Tag Archives: future

WORKTECH12 by @UNWIRED May 15/16 NEW YORK (TIME & LIFE Building)

Hi all – my friend Isabel Dewhurst-Marks , Conference Director at UNWIRED, has asked me to spread the word about WORKTECH12 which is taking place in New York on 15th/16th May….only 2 weeks time! It is being held at the wonderful TIME and LIFE building. If you can get a day or two out of the office, this is the place to be, for sure. I’m going to tell you why, below….

On the 15th (0900-12.30) there are several Masterclasses. The main Conference is on the following day, 16th May.

There are no less than 26 speakers at the Conference, many of whom are global workplace industry ‘names’, including the CEO of Cordless Group (owners of UNWIRED), Philip Ross , author and workplace strategist Cindy Froggatt , and one of the ‘founding fathers’ of Facility Planning & Management, Professor Frank Becker.

But what sets WORKTECH aside from many other events is the array of ‘non-workplace’ interesting people that Philip, Isabel and the UNWIRED team are able to amass in one place at one time!

At WORKTECH’12 this month, you will have the opportunity to hear first-hand from some of the most interesting writers of recent years, as follows:

Alone Together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other

Sherry Turkle will talk about her book Alone Together , the result of MIT technology and society specialist Turkle’s nearly fifteen-year exploration of our lives on the digital terrain. Based on interviews with hundreds of children and adults, it describes new, unsettling relationships between friends, lovers, parents, and children, and new instabilities in how we understand privacy and community, intimacy and solitude.

This is a real insight into a real world problem, that all of us have experienced in some way. With more people working (and being managed) remotely, working in global teams, it is easy to forget what I have called an analogue life – what you need as a human, which is not online.

The WORKTECH12 programme says this:

Technology proposes itself an architect of our intimacies. These days, technology offers us substitutes for direct face-to-face connection with people in a world of machine-mediated relationships on networked devices. As we instant message, e-mail, text, and Twitter, technology redraws the boundaries between intimacy and solitude.

Science Fiction and the Future of Work

Brian David Johnson , Chief Futurist at Intel, is the author of Screen Future, described as:

a technical book about people, technology, and the economics that are shaping the evolution of entertainment. Blending social and computer sciences, the book provides a vision for what happens after convergence and what we need to do to get there

You can read more about Intel’s work and SCREEN FUTURE at this link

This is what WORKTECH12 says in introduction to Brian’s talk:

The future is not set; it is not a fixed destination in time.

The future is manufactured every day by the actions of people all over the world. As a futurist, Brian David Johnson believes it is incredibly important that we all become active participants in the future. We must ask ourselves what kind of world we want to live and work in. Where do we want to go? What should we avoid? What scares us?

We have not even reached lunchbreak yet, in the description that I have tried to outline above!!

I am going to try my very best to get across to New York for this event, even if its a quick fly in/fly out trip….rarely do you get the chance to be amongst such a great group of workplace thinkers.

I hope you can also attend. Feel free to contact Isabel: Isabel.marks@unwired.eu.com , or +4420 8977 8920

regards, Paul

paul.carder@occupiersjournal.com / @occupiers

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The TSK Business Engagement Centre at Sheffield Hallam University – “a living research project”

I was invited to an interesting event at Sheffield-Hallam University business school (Sheffield, UK) on 15th March this week, which sadly I now cannot attend. But it is worthy of note, and a brief blog, especially as a “living research project”.

It is also worthy of note as it is sponsored by industry – the “TSK Business Engagement Centre”, in a partnership between TSK Group and the CFMD at Sheffield-Hallam. The facility was covered in FM World recently, and the full article is on TSK’s website. This extract explains the partnership:

The partnership between Sheffield Business School CFMD and TSK set out to produce a home for the business school’s executive, a facility for the CFMD and a living research area for TSK to test innovative ideas and new thinking and to understand the needs of the people that work in activity-based work settings to make them more intuitive and comfortable to use.

Therefore the consultation process is ongoing and no doubt the space will continue to evolve as the teams feed back their views.”

This is a great concept – why not? It makes sense for service providers in the industry to engage academia in real-world projects, where they can monitor the evidence and statistics.

