Lateral Learning

lateral learningA month or so ago, I discovered some notes from a few years back that I jotted down from the book, “The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World” by Jeremy Rifkin that I want to share. In Part III of the book, Chapter 8, Mr. Rifkin introduces the concept of “Lateral Learning”. Link to Book in Amazon. As I reviewed my notes, it occured to me that Lateral Learning represents my vision for leading a group of enlighted space and occupancy planners. LinkedIn Group link

According to Mr. Rifkin, in Lateral Learning “Knowledge is not regarded as objective, autonomous phenomena but, rather, the explanations we make about the common experiences that we share with each other.” Sharing and explaining common experiences with other group members has been a fundimental key to my professional success in strategic facilities and space planning and how I envision this group to operate.

Mr. Rifkin continues, “To seek the truth is to understand how everything relates and we discover those relationships by our deep participation with others. The more diverse our experiences and interrelationships, the closer we come to understanding reality itself and how each of us fits into the bigger picture of existence.” Thus, building professional relationships via “deep participation” will enable us to grow in our profession, gain confidence in our understanding of the changes in the workplace and enable us to make positive changes for our clients.

Are you open to Lateral Learning? If so, please let me know how you would like to participate.

The Metrics of Distributed Work

This Excellent Study, conducted in 2011 by Knoll, Inc. (www.knoll.com) with help from Ratekin Consulting (Joel Ratekin is a leader in Distributed Work) can be viewed and downloaded here –> Link to Knoll Distributed Work Study

Over the past 10 years Distributed Work is finally catching on at most companies, even in Silicon Valley where cube farms have been the norm for at least a generation. Distributed Work was formerally called, “Alternative Work” design / place or System (AWS). But Distributed Work is no longer considered an alternative workplace design: it has become mainstream, hence the need to change the term.

The reasons for this change are due primarily because employees are working in an increasingly social, mobile, and collaborative fashion. The conventional, boilerplate office programs and spaces that most of us are familiar with (one size fits all, cube farm or the dreaded dark, narrow hallways when housing everyone in enclosed “private” offices (think IBM in the 1960s)) were never intended to support the complexity and unpredictability of these new work patterns.

This new workstyle is often referred to as “distributed work”—a combination of:

  • heads down “Focus” work (for more information, see my prior article here–> Focus Space – It’s What You Need)
  • Formal Collaboration of varying duration
  • Informal Collaboration of varying duration
  • Social Interaction that occurs in a wide variety of settings within the building, campus or other locations.

distributed work program workspace types

The diagram above is from the 2011 Knoll Distributed Work study (Figure 4)

In addition to providing physical spaces to match these four main types of work, work policies, technology and communications networks all play important roles in facilitating Distributed Work. Employees are embracing the new levels of personal freedom in the rich, diverse work spaces that are explicitly designed to support Distributed Work.

Now that we know that a well designed and supported Distributed Work environment improves organizational collaboration and employees embrace it, how do we as space and occupancy planners measure it? Unlike traditional design, one workstation (or seat) is assigned to one employee or contractor, where it is quite easy to measure Occupancy (don’t confuse this with Utilization!), we need new metrics and methodolgy to measure or benchmark Distributed Work. Working with the best space and occupancy planners in the San Francisco Bay Area, I envsion that via “Lateral Learning” the Bay Area Space Planners User group will set the new standard for space benchmarking, needed in today’s new workplace.

Integrated Work

A visual summary of the Knoll Research papater on Implementing Integrated WorkDSC_0729 to Create a Dynamic Workplace. The top / main diagram shows the four primary types of spaces that should be present in a well designed Integrated Workplace: Focus Space, Share Space, Team Space and Social Space.

I wrote about the importance of Focus Space in 2013 – one size (or type) does not fit all. I think of Shared spaces as labs and Team spaces as conference or meting spaces. Social Space is the one that usually gets overlooked or cut in the project budget, but in my experience, can add value beyond the workplace and greatly increase employee satisfaction. I experienced this in 2015 while on assignment at Google X and was able to meet Sergey Brin at a Social Space.

Integrated Work