Living Tomorrow is an impressive project, offering people a glimpse into the future of life, health, technology and economy. Thanks to a new cooperation with Bene, Living Tomorrow now also presents the future world of work.
The concept of "Living Tomorrow" is unique in the world. Located in Brussels, Living Tomorrow provides a hub for innovative enterprises where visitors can experience products and services that could vastly improve the quality of our future life, home and workplace. Thanks to a new cooperation with Bene, Living Tomorrow now also presents the future world of work. According to the philosophy of Bene, the office is a living space, with different zones and areas to support various activities like collaboration and communication; but also focused work or ideation processes. Bene offered its expertise in the field to create a working environment that is a perfect fit for the project team of Living Tomorrow. The office features modern solutions for concentrated work as well as space for meetings, teamwork and retreat.
The concept of innovation is not new. However, just like the business models that are based on it, innovation is constantly evolving. The possibilities it brings and its importance are growing continuously.
Success in the 21st century is achieved differently than it was before. One can own the most successful taxi company, without owning a single car or rent out millions of rooms in cities all over the world, without owning a single property. It is possible to be the largest trading centre worldwide, without producing a single product.
However, it is not only business models that reveal that things have changed. Our priorities have changed. We are communicating, living and working differently today than we did ten years ago. If you want your company to be successful, you have to adapt to change, keep up with it or even overtake it. You have to be ahead of the game.
Companies are now under a great deal of pressure to innovate. Management guru Peter Drucker summarised this situation with the phrase: “Innovate or die”. If you do not develop new approaches, or bring new momentum to the company, you will, sooner or later, be beaten by smaller, innovative new companies or start-ups. That is why innovation has been a key issue on the agenda of many companies for years now. Nevertheless, according to a study by McKinsey, 94 percent of all company directors are dissatisfied with the innovation performance of their company.
Innovative concepts, inspirational offices and high-quality design – this is what distinguishes the Austrian quality brand Bene. We trace the history of the 225-year-old company from its beginnings as a small carpenter’s workshop in Waidhofen an der Ybbs to becoming the international expert for new working environments.
Movement is healthy – everyone agrees on that: "A rolling stone gathers no moss," as the saying goes. Nevertheless, the average office worker today spends far too much time sitting. Despite the fact that there are good, creative ideas and high-quality furniture that not only make the work day more dynamic but also healthier.
Sitting at your desk hour after hour? No thanks! In a well-designed office, employees don't have to spend the entire work day sitting at their workspace. "Choose the place you need" is the motto of the modern office, as knowledge workers today can select the area best suited to the task at hand. Versatile, well-designed room solutions with a wide variety of features boost inspiration during the work day, as well as providing health benefits. Bene divides its office zones into We-places, where employees can meet and interact, Me-places, where the employee can withdraw for privacy and concentration, and Work-places, which are more conventional workspaces. It’s our vision of a dynamic office that promotes the movement of both mind and body.
Even if the office environment provides the optimal conditions for an active work day, the following fact holds true: People are creatures of habit. For this reason, new behaviours have to be learned that complement the spatial conditions. Already established workflows and processes should be modified to include more movement. For example, one could stand up when making a phone call, discuss matters with colleagues at standing tables, and frequently change one’s location in the office.
Solving problems and creating innovation are desires shared by EPUs, start-ups and companies with hundreds of employees in any sector. But how? That's the question that "Design Thinking" tries to answer in a holistic way.
Design Thinking? Never heard of it? Probably not quite true. Even if the term initially brings up only question marks, all of us will have had something to do with Design Thinking - maybe without even knowing it. Workplaces have changed drastically in recent years. It's not only the internet that has opened a vast number of new options - especially with regards to cooperation and co-creation , team and project related work is frequently the topic for discussion - but also in the "analogue" world. If you add to this: innovation, interdisciplinary nature and user oriented design, then you get pretty close to what Design Thinking is.
Let's start again from the beginning: Design Thinking initially simply means to "think like a designer". That is, to use the methods which (industrial) designers use in their work and to apply it to other areas. The term is probably most often connected to the Californian company IDEO, who first marketed the Design Thinking system and uses it themselves. Flat hierarchies, project related team work and creative courage are part of a normal day in the office at IDEO - a core task of the company is to also teach this to others.
The word "innovation" has maybe left its worst or best times behind - it depends on how you look at it. It has lost its buzzword status, i.e., its ability to impress simply when mentioned. In recent years it has been too frequently used by the business and advertising world in order to present a product, idea or process in a better light than others. The adjective "innovative" as it is often and happily used today is characterised mainly by one thing: its positive connotation. We meet this word frequently in our daily lives and it may even get on our nerves - after all anyone who ever had to do a project application may have been asked to demonstrate the innovation in their idea. Yet, innovation means renewal - after all that's what the word really means - and we interpret this as progress.
