Free Mind, Free Workspace

In just a few weeks Adam Burtt-Jones, Steven Brewer and I will be offering the first public experience of what Free Range Workspace is all about. Today I’d like to share with you some of the thinking behind what Free Range Workspace means and how we’ll be using our event at Clerkenwell Design Week to help people to understand it.

Free Range Workspace begins with two related thoughts:

– Work and location are increasingly disconnected
– Task and environment are increasingly interconnected

People have been talking about the end of the traditional workspace for decades. Mobile working, virtual offices and so on are part of our everyday. But humans are still physical beings and until virtual environments can fully replicate the experience of being in a solid space made of brick, wood, metal and glass, real life places will still matter.

So rather than end the need for physical spaces, the disruption of virtualisation and mobile working has both reduced the need for some types of workspaces, and altered the nature of work itself. As a result the nature of the spaces that remain have shifted rapidly and unpredictably.

As lower value tasks, both professional and personal, become virtualised and lower order work is automated, physical spaces where humans still spend time move from being simple, utilitarian objects, designed to enable basic, repetitive interactions, to subtle spaces that support higher order, and far less predictable, human behaviours.

We have both decoupled work and location and increased the importance of environmental/task fit. As workspace designers you can no longer rely on your users to be in a given location, but when they are in that location, they are likely to be doing higher order tasks, so that location becomes even more involved, either as an enabler or a hindrance.

It’s a hard problem.

We believe that the answer to this challenge lies in a fundamental change of the way that design takes place and the role of both the designer and the client. A shift from a relationship between a trusted expert and a passive recipient to that of a facilitator of thinking, taking clients on a journey to uncover the invisible answers that can be made apparent only through collaboration and the application of doubt.

It’s hard for someone who knows a lot to adopt a position of doubt. Experts become shackled by their expertise. At Clerkenwell Design Week we will explore how letting go of certainty, increasing doubt and adopting a Beginner Mindset transforms the role of the designer and turns the relationship between designer and client into a unique opportunity for authentic insight.

We cannot hope to explore every aspect of this concept within a single, 45 minute workshop. What we hope is that just by experiencing the transformative power of purposeful uncertainty, you will feel more able to engage with a new and exciting concept of what it means to design.

# Descriptive

The Free Range Workspace event will be a focused, guided exercise designed to explore the power of Beginner Mind in the designer-client relationship. How can removing assumptions and questioning what we think we know alter the dynamic? What does it really feel like to be truly skeptical of your own experience and what skills, both practical and affective, do designers need to develop to take advantage of the power of uncertainty?

Aran will run the session with support and expert insight from Steve and Adam.