The Office in the 21st Century: Is it “Redundant”?

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According to Andrew Keen with CNN, the answer is a resounding YES. The nature of business has certainly changed since Shepherd Meed satirized the field 50 years ago, and it’s changing even more rapidly with each year. As he argues below, Keen’s outlook is that technological advances and flexible work options will soon make the concept of an office–one singular place where people congregate over business–will soon be obsolete.

We are presenting ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’ because its themes–power and ambition, truth, superficiality, identity, group versus personal values and ethics–are still strikingly resonant. Whether or not these themes will be present in a physical office a few years down the road–only the future can tell. In the meantime, it’s worth thinking about how the nature of offices and business as a whole has evolved since the 1960s, for better and worse.

The problem with the physically fixed office is that it is, by definition, dumb. The traditional downtown office isn’t flexible, adaptable or, above all, mobile. It’s increasingly an archaic leftover of industrial society in today’s hyper-connected, infinitely mobile world. In today’s networked age, we no longer need to travel to work. Instead, work travels with us wherever we go.

Anything that can be done in the office can be just as easily done on our smartphones, tablets and laptops. That local coffee house or the wi-fi enabled plane or the smart car or, above all, the connected home, are now at least as productive and collaborative a working environment as any traditional office.

…The old office is for average people, average ideas and average companies. If you want to excel, escape your cubicle and take your work wherever you go.

The death of the office may be partly a generational thing. As the Gen Y expert, Dan Schwabel, notes in “Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success” , today’s millennial generation of digital natives are instinctively group-orientated and so are naturally comfortable with networks like Mobileworks that enable them to collaborate with others.

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