Professor If Price( Linkedin ) is the leading academic and thinker at CFMD, and was named as one of BIFM’s 20 most influential pioneers of FM in 2008. He brings the scientific approach of a Cambridge-educated Geologist to the work of understanding the relationship between organisations, people and their spatial environments.

Look out for his new book, out soon (and I hope he send me a signed copy!): Managing Organizational Ecologies: Space, Management and Organizations, Routledge, New York comes out on 18th April

WorkTech’11 – West Coast (report by Dr. Jim Ware)

WorkTech11 West Coast was the first event hosted by Unwired Ventures Ltd in Silicon Valley. And it was a good day, time and money well spent. Great lineup of speakers, intriguing stories, and excellent opportunities for networking. I don’t know the numbers, but I’d guess there were about 150 people in attendance, from all over the U.S. and some further afield.

Randy Knox

The Conference Chair was Randy Knox, Senior Director of Workplace Solutions at Adobe. He introduced an impressive roster of speakers and panels, and wove the conversations together throughout the day.

Nokia Silicon Valley

The Conference venue was the new Nokia Silicon Valley headquarters (see NYT article), and the first speakers took us on a virtual tour of the building, including the story of how it came about. The innovative workplace design, primarily for software engineers, was led by Colin Burry of Gensler; he and Lisa Hsiao told us about how the design emerged from a focus on agile development and small teams. The facility is 100% open space, split between individual “I” workspaces (53%) and collaborative “We” spaces (47%), but it also includes substantial informal gathering areas for relaxation and recreation.

Hamid Shirvani, President California State University, Stanislaus

Dr. Shirvani then took us on a historical tour of urban design, drawing many intriguing parallels between cities and workplaces – the need for “neighborhoods, the variety of “single-family” dwellings, the clustering of factories, and the need for multi-use spaces over the course of a day or a year. He showed us many pictures of suburbs (including the infamous Levittown), suburban shopping centers and office parks. Where too next? Hard to say, but one theme that is emerging in “new urban design” is small, local villages where people can walk or bicycle to their workplaces.

Urban Design: Panel Debate

We were then treated to an open conversation that included Dr. Shirvani, Jim Arce of Cushman & Wakefield, Luigi Sciarabarassi of Symantec, and Tom Sullivan of Wilson Meany Sullivan. The major insight:  the blurring of cities and suburbs; work is coming out to the ‘burbs, but many people are also moving back into center cities. But the most important variable in location decisions (by both individuals and organizations) is the availability of mass transit. And both cities and companies must learn to build in flexibility and anticipate future change. One thing is certain, and that is that nothing is stable. Younger generations care more about technology access (ie, broadband and wireless access) than they do about the local space itself.

Kevin Kelly, author, “What Technology Wants”

Kevin Kellywas the keynote speaker for the day. His new book, “What Technology Wants” is a sweeping overview of the history of technology, with a focus on how technology has changed us as human beings—including but not limited to our health, weight, and other physical characteristics. We are who we are because of technology. And technology is an ecology; modern inventions are dependent on 100’s if not 1000’s of prior technologies, and could not exist on their own. Kelly described the complex ecosystem of technology as a “Technium” that has its own “needs” and “wants” as it continues to evolve over time. All things are interdependent, and there is a natural tendency towards more complexity and more diversity. Intriguingly, some technologies become obsolete, but not extinct; there are today more blacksmiths in the world than at any time in the past. Something to think about.

Nathan Waterhouse, Ideo

Nathan Waterhouse talked about OpenIDEO, a “crowdsourcing” approach to solving large, complex social problems. OpenIDEO is a global virtual community that has been enlisted to tackle very difficult challenges. The community is supported by collaborative technologies through a process of innovative problem-solving that includes four phases: brainstorming, evaluation, solution-finding, and implementation (my words, not Nathan’s). We were treated to a rich story of how this process produced an inexpensive and very sustainable solution to sanitation in one of the poorest of African cities.

Marie Puybaraud, Johnson Controls, and Sudhakar Lahade, Steelcase

Two separate presentations on GenY—really about workforce demographics, with an emphasis on the GenY “digital natives.” Marie Puybaraud shared an overview of her recent research for the “OxyGen” project sponsored by Johnson Controls, including an “up close and personal” look at a day in the life of “Niki,” a young woman who views technology not as an accessory but as an “extremity” or extension of herself. Niki and her peers are fully cloud-dependent and Internet-addicted; they are completely comfortable with multitasking and have been seen using three separate monitor screens at the same time.

