Many of us remember the scene in Office Space when Peter Gibbons rebelliously tears down his cubicle walls so he could be more open and less constricted, but how many of us in 1999 would’ve thought this would become a sought after human capital strategy to attract younger generations and foster collaboration? I’m holding up a lighter to you, Peter, you were a true futurist and definitely management material. Yes, the open office trend has infiltrated the corporate world and employees everywhere are losing cubicle real estate once occupied by conference tchotchkes, inspirational quotes and personal décor. These items are being replaced, in many cases, by trendy furniture, better coffee stations, maybe a ping pong table (if you’re lucky), and huddle rooms designed to mimic a café atmosphere – all in an effort to foster collaboration, making us more productive, and hopefully less stressed.
Although Peter knew cubical walls needed to go, we have to offer credit to Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, for foresight regarding collaboration screens. That’s truly where we are headed, like the bridge of the Enterprise (sans the Klingon attack). The idea of a world in which you can seamlessly conference in anyone almost instantaneously, share anything (e.g., presentations, CAD designs, etc.) via any device, have real-time voice or text translation, transcribe meeting notes, and more with the click of a button is not that farfetched. In fact, this technology is where the big tech companies are battling it out to help firms drive productivity and future innovation.
The product at center stage is the collaboration screen segment that is being outfitted in company huddle rooms across the globe. According to NPD’s U.S. B2B Distributor and Reseller Tracking Service, the collaboration display market grew 61 percent in dollars and 166 percent in unit shipments for the 12 months ending August 2018 versus the year prior. This is significantly faster than most IT categories. From a size perspective, the 75-inch and 65-inch segments represented over 60 percent unit share, and screens with built-in speakers grew over 191 percent in unit shipments, indicating the market is gravitating towards systems with large screens and integrated functionality for ease-of-use.
So while some adjustments will need to be made to alleviate privacy concerns (a chief complaint from employees that work in open floor plan offices), the benefit of having a place and the technology to immediately patch somebody in to collaborate on a project – whether they are a mile away or ten thousand miles away, speaking a different language – is immeasurable. This technology will help companies remove barriers, as they remove walls, and implement the most innovative technology from the best and brightest tech companies.
As long as firms are upgrading their human capital management strategies, seeking ways of attracting and retaining young talent while fusing them with older generations, we will continue to come up with solutions that make technology easier for people to collaborate, regardless of the platform (e.g., PC, handset, collaboration screen) and location. The reality is, in a hyper-connected and diverse world, the companies and solutions that keep these things in mind will ultimately win the productivity battle. So next time you’re looking around your open office floor plan or are in a huddle room with a collaboration screen, thank Peter Gibbons and Gene Roddenberry since they were way ahead of their time.