9 THEORIES WHY LIVING WILL BE MORE RELEVANT FOR WORKING

BIRGIT GEBHARDT | TREND EXPERT

The industrial economy has defined work, organisation and communication in its own world and separated it from everyday life. A silo mentality that must be opened up and made agile for the era of networking. Society has already begun its process of transformation: Whether it’s participative local referendums (engagement), social networking (competence marketing), competitive self- tracking (fitness), virtual experiences (gaming) or global learning opportunities (MOOCs) – much of what the world of work will change already seems more feasible in the everyday life than in many business environments. The office must catch up.

1. NEW WORK CULTURE IS REBELLING AGAINST OLD CONVENTIONS
The new work culture is already looming on the horizon. Millennials in hoodies juxtapose suit wearers. Table football and games consoles are migrating to the office floor. All symbolic of a rebellion against the conventional working world of externally determined responsibilities, laden hierarchies and bureaucratic organisation. Networked work culture looks different. They are more diverse, inviting, collaborative, joyful, relaxed and homely.

2. PRIVATE LIFE IS CROSSING INTO PROFESSIONAL LIFE
In the past, communication technologies like fax and email drifted from the world of work into the private sphere. Today, it’s the privately used apps and social media which are assailing corporate firewalls. They network people with shared interests faster, and in a more content-driven and personal way than in-office systems can.

SOCIAL MEDIA PRINCIPLES

TIME > FAST
PROCESS > TRANSPARENT
CONTACT > DIRECT
USE > OPEN
FOCUS > CONTENT-DRIVEN
LOYALTY > SOCIAL
HANDLING > EASY

The exclusive professionalism of the world of work is also increasingly represented in the private sphere. If you have access to a 3D printer, you can produce something, if you can spread your own skills in social networks, you can place yourself on the market, and anyone who can convince others of an idea can finance it. Straightforward approaches, intuitive dialogue formats and networked interests change power relations and role assignments.

3. NEW WORK CULTURE MEANS BRINGING PEOPLE AND KNOWLEDGE TOGETHER
Our offices were designed around assigned areas for procedures and activities. But the office of the future does not have to organise processes, rather communication. And in such a way that facilitates interpersonal encounters, lively exchange and shared learning. Thus, new working worlds produce freer and more versatile forms of togetherness. They are based on artefacts and movement patterns that are not typical of an office, but come from the urban context of culture, events and urban planning, as well as the domestic private sphere.

Trend expert and author, Birgit Gebhardt, explains how much the new world of work can learn from everyday life about transdisciplinary communication, good fellowship and the inspiring sharing of knowledge.

4. FINALLY, HUMAN SKILLS ARE TAKING CENTRE STAGE

Telephone calls while walking. Brainstorming while lying down. Employees work more intuitively in the new world of work. How much longer will it be necessary to type words and numbers on keyboards? The computer workstation, the old measure of all things in office design, could soon be cleared out. We already delegate tasks to Alexa in the living room with just our voice, our smartphone navigates us through foreign places, soon bots will record our conversation and project visualisations onto our contact lenses. That means we humans no longer need operate like machines, but can focus on our human abilities: creative brainstorming, empathetic interaction, balance of heart and mind, dedication and team spirit at work.

5. THE OLD COMFORT ZONE IS EXCHANGED FOR A NEW AND MORE ATTRACTIVE ONE

If you want to take people out of their comfort zone, you need to offer them a new one. Not to pacify, but to convey a feeling of appreciation and security. In the future, different interests, cultures and knowledge will come together. So, meeting rooms will not suffice. The design of different communication, meeting and experience zones will become the main task of redesigning the office. Transdisciplinary networking, relaxed interactions and the most interesting conversations arise in sociable circles in which everyone feels comfortable. Thus, aspects and qualities such as hospitality, creative games, rituals, enactment and enjoyment will belong to the new working culture as physical and shared experiences.

6. THE CREATIVE ECONOMY IS SEARCHING FOR AN URBAN LIFESTYLE

The creative economy does not seem to like the classic office. Many architects started in the home; design workshops and artist studios populate backyards, and the communications and advertising industry still loves large- scale lofts – because they boost flexibility with a creative atmosphere. In the 1990s, the IT and computer companies of the USA recognised that the war for talents would be won using homely qualities and design focused on well- being. Interestingly, it is currently their working methods that are influencing the rest of the economy.

7. INNOVATIVE CULTURE NEEDS TIME AND SPACE FOR DAYDREAMING
According to current new science, ideas and innovation usually arise in an unfocused daydream, when alpha waves are flowing through our brain. Rarely do they come to us in the office, but rather in the shower or on the commute, in actions that are familiar to us, and environments where we feel at home. In the future economy of ideas, this familiar sense of “being in good hands” will also play a more significant role in the workplace.

8. COMPLEX PROBLEM SOLVING REQUIRES BROAD INSPIRATION AND MULTI- PERSPECTIVITY 
The collaborative solving of complex tasks requires different perspectives and consequently more space for knowledge exchange, inspiration, visualisation, application and testing. For collaborative work, the spatial setting takes on a new meaning, as a conscious and directed form of viewpoints, attention, focus and overview. Who is addressing whom? What should the meeting aim to achieve? In which configuration are the participants inclined to contribute actively? These questions also need to be solved spatially, as complex tasks combine different characters and disciplines. The old question “who looks like they stick together?” is suddenly given a strategic dimension in the new working culture.

9. WORK-LIFE HYBRID INSTEAD OF A MIRACLE CURE
The networking and permanent communication between the individual and the environment dissolves boundaries that we can in part only maintain artificially or regulatively: Opening times, work times, places of work. We will continue to perceive the difference between work and free time in the future, but no longer in its exclusivity and less in the spatial and temporal delimitation. So-called third places, such as coffee shops or co-working spaces, are created in urban areas and it is their users who sovereignly switch between work and leisure mode. The work-life range of products is enhanced with cars that drive us to the edge of the woods where we find focus, Fab-Labs with 3D printers that produce things for business use as well as private, or nature based recreational amenities from rooftop urban farming to the walk in the park.

 

Birgit Gebhardt merges trend developments into plausible ideas of the future. On behalf of the Körber Stiftung, she wrote the book “2037- Our Everyday Life in the Future” where the trend researcher developed a real-life scenario of our society in 20 years.

As managing director of Trendbüro, she was responsible for the cross-industry project business of a consulting firm for five years, from 2001 to 2012.

Since 2012 she has been researching new models of the networked economy and work and advises clients across the industry on their way to the “New Work Order”, whose opportunities she describes in the studies of the same name.
Birgit-Gebhardt.com

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