The workplace is not always what it seems. It doesn't always work the way we think, or wish it did. Like any good story, it's as much a product of our aspirations and imagination – and our fears and anxieties – as our rationality.
Effective workplace design can convey, more clearly than we might desire, just what we value. The physical cues of the office send environmental messages. Some are intentional, some not. We pay attention to physical cues precisely because they seem less consciously controlled than verbal expressions such as a mission statement or corporate values statement.
I have never found an organisation, for example, that proudly proclaimed, "People are not our most important asset." Nevertheless, I've encountered countless offices sending that very message unintentionally through dank and dingy 'refreshment facilities' (coffee area/ catering facilities, etc), large scale floor space packed with identical workstations and poor furniture, or just simply littered with stacks of paper and untidy desks.
Draw on the past to reinvent the future. Innovation in the places where we work, like the cars we drive, is shaped by the fact that the past exists in the present and the edge influences the centre.
Today's family car, equipped with its rack-and-pinion steering, anti-lock brakes, aluminium and graphite panels, has parts that can trace their origins to grand prix cars and defence aviation.
The modern worker – spending part their time as a home-based telecommuter – has something in common with a thirteenth-century monk who worked from 'home'.
The suburban house with the office in the spare bedroom or study shares lineage with the traditional corner-shop over which the proprietor and his family lived.
Peter Drucker argues that if you want to predict the future, look around you today. Whether it's to build an innovative place to work, or innovative products and services, managers must observe and understand the world around them.