When we design a new workplace, we’ll typically pay attention to the postures and gestures that people use when going about their work. These observations are a guide to the design of the “places in-between” – the places where much of the value work that moves the organization forward is done. We’ve found that these visible behavioral markers are also pretty good indicators of the culture and character of the organization.
We also pay attention to these behavioral cues at the edges of the enterprise. When we look at the “third places” where work is done, for example, we see characteristics of a social informality that are not typically observed in “the office.” Physical proximity, diverse toolsets, and mixed postures among the same group are not problems of distraction there, but signs of focus, energy and productivity. If we seek to make a more authentic and effective workplace, then these behavioral markers are important for insights into how to design and what to design for.
Also at the edges, but now very near edges, are emerging changes in the form of technology. As we move into touch screens, and as these displays become larger, we may begin to see gestures and postures that will necessitate a radical transformation of the physical workplace and, in turn, the cultures of organizations.
Keyboards have necessitated a seated posture at a horizontal surface in front of us. Small screen displays wired to them have also reinforced a personal, individual workspace. Even as we’ve sought to make a more collaborative workspace and to support teaming, the form of technology has held us back.
But we’ve now become concerned, especially for current clients making incremental moves in their new workspaces, that an unrecognized future is now here for them. That is, investments being made now that use the conventional artifacts of the furniture industry, may become rapidly obsolete.
If these are your concerns, as well. then you are on the right path. If these are not yet your concerns, read this article from Tech Crunch and, more importantly, look into the references it offers for the “5 Perspectives On The Future Of The Human Interface.”
The next generation of apps will require developers to think more of the human as the user interface. It will become more about the need to know how an app works while a person stands up or with their arms in the air more so than if they’re sitting down and pressing keys with their fingers.
Try to imagine the look and feel of workspaces where displays enable true group work; when the interfaces are not keyboards, and maybe not even touches, but gestures; and when the technology has been designed for real time interaction and sharing of information. What is the meaning of “cubicle” in this context? Is an “office” a place where valuable work is done, anymore? What furniture makes sense when these tools become part of the the workspace in the next couple of years?
Won’t the leading organizations of the future be the ones who “get” these experiential, behavioral factors first?