places. The real power of workplace design lies not in the "brand image" but in the experiences of work. The quality and character of the workplace directly links to attraction, engagement, morale, motivation and performance of good employees, and that directly links to quality and character of the customer's experience with the organization.

The NADA has, in other words, discovered what we've said in so many other places – the leading organizations of the future will be the ones who "own" the experiences of work.

Getting out of groupthink and into pursuing opportunities

There has been a lot of conversation in recent days about the form of the office and how to design it for those who work in it. This is enormously interesting to me because this conversation, like many others in culture, politics and business, is an exciting signal of the search for real innovation and of a desire for a revolution in the way we provide the places and spaces where we do the things we do.

Argument and revolution

The “conversation” that I reference is the point and counterpoint in recent debates about which way is best – the old comfortable way or a recent newly proposed and tested way. A round of confirming and contradicting commentary was recently evoked by Susan Cain's article in the New York Times. While trying to make a case for consideration of the closeting needs of introverts, she broadly bashed the new, open workplace as a product of "groupthink" in its pejorative connotation. Using the same term in almost the same week, Jonah Lehrer referenced the incredible volume of creative product emerging from the famous Building 20 at MIT, "one of the most creative environments of all time," generally credited to the informal interactions happening between people of different backgrounds and interests. And Alison Arlieff weighed in with the groupthink that collaborative spaces aren't all they're cracked up to be. Closed office vs. open office.

The “revolution” that I reference is my belief that a third form with a new language will emerge. This third form will have immediate credibility in the forehead-slapping “of course” mode and will make both of the currently debated forms artifacts in a rapidly receding history.

Getting out of groupthink – New forms will be generated from a new lexicon

I propose that the current arguments are nostalgic and a bit arrogant. They are arguments of an estate that recognizes it has lost its case but does not yet know where to turn. And they are arguments of a self-appointed enlightened who believe that the right way is the way they proposed to counter the old way but is now being uncovered as having had insufficient rigor, and that now has piles of data bias making a great case against it.

I think that the core issue we are now confronting arises from the loss of meaning of familiar terms like “office” and “workplace” and, even, “work.” “Office” is a term left over in the slow evolution from industrialization and carried the implications of production and supervision in its form. Attendance, for example, was a key characteristic of its managerial mode. “Workplace” implied a single setting, the place where work was done, the place that was separate from the other stuff we did, the place that was defined by time, location and character. “Work” was something separate from “life” and disregarded the reality that, even in the old mold, one defined the quality of the other.

In almost every meaningful, productive, and rewarding context now, these terms are antique.

“Work” certainly has changed dramatically from the dreary and dreaded stuff we did for “the man.” Most of what we call work, the valuable stuff, is creative in some form. Most of what we do is self-defined or collaboratively determined with a team oriented to a goal that is more frequently something defined by them and not by a manager.

There is no single “workplace” any more because we do what we do in multiple physical settings and multiple virtual settings, as well. Time, also, is no longer a limiter in what we do. We carry huge amounts of information on tiny devices everywhere we go, and we connect with our networks anywhere we are. In an odd inversion, we may find solitude and focus sitting with our headphones on in a public cafe and, when we are ready for socializing our ideas and learning from others, we go to the office.

The office best serves as a place for connecting with a network of knowledge and resources to get purposeful stuff done. The productive social buzz and innovative activity that now takes place there is called “distraction” and blamed on an “open” office by those who claim a value of “focus” to name whatever it is that they do behind their six-foot tall cubicle walls. They are missing the reality that entitled square footage for playing computerized solitaire never had, and now certainly no longer has, value. They miss that the work that is valuable is not the consumption of time but the generation of new ideas and approaches with a team of other highly motivated people. Those people, when they need focus, find a place for focus. Otherwise, the buzz of collaborative activity is the visible manifestation of the generation of value for the world.

Pursuing opportunities

Arguing about which of the existing ways of designing a workplace is wasteful. It is a form of the groupthink that the debaters debate. Work is no longer done in one place, and the office is no longer one thing.

Reflecting on what we do, and how we really do it, and then generating, testing and developing new environments for the activities and behaviors of work is productive and valuable.

As Kevin Kelly says, "Don't solve problems; pursue opportunities."

The Meredith Workplace Attraction Curve

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.

The bar at El Farol, evaporative cooling, and the high performance workplace

I've learned that in game theory there is something called the "El Farol Problem."

In Santa Fe, there is a very popular bar, El Farol, called by some one of the best on earth, a place where everybody in the community wants to go and where they, sometimes, have a great time.

The El Farol Problem is that, if too many go, nobody has a good time. That is, if more than 60% of the population that wants to go to El Farol chooses to go on a Thursday night, nobody has as good a time as they'd have had if they'd stayed home. But if less than 60% of the population goes, everybody will have a better time that if they'd stayed home.