Sudhakar Lahade then reported on his research on GenY-ers in the U.S., China, and Russia. He stressed the way that GenY-ers all over the world think of life before work, and view job-changing as career-building, not disloyalty. They network with peers all the time, they collaborate spontaneously, and they think of the workplace as wherever they are. Most striking statistic:  there are 72 million GenY’s in the United States, 426 million in India, and over 800 million in China.

Vwork: Michael Leone, Regus, and Philip Ross, CEO Unwired and the Cordless Group

“Vwork” (see YouTube from WorkTech’11 New York) captures three “V’s” about work in 2011:  Virtual, Value, and advantage. This dual presentation reported on recent research that Unwired and Regus have conducted. While people today view “work” as a verb and not a noun, almost 2/3’s of people still commute to an office most of the time. What’s important however is that people want a 10 minute commute, rather than working at home all the time. This desire to be with others, and to have professional office facilities, is leading to an explosion in local work centers—what many now call “co-working” operations, and others (like me) have called “Third Places.” Think of a corporate headquarters now as the hub of a network, not as a singular destination.

As Leone and Ross pointed out, however, the new challenge is “getting the right people at the right place at the same time.” Thus, scheduling and having good places for collaboration is at the heart of the future of work. How can we make office costs more variable? Citrix gave its employees a budget and let them buy their own PC’s. Why not do the same for offices? Clearly, people want to commute less; the challenge is to create those local work centers, and then help people use them productively.

Rational Mobility:  Kevin Kelly, GSA (The “Other” Kevin Kelly)

We were then treated to our second Kevin Kelly of the day—this one a senior Architect with the Public Buildings Service of the General Services Administration (the “landlord” of the U.S. federal government). This Kevin Kelly reported on life “back at the ranch”—all those buildings that are being used so very differently today than they were designed for. As Kevin put it, the GSA challenge is to provide a “superior workplace at superior value.” Too often workplace strategists do not do an adequate job of analyzing the activity patterns of the workforce. The GSA looks at two dimensions of work:  interactivity and mobility. That produces four distinctive work patterns, with very different needs for “I” and “We” space. Kevin also stressed that noise remains a problem in open offices; he likened the typical open office to Houston, a very large U.S. city with essentially no zoning. He sees “zoning” as the major solution to acoustical issues; set aside spaces where quiet—like a library—is expected and required.

Going Mobile: Dawn Birkett, Salesforce.com and Bryant Rice, DEGW

This brief presentation (the schedule was running late) by Dawn and Bryant focused on the transition that Salesforce.com made to enable employees to work out of the office on a regular basis. The key was that the program was developed centrally for the company, but then implemented on an “opt-in” basis for individual employees who had to obtain manager approval. Thus, the program was available to everyone but applied only to those who chose to do it. The program policies were shaped carefully by a core cross-functional team that included not only HR, IT, and facilities, but also representatives from the legal department to deal with compliance, risk, and equity issues.

Mobility and Virtual Work:  Panel Debate

This panel, comprised of the previous four speakers, responded to questions from  the audience regarding the Unwired/Regus research and the GSA and Salesforce.com stories. The major themes of the debate focused on “opt-in” versus mandatory mobility programs. But in all cases the clear message was that mobility is now a way of life and organizations must find ways to leverage it, reduce real estate costs, and attract/retain talent—because the talent today expects mobility almost as a basic working condition.

Real Time Working:  James Calder, Woods Bagot and Ray Mays, Macquarie Group Americas

This final case study of the day, by James and Ray, focused on the Sydney offices of Macquarie Bank, where no one has an assigned workplace. The presentation included several stunning pictures of the newly redesigned facility, which is very open and filled with light. And the entire facility is open to Macquarie’s customers; none of it is off-limits. Most impressively, 93% of the staff would not go back to “owned” or assigned workdesks. And employee engagement scores are up 30% and sick days are down 42%. How did they do it? As Ray Mays put it, change management was key; the CEO was actively involved, and took many opportunities to express his support. Now he is even more enthusiastic, because he can walk around the building and see staff working “in real time.” And he other bank executives spend much of their time meeting with staff in the small café’s that are sprinkled around the building.

