Over the past half-century, we transitioned from a manufacturing-focused economy to information or intellectually focused economy. Ideas and the ability to create with your mind are now crucial to success for individuals and firms.
Until recently, this change hasn’t been recognized in workspaces. Companies built cubicle farms as the intellectual work equivalent of a manufacturing line. It was optimized for the physical computer work, but not for intellectual work.
Competition for talent in the intellectual work age has pushed more and more companies to be human-focused with the spaces they are creating. But up to this point startups have painted on the same canvas of the office buildings. They have made cooler versions of essentially the same thing.
The Apple Experiment
The new Apple office building is an incredible space and an impressive experiment in human-focused design.
Instead of a marginal improvement on the standard office skyscraper, Apple created something different. Something radical. They have made a five billion bet that this building will help their current employees create better more inspired work and that it will help them attract better talent.
Apple is the pinnacle of this, but only the beginning of a radical change in the way spaces are designed.
Co-working has exploded over the last ten years as more businesses outsource property management to specialists.
Up until recently, every business had to focus on their unique ability and invest in running an office (or office building) on top of that. But a whole new group of coworking, meeting, and event space companies have started with the explicit focus on creating great spaces for work and events.
Coworking giant WeWork is at the forefront of this new human environment industry. Over the past eight years, they have gone from one building to 171 and raised almost $7 billion to fuel a rapid expansion around the world.
I work at a WeWork location in Mexico City which is nice on the whole, it is only a marginal improvement on a standard new office building.
As we get deeper into an intellectually focused work era, and the costs to move from office to office continue to drop, competition in coworking will drive more radical experiments in work and living spaces.
When individuals and companies are looking for places to work, they will expect a lot more than good WiFi, coffee, and fruit infused water. They will want a building that their employees love to work at. They will want to work in a building or on a campus designed with similar care and focus on the Apple building.
Watching videos of the Apple building, you can’t help but see a future where a building like this is not a unique and noteworthy story, but an expectation for any company that expects to attract the top knowledge workers.