Kursty Groves Knight is a woman of many talents, the author of “I Wish I Worked There! – A Look Inside the Most Creative Spaces in Business” also holds double masters degrees in engineering and industrial design. When Kursty first started writing her book back in 2008, there was very little information about the social workplace, thus she dedicated her work to exploring the link between physical space and creativity.
We caught up with Kursty to find out more about her work, and what she is looking forward most at the upcoming Social Workplace conference.
Hi, Kursty. How did you become interested in social workspaces?
I started off as an industrial designer, so the creative process was always really interesting to me. I was working with a company called ?What If!, and dealing with a lot with topics focusing on capability and innovation culture, which combined my varied interests. Thus, I began thinking, “there is something missing here” and the designer in me was itching to examine the human side of work through the lens of space design.
Do you think the topic of space design is now at the forefront of the discussion concerning the future of work?
Yes, and I find it fascinating that it has become such a major talking point when it comes to discussing the future of work. At the moment, we are at a crossroads and we are seeing all of these current trends and influences coming together and creating a perfect storm of, technology, collaboration, and physical space.
Today, we have a whole new awareness as to how we work, whereas before the topic was of very little importance. Previously, people just went to their desks and had no expectations that their workspace should even be interesting.
How have our attitudes towards work changed since you started writing your book in 2008?
What I started writing my book in 2008 and there was nothing else out there, apart from some books like Creative Office, but even those were mostly driven from the designers perspective. So when I pitched my book, I knew that there was a whole world of information out there concerning office space that was outside of just designers talking to other designers. I decided to focus on how to bring together the topics of design, creativity and innovation from the users’ perspective.
Would you say that corporations are starting to catch on to the concept of social workspaces? If so, why is that?
Yes. I think that more and more traditional businesses are looking towards contemporary work models to find inspiration and new examples of how to do business. Almost all of the workplace models we see today are focused on the social aspect of work culture, as collaboration and creativity are now acknowledged as essential for innovation.
Many of these companies are also increasingly aware of the competition coming from startups, which don’t need to utilize the traditional levers that large organizations have always used, such as well-established distribution channels, brand awareness, or even sheer volume of employees. More than ever, small, agile business are more connected, and bigger companies are seeing this as the inevitable future of how networking will be done. This change is also reflected as a physical manifestation of the shift to a more social workplace.
Do you think that these larger companies sometimes misunderstand the Social Workplace? Meaning, do they try to create their own, without fully understanding the origins of the movement?
We do see that a lot. What I see the most is companies, usually driven by real estate challenges, who look at agile working and think, “oh, lets do that”. They realize something is going on in coworking that attracts people, and they try to cut and paste elements from the movement without considering the whole picture. Some companies may create an open space to enhance collaboration, or even to save money, but there is often a lack of understanding of what the community actually needs.
Do you think that the emergence of the social workplace influenced the current real estate market?
Coworking and social workplaces have had a big impact on real estate. Property owners are seeing that open workspaces are in fact a very lucrative business model, which can potentially deal with many of their previous problems, such as rising costs and empty space.
For example, in Silicon Valley some of the large campuses are now moving downtown because coworking has shown them that they don’t necessarily need these massive open plan offices filled with desks. Work today is much more flexible and moving into more intimate established shared workspace is just as financially viable and doesn’t leave one with the feeling that they are in a factory.
Why are events like the Social Workplace Conference so important in regards to understanding the future of work? And what are you expecting to gain from this year’s conference?
The Social Workplace conference is a macro version of itself. The most powerful aspect of these conferences is the act of bringing people together from diverse backgrounds, but who share common interests. At the upcoming conference in London, I have invited some people from a youth marketing agency, who are set up to help big clients to understand the needs of young people today.
The conference will give organizations like these an important opportunity to learn from people who are much more established, and that goes both ways.