Not Your Father’s Workplace Conference: WX Summit 2019

Work Design Publisher, Bob Fox, recaps his experience at the WX Summit on January 22-24 in Park City, Utah.

Since returning from the WX Summit from January 22-24 in Park City, Utah, I’ve had some time to think about the event. The conference was hosted by Teem (now part of WeWork) and was attended by 150 people, mostly comprised of technology, facilities and real estate professionals. It was not like any other conference that I’ve been to recently.

The event was hosted in Park City – I hate to admit that I did not make plans to ski or play – I’m pretty busy lately and only had time for a quick trip. But Teem took care of that and incorporated a host of fun activities, like skiing, snowmobiling, spa treatments and bobsledding (which I had to try!). I rode an Olympic bobsled, driven by the Jamaican Bobsled Coach, for all of 48 seconds, plummeting through a white tunnel of ice and snow at 63 mph. It was the longest 48 seconds ever, but once I was done, I thought it was pretty cool and was ready for more!

It was all about the experience. I survived! I had fun! It was only 48 seconds of my life and the experience has stuck with me. It left an impression that I share with you, my friends, my Facebook page and most importantly with the other conference attendees, and because we shared this experience, are now all best friends. Any time I’m in Boston or New York, or other cities around the world, I know I’ll have friends to call for a beer to re-live that experience. That was what was so unique and so great about this conference – it was the experience. The entire two and a half days was all thoughtfully designed to share, learn, get to know each other and exchange knowledge. We quickly bonded and we able to see into each other’s worlds.

You have to know a little about Teem to really get this conference, they are a technology company, but the technology that they focus on is all about maximizing the productivity and utilization of the workplace – people. The conference was the mastermind of Shaun Ritchie, an incredibly smart guy, and also a great communicator and innovator.

This conference was focused on the workplace experience and there was a big effort made to bring everyone together to share their area of expertise, but it went beyond that conversation creating lots of interaction. And not just any interaction; it was interacting with people that were well, almost aliens – they spoke a different language. What was weird was they actually used the same words, but they just meant different things. Words like: Architecture, Program, Agile, and Mobile. The conference was about bringing together two siloed disciplines that are critical to creating successful tools and workplaces.

I’ve not been to any other conference where such an effort was made to bring two very different groups of people together to get that kind of connection and relationship building. I can’t help but think that it’s something our political leaders would greatly benefit from.

Traditionally, if you are involved in workplace/facilities design, when you go through the process to design space, it’s rare to have the IT people brought to the table early in the process. Aren’t those the guys in the dark room with the lights out playing video games? That’s the stereotyping that gets us into trouble.

It’s generally not until you are putting the construction documents together, that you bring in the tech guy as you are coordinating information with the engineers who need to size electrical systems. You know that they have some electrical equipment somewhere, or something about a cloud. Then, you have the technology guys, who are getting drawings with a bunch of lines and symbols that they really don’t understand. To further complicate matters, there are those words that are the same, but have different meanings.

The conference forced people to break down the silos and solve problems together. That in and of itself could have been a recipe for disaster, but it was actually fun. We heard about each other’s challenges, over drinks in a fun and pressure-free environment. Some of the activities were designed to force interaction among the groups and get people to appreciate the respective value that each brought. The first exercise was how to reposition a fictional Dive Bar. There’s nothing like saving a struggling bar to bring together two very disparate groups! We had to come up with how to craft the message, the interior design, the technology, the events, and food to save the neighborhood establishment. We rallied! If only all projects could be so collaborative…

This set the entire experience. People connected, shared issues and the program was filled with a valuable exchange of information. It opened our eyes and we learned a lot. I know now more about technology and workplace issues and more importantly, I know who to call for information…and a beer.


All images courtesy of Teem.
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