Future of the Workplace Panel Debate

This closing panel of the day was moderated by yours truly, so my notes are sketchy at best as I was “on stage” throughout the session. Other panelist included Mindy Glover of Rio Tinto (U.S.), Jeremy Neuner of NextSpace (a co-working operation with facilities in Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and Los Angeles), and Chris Henderson, Cisco Systems.

We did our best as a group to pull together all the threads from the day. Workforce mobility is clearly a way of life in 2011; the corporate office is now “competing” in a free market, in contrast the “regulated monopoly” back in the days when no one had a choice about where to work; and “third places” like NextSpace offer low-cost alternatives to expensive, underutilized corporate facilities.

From there we all retired to the Nokia lobby where Unwired generously provided wine and nibbles, and a good time was had by all.

It was a powerful day, with almost too much information and too many ideas to sort through; but there is no doubt that the future of work is already here.

Dr Jim Ware, Research Director, Occupiers Journal & Exec Director, The Future of Work…unlimited

jim.ware@occupiersjournal.com

http://www.linkedin.com/in/thefutureofwork

Mobile freedom, or enslavement?

Those of us that seek to promote the benefits of agile working or flexible working see the exploitation of mobile technologies as the main enabler of change. Most of us possess a smart phone or laptop and use them regularly, throughout each working day and beyond.

Sales of the iPad, and similar competitive tablet devices, are rocketing. Corporate organisations are considering their mobile IT support strategies. There can be little doubt that we are becoming entranced by the immediate access to information and communication. It all looks great as a means of freeing us from the shackles of working at specific places and at specific times. But, is their a downside?

MIT psychologist, Professor Sherry Turkle (http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sherry-turkle/14/522/982) drew a different side to the potential impact of these technologies. In her book “Alone Together –Why we expect more from Technology and less from each other” – she draws upon the research she has done over the 40 years of the computer age. She speaks of many of her subjects who have withdrawn into using technology as their main means of communicating with “family and friends”. Throughout that period, technologies have replaced what were rich, direct, face to face conversations with a blitz of superficial messages delivered in a way which avoid people from confronting another person directly. Many young people today live their lives around social network sites and would rather text their friends than speak to them on the phone or directly face to face.

Whilst reading her book on my iPad (!) on a commute into London the other day, I glanced up to look at my other travellers and found a good 80% in my carriage were doing something with their BlackBerries/iPhones.   Again, this week we saw in an Ofcom (UK) report, “A Nation Addicted to Smartphones“, a real concern over addiction to the smart phone. Apparently, over a quarter of adults and nearly half of teenagers in the UK own a smart phone, and 81 per cent use it to make calls every day. Not to say that this is bad in itself, but Ofcom estimates that 37 per cent of adults and 60 per cent of teenagers in theUK say that they are ‘highly addicted’. The mind boggles with the  statistic – 22 per cent of adults use their smart phone in the bathroom.

In China, where there are estimated to be over 400m users connected to the internet, the authorities were so concerned over addiction to the internet that in 2005 a residential unit was set up in Beijing – now there are 200 organisations in China offering a variety of therapies from bootcamps to electro-shock treatments. ‘Wired’ covered this last year, in an article “Obsessed with the Internet: a tale from China“.

Internet Addiction Disorder, recognised in the mid-1990s, is being considered by psychologists as being now sufficiently serious to add to the official list of mental disorders, as covered in this academic journal.

Another symptom of our addiction that we all experience is the email overload problem of which we all suffer and complain, but only add to by our own behaviour.

So how do we manage our addictive behaviours, that enslave us in technologies that offer the opportunity for so much freedom?

Do we ban their use when in meetings and during meals? Do we have smart phone free zones such as in cinemas? Do we treat excessive use as a mental disorder? Do we, perhaps, put health warning messages on phones?

Whatever the solution, we need to be mindful of the risks that our own behaviour towards these technologies presents, and we need to moderate our dependency. Consideration of others, and “doing to others what you would wish to be done by” wouldn’t be a bad way of thinking.

Author: Graham Jervis, PhD, is a Director of Advanced Workplace Associates Ltd, London, UK

http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamjervis

With some vision, you can see where robots WILL be useful in global office networks….

