Why the Office Won't Go Out of Style

Question: What will the workplace of the future look like?  
Clay Shirky: Well so, the “everybody can work from \r\nwherever they are” logic has been around for a long time.  And in fact, \r\nwell again, well predates the Internet.  I mean, really, in every \r\nconsecutive year since the 1964 World’s Fair, when AT&T you know, \r\nunveiled their video phone, we’ve been promised that video conference is\r\n going to mean that nobody has to have, you know... there doesn’t need \r\nto even be any business travel anymore. And that has turned out to not \r\nmerely to be wrong, but actually exactly backwards.  Which is to say, \r\ncommunications and transportation are not substitutes for one another \r\nexcept at the margins. They’re mainly compliments, right?  If you talk \r\nto somebody for a long time, after a while, you want to meet them \r\nface-to-face.  And if you meet someone face-to-face and like them, or \r\nhave business to do with them, and then you separate, guess what?  You \r\nwant to stay in touch. So, more transportation drives more \r\ncommunication, more communication drives more transportation. In \r\nparticular, the ability to connect with the home office using these \r\ntools have meant more people have spent more time on the road because \r\nface time with clients is often more valuable than face time with \r\nco-workers. 
So, I don’t believe that there is... I don’t \r\nbelieve that there’s any work coming in which the telecommuting model \r\nbecomes the normal case for most workers.  It just... getting humans in \r\nthe same room creates a kind of coordinating value that’s impossible to \r\nreplicate in software right now. Again, to the open source people... \r\neven open source projects they’ll periodically all fly to the same city \r\nto sit around and, you know, work together in the same room.  So, I \r\nthink the workplace of the future, I think the big change in the \r\nworkplace of the future is an increasingly loft-like flexibility.  \r\nRight? If you look at what Jennifer McNolty is doing at Herman Miller, \r\nthe research on configurable work spaces.  I think that what we’ve \r\nlearned about businesses and habiting existing loft basis, such as the \r\none in which we are doing this interview, is that the flexibility of the\r\n business to periodically reconfigure itself matters more than the kind \r\nthat "anybody can work from anywhere" logic which has not played out \r\nvery well. 
So, I think the premium is going to be on \r\ndesigning work spaces that are a good fit for whatever the local work \r\nclimate is, but still using the space as places to get people together \r\nface-to-face because social pools, you know, social software, is not \r\nbetter than face-to-face, it’s just better than nothing.

Recorded on May 26, 2010
Interviewed by Victoria Brown

''I don’t believe that there’s any work coming in which the telecommuting model becomes the normal case for most workers.''

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

What’s behind our appetite for self-destruction?

Is it "perverseness," the "death drive," or something else?

Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Each new year, people vow to put an end to self-destructive habits like smoking, overeating or overspending.

Keep reading Show less

34 years ago, a KGB defector chillingly predicted modern America

A disturbing interview given by a KGB defector in 1984 describes America of today and outlines four stages of mass brainwashing used by the KGB.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Bezmenov described this process as "a great brainwashing" which has four basic stages.
  • The first stage is called "demoralization" which takes from 15 to 20 years to achieve.
  • According to the former KGB agent, that is the minimum number of years it takes to re-educate one generation of students that is normally exposed to the ideology of its country.
Keep reading Show less

Douglas Rushkoff – It’s not the technology’s fault

It's up to us humans to re-humanize our world. An economy that prioritizes growth and profits over humanity has led to digital platforms that "strip the topsoil" of human behavior, whole industries, and the planet, giving less and less back. And only we can save us.

Think Again Podcasts
  • It's an all-hands-on-deck moment in the arc of civilization.
  • Everyone has a choice: Do you want to try to earn enough money to insulate yourself from the world you're creating— or do you want to make the world a place you don't have to insulate yourself from?
Keep reading Show less