It could be that the people who are currently setting the pace in media, business, politics and advertising and therefore influence such connotations. It does not matter if they have been in their career for only a few years or are at the end of their professional life. All of them have seen a dramatic bandwidth of great innovation or at least have information about it and are benefiting from the fruits of these achievements in our most recent history. Even someone who is only 20 today can remember a time before Facebook and smartphones. Large parts of the population can remember what life was like without the internet and the opportunities it offers today. Put into this context, the positive charisma of the word "innovation" becomes even clearer. It is hardly surprising that technical developments which make our (working) life easier are met openly and positively. After all, we receive great benefits from them. However, it does take a certain time for the long term effects to manifest. Technical advancement can also have downsides - data monitoring, drones, weapons made in 3D printers for example. All of these are phenomenons which are not directly the fault of the innovation per se, but still a possible result.
Who would have thought 50 years ago, that today you no longer need a single typesetter for newspaper and book production, yet another industry will earn really good money with the development of games and moving images? Or that companies who work in a field to reduce energy consumption will provide just as many jobs as companies that work in the field of traditional fossil energy. Well, some things have changed rather rapidly in our Brave New World and 1984 is a thing of the past. A glance ahead into our near future of job trends forms the conclusion of our "Work in Progress"-series.
In the "past" everything was different and maybe things really were easier in the "olden days". You did an apprenticeship or a degree and often stepped happily into the footsteps of the previous generation and gained a feeling of security. And you stayed in this job. For decades.
When was this "past"? Good question. Apparently it has not been that long ago. What we can describe much easier on a time axis, however, is that today we have a greater diversity of training options and jobs. To confirm this simply have a quick look at career platforms or university directories. Eureka!
If our living conditions change, then our jobs change too. If you want to learn more about current or future jobs, then it makes sense to find out more about the essential factors which influence our societal developments.
One of the so-called "mega trends" is surely the demographic and social change. Based on the total population of Earth, the number of people on this planet keeps growing (145 babies born every minute), however, in many countries the birth rates are declining and existing society becomes older and older.
They are and always have been profound experts and sought after craftsmen, or even celebrated artists or functionally-aware designers. Their material comes from nature and what they manage to create from it bears eloquent witness to human culture. There has rarely been a profession which has been able to stay so important without losing touch with the present.
The conditions are naturally perfect. Wood, in addition to stone and metal, is amongst the most important materials of humankind in almost any place of the world. Even the industrial revolution of the 19th century did not put a sudden stop to this.
The early machines usually still had wooden frames or wooden mechanisms. Only with an increase in requirements for wear strength or load torques did iron managed to oust wood from its dominating position in favour of greater load bearing strength and breakage resistance.
One of the first and at the same most impressive traditions in elaborate wood art dates back to Egyptian times as one would expect from the ingenious Egyptians. In 3,500 B.C., the Egyptians already recognised how versatile wood was and how is easy it is to work. Veneer technology was already used for ships, buildings, furniture and objects for daily use and a type of plywood was developed. The sarcophagus of the god-king Tutankhamen is a special example for early craftsmanship.
The wood craftsmen of the Greek and Roman empires perfected these work techniques mainly by developing new tools. Amongst others, the plane as we know it today was finally developed from little spades which were used to smooth the wood. Furthermore, not only domestic woods were used but for special purposes rare and exotic woods were processed thanks to the active trade in the ancient world.
Materials which are selected for the environment in which we work and live in are usually considered as a mirror of the soul. Some leave us cold and seem unapproachable, they keep us at a distance and create clear borders. Others are inviting and exude warmth, they invite us to touch and bring a harmonic balance to a room. Wood is without doubt part of the second category and is more and more sought after as a material - both for our homes and offices.
What is it that makes wood so fascinating? Surely, it can't be just the diversity of nature with its different grains, habits and wood types, providing us with a seemingly endless range of design opportunities. It's also the thought of a natural environment and grown beauty, the idea of valuable resources and sustainability and the feeling of security and soundness. Wood combines all of these qualities: a regrowing miracle material which never stops to live and is unparalleled. No surprise then, that since the invention of the saw blade man has always wanted to surround himself with this natural element.
"None of us is as smart as all of us", said the American entrepreneur and management teacher Kenneth Blanchard. Cooperation is the buzz word of the moment - we know more together and achieve more as a team. The best ideas do not come from working alone - complex tasks and interdisciplinary projects require team work. What is required for good team work? How are ideas transformed into innovation and launched to the market? And what is the contribution of rooms in this context?
An MIT study found that employees learn about 70% of everything they know about the job from their colleagues. It is easier to learn important skills and small tricks which are re-quired for the job whilst working with each other than when working by oneself behind a desk.
The importance of social cooperation working within a company works goes beyond the in-dividual. Team work is at its best when the exchange and communication between individu-al project participants runs "smoothly".
Yet, isn't it mainly the social aspect of work that has been left behind in our time of digitisa-tion? Information is passed on by email, entire projects are coordinated online and you learn about your colleagues' birthday on the Intranet.