Cisco Blogs

The Workplace of the Future: Connected, Collaborative, Creative

July 30, 2013 - 6 Comments

The Internet of Everything is reshaping every aspect of our lives—including how and where we work. Think back to the 1950s, when the telephone was the only connected device in the typical office, and collaboration happened only when coworkers physically walked to a conference room for a face-to-face meeting.

Today, we take for granted an ever-expanding collection of connected devices and collaboration tools that didn’t even exist 10 or 20 years ago—smartphones, tablets, ”smart” white boards, online meetings, web video conferencing,  online document sharing, TelePresence, social media—all helping us change the ways we communicate, collaborate, and share.

With the amount of new technical information in the world doubling every two years, the future holds the promise of even greater, faster change. Google Glass is just the beginning of a whole new category of wearable technology that will enable even tighter integration of technology with work and life.

And robots are making their way from the factory floor to the office environment—answering questions and providing expert information as virtual receptionists, HR representatives, help-desk staffers, and more.  The iRobot Ava 500 video collaboration robot, introduced in June, is just the latest example, combining TelePresence and robotics technology to extend the reach of busy employees. As this new class of robots connects to more intelligence in the cloud, they will become even better equipped to work alongside people in an office setting.

But the workplace of the future is not just about connected devices. It’s also about when and where we work, and how we get our best ideas.

As always-on connections among people, process, data, and things become more pervasive, the lines between work and the rest of life will continue to blur—allowing a busy dad to see his daughter’s softball game without missing a client’s important inquiry, or enabling a mom to extend the family vacation by working the last few days from their mountain cabin.

And this is a good thing! According to a 16-year study by Idea Champions, only 3 percent of the 10,000 people they interviewed said that they come up with their best ideas at work. The other 97 percent said their best ideas come to them while they are in the shower, on vacation, taking walks, enjoying a glass of wine, or just doing nothing. While a highly structured, tightly scheduled workplace may foster productivity, a more relaxed, unstructured environment unlocks creativity.

Employers can extend this “creative space” by allowing flexibility in where and when people work, and by providing the collaboration and mobility tools to allow them to work anywhere, any time. Companies can make the office environment more conducive to creativity by providing a flexible, open, collaborative workspace. Cisco’s “connected workplace,” where I work, features bright colors, moveable work stations, broad views to the outside, an open, free-flowing environment—and the connected technology to enable the exchange of ideas with colleagues around the world.

This virtualized workspace of the future is just one of the ways the Internet of Everything is transforming the ways we work, live, play, and learn. As the number of Internet connections continues to grow, so will our opportunity to foster creativity and reinvent the very nature of work.

So, while these may be the “dog days” of summer, when vacations and disrupted family schedules might chip away at corporate productivity, this also may be your company’s most creative time. When people’s routines loosen up, with time to let their minds wander, there just might be room for the big ideas.

How do you see the future of work shaping up in the Internet of Everything? Join me, @DavetheFuturist, in the conversation at #IoE2023.

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  1. How does your vision reflect on the concept and thesis of Jeremy Rifkin’s THE END OF WORK?

    What percentage of the population will hold J-O-B-S and how will people be compensated so that they can participate and maintain a buying mass for the mass production machine? Or how will they manages with their 3D printers, unless we learn to print food?

    Publisher YourEARTH-YourFUTURE

  2. I love this line of thinking and inter-disciplinary approach to imagining not only what is best for companies but also for workers…my vision for the future workplace would be just that..a workplace that creates true value for all stakeholders, especially workers.

  3. At MBO, we’re following the evolution of new ways to work closely and formally track the growth of the independent workforce. Our third annual State of Independence in America report is out next month, and it’s going to show further growth and development of the infrastructure supporting the new work economy. Not just for practical, but also personal reasons, workers appear to prefer a more independent, personal-skills driven work life. They take new web-enabled tools with them to ensure they are successful and look for services that support their new work life as a business of one shopping skills on the open market. In our opinion, the #futureofwork is already here. You may enjoy looking at these five workforce predictions we made in 2012:
    Thanks for an interesting point of view!

  4. You are touching a very interesting subject here, which has not yet been explored thoroughly – If we take in to account what we know in neuroscience and psychology (like your example with the fact that only 3% come up with their best ideas on the workplace) about how we perform at our highest level as human beings when it comes to concentration, motivation, innovation, problem solving, learning etc., how can we transform the workplace with new technology, new work patterns and new management models to benefit from from that knowledge?

    I very recently read a blog post on Singularity Hub – – about how we are not being taught how to actually learn and problem solve during our school years and how we are approaching these concepts all wrong. An example given in the blog post is the fact that the processing power of our conscious mind is ridiculously puny and insignificant to the processing power of our subconscious. So in order to solve a given problem or come up with innovative thoughts, the optimal solution would be to silence your conscious mind and allow your subconsciousness to work on the problem. This can be thought through different techniques and if I should have a wish for the future workspace and the technologies involved, it should be that it’s developed with that kind of knowledge in mind.

  5. Personally, I envision the future of work to be considerably more creative and / or satisfying for individuals.

    It will certainly involve a lot less of the menial tasks that currently take up so much of our time because, I believe, IoE will take care of “all the small stuff”.

    In turn, this will allow us to tackle the bigger, more meaningfull, more evolution-enabling, work.

    OK – Not a very well described vision of ‘the future of work’ but it will have to do for the moment.

  6. Hi Dave – Thanks for responding to my Tweet.
    I imagine the future workplace will know the profile of the workers and personalise the way he works. Accessing computers without keying passwords but through biometrics, paying food with a simple gesture, finding car park without taking unnecessary times, know where to find your colleagues, check meeting rooms availability on the fly etc.