Randy Howder in Collaboration, Consulting, Consulting, San Francisco, Technology, Workplace Design
As the price point of high definition touch-screen technology comes down, large tactile surfaces will become affordable and ubiquitous in the workplace, transforming the way we design meeting rooms and other collaborative spaces.

For companies that strive to build innovation capabilities, work necessarily becomes more organized around projects and team efforts. The result is that the office will be organized around this team space, with large-scale, touch-screen Team Walls forming a kind of digital hearth. Like a multi-layered digital whiteboard and sticky-note surface on steroids, the Team Wall becomes the repository of the team’s process and of its intellectual capital. Sure, there will still be spaces for individual, quiet, focused work, but gone are the days of the cube farm.

Each individual team member will have a personal touch-screen device that is dynamically connected to the Team Wall. Brainstorming becomes as easy as swiping a finger across one’s personal screen to throw a digital sticky note up on the Wall.

It is at this intersection between group effort and individual contribution that the union of content and cognition made possible by the touch-screen is so potentially revolutionary. Complicated file trees and the creation of tedious bullet-pointed PowerPoint presentations go away because everything lives on the Wall. It will be a living, scalable, infinitely flexible information universe literally at one’s fingertips.

The individual device then becomes a facsimile of the Team Wall that, because all of the information is somewhere in the cloud, travels with the user wherever he or she goes. Like The Jetsons and Minority Report all rolled into one, mobile employees will have a constant portal to the Team Wall, adding ideas and “writing on the wall” in a way that is not an unfamiliar concept to fans of social networking sites. Check in on the team’s brainstorming from the road, add new ideas, and present them to a client in real-time. Mobile employees won’t miss a beat, but they probably also won’t be able to wait to get back to the team.

A future without cubicles and mindless slide presentations? It sounds pretty bright to me.

Randy Howder is an associate in Gensler’s San Francisco office and a senior strategist in the firm’s Consulting practice. His particular focus is the evolution of work and the workplace’s changing role in the future. With a portfolio that reflects his diverse skill set, he has helped the FBI, HP, Genentech, Harvard, Chevron, Facebook, and other clients align their workplace environments with their strategic goals. Contact him at
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