First, watch this brief clip (only 2mins 38s): You Tube: telepresence robot in action. This is just the start, and I’m sure that the boffins who create these things have already started to iron out some of its faults (and its look…not engaging, and too short!). It looks wacky, but so did mobile phones when they first came out, remember? Now everyone, or at least every schoolkid, mum, and business person, has a mobile phone, or some form of handheld device.

When we are out of the office, but need to be there for a discussion/meeting, the robot in this clip is better than a ‘sqwauk-box’ spider-phone, or even telepresence screen on the wall (which only a few people at a time can use). How long before we each have our own “robot double”? It comes out of the office to go to a meeting, when you aren’t there, then goes back to your desk and waits to be called….like an obedient dog!

Or, perhaps, we have a Department Robot, that has some unique features so everyone knows “Hey its the RE&Workplace Dept….coming to join our meeting. Who’s in there today?”…..”It’s Jim Double, I’m in China this week, but know I had to get to this meeting…” etc.

The bit of our human bodies that “work” is largely interested in is the brain – and the face I guess. A smile goes a long way….This ‘robot’ almost delivers both! If it looked more like a person, and was at the right height, it could engage in conversation better.

Its not a replacement for face-to-face contact. But, there are many reasons why that is not possible, but where a company needs your brain+face to input somewhere where the rest of your body cannot be…..

This also opens a whole new world of opportunities for people with disabilities, or who live in remote locations, etc, etc….their ‘real brain’ can be wherever it needs to be, whilst engaging in discussions with people around the world.

A bit more customisation (eg., some personal identity, so people know its you) could make this work well. Don’t you think??

CoreNet Global’s Chicago Summit 2011: part 1 – “The way we’ll live next”

I was very fortunate to attend CoreNet Global‘s Chicago summit last week, on two of the sunniest days the ‘windy city’ could offer its guests. I’m told that I was one of around 2,000 delegates, and there was certainly a full complement of leading end users and service providers in attendance.

This blog (‘part 1’) is based around the General Session 1, which opened the summit, in the spendour of the Ballroom at the Navy Pier. Greg Lindsay, an author and futurist, presented “The Way We’ll Live Next: New Frontiers of Globalization”.

New Frontiers of Globalization

Greg Lindsay looked at how urban living will be shaped by new frontiers of globalization, and took much of his fascinating material from his soon-to-be-published book, Aerotropolis. This is described as “a combination of giant airport, planned city, shipping facility, and business hub”. Essentially, cities built around airports at the centre – not on the fringes (or a long distance outside) as they most often have been designed in the 20th Century. And Mr. Lindsay gave several examples of mega-cities, current and planned…mostly in Asia of course!

Some interesting facts also emerged, that I certainly was not aware of. For example, Emirates Airlines is now the largest long-haul airline in the world – and it didn’t even exist 25 yrs ago! If Aerotropolis is to be believed, then this must surely make Dubai one of the most important cities now, and into the future? Not so much the economic ‘basket case’ that it has recently been perceived as being? But it appears to be in large part Chinese money that is driving this – at the 1.2km (yes, inside!) Dragon Mart (Dubai) Chinese buyers are trading in what Dubai World (its owners) call the “gateway for the supply of Chinese products in the Middle Eastern and North African Markets, offering Chinese traders and manufacturers a unique platform from which to cater to the needs of this sizeable market”.

In fact, Mr Lindsay talked of the “New Silk Route” – like the old silk route from Asia to Europe and the west – but now selling goods into the rich MENA region. This is immense – US$60bn china exports to the Arab world in 2010 alone.

But surely, I hear you ask, places like Dubai cannot possibly be leading cities of the future? You would be forgiven for finding limited ‘cultural satisfaction’ on a visit to Dubai over the last few years. But, like everything else, it is being imported….take Saadiyat Island, 500 metres off the coast of AbuDhabi, close neighbour to Dubai. The Cultural District is “set to become an internationally renowned arts hub, featuring the Zayed National Museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Performing Arts Centre”. OK, it is not going to replace the sophistication of Paris, the history of London, or the buzz of cities like Hong Kong and New York. But as a business and travel hub, UAE is ‘user friendly’.

