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MURAL @ WPC: The Future of Work

Written by 
Larissa Schiavo
July 18, 2016

Microsoft WPC

The Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference is an annual event that brings together a global community of Microsoft providers and partners. This year, the conference was held in Toronto, where over 18,000 people came together from around the world.

MURAL was proud to join the conversation at the event in a panel discussion, “The Future of Work: Achieving Innovation, Agility and Speed Through Collaboration,” moderated by Jen Davidson, Global Business Lead for the Surface Hub and Phone at Microsoft.

Jim Kalbach, author of Mapping Experiences and Head of Customer Success at MURAL, was joined by two other panelists.

Christine Congdon is the editor of Steelcase’s 360 Magazine. Christine is a well-known author and thought-leader in workspace collaboration, and her team has conducted extensive research on the role of physical environments in shaping the behavior of people at work.

Marc Bruffett is a Principal Consultant for Gensler, a leading workplace design and architecture firm. Marc and his team have consistently innovated workplace design by focus on the context of use.

Their focus: workplace transformation and the role of technology.

Jen began by framing the topic. Digital solutions have empowered businesses to think globally. Global strategies and broader talent searches increase the distance between teams. These days, making remote work effective is top of mind for any executive. The nature of our organizations is changing, begging for more effective outcomes from digital collaboration sessions.

The discussion began with some general thoughts about collaboration. Christine proposes there are three types of collaboration:

  1. Informational - the communication of information
  2. Decision making - collaborating for the purpose of making decisions
  3. Generative - collectively creating new ideas and information as a group

It’s the third type - generative collaboration - that becomes most challenging in remote contexts. Jim highlighted the difficulty of creative collaboration with distributed teams.

The panel also agreed that culture is critical for the adoption of technology. Marc highlighted how Gensler focuses on both decision makers and end users for the companies they consult. They do extensive research around the context of use before they design and build new office spaces. Marc reminded us: “The biggest opportunity for helping businesses transform may lie in shifting strategic technology conversations from ones based on digital value to humanistic value.”

The same applies to remote contexts. Our work is mediated by technology when working remotely, and the tools and technology we choose influence the interaction between team members.

But technology alone won’t solve the problem: it’s also about get the right mindset. Jim highlighted the importance of education to help people collaborate better. “Technology enables new types of interaction and collaboration,” Jim said, “but without the proper education can fail in any organization.”

The panel agreed: technology alone won’t solve the challenges of the future workplace. Service providers and technology partner need to have a deep understanding of context and culture as well.

We need to think about space as a hybrid physical-virtual one. We move in and out of remote work and in-person work fluidly.

Collaboration is best when teams have options. The choice isn’t between in-person or remote, but how organizations can provide the right options to let teams work naturally, wherever they are. The future of work will demand new ways of collaborating and new mindsets for how teams get stuff done.


Your Remote Collaboration Space Sucks

Watch: 5 Best Practices for Remote Design

About the author

About the authors

Larissa Schiavo

Former Content Marketing Manager at MURAL.