A New Kind of Office Optimization

HM_LOGOHere is this month’s piece on the changing world of work from furniture maker Herman Miller, a company for which Peter Drucker long consulted and that continues to exemplify his principles of innovation and effectiveness.

In the new landscape of work, the fundamental nature of office design is shifting.

What were once ancillary side effects of office work—camaraderie, connection, spontaneous interaction and group expression—have increasingly become the intended consequences. Bringing people together to enable their ultimate creativity and performance is the essential purpose of today’s workplace.

Today, the systems built in previous eras—and since perfected—demand an accelerated schedule of idea generation. Bad ideas will be thrown out faster. Good ideas will sustain success for shorter periods. In this new era of change, whoever produces the most good ideas with the most frequency will succeed.

Image courtesy of Herman Miller

Most organizations can tell you a great deal about how they optimize process—supply chains, manufacturing, timing, sequence, inventory, profits, losses and margins. Yet few organizations can tell you where their best ideas come from, how many are currently in development, which need more work, which have the greatest potential or what the optimal method for turning them into a finished product or service is. Our management methods need updating.

Software and hardware may be getting faster, cheaper and more powerful, but the ultimate goal is for those tools and technology solutions to be so naturally guided and interwoven throughout our physical experience of work that we barely notice their presence. They must evolve from a focus on individuals and information management to include groups and creativity. By seamlessly facilitating, capturing, recalling and amplifying idea generation and social interaction, they will become an integral part of our creative process. Our technology needs updating.

Start-ups, creative agencies, freelancers and other organizations and individuals at the forefront of business have demonstrated that there are limitless models for ideal workspaces. But no matter which model is followed, offices need to attract, nurture, enable and retain the talent that will drive innovation and execution, and bring an organization’s strategy to life. Offices must give individuals things they can get nowhere else: a spiritual connection to work and colleagues; increased productivity and effectiveness in their work; a more natural experience of interaction and creation. To do all this, our offices need updating.

Peter Drucker once said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” In next month’s post, we’ll discuss our vision for the workplaces of today and tomorrow—a total experience of work that is more natural, more desirable and, ultimately, more rewarding.

Greg Parsons, Vice President, New Landscape of Work,
and Sam Grawe, Editorial Director