Cities are hubs for knowledge and innovation

Cities are also built around intellect and knowledge though, right? Developers of a new ‘Aerotropolis’ cannot replicate this knowledge culture, can they? The intellectuals of Boston, Oxford & Cambridge, or the Sorbonne will surely not want to drink their fine wines in a desert? Well, once again, we may be wrong – NYU Abu Dhabi opened last year. And Mr Lindsay told us that NYU will open in Shanghai in 2013! Harvard Medical School is also in Dubai.

In turn though, and as another example of reliance of airports, the UAE is a major ‘exporter’ of medical treatment to Bangkok and Singapore. For example, Mr Lindsay described the Bumrungrad international hospital in Bangkok, where operations cost 70-80% less than in the USA. Its a global hospital, which “just happens to be in Bangkok”. Singapore is also on leading edge of healthcare, and  “wants to be able to be a hub for this sector”. And in India, the Apollo Hospitals and Fortis Healthcare organisations are providing similar services.

“The brain drain is working in reverse” said Mr Lindsay, as Chinese and Indian doctors and medical staff see better opportunities for themselves in Asia.

How sustainable are these new cities?

Several examples were given, including the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City, around 150km from Beijing, where “man living in harmony with his fellow man, with the economy and with the environment”. Another fascinating one is Mentougou City, again near Beijing, which is described as “a gorgeous new “Ecological Silicon Valley.” Located close to the urban metropolis of Beijing, the new city will combine research institutes for modern science and innovation with environmentally friendly and eco-efficient urban living
“. Back in the UAE, there is the Masdar City in Abu Dhabi – the zero carbon city, and “one of the most sustainable communities on the planet”. It is a pioneer of new clean and green technologies. And Living PlanIT valley in Portugal, one of a new generation of “intelligent cities”.

What about all the air travel? How can an Aerotropolis essentially be ‘green’, when flying is central to the model?

This is the real question that I was left with, and talked about with a few friends after Mr Lindsay’s session. Before entering the room that morning, I would have argued the absolute opposite of many of Lindsay’s points! I guess I’m now compelled to read the book thoroughly, and make sure I understand his arguments properly.

I would have argued that we only moved from an agrarian society a couple of hundred years ago, through the industrial revolution in the western world. And I probably saw ubiquitous technology and fast communications as a way for people to ‘spread out’ again across the global landscape. And key to this – to travel less, and to communicate using new technologies, which become increasingly like ‘real meetings’. But, I am swayed at least in part by the idea that people need to be together – socially, and in business. And cities are the solution to that need for ‘togetherness’ that is lost in remote communications.

The answer, I guess, is that as human beings we are all different – some will desire the quieter life and clean air of rural life. They will push the boundaries of technology to facilitate living and working in this way. Whilst others desire the hustle and ‘buzz’ of city life. But they too will want their cities to be eco-friendly as far as possible.

Cities, travel, and the real cost (and price) of carbon

The unknown factor, and for me the ‘elephant in the Ballroom’ last Monday morning, was the real cost (and price) of carbon. Maybe I missed this point in Mr Lindsay’s lecture? But I dont think so.

In the UK, the government is leading the way, unilaterally (to the frustration of many businesses, it has to be said) to be the “greenest government” anywhere. Schemes such as the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) have set a price for carbon trading, not just for the large energy-intensive industries, but “to cover all organisations using more than 6,000MWh per year of electricity”.

Currently, this is based solely on metered electricity use. But in the future one can see this being applied to air travel. If businesses had to pay for the real cost of carbon reduction required to mitigate their business air travel, flying would become very much more expensive…..this would kill the concept of the Aerotropolis as proposed by Mr Lindsay.

Maybe there is some middle ground..there usually is.

Third Places‘ now give themselves up for ‘Fourth Places’ – perhaps?

