This, is a brief musing about the future of work. We hear a lot about the Internet of Things, that is, the connectivity of every day objects through technology: that Fitbit which links to your iPhone which in turn can link to the security system in your home. Such connectivity could have huge ramifications for homebound elderly, for example, and early detection of sudden falls or illness. The iBeacon, an indoor transmitting system trademarked by Apple, can conceivably link a passerby in front of a store to the retail environment within that store. The internet of things is a cool dynamic, and it is no longer futuristic- it is here. But what about the next iteration of the Internet of Things?

I call it the Internet of Ideas.

This is a terrain that will have profound meaning as the way we work and learn shifts. So far, the Internet of Things has not necessarily resulted in more meaningful, qualitative living- although it has certainly gotten us closer to lots of data and information about our heart rate, the number of steps we've walked, and some assurance that we can monitor the locks on our door knobs while vacationing on another continent.

I do a lot of thinking about optimizing creativity in the ways we work. What if, the next iteration of the Internet of Things was about the true connectivity of ideas in our workplaces?

Some of my graduate students in the Strategic Design MBA program at Philadelphia University collaborated with a similar program at Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland on a "future of work" project. The students explored the ramifications of constraints such as healthcare costs, nomadic work cultures, changing educational models, and environmental hazards on our future work environments.

And then I recently had a conversation with Chris Bye, one of the founders of Tonic Design, an interactive design firm based in Philadelphia specializing in web development to drive experiences. We were chatting about the firm's plans for a move into a completely new space- what an opportunity! Chris is excited about integrating very different spatial design, such as the kiva to prompt happy accidents among employees, more decentralized work structures and a true culture of learning, where conversations, workshops, and talks- led by internal employees and external guests- will spark an organizational culture that values learning and exploration of ideas over mere transactional activity.

In the future, lines will be blurred between work and education, between companies and school. You won't necessarily have to go outside of your organization to be educated. More companies will start their own "universities" to pilot, test and commoditize their secret sauce of a process or a service. One of the ways we will have real effects on work culture is to use technology and the spatial design of our work environments to cultivate an economy and ecosystem of sharing.

The future of work will have the elements of a chaordic system- a wonderful balance between chaos and order. Chaordic systems are self-organizing, adaptive and they abound: jazz music is one; the cellular healing systems in our bodies are another. Imagine future work environments that will embrace mistakes, be ambiguous-friendly, and value emergent leadership from the margins- not just on hierarchical terms. When we begin to leverage technology and the design of our workspaces to help us truly see each other and really listen to each other, then the impact on work culture will be affected in ways that will make more people want to show up for work and contribute with their full authentic selves.
This is the possibility of the Internet of Ideas.

Published on: Mar 13, 2015
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