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Microsoft supports creative work with tech-enabled spaces

Thor Olavsrud | March 8, 2017
Microsoft has partnered with commercial architecture and design specialist Steelcase to help organizations better integrate technology and workspaces to transform company culture and better support creative work.

The space in which you work has a big impact on how you work. While research shows that white collar work is increasingly dependent on creativity and collaboration, traditional office spaces tend to inhibit rather than encourage them, says Sarah Armbruster, vice president of strategy, research and new business innovation for Steelcase, the world's largest manufacturer of office furniture and specialists in commercial architecture and design.

Armbruster says organizations determined to transform their work processes and culture need to take the unusual step of bringing together thought leaders from IT, facilities and human resources to rethink how technology-enabled workspaces can support the transformation they're seeking. Traditional workspaces, Armbruster says, tend to support solitary work and a linear approach to tasks. But organizations are increasingly reliant on workflows that transition between solitary work and small group and large group collaborations.

"White collar work is becoming more and more about creativity-based work," she says. "We don't just mean the traditional concept of creativity — artists and designers — it's also for software coders, accountants, it might be for the receptionist at your local doctor's office."

Enabling creative thinking

"The problems people face at work today are much more complex than they used to be," she adds. "They require a new creative way of thinking and a very different work process. We believe that everyone has the capacity for creating thinking, and people are happier doing creative, productive work."

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Copyright Steelcase 2017

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Copyright Steelcase 2017

To that end, Steelcase and Microsoft announced yesterday that they are joining forces to help organizations bring technology and workspaces together in a way that supports organizations' missions. As part of the partnership, Microsoft is expanding its partner network into the world of design by bringing select Steelcase dealers on as authorized resellers of its Surface Hub product (touch-screen computers with 55-inch or 84-inch screens designed for collaboration, videoconferencing, and whiteboarding). In addition, Steelcase and Microsoft are working together to develop technology-enabled workplace solutions built on Microsoft Azure IoT technology.

Companies say creativity is critical

Last month, Microsoft and Steelcase surveyed 515 U.S. and Canadian companies with 100+ employees on the future of work and creativity. They found that organizations see creativity as a critical job skill driven by their need for innovation and growth. The research found the following:

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  • Leaders know creativity helps them compete, bringing higher revenue and greater market share to their organizations, but 61 percent of leaders don't think their company is creative.
  • Eighty-three percent of workers say they are asked to be creative at work either weekly or daily.
  • Seventy-two percent of workers in fields including health care, retail, education, financial services and manufacturing believe their future success depends on their ability to be creative.
  • Seventy-six percent of workers believe emerging technologies will change their jobs, requiring more creative skills as routine work becomes automated.
  • Only 40 percent of workers said they have a company culture that encourages creativity.
  • While workers cite a greater need to collaborate in business, only 25 percent of respondents felt they can be creative in the places they currently have available for work.
  • Employees ranked having a place to work without disruption as the second highest fact that could improve creativity, just behind the need for more time to think.


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