Predicting the future of work is tough, but planning for it based on past history and current trends is somewhat easier.
This future planning is especially vital to large organizations, in particular, whose decisions might live on for 20 or more years. However, our ability (or inability) to foresee the future is severely warped by our tendency to discount future risk.
Nigel Cameron, president of the Center for Policies on Emerging Technologies, has a unique perspective on this. His theory of the “kink in the curve” describes our perceptions of extreme and rapid change that we experience.
In Cameron’s curve, our immediate past is wrought with an increasingly sharp rise representing change. In the future, it’s nearly flat.
The “kink in the curve” is the present day, where everything seems calm after disruptive unexpected change, and everything in the future seems like it’ll be smoother. Its our way of coping, or we experience what Alvin Toffler termed “Future Shock.”
“… the entire principle here is one of knowledge-driven disruption, at an exponential pace; not of the establishment of new, stable, corporate technology-based empires in the stead of the displaced old. Indeed, the point is broader. For most people, the “digital revolution” has happened; and it has bequeathed us Blackberries and iPads. Yet the revolution has barely begun. As if shielding our eyes from too bright a light, we cope with the Future Shock of which Alvin Toffler warned us (prophetically but as it turned out much too soon) by squinting. The curve has a kink. And it just happens to be today.”
In the workplace we are faced with the same type of dramatic change. It is becoming harder for CRE and FM’s to keep up with the explosive change. Things are changing quickly, and today what’s most important is the ability for our organizations to manage and adapt.
I recently read Richard Kadzis’ article Corporate Real Estate’s (CRE) 2020 Super Nucleus: metaphors and meta physics help define a new model for Meta companies.
In it, Kadzis wonderfully describes the biological analogy of how to manage challenges posed to large organizations trying to make decisions in a hyper-active world. He describes a system for CRE to provide the leadership to integrate an organized and efficient decision-making model for the future. It is called the Super-Nucleus model.
Even under what might be considered “normal” circumstances, the Super-Nucleus model is a logical, rational leadership system that can better organize large corporations. The model could enable them to adapt to a variety of situations and conditions; thus, the biological metaphor.
Consider the massive amount of change and information in our CRE and FM industry today. What if a super nucleus of top-level leadership could provide direction, strategy, and support to enable highly flexible business units to thrive?
Under this model, the business units would have minimal bureaucracy and therefore be freed to focus on markets and customer needs. This is because the Super-Nucleus already contains vital leadership functions of human resources (HR), information technology (IT), CRE, finance (FIN), and others critical to the success of the complete organization.
Kadzis also describes a highly collaborative form of integrated and unselfish leadership that provides for responsive adaptation to change; this ensures the survival of the organization, much like organisms themselves.
Consider CRE as a perfect example. The organization needs CRE to understand mission and strategy, plus coordinate internal goals and operations with HR, IT, and FIN. That CRE then also needs to represent those needs to outsourced real-estate experts who have in-depth, highly detailed, market-specific knowledge and expertise. The CRE can focus on the corporate need and let other experts more efficiently provide knowledge about real estate markets, types of spaces and systems, and new ways of working.
In the case of the workplace, that leadership core would outsource specific areas of expertise that are needed, where typically in a large bureaucratic organization they would be slow to respond and expensive to maintain. Furthermore, some of these areas are not part of the core business, which leads to miscommunication and ineffective change management.
The beauty of this Super-Nucleus model is that it’s a highly efficient system. The vision and strategy are more effectively communicated and knowledge and expertise is delivered precisely to where it is needed. Costs can be better controlled because the more detailed, non-core business research and expertise can be outsourced and spread over multiple organizations.
The future is an unknown, but the Super-Nucleus as a concept for leading organizations and adapting to change is consistent with nature. If all the functions are operating in a highly collaborative and interactive way, managing change can be more effectively handled. The future then becomes highly optimistic.
As an architect, do you see this model working well within the larger architectural firms? Not considering engineering consultants, who primarily are outsourced or become partners on a project by project basis, but for other disciplines, like landscape architects, environmental graphics, furniture and medical equipment experts – do you find them outsourcing these focused and specific areas?As experts in our field of healthcare furniture planning, we are finding that some firms understand that model to be efficient and profitable, others, not so much. In the fight to hold on to fees, they don’t see the inefficiencies and sometimes lower profit margins by doing so.
The Super Nucleus Model provides for the strategy, vision, goals and support for the overall organization. But more importantly, and if done correctly, it provides the authority and autonomy to the individual business units who are now free to respond more quickly to changes in customer needs and market opportunities. It could work for a large architectural firm where the leadership has defined clear goals and provides the necessary support, then each studio or practice has the talent and can make its owns decisions about growing their business and pursuing opportunities.
The need for more progresive, forward-facing collaborative leadership styles is a pressing one if we’re really going to grasp and understand the nature of work and workspaces of tomorrow, so I’m grateful for Workspace Design Magazine’s insightful analysis on the kink in the change curve we somehow need to see beyond – and for correlating it to the recent LEADER Magazine Industry Tracker analysis of the Super Nucleus model that could help support such an important commitment for an informed total stakeholder approach.