We all know work is changing thanks to technology -- how we interact with colleagues, how we communicate, and the tools we use are all developing at a whiplash-inducing pace. But according to architect and designer Jennifer Magnolfi, when it comes to how tech is changing office life, we haven't seen anything yet.
As Magnolfi explained to the audience at a recent Google re:Work event, she has a bit of an unusual specialty. She studies advanced, futuristic workspaces such as submarines, hacker spaces or robotics labs, where human workers rely heavily on cutting-edge technology and are innovating how people and machines interact.
These aren't your typical workers, Magnolfi concedes, but she believes their experience today is a window into the workspaces more of us will experience in the future. "We do know that we're approaching a state where as part of their everyday experience workers are going to collaborate and will even share space with various forms of artificial intelligence," she claims.
When office are designed for robots...
So what will these offices look like? That's the topic of her fascinating eight-minute re:Work talk.
Heavy interaction with machines changes both how people think and interact, Magnolfi claims, as well as what they need from their workspaces. In short, working with AIs all day makes people think and work more like software. In practice that plays out in two ways.
First, forget just assigning future workers a souped-up computer of some sort. "Future employees are not going to be content with just getting a laptop or a tablet," claims Magnolfi. "They're going to gravitate toward companies whose workspaces provide new forms of interaction," she insists. Even today, at the super high-tech spaces Magnolfi studies, "walls and furniture are seen as real estate for software interaction."
Second, throw out the old org chart. "Future workers will organize as distributed networks," insists Magnolfi, and geographic and time differences will matter less. Why? This way of working simply accelerates learning.
It all sounds futuristic, but getting the space right in order to promote seamless human-machine interaction "can influence a company's trajectory, can inspire future leaders... and can transform culture," she concludes. And that's going to be a huge competitive advantage.
If you're buying her argument that our heavy use of various forms of AI will shape the office of the future -- and that understanding this shift will influence the future success of companies -- check out her talk below.