Lindsay went on to discuss the “disolving of physical plant”, where people come together when they need to, but we don’t need as much physical corporate-leased space. It was at a CoreNet summit in the US two or three years ago now that I first came across the term “Third Places“, a phrase and description first coined by Dr Ray Oldenburg. Third Places are “…nothing more than informal public gathering places. The phrase ‘third places’ derives from considering our homes to be the ‘first’ places in our lives, and our work places the ‘second'”

In Chicago, I heard the term “Fourth Place” for the first time – i.e., somewhere not at home, or the office, but actually designed for work (not like coffee shops, which are designed for coffee!). I have worked in one myself, regularly, for over two years – but I hadn’t heard the term before. Richard Florida may have come up with the term, in his article, where he said “Entrepreneurs and real-estate providers are increasingly recognizing the need for what I call Fourth Places—places where we can informally connect and engage and dialogue, but also where we can work. Places that freelancers or startups can use on an as-needed basis, or where travelers can set up shop temporarily”

What I heard from Greg Lindsay was a step on from this – where companies encourage workers to use these Fourth Places, and where “the entire point is to go outside”. He mentioned Eli Lilly & Company where they actually want to get people out into the outside world, to increase productivity. The company wants employees to meet people, not co-workers.

An example of a purpose-built Fourth Place is “The Squaire” at Frankfurt Airport, Germany. And its “New Work City”, aimed at providing a business facility for people with a common interest in great architecture & place.

An interesting idea, that fits more with my ‘ideal model’ than some of the larger eco-cities, is Mesa del Sol, a “place where work and home and school and fun are within walking distance of each other”

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, it is designed for around 100,000 people, and designed as a hub for creatives. Its essentially a city where you work from home! But it fits the Aerotropolis model of Lindsay’s, as it is also “only around 6mins to the airport – people fly to LA to the office occasionally”. The city has electric cars, and people typically work at home 3 days/week, often with some time up in LA. It is a 40/50 year project….interesting to follow!

What does all this mean for business, and specifically to corporate real estate and workplace professionals?

Like the ‘paperless office’ and other such myths, we can safely assume that the “officeless portfolio” is not going to happen anytime soon – and probably never. All large organisations will have a core of offices, and the chances are that in 10 years time many of them will look much as they do today…and will not be in one of these new eco-cities or an ‘aerotropolis’.

However, what is clear is that the corporate real estate portfolio, and the workplace/IT manager’s remit, is changing in a big way around the edges of the traditional ‘core’. Unless my predictions of high carbon prices (via some form of taxation) take hold around the world – and we see little sign of that so far – business flights seem destined to continue. But at the same time, people want to work closer to home, travel less, and hence ‘third and fourth spaces’ look likely to become permanent parts of the work landscape. So there will continue to be some core HQ space, and a need to provide employees with an agile working support to make best use of working in a variety of settings – from office, to home, to ‘third places’ and a growing number of specialist ‘fourth places’.

Mr Lindsay quoted the late CK Prahalad, who said that there was ‘no such thing as emerging markets or multi nationals’. He talked about organisations either centralising OR decentralising, whereas Prahalad proposed that organisations do both. He proposed:

20 hubs, no head office; not ‘run’ from anywhere

– networking of offices

– shared central economies of scale, such as R+D perhaps; other elements, disperse as needed

Where will these hubs actually be?

One would expect that some of the examples of ‘aerotropolis’ given to us by Greg Lindsay will become leading ‘hubs’ of the future. Much, I suspect, will depend on the relative growth of global-regional economies. I certainly got the strong feeling once again that all the growth is in the east – in Asia Pacific. Will that actually be at the detriment of US and European leading cities of today?

A McKinsey report, “Urban world: Mapping the economic power of cities ” was quoted by Mr Lindsay. The report says, “Today only 600 urban centers generate about 60 percent of global GDP. While 600 cities will continue to account for the same share of global GDP in 2025, this group of 600 will have a very different membership. Over the next 15 years, the center of gravity of the urban world will move south and, even more decisively, east”.

Will more of our regional ‘hubs’ be in these cities in the South and East? Will some of our organisations in fact be taken over by Chinese or Indian multi-nationals? Will our US and European offices reduce in size, with a smaller workforce, whilst rapidly growing in China and Latin America?

None of us has the answer to these questions, of course. I only hope that more of the leading cities of the future spin off more places like Mesa del Sol as described above. Living a sustainable life (in all senses – ecologically, physically, and in social/family terms) must be our goal? Three days a week ‘at home’ or a local third place, half a day travelling, and a day in an ‘aerotropolis’ sounds like a better future ‘week’. Far better than the taxing schedule of daily commuting, 8-6 desk-bound working, and pollution that many of our corporate employees endure today.

Paul Carder  (paul.carder@occupiersjournal.com)

http://www.linkedin.com/in/paulcarder