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.