You owe your cubicle life to, initially, monks, and then to the SC Johnson Company and Frank Lloyd Wright, according to this Fast Company article.
For a while, an open office plan was seen as promoting better communication, a free flow of ideas regardless of status in the company, and a generally more-social environment.
But now studies, among one from from Harvard, say that none of this is true. WeWork has suspended its IPO for now as a very large devaluation looms. This is not so much driven by the fact that its office model is completely based on open plan, but more on the fact that WeWork can’t seem to be making money with its open-plan office spaces.
Another myth that has burst recently is that connectivity in the workplace would help improve workers’ productivity and communications. Cue the entry of Salesforce, Microsoft Teams, Slack and others. Now you are able to share anything, at any time, with any co-worker anywhere.
The reality is that these productivity tools are actually doing the exact opposite of what they promise. They are another layer of stuff you have to monitor all day. I used to get text messages saying, “Did you see my email?” Now I get text messages about emails AND messages on Slack about emails AND emails and texts about messages on Slack, etc.
On top of that, these platforms have also become sources of office bullying and gossip, which is not surprising but adds to their unproductive side effects. Dan Schawbel recently published a book called “Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation,” if you want to read up on this.
Both the open-office and office-tech stories showcase the fact that seemingly good ideas can easily be found to deliver the exact opposite of “good” (vaping to quit smoking, anyone?).
And that got me thinking about the agency ecosystem.
Agencies evolved from creative-driven idea machines to media-driven money machines to tech-driven efficiency machines, which is where we seem to be today. And just like with open-plan office space and uber-connected workers, nobody seems to be particularly happy with the status quo.
There is a movement afoot to reverse these evolutions back to where we came from: Give every woman and man their office privacy (and not just a noise-canceling headset) and turn off Slack.
Similarly, there is a growing chorus of people that say we need to go back to letting creative, and by virtue creative agencies, rule the advertising process.
It’s undoubtedly true that a powerful creative idea is good for any brand. It’s is also true that ideas need a vehicle for delivery.
I started on the agency side when the media presentation was the last slide in a creative presentation, and it usually said “we are doing TV, and lots of it.” If I got 30 seconds presentation time for the largest marketing investment the advertiser was making, that was a lot.
We gradually learned that a powerful creative idea served with all the right parameters to its intended target audience was golden. Then we decided that, actually, it was mostly about delivery (hence the media, efficiency and tech-stack obsessions) and we broke up something that was good for something we thought was going to be better.
And now we are rethinking that idea, just like that open office plan you’re answering your Slack messages in. Move back to move forward?