Workspring & The Workplace of The Future

Workspring meeting, innovation, and collaboration space

I was in Chicago last week and took advantage of this to investigate , a recent offering from Steelcase that gets to the heart of the collaborative meeting and events space. I had heard about Workspring during my visit to Steelcase headquarters last September, and was looking forward to checking it out after it launched in November. As a company relentlessly focused on innovation, and imbued with a passion for creating valuable user experience, Steelcase has become a highly valued strategic partner for my team and I, and I had high expectations for my visit.

The team at Workspring (Frank, Courtney, and Faith) were waiting for us when we arrived, and welcomed us with typical Steelcase hospitality, which is to say… excellent. Courtney gave us a tour, providing much detail on the different meeting and collaboration environments that they had created. Workspring is a perfect showcase for an entire spectrum of innovations that Steelcase has developed for the workplace, and that provide insights into the valuable “workplace of the future” for which we share a mutual and passionate interest. The meeting studios integrate technology in ways that support idea and information sharing and capture, and utilize systems that make this technology seamless, intuitive, and non-intrusive. This was technology that was presented to me last September, but at Workspring I was able to really get hands-on with it and benefit from actual use. As an example, in the image below of Studio 3, you can see the meeting surface oriented towards two large flat panel displays, which are themselves very easily connected to each meeting participant’s laptop via a Steelcase technology (developed in partnership with IDEO) called the “Puck”. This Puck enables very quick and efficient switching between desktops empowering each participant to share information. The orientation of the meeting surface also democratizes the seating by replacing a person at the end of the table with the content on which the meeting is focused:

Workspring Studio 3 collaboration space

As impressive and well designed as it is, and it really is a beautifully designed space, I wasn’t there to see the furniture and the technology, or even to appreciate the excellent design. I was there to understand how Steelcase had gotten to Workspring as a physical reflection of their research into the workplace and into meeting dynamics and interactions. There were several reasons why I wanted to see and experience this for myself, from its relationship to co-working environments to opportunities with new hospitality models, and much of this was covered during our discussion, but there were three main reasons I wanted to make this visit:

  1. Workspring is a manifestation of workplace research and innovations from a human factors, technology, and systems standpoint, and the integration of these three is the future.
  2. As such, it offers the opportunity to experience the cutting edge in meeting and collaboration design, and how this supports the goals of the individual, the team, and the organization.
  3. To be positioned for the future, organizations must improve on the limitations presented by the traditional office environment, and Workspring provides a living lab of what this could be like, and how they can benefit from a similarly executed workplace strategy.

As great as it was to tour this space, it was much more valuable for me to sit with Courtney and Frank for an hour and discuss how Workspring had become what I experienced that afternoon. Frank provided a very detailed timeline and history, dating back to the mid-90’s, to demonstrate how Steelcase had been thinking about a number of innovations in the workplace that intersected to yield Workspring as it exists today. Steelcase was actively working with clients over a decade ago in how the design of the workplace, and the systems that support this design, could elevate the workplace to the level of a strategic asset in how it supports the individual, and as a result productivity, innovation, and collaboration. There were a number of events that seemed to connect iteratively and point Steelcase to creating Workspring, which is very clearly a beta for many other analogous opportunities. We also discussed the relationship between Workspring and an approach to workplace strategy that might enable companies to potentially reduce their real estate footprint, and subsequently the associated costs of maintaining traditional office environments, something that is definitely pervasive now as organizations critically assess all aspects of their operations and overhead. In addition to saving money, this is also driven by the belief that the ways in which we work and interact on behalf of business can be more effective, efficient, and healthy for the employees, and ultimately very successful for the organization, thus also enabling it to MAKE more money. This stands to provide a competitive advantage in the marketplace, and when executed well this is a transformative experience for organizations.

I was impressed with how very consistent this visit was with my interactions throughout the Steelcase organzation. There seems to be a unified focus at Steelcase on user centered design and the development of holistic systems informed by thorough observation and research. This informs the ways in which Steelcase engages its customers and partners to result in greater value creation, and relevance in an industry that works hard to rise above a commodity mindset. This motivates me, and is directly aligned with my own thoughts about workplace design and strategy. For Steelcase, there is tremendous value in how they can work with architects, designers, end users, and human and business factors researchers to create an ecosystem of knowledge around their offerings in order to challenge and change legacy thinking as it relates to workplace design, to contribute to the creation of environments that support us in our needs, tasks, and desire to have better quality experiences, and to help companies benefit from their workplace in ways that are probably unexpected, and probably quite invaluable. In this way, Workspring makes concrete a dense array of thinking and research, and provides all of us with a window into what a truly effective work and meeting environment can be like, and the chance to experience the value this provides in a way that eliminates abstraction, and gets us closer to understanding how we might actually be able to love how we work.

2 Responses to “Workspring & The Workplace of The Future”

  1. Jeffrey Says:

    Bravo, Steelcase. All mobile designers applaud your insight and vision for the future. As cube farms are rapidly being depopulated, I predict in a few years, large projects 50M-100M will be conducted by 20-30 designers, lawyers and engineers placed across continents and time zones flying to Chicago, Milan, Hong Kong, for an all day meeting at one these spirit refreshing springs. Design intelligence knows no boundaries.

    Thanks John,

    Jeffrey

  2. Says:

    [...] Workspring & the workplace of the future John F. Schneider tries to understand how Workspring, a recent offering from Steelcase that gets to the heart of the collaborative meeting and events space, can be seen as a physical reflection of their research into the workplace and into meeting dynamics and interactions. “There seems to be a unified focus at Steelcase on user centered design and the development of holistic systems informed by thorough observation and research. This informs the ways in which Steelcase engages its customers and partners to result in greater value creation, and relevance in an industry that works hard to rise above a commodity mindset.” [...]

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