The practice of looking into the future and forming well-considered ideas about what we might find there requires of us both rigour and creativity. Organizations often use a 10-year timeframe for this process in order to stimulate creativity and suspend current operational thinking, while avoiding the process seeming too much like science fiction. So when setting out to explore the future of the digital workplace at DWG, Paul Miller and I selected the year 2030 as the anchor for our exploration of the future unfolding of the digital worlds of work.
Looking forward, looking backward and trendwatching
Looking forward means first looking backward in order to understand the path of technological progress already beaten, and what this means for what happens next. Doing so uncovered the fascinating work of a mathematician called Kondratiev and a phenomenon called K-waves that chart the leaps forward in technology that happen around every 40–60 years. An understanding of K-wave theory may seem a long way from the digital workplace, but what it shows us is why we are experiencing the present time as one of so much disruption – and what might come next. Crucially, this can help guide the strategies and business models we develop moving forward. And if that has captured your interest, you may want to go straight to the free report:Digital Workplace 2030: Preparing now for the digital worlds of work to comefor the long read!
Looking forward requires us to take a good look around at the unfolding trends that will shape our uncertain future. Megatrends that will forge our 2030 world, as set out by Roland Berger, focus our attention on shifts such as changing demographics, globalization and future markets, scarcity of resources and climate change – as well as the nature of technology and innovation in a global knowledge society. Yet, even such apparently clear signals and signposts of our future world exist in a context of increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA). As National Intelligence Council chairman, Christopher Kojm, put it in the Council’s “Global Trends 2030” report: “We are at a critical juncture in human history, which could lead to widely contrasting futures.”
With some indicators drawn from this scene setting, we embarked on a journey of discovery of what digital worlds of work might look like in 10+ years time. With a nod to some of the ideas drawn from history in our 2015 book “The Digital Renaissance of Work”, we drew on ancient Vitruvian principles of balance and proportion in architecture, to propose a framework for thinking about Digital Workplace 2030 that has four key dimensions: space, capability, intelligence and beauty. This sets the tone for an exploration of the future of work that is first and foremost about human flourishing and how we inhabit the digital worlds of work we are already creating and others we have yet to create.
Based on these ideas, we focus in on four dimensions of the digital workplace in 2030: