Sunday, January 30, 2011

Microsoft's Work & Productivity Vision for the future

Is this the future of work for us?  Take a look.  It's  really interesting and in some cases compelling.  It's also dated from 2009.  With the advent of the I-pad and the ever decreasing sizes of screens and thinness it certainly seems very probable we're heading to something like this.  

Our children and their children's world of work will look distinctly different from ours in screen display technology and ubiquitousness of smart surfaces.  What's ironic is the clunky devices, monitors, boxy equipment we've grown up with over the last generation and a half will slowly disappear (hopefully) and while technology becomes more embedded into everyday things, perhaps we'll have a cleaner more elegant relationship with it.  I only hope so.  Perhaps this will leave us with the ability to wrestle with the design challenges of the future with smarter and less demanding technology at least from a physical sense.

Hopefully too, while this technology will continue to strive and lead to lower energy demand and usage.  I hope these products and technologies in development will use Thin film solar cells.  This aspect of the renew ables seems poised to take off with numerous companies beginning production recently and more coming online in the years to come.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Thunderbird Painting and a Memory with My Son

Watercolor Study of a Vintage Thunderbird
designcultivation fans, please enjoy this recent watercolor study of a car I painted with and for my younger son recently.  It started out as a photo I took at 4th of July Parade last summer.  He and I went to a local coffee shop where we hung out together.  He read a favorite book  and I drew this in pencil and began to paint this image for him filling in the basic shading and color fields.  I later finished it over the course of the next few days.

You know it amazes me when you really look at a photo and try to convey shade and shadow, reflection and colors, there's always something you missed upon a second, third and 15th look.  Now I see the proportions of the drawing are a little out of whack but hopefully the spirit of the car and the moment is there.  As is the memory of sharing this process with my Son!  Now I've got to figure out what to paint for my older son!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Take my Strategic Workplace Survey

Winter trees in Vermont
symbolizing the web of information
As you know, I'm interested in cultivating awareness about the high performance workplace and ways to increase organizational effectiveness as a key goal of

Since I wrote earlier about goals for the workplace in 2011 and recommending taking the time to survey and talk to your work teams and staff this year, I thought might I try out Survey Monkey for myself and show you what I mean.  So I developed a Strategic Workplace Survey for you the readers of designcultivation to fill out.  I'm curious where you live and work, how you work and how your workplace can be improved.  Tell me so I can share with our readers and others how to improve workplace design, work processes and interfacing with technology going into 2011.
Click to go to the survey.

With less than ten questions it will probably take 5 minutes or so of your time. I really appreciate your  insight into your work, work processes and workplace.  As you know, I'm very interested in cultivating the high performance workplace as one of my goals of this blog.  Maybe by taking the survey it'll stir some thoughts and ideas in your mind you can bring to work.

I will collect information over the next week and see where we are with the goal of writing about what you tell me is important to you and the way you work and the kind of workplace you work within.  I know many of you hail from all over the world like India, Russia, Indonesia as well as close to home here in Vermont and across the US.  Add your voice to help us all be better designers and consumers of workspace in 2011!

Click to go to the survey.

Contact me at 802-448-0056 if you have any questions or comments.  As always, please share your feedback.  And never be shy!  Tell me what I left out and how I can do better next time.
Thanks!  Steve

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Forgiveness and the system

Thank you Ron and Jennifer_ A heartwarming story...share it! PopTech : Popcasts : Thompson & Cotton forgive via @ 
See this heartwarming story available from the PopTech 3.0 conference held last year.  Needed perspective on all of our personal struggles and our journey's.  Things aren't always as they seem and there always can be room for forgiveness.  Good luck to both of you!  

From PopTech website  "The story of Jennifer Thompson and Ronald Cotton is one of liberation and forgiveness. In 1984, Thompson testified that Cotton raped her, for which he was sentenced to life in prison. Eleven years later, DNA evidence cleared him of the crime. Thompson and Cotton went on to write a memoir together about their experience."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Invictus Poem, thoughts for MLK day


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul. 

William Ernest Henley

I watched Invictus a few times this weekend with my family.  What a wonderful revealing story about the birth of a nation borne from the unity around sports!  I am grateful for the opportunity with this movie to explain attempt to explain the unexplainable such as apartheid and divisions between people of different color and cultures and why that is to my ten and twelve year olds.

This poem is especially poignant in relation to the film and its story of South Africa and her people.  However, it really is a story of all people over time immemorial and the constant struggle between fear and love of one another.  The yin and yang of getting along with each other.

