“History doesn’t repeat itself, but if you look back far enough you’ll find that it rhymes.” Futurist Paul Saffo recently said this in a meeting with us. He was paraphrasing an aphorism often attributed to Mark Twain, but whatever its source the maxim relates to the discussion taking place about the future of work.
There’s plenty of “rhyme” in the words of Robert Propst, inventor of the Action Office system. In 1968, he wrote that “The real office consumer is the mind. More than anything else, we are dealing with a mind-oriented living space.”
Given the ubiquity of technology today, Propst’s words were prescient. The office is a state of mind. We once used to enter that state of mind by crossing the threshold of a building called “the office.” Today, we enter that state of mind by simply accessing our work-related data on our mobile devices. Work is no longer a place we go. It’s a thing we do, anywhere we are and at anytime.
Not surprisingly, because of the different properties offered by digital space, interacting with each other in the physical world is taking on new forms. This is evidenced in the proliferating new business models for delivering physical places dedicated to work, work clubs being one example.
Because so many people work so often and so meaningfully in digital space, they now seek new forms and new levels of social connectivity in the physical place. It is the human experience in the digital workspace that now drives the meaning, expectations, and behaviors that take place in our physical workplaces.