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2016 Design Forecast LIVE: The Future of Work

Etsy’s Brooklyn Headquarters, Image © Gensler

“Innovation is the core of work, and people drive innovation,” Gensler Co-CEO Diane Hoskins told participants at the Design Forecast LIVE event on June 24. “People are asking, ‘How can my workplace be a catalyst for innovation? How can I transform my culture to be more creative, more innovative?’”

Citing data from Gensler’s 2016 U.S. Workplace Survey, Hoskins pointed to a direct correlation between the most innovative companies and the highest performing workplaces. Innovative workplaces have 10 percent more collaboration, two times more learning, and 14 percent more socializing. Less individual work takes place at assigned desks, so there’s 13 percent less focus. “People work more in conference rooms and open areas, and rely more on amenities near their offices,” she said.

From Consumers to Producers

Speaking at the Brooklyn headquarters of Etsy, Eri Gentry of the Institute for The Future noted how this company—a digital marketplace for handmade goods—exemplifies the societal shift from a consumer to a maker mindset. As part of a more distributed and democratized workforce, people are taking the lead in directing their lives.

Combining a maker mindset and with technology-driven connectivity is reinventing work in terms of participation, sharing, imagination, adaptability and equity. To design for this workforce, “We have to re-invoke our maker spirit and look at the spaces and the assets around us, and how we can mix and remix them like a maker would, like a musician, like an artist would for different purposes,” Gentry suggested.

Rebalancing Values

Etsy’s Josh Wise picked up on Gentry’s comments about equity, describing ways in which the company has embedded social and economic responsibility—and advocacy—into its business model. “Reimagining commerce in ways that build a more fulfilling and lasting world is something that is both a statement about the empowerment of others, but also a call to action in changing the world through the lens of business,” he said.

At the same time, buildings are being reshaped by the social and technological shifts that are impacting our cities, added Gensler’s Jordan Goldstein. Huge leaps in technologies like Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are redefining the design process and offering clients revolutionary ways to envision buildings and settings. Artificial Intelligence-driven automated systems allow them to respond in ways that challenge how they work and how we use them. At the same time, trends like urbanization are forcing cities to grow vertically rather than spread out horizontally.

“Cities are where transformation happens,” Hoskins noted. “Work and the workplace are always at the center of the action.” The need to innovate is a societal imperative, which is why she believes that innovation “is the defining opportunity today.” For cities, communities, and organizations, it comes down to unleashing human potential—“the creative capacity of each individual and every team through the power of design.”