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The Future of Work Isn’t About Technologies. It’s About People

Article May 10, 2019  |  Text by Lukáš Rozmajzl Text by Lukáš Rozmajzl

Will the future see every meeting shifted into virtual space? AV MEDIA marketing manager Jiří Plátek answers this question and more in his interview for #MORETHANOFFICE.

“AV MEDIA has been on the audiovisual technologies market for over 25 years. Throughout these years, we’ve been dedicated to the simple and practical utilization of modern technologies such as projectors, interactive displays, digital flipcharts, and video conferences to support team cooperation, creative thinking, and active involvement by remote participants as well. Digital tools can help us all at work and at meetings in a number of ways. But we have to arrive at why we should use it and at how it can help us,” Plátek describes.

On your LinkedIn profile you’ve written that “Every office should be a studio.” What do you have in mind with that?

Studios are where buildings’ future architectures and overall designs arise; they’re a place where people actively cooperate and co-create ideas that are inventive and original. People are capable of joining things into contexts and stories; this is what differentiates us, for now, from technologies.

Jiří Plátek works as a marketing manager for AV MEDIA

What should be the role of technologies?

Paradoxically, technologies help organizations to focus on the needs of people. Technology is here not to replace people, but to amplify their unique human skills such as cooperation, communication, and creativity. The future of work is based on people—on engaging and satisfying them. These are the indicators for the true success of any future changes to work.

Non-cognitive (“soft”) skills such as determination, curiosity, persistence, imagination, teamwork, and empathy are becoming the driving force today.

Automated platforms, software, and systems will gradually take over for cognitive (“hard”) skills such as repeating processes or finding and collecting big data.

What are some specific ways in which all this can transform office work?

Participants will arrive at meetings enriched with digital documentation and information on the other participants. This document automation will make meeting preparation much easier. During a meeting, the entire conversation will be recorded, including a timeline and voice recognition. After it ends, all of the digital data and documents will be assigned to the appropriate cloud. For all of the source documents, it will be possible to verify them and index them, and for the whole implementation team to look through them. Digital content will play an important role. Creating it, storing it, sharing it, and updating it further with new feedback.

WHERE TO FIND IDEAS

Do you agree with the opinion that in order to work creatively, you need to have a creative environment?

It is something you’ll want under certain circumstances. The environment where people spend their work time has to be good at stimulating their feelings, stances, and opinions. People have to feel safe there; they have to be surrounded by the right people, with whom they have a good rapport and good relationships. And we also can’t forget the technologies that people have chosen themselves and use gladly. Once these basic external needs are satisfied, each person can focus on their internal need for self-actualization. This interdependency lets you create an active office space with true psychological freedom.

So people can’t be creative in a white-walled office?

It depends on the situation. I work from the environments in which we as humans grow up naturally. We eat in the kitchen, we sleep in the bedroom, we relax in the living room. When you think about it, every room is predestined for a different activity. And so we should likewise adapt office spaces for different work activities. When you look at the most modern of offices, you’ll find that, in many respects, the furniture and other accessories resemble what you know from your private life. Is that a coincidence? Is it good or bad? Maybe it’s one way to motivate someone to be more satisfied and more involved in teamwork or their own work.

Still, aren’t you worried that when you’ve got an office with a certain kind of designer furniture, it will—even if just subconsciously—bias the imagination and push creative thinking in a certain direction?

I can’t speak for others, but… you need to seek a starting point in people. I essentially don’t have to have the latest furniture, a pool table, or a fitness studio at work. What’s more important is the above-mentioned atmosphere, and the team relationships. Without faith in the people, you won’t enjoy your work, and you’ll leave.

Yes, many interesting ideas are born in spaces that have little to do with offices. For example during a walk in the park or in the woods, or during a peaceful moment in the bathroom. But then a new challenge arises—How can this idea be brought to life? For that, you need other people who will hear you out, ideally in a space that’s designed to let you all process, assess, and actualize the idea swiftly.

This person would most likely call a team meeting where they could present their idea. Should they go more for a paper flip chart, or a digital chalkboard?

Both of these tools have their pluses and minuses. But it’s all about people, what they’ll accept, what’s more natural for them, and where they see the bigger benefit. Paper flip charts are a great invention, but think about this: what happens with the visual information written or drawn on them?

Usually you photograph them at the meeting’s end…

Precisely, digitalization happens! Why are we all talking about the benefits of Industry 4.0 while surrounding ourselves with analog? Isn’t it more natural to make our source materials digital right away and then work with them from there?

VIRTUAL WORLDS

Video conferences are one of the other products you offer. Would you say that most meetings are moving into the virtual world?

People contain an evolutionarily encoded need to be in personal contact with other people. That’s why people want to meet physically, it’s a natural need, which is gradually transforming in our digital world. Technologies open up new possibilities for mutual communication.

Video conferences let us immediately work on a problem or an idea from anywhere, at any time, and on any device. We can hook up with specialists and experts and implement the corresponding ideas almost right away. The degree of remote communication will still continue to rise. It will be more appropriate to handle a project’s individual tasks remotely, but when there’s the need to assemble it all into an overall mosaic, in-person meetings will be appropriate as well. So we can all see each other and say things eye-to-eye.

So offices won’t be disappearing quite just yet?

Maybe in the future we’ll be living in a virtual world like what you see in Star Wars, but that will evidently take a while. In my opinion, even 20 years from now we’ll still need to meet our colleagues and customers in what I’d call “office digital hubs.”