The El Farol Problem is really about decision making, but it is also about density and selection, it seems. That is, if too many people go to the bar on a certain night, the overcrowding may be unpleasant. Also, I assume, some of the fun of the place may be in being there when the "right" people are there, but too many of the other people may make the place less desirable.

I came to the El Farol Problem through a reference to the theory of the Evaporative Cooling Effect. That is, when certain high contribution people leave a group, the average status of the group declines. As each successive next tier recognizes that its value is diminished and leaves, those left behind are the ones who are clueless as to their value to the group.

It's made me search a bit for the similar but perhaps inverse conditions. That is, under what conditions does the value of a place increase when everybody shows up? And what are the right conditions to avoid the issue of evaporative cooling and consequential value to a group? More specifically, does the El Farol Problem and the Evaporative Cooling problem inform the way we think about working environments?

As an office that I work in periodically began to clear out before the Independence Day holiday, there were the usual few who spoke of coming in to the office over the weekend because it was, they said, when everybody was gone that they were most productive. This, of course, is a manifestation of the disruption paradigm that implies that the office is the least effective place to work, especially if it is a more open environment, and greater openness and density yields underperformance. The work that gets done in the low-density absence context, however, is typically the least valuable work of the community, i.e., individual janitorial work like getting the project files organized. Why do individuals perceive value in "solitude" the office environment when that solitude produces no value, yet also complain of lack of productivity in a context of population when the organization believes that it is most valuable?

We've developed a "mainstream" workplace culture of two types: A compulsory attendance workplace and a compulsory absence workplace, a workplace where work tasks or management style requires you to be there, or one where mobility has enabled and then required you be elsewhere.

The compulsory attendance workplace evokes the El Farol, to a certain extent. It is a place where there may be too many people, and too many who are not the right people. It is an overcrowded place, where the discomfort that arises from density, the distraction of having too many who are not contributing effectively, makes the place unpleasant for everyone. The compulsory absent workplace is evaporative cooling institutionalized. The "in crowd," the real leaders, have left. Those left behind are filing, and most of the others who want to achieve are searching the landscape for leaders.

I propose that there is a threshold of organization performance that is aligned with the amount of choice people have in their selection of a work environment, including both physical place and team. I also believe in the Hagel/Brown concept of "pull platforms" where the value of an organization, the value of its work, and the value of the place where its people work increases with the choice, not the requirement, that people have to be there.

It is becoming increasing clear that environments provided as "standards" and frequently even as "guidelines" are the places of least choice by "high status" people, i.e., people with a purpose and a mission. I propose that by observing, questioning and challenging the individuals and teams who contribute most to an organization and its purpose, one can derive a set of attributes for the next workplace. It will be workplace of the right 60%, and with supports rather than constraints that will be continuously attractive and eliminate the evaporative cooling effect.

The power and potential of platforms and pathways in workspace design

The leading organizations of the future will be the ones who “get” the experiences of working. They will be organizations who understand that the emerging metric of performance, leadership and success is the growth in people’s potential driven by the effectiveness of the environments providing the experiences people seek and through which their organizations thrive.

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The Big Shift – Why Class A Office Space is Now Irrelevant

I believe that the anxiety over the past two years and the urgency to deliver the evidence of recovery seems to be overriding and suppressing the opportunity to think about work in different ways. I believe we have an opportunity to extend the Big Shift, and consider a move from conventional metrics of performance to new attributes (I hesitate to say, metrics) of potential. I think this is a matter both of significantly reduced and realigned demand, and also of new perceptions and definitions of quality.

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The office as an app

Office as an App (OA) is an exploration of the potential to reverse the conventions of supply and demand in the design and delivery of real estate where what we call work is done. It is also an exploration of an emerging context in which the corporation’s real estate and the corporate real estate function have lost relevance, and therefore value, through its own active and passive actions. It is, in the end, an exploration of the implications of social media, the trend in dumping corporate real estate, the rise of work swarms, learning from Nonaka, and the transfer of value from centralized and controlling organizations to agile and networked clusters of individuals. The “app,” as an expression of a “programmed” tool cleverly designed to deliver customized experience and value to its user well beyond its cost, seems like a good device to frame this concept of transformation.  

I am very interested in developing a new “killer app.”

Over the past several years, the “content” of data informing the planning and design of the workplace progressively increased, yet the value of the resulting corporate real estate to the people who worked there dramatically plummeted. It seems that just as place-makers’ apparent interest in the user was increasing, the users’ interest in the places-made declined.

Now, hordes of “knowledge workers,” frustrated with corporate “mobility” programs that spun them out into the stunningly unsatisfying Starbucks-branded “third places” of the world, roam the planet seeking places and spaces to support the kind of work they want to do to generate a new economy and new prosperity in the world.

Even as their demand for new kinds of working spaces increases urgently, nowhere, it appears, is anyone stepping up to provide a solution for them. This is because the physical infrastructure of the workplaces of the past half century was shaped by a “big capital” business model that generated a huge oversupply of now irrelevant real estate led by professions who have no service application of value to emerging organizational models and new ways of working.

My new AppOffice will radically invert the currently stagnated supply and demand system, act as a catalyst for the design and delivery of new types of workplace, and reshape city planning and development, enabling a new global real estate economy based on the premise that the leading organizations of the future will be the ones who “own” the experiences of working.

Some recitations

In recent years, there have been a number of developments that had the potential to change the way that designers responded to workplace needs and trends.

There was, of course, the often cited evolution of technology that made equipment progressively lighter, eventually more mobile, and, with corresponding evolution in communications technologies, eventually raised questions as to whether place had meaning any longer. The impact on workplace policy, practice, program and design was the rise of mobility programs and their apparent overnight acceptance as the preferred way to work after initial resistance based on the older management value of attendance.

Additionally interesting was the growth of the involvement of the users or occupiers of space in the process of programming. Those who designed, planned and provided space were interested in how the user of the space actually used it. The information gathered in these processes of direct engagement, however, were frequently discounted (“wish lists”) or ultimately generalized to such an extent as to universalize the workplace and remove individual imprints.

Further evolution of this trend was brought by insights from other professions like ethnography, and the utilization of more sophisticated technology borrowed from security, each providing a richer an more nuanced view of how space was actually used. Ethnography provided certain tools and disciplines like direct observation to illuminate things not otherwise in the direct expression of those who used the space. Presence technologies, registering who was in a space, for how long and engaged in what activity, provided further information that could be read either to provide data on what kinds of spaces actually worked, or to prove a growing tendency to discount the value of corporate space.

The latter turned out to be the dominant insight. Corporations, more interested in reducing the costs of operations in the great economic collapse, saw the fact that staff were not using the space they had provided them, now wanted to dump that space as quickly as possible.

Ironically, as greater information and insight was being gained about how people used space and how space affected their performance, and as the potential for real innovation in workplace design was at the threshold, the power for spatial planning and decision making was transferred from the occupiers and users of space, and from corporate facilities professionals to the finance suite and the corporate real estate function.

While one segment of the workplace domain was finding a way to provision it more effectively, another segment was challenging its very existence. The change was also occurring so rapidly that those in the middle, snagged by jargon, fell in behind the trend and facilitated the rollover through “alternative work strategies” into “mobility” programs and out the door.

From shift to drift.

Instead of “shift” taking place, “drift” was taking over.

“Shift” seemed to be a value developing at the beginning of the century that accepted that new ways of working were at hand and that design needed to be responsive to this change. “Drift” occurs, however, when the policies put in place fail to keep up with the change that generated them and their implementation falls short of or even subverts their intentions.

That is, while the time was ripe for challenging the conventions of workplace planning and design, the philosophies, policies and practices that could enable change drifted from critical relevance into destructive subversion. Corporate management having become comfortable with counting something else rather than heads in cubicles became concerned about the creative output of their organizations. Recognizing the power of workplace socialization, they then tried to draw workers back into the organization to mingle with each other. The spaces they provided, “touchdown” workstations, were in many cases merely clusters of the same dreary workstations their staff had come to learn to hate once they got into the mobile outside world. Others tried cafes ala the Starbucks that everybody was touting as the highly valuable “third place” but these were stunted by the fact that working at the in-house cafe was not “work” in the same way that mobility enabled freely collaborative “work” at Starbucks.

Those left out in the cold were the knowledge workers who we all had come to believe needed nothing more than a laptop and a cell phone. These knowledge workers, however, are people who want to do good things in the world, and who want to achieve and feel the pleasure of recognition for their achievements. They are people motivated, by themselves or their companies, around a sense of purpose and an opportunity to do things differently. They are people who saw the collapse of the economy that supported them by the failure of artificial values and who seek now to embed authenticity in their work.

These knowledge workers, with the generational and technological capabilities they had gained, began to understand the power and potential in the networks they were forming. Conventional forms of working were no longer effective for them, and the places and spaces that had supported the conventions of work were also no longer relevant to them.

Now, as this form of working accelerates, neither a return to yesterday’s real estate nor the misfit of Starbuck’s satisfies. A new model of working places and spaces is needed.

[See also, http://archizoo.com/2010/10/31/i-am-looking-for-a-developer/]