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Industry Events

A-Z of trends: A-D

From Agility to Divergent Creativity, here are letters A to D in our annual A-Z of trends.

13/11/2019 5 min read

Discussing trends in 2019 has arguably never been as poignant, as the workplace sector has rarely been at a more interesting point. The lowest unemployment in a long time has focused the minds of business leaders to create a giant workspace. Sectors are merging, with workplace looking like hospitality and so on giving designers and manufacturers the opportunity to deal with economic ups and downs and allowing teams to broaden their knowledge. Technology remains a constant and hugely broad subject understood by imagined by many. The awareness of physical and mental wellbeing has never had a bigger profile, and like most subjects that catch the broader public interest it has already been misunderstood and manipulated – however the downside of people becoming stressed because they think they are stressed is outweighed by the fact that wellbeing has become real.

Finally, the changing age of the population is an immensely complex subject – not just for the workplace – and certainly shouldn’t be confined to discussing Millennials.

Our annual A-Z of trends may contain elements that are far from new to you or even a little short on detail (you can do further research of course) but we hope you may find at least one spark of interest and, importantly, will be comforted by the fact that our sector is very much alive, bustling and ready to engage – not a bad sign of health.

A – Agility

Workplace agility stems from this ability to work quickly, seamlessly and cohesively. As more and more employees begin to work from home or on the road, company productivity shouldn’t suffer. And whilst the focus has always been on flexible hours or hot desking, the conversation is now shifting from agile workplace to one of agile culture; which is, in essence, a workplace environment where people feel empowered to make decisions. Adopting an agile culture takes strategy and a vision. It shouldn’t be reduced to investing in the right video conferencing technology, but rather about moulding the whole workspace environment to people’s needs.

Our recent move to our new HQ in east London has given us, as designers, an unparalleled opportunity to transform our ways of working in a way that is relevant to our people, now and in the future. As part of the design process, we researched and tested a number of furniture solutions that would suit our needs. Unable to find a solution that truly reflected the way we work, we joined forces with Fantoni to collaborate on ATELIER; a modular, flexible and adaptable workspace furniture that’s given our people the freedom to choose the best place to work and make the space their own. Agile culture is a mindset. Space and technology plays a part, but it’s not what matters most – it’s about adopting a new way of thinking and, in turn, adopting new behaviours. And furniture can certainly play a big role in this.

Philippe Paré, Principal, Managing Director, Gensler

B – Balance

The trend of incorporating wellbeing into our working lives is showing no signs of slowing down – and rightly so. Modern life is busy. Personal life is busy. We’re all ‘very’ busy. Our always-connected status blurs the boundary between office time and playtime.

As a result, striking a work/life balance has never been so meaningful. As designers, how can we assist? First and foremost, we have direct access to key decision makers at client briefings. We can influence how clients can create great places to work and, in doing so, can make sure our environments provide a balanced design response. We have the responsibility to shake up the way our clients perceive working environments as well as exploring ways to improve the lives of their employees.

When we collect briefs from our clients, it’s never a tick-box exercise about accommodation schedules, but instead focused on people and their typical routine, ensuring users’ working days are balanced with a variety of spaces, amenities, functionality and uses. We can’t dictate how people operate their lives, but we can certainly assist in ensuring that their day is productive enough to allow them to have a life outside of work.

Clients can’t rest on their laurels either; the theoretical scales always need re-adjusting to ensure order is balanced. In other words, spaces and clients need to be flexible too, adapting to the needs of the business and their users.

With work and life becoming so merged, we all strive for the perfect balance.

Howard Powsney, Director, Aytch

C – Culture

50% of the top 500 global companies have increased their productivity with the expansion of global culture. It is no wonder that maximising on this cultural shift is at the top of global priorities; the question remains, however, what is the affect of this expansion on society and its human considerations? The measure of progress in a world driven by artificial intelligence, data and digital design is not self-evident.

If we assume that, as a society, we still benefit from the collective learning of Greek philosophy, roman engineering and renaissance discoveries, we may ask how future societies will benefit from our current culture and its productivity.

If we agree on culture being the common achievement of society, we may also agree that wealth is an important part of that culture. If, however, the negative impact of the productivity of that wealth outweighs the benefits, it will fail to serve the on-going growth of society.

If the outcome is that future cultures are based solely on the need to make the earth inhabitable, one questions whether this is progress. Reflecting on this is an invitation to re-evaluate our definition of wealth and how we proceed in our current approach.

Marco Serra, Global Chief Architect, Novartis

Marco Sierra, Novartis

D – Divergent Creativity

As we shift away from ‘incremental productivity’, where it is about things being faster, better and cheaper, a new model is emerging. ‘Divergent creativity’ leverages ideation and co-creation to drive to more game-changing ideas that break through boundaries. The ‘sage on the stage’, empowered by PowerPoint, is replaced with the ‘democratisation’ of meeting, where everyone is able to contribute, leading to inclusive ideation and speed of innovation.

Convergent thinking is linear, which often involves going through a list of steps to obtain a single answer. Divergent thinking is underpinned by exploring different directions from an initial problem statement to generate many possible ideas. Divergent thinking helps to generate ideas and identify a wide range of potential solutions.

Divergent thinking is important for critical analysis. Ignoring or dismissing opposing views only leads to ‘group think’ and further fuels silos and mindless conflict. F. Scott Fitzgerald once noted, ‘The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function’. The ability to break down silos and be more mindful of others’ thoughts and ideas can lead to the evolution of an idea and true innovation.

Kay Sargent, Senior Principal, Director of WorkPlace, HOK

Kay Sargent, HOK

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