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Don’t be a sheep in wolf’s clothing

That's the past, no the futureIf you say you are going to take a look at the future, you should mean it. Far too often, organizations put together a program called, "The future of ____________" But then they build something that is, at best, about what's going on today.

That's a missed opportunity and it's false advertising!

I have just been the victim of one of these frauds. At a big, well-funded, and well-attended seminar called "The Office of the Future," I was subjected to, merely, a pretty good run-down on the office of the present. At best it included a few big trends in commercial office space. But it was not what they said it would be. What a wasted opportunity. It could have delivered folks true insights on what is around the corner, just out of sight, and likely to shape their destiny in 10 and 20 years.

One speaker went so far as to ridicule some of the big trends in commercial offices and business, especially telework. By mocking it, he effectively negated anyone's motivation to consider what it means to office development, planning, and design. He set a key future force aside, preferring to talk about the present at the expense of the future.

What a wasted opportunity!

The event I attended was for the real estate sector. This is a sector that includes developers, who make investments and build projects that are to last and be profitable for decades. It's a sector that includes tenants who pay a lot of money to find, fit out, and move into real estate, and who sign leases for ten years, and usually hope to renew those leases for longer. It's a sector that is served by office furniture makers who sell complex and expensive fittings for offices that take them time to design and market–they want and need payoffs over years, if not decades. And its a sector with big technology players who make and service the networks, security, lighting, etc. that enliven and energize offices-They too make bets, launch product development efforts and market with the need and hope that they have years, maybe decades of profits from their efforts.

At today's conference, none of these players were served very well. They may have gotten a taste of what their competitors are doing, what vendors are offering, what tenants are looking for, but all those with the lens of right now.

Cutting edge, maybe, but future? No.

Image: www.history,navy.mil

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  • Stephen Aguilar-Millan July 1, 2011, 8:46 am

    Dear John,
    I agree so much with your sentiments. We very often focus on the present and the recent past when we are considering the future. Such presentations reveal much about the assumptions and prejudices of the speaker than revelations about the future.
    In the Q&A section, do you have the confidence to stand up and ask: 'Where's the futures content?' I do this now, much to the annoyance of all around me, but as you said, we are there to discuss the future and not the recent past.
    With best wishes,

I'd love to hear your thoughts