Working (and Thinking) Outside the Box

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We have all heard the phrase, “stroke of genius.” Hearing this phrase likely conjures up images of people like Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs, forward thinkers and innovators who have impacted the future as we know it.  In today’s world, we need more of these types of thinkers, but what sets them apart?  The answer is a willingness to look at the future to find solutions for today. The answer is imagination.

Traditionally, the workplace has been a think tank for grand ideas that keep companies in business. But what if the workplace of the future is different than our parents’ generations, and even our own? The office will not be defined by history’s concepts of what it should be; it no longer has to be defined or confined by cubicles or walls. Today, the possibility of imagination needs to be broadened outside the meeting room.

Re-imagine “Outside the Box”

“Thinking outside the box” is a phrase most employees have heard. Let’s consider that phrase in the literal sense – removing the physical barriers of the “office box.” It’s time to recognize where ideas happen and where imagination flourishes. It is true that ideas can happen within the workplace, but it is equally true that they can happen anywhere one finds inspiration. According to research from Forrester, “It’s imperative that business leaders initiate programs that keep their workforce productive and connected while mobile and remote.” People may need to work from places of inspiration such as their family home or on the road.

The reasoning is two-fold: more workers choose to work remotely everyday, and flexible work arrangements offer workers freedom from the confines of an office to think more creatively. Often, the confines of a stagnate work environment can fail to ignite innovative thinking due to lack of outside stimulation. In addition, workers can feel hampered by unspoken rules of etiquette and procedure within the formality of a rigid office space. A corporate hierarchy inhibits free flowing ideas and imagination by limiting workers from approaching superiors they might have approached in an otherwise less formal environment – a reason many companies have internal networking events. Thus, organizations are presented a challenge where internal office employees may feel isolated or under-inspired, while employees outside the office have ideas that require discussion among colleagues. To help solve this challenge, today’s workers need to be empowered with the tools that break down barriers of remoteness and access to help eliminate the limitations offices can create: both internally and externally. If we want to inspire workers to think outside of the box, then we need to do just that – get them outside the box – to comfortable environments where ideas flourish, but let them be freely available to the office when an idea needs to come to fruition.

The End of Office Silos

Technology has long been heralded as the future of business, from the advent of the printing press to the breakthrough of the modern computer, it has enhanced the business world. As technology progresses so do workers, but exactly how does technology un-confine? It creates and strengthens the opportunities for collaboration and people are beginning to take advantage.

When asked what their primary concern was for their first job, 57 percent of younger Americans wanted to do something enjoyable or make a difference in society. For example, a group of Millennials are working remotely while traveling around the globe on a program called Remote Year. The younger generation is embracing flexibility because they will need to always be on the hunt for new work during their careers; and for those who are successful at finding new work, their ability to learn new roles and organizations helps make them more nimble and competitive to an industry’s changing demands. According to the U.S Department of Labor, the median tenure of workers ages 55 to 64 was more than three times that of workers ages 25 to 34 years. Younger workers are spending less time at the same job and contracting more, leading to fluidity within the work market.  Technology platforms make it easy for employees and contractors to work from around the globe, enabling workers to literally “work outside the box”.

Look at any modern day office and you will see people connected by emails, phones, online chat groups, and more.  Collaboration is happening all around us in real time.  However, technology is also creating limitations. Emails go unanswered or unseen. Phone messages don’t always get relayed, and people connect to the physical office space by wires and walls. Workers need to be certain their message was received, so smartphones, Google Hangouts, and video conferencing has been added to the mix. Telepresence technology has advanced to the point where workers may connect their computer to a telepresence device in the workplace from anywhere around the globe – giving them a physical presence within the office space and “being there” for colleagues. Suitable Technologies and our Beam telepresence devices focus on allowing companies to tear down the silos that previously existed between remote workers and their offices – encouraging more collaboration and brainstorming, more efficiency and more real-time interaction and synergy between colleagues. The abundance of these kinds of technologies gives workers the flexibility they need to work and think beyond the limitations of generations past and let imagination flourish.

Allowing Imagination to Thrive

It is clear that as imagination grows, and technology is embraced, the future office will look vastly different. Research has long shown that geographical diversification within the workforce is happening, and businesses that want to succeed need to support the future workplace now.  Employees are demanding more flexibility as schedules become increasingly more hectic and work days get longer; they want the quiet comfort of home on some days, the intense collaboration of the office on others, or the inspirational experience of working while traveling abroad. If organizations want to propel imagination and inspiration forward, then they need to look at technology to solve these challenges, so everyone may enjoy a future where workplace imagination leads to inspiration and true genius thrives.

Contributor: Erin Rapacki
Director of Marketing, Suitable Technologies, Inc.