It's a conversation for a lifetime isn't it?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Improve Your Workplace in 2011 - Focus on People, Workplace and Technology

Peering into the crystal ball of 2011 and beyond what do you see?  Are you seeing more more business inquiries, more sales of your products and services after a dismal 2010 and even worse 2009 and 2008? With all of the positive economic data both Nationally of late and locally here in Vermont and the Northeast, I hope you are or will be doing better in the coming months!  While 2009 and 2010 were times of significant sacrifice and retraction I believe in cautious optimism for 2011 and beyond.

I'd like to share a hope with you which may help you find greater business and organizational success this year and beyond.  Why not before things get too overheated business wise plan strategically for change and improvement, specifically looking at your physical office resources, your people, the technology and equipment you use together.   Why not assess your operations and business interactions within and outside the company and see what can be improved, adjusted or rethought. Often the strategic levels of companies in boardrooms aren't necessarily talking with operationally minded team mates getting the work done to find out how to be better together.  Often, it's an us and them equation, not a we situation.  Do you really want to apply the same strategies you were using in 2006 and 2007?  It's time to dust of your mission statements again folks and return to strategic planning again.

I see designing the high performing workplace really as an opportunity to create and foster a higher performing work community championing the priorities, mission and values of the organization.  When you look around in your workplace what do you see?  Do your work areas, offices, common spaces like meeting rooms, cafeterias embody your core company values?  What would be different if they did?  How would your work teams function differently together in work groups and collaboratively across the organization?  Do you have antiquated 5' tall cube farms with perimeter offices for management that's never around?  If you looked across your space can you tell which work teams and departments are where and get a sense of energy and enthusiasm when doing so?

From a sustainability side, are your facilities costing you an arm and a leg to run?  Do you have sustainability goals which aren't built into your workplaces yet?  There's lots of opportunities now with improved energy management technologies, greener office equipment and workstations, building materials, finishes, lighting and the like to advance your business.  While you may have "green teams" doing great work are these efforts really comprehensive enough and connect your mission to your facilities, how they're built and operated? Fuel costs are beginning to escalate again over 16% for fuel oil, 13.8% for all types of gasoline over the last 12 months from just released data from the US Bureau for Labor and Statistics in a press release today for the Consumer Price Index for December 2010.

Maybe some of you have moved from the cube farms into lower more open work areas and a higher sense of collaboration?  Have you asked and surveyed your employees about their workplace satisfaction or considered this?  I bet most companies haven't done this in the last two years.  Listen, I bet the people who are working there are just plain grateful to have jobs so they're less likely to speak up about what they think could be improved or be better in their work environment.  It would send a great HR message to your teams if you did survey them.  You can do confidential online surveys easily these days and gather information fairly quickly and inexpensively.  So think about asking your work community how to be better in 2011!

On a really straightforward do it your-self manner, you can use Survey Monkey which has free tools or pay for expanded services with them.  You and your company leaderships and team leaders could construct a survey personalized to your needs to assess your situation and take it from there.  Or on a more elaborate level, you could also engage a workplace consultancy such as Steelcase's Applied Research and Consulting or others and do a deep dive engagement.    The simpler approach would be more appropriate in a work environment where there's 3,000 to 20,000 square feet of space and resources to looked at.  You also might consider hiring an architect or interior designer to work with you in this process, for with the right background and training, they likely can lead this process handily as well.

If you have 20,000 sf to multiple hundreds of thousands of space, in a campus like setting or with multiple locations hiring professionals who do this all the time is a very good idea.  This way you can leverage the scale of your company and find the right level of service along with working with building owners, real estate teams, architects, interior designers and space planners in a collaborative manner.  You may end up as a goal with a strategic masterplan for operations and facilities and change management perhaps.

Another very community minded activity is to hold an all company conversation about space, workplace and  improving operational systems together.  Holding all company conversations like this can be very intimidating both for management and staff .  However, I've seen and participated in numerous such activities and when run correctly with extensive upfront planning, a clear agenda, goals and a truly open process they can be amazing experiences if not trans formative.  Everyone must be willing to hang out the dirty laundry for all to see and be open, communicative and not retaliatory.  For some company cultures this might seem really ordinary stuff for others extremely unorthodox.

Wherever you are on the company leadership spectrum consider asking your employees, customers and work teams about how they can work better together.  I'll bet you'll be surprised by the answers you get and the conversation generated.  Consider also seriously looking at the energy costs and usage and physical performance of your building and or office space.  Together, improving your operational behaviors and physical setting can set you up for success in 2011!