The Future of Work: Smart and connected spaces

The forces of change are greater in number and velocity than ever before. The digital and analog worlds merge amidst all this disruption. Increasingly interactive and intelligent environments are becoming essential in our accelerated competitive world. James Ludwig, Vice President Global Design and Engineering for Steelcase, has been working with his international design team on new workplace environments that consider people’s emotional, cognitive and physical wellbeing. Being smart is essential for being successful in today’s business landscape. Companies need the best talents to survive in competition, as smart people are able to keep track in a highly complex world and drive innovation. But no matter how smart people are, they need the right spatial and technical tools which foster their capabilities by making life easier instead of more complicated.

„I believe we’re physical beings and we need physical space. And, the best physical space will actually help us leverage the best virtual space,“ explains Ludwig.


Two questions to James Ludwig:

1. There’s a need for an agile culture in today’s fast-paced environment. How does being smart and connected support this kind of workplace in your mind?

The challenge of physical space is that it’s physical. Change is slow-moving and cumbersome.  It often disrupts the environment and requires a great deal of coordination.   Whereas, the digital layer can be upgraded in real time or overnight while we sleep. Anyone fortunate enough to be driving a Tesla knows they wake up every morning to a better car. It’s not unthinkable that the office would do the same for us. That’s our vision — the space learns how it performed the day before, what the preferences were of the people working in it and is able to upgrade and update itself for the next day so it’s better. In the future, the workspace is one that’s constantly upgrading itself and updating itself to be better the next day than it was before.


2. Can you describe where we are right now in terms of a workplace culture around these new types of technologies?

The design process is an iterative process. So, we’re going to see experiments that succeed and fail. We’re at a time where I jokingly say it’s like teenagers learning to put on makeup or cologne. It’s a little overdone and clumsy at times until we understand how to use these things to make them our own and they become assimilated into our lives as if they’re second nature. I think that we’re right on the cusp of some really amazing experiments.


Steelcase Events related to this topic during the MCBW 2017:

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