Shrink the Office

Business Model for a New World

Increased Effectiveness, Newly Unleashed Creativity & Enhanced Collaboration.

We are being presented with an opportunity to radically evolve the way in which we do business; specifically, the methodologies and formats through which we gather, manage and inspire teams to create and collaborate. So much of How We Do Things is amalgam, leftover from ages before – from Bronze to the Pre-digital – and I believe this cumbersome communications is about to become exponentially streamlined.

The use of remote communication technology has grown – albeit at the pace of a glacier – since Disney first put Video Phones in Tomorrowland. Now, with the world well into the calm waters of the pandemic-induced Global Pause, I see an opportunity to rethink, deconstruct and reconfigure how we work and work together from a perspective of global community. 

We can embrace this Moment, wipe the board clean, restart and come out the other end with enhanced creative product, smoother-running processes, stronger communication amongst disparate subgroups and the successive and parallel components of a given process…

…AND save massive amounts of money on Commercial Real Estate and concrete infrastructure! 

Were it up to me…

First, some background.

Long ago (and not so far away), at an early SATE conference in Orlando, I shared the stage with the illustrious and iconic, TEA Life Achievement Awardee and visionary producer of Spectacle, Yves Pépin, in a one-on-one talk show formatted conversation about his creative process and the nature of Spectacle. In discussing his approach to concept and development, he shared that his first step is always to go where the show is going to take place.

Even if the site isn’t yet developed or venue not yet constructed, Yves goes to the location before sunset to sit quietly to experience the sunset and the night as he “…lets the area speak…” to him. 

In my experience, being onsite before beginning creative concepting and development is crucial to the process. Built or not; there is virtually always something intangible that is communicated and transferred to the Inner Muses through ambience, noises and sounds, smells and light, simply being in The Place where it’s going to happen.

Built, however, this first visit is even more crucial as, in addition to the inspirational qualities above, the realities of a place can inspire vast and disparate concepts or action out of simple juxtaposition. The placement of doors, the relationship to adjacent architectural or geological features, the height of the ceilings or domes, the actual architectural or visible infrastructural features can inspire actions or show elements that may not otherwise materialize.

IMHO, a concept created after the Creators have been to the site stands a far better chance of being best presented and most wonderfully unique to that site.

Further and concomitantly, the more team members who have seen the site before the show is written, the more cost effective that visit becomes with respect to the design, writing and entire production process of the actual show. 

If the engineers, set and lighting designers, choreographers, composers and the rest of the team have seen the performance space beforehand; then they, too, can benefit from that inspiration while, at the same time, those responsible for materializing the show will see both obstacles and solutions in the aforementioned architecture and infrastructural features.

This all pays off in shorter time lines, less revision, stronger collaboration.

The reality, unfortunately, is that in practice all of this is a luxury; as it usually involves travel and gathering the team from several locations.

Gathering the Team & Remote collaboration.

More and more, Human Resources for a given project are gathered from various parts of the world for a given project. It is not unusual to have, on one project team, special talent located in each of Amsterdam, Hyderabad, Los Angeles, San Francisco, St. Louis, Chicago, London and Dallas (an example from recent experience). 

This is accepted and can work quite well; with one crucial Achilles’ Heel. That being that the absence of personal relationships, of personal experiences of each member of the team with the others, can undermine the potential collaborative chemistry of the team, render the relationships stilted or impersonal, and infuse a transactional nature to the give-and-take of the collaboration.

However, if a team has previously worked together or has gathered at the outset of the project for a day or two of download and charrette/ideation; the subsequent remote collaboration will be far smoother and productive with the existence of the resulting familiarity and “Pheromonal Connection” amongst the team. 

This philosophy and methodology is articulated by example in “The Pheromonal Element to Collaboration” from August 2018. Two days of uninterrupted, intense creative collaboration preceded three weeks of what was exciting and successful productivity in the development of a Permanent installation for the world-famous <name withheld to protect our firstborn>.

In my experience, when I am Directing Creative for a project in the UAE or China; the difference in energy, tone, quality of communication and time it takes to achieve creative milestones between teams with which I am familiar and teams for whom I am merely a Face on a Screen is vast. However, once I have physically met the team in person, physically shaken a hand, had a meal, met their kids, asked and responded to basic questions and become a familiar being; once we’ve been in a room for hours of exploring possibility – the quality of everything ramps right up. 

So. Here’s what I am pitching in this new, Zoom-friendly era.

Perhaps gather the team, onsite, at the very beginning. The agenda for First Meeting, then, is the walkthrough of the venue / location, a foundational ideation session and general organizing, calendar, timeline and individual and team responsibilities for the project…along with initial concept ideation.

From that moment onward, the quality of the work will be higher, the tone more upbeat and productive, the team will prove more cohesive, happier, more flexible and, frankly, more personally committed to the project. They will have a sense of team that might otherwise be intangible, nonexistent.

How to pay for this?

1) Shrink the office. I would offer that “home office” staff can be virtually skeletal. A few executive offices and a large, fully-wired conference room is really pretty much all that is needed as fulcrum. Most everyone else can work remotely; from full-time employees to PTAN (Part-time as needed) to short- and long-term contract professionals, consultants, et cetera. 

2) Underwrite work-related expenses for remote workers. Cutting back on physical plant will free up massive amounts of capital and overhead expense such that even this underwriting of internet connection, necessary devices and printers will still fall far short of what it would take to maintain office space. That also guarantees quality of internet and communications connections.

For less money. N’est-çe pas?

This option looks to lead to significantly lower percentages for overhead while offering stronger support for resources even before prices rise or inflate.

We’re a Gig Economy; let’s evolve that. 



Popular throughout the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies,

“IMHO : Creating Compelling Experience” 

remains a free download from the Apple bookstore and iTunes.

Seriously: Free.

A Fortunate Confluence…of Unfortunate Events

My meditation space in the Gifford-Pinchot Wilderness of Washington State. Photo by Author.

I’m not the first person to suggest that our culture will have come to look and be radically different at the other end of this Pause. New ways of doing things will become the norm and much that may previously have been perceived as distancing or obstructive may now be seen as facilitative and powerful. 

Watching us, I see the possibility for vast systems of accepted SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures) to finally fade into history as our culture accelerates to catch up with technological possibility. 

It’s a Forced Evolution and, IMHO, a welcome one.

Already we’ve seen the memes poking fun at all those jobs that have heretofore been colloquially classified as “…not conducive to being done remotely or at home.” 

Lo and behold; it turns out that these things more often than not can be done remotely; efficiently and effectively. 

Who knew?!

For the many who used to resist video meetings, these virtual forums now have become almost the only way to meet; a forced familiarity that I see evolving into comfort as people are seeing familiar faces they have come to miss in only a matter of weeks…and as the ease of operating these apps and platforms is realized and embraced.

So, here’s what I’m seeing…and maybe predicting…

I see a lot of good coming out of this “stay-at-home / lockdown” period through which we are going. 

People are discovering their actual need for human contact…for nurturing through human communication and interaction. Staying home in what may at the outset have seemed like a welcome oasis of peace and self nurturing has become for many – after a mere few weeks – a prison of isolation. 

So people dance for one another, they sing, they create and are sharing…themselves.

Screens as Portals

For so many for so long – especially in particular demographics, screens have been held and characterized as soulless and obstructive; virtual barriers to personal contact, impersonal sappers of energy and life. I think, though, that this has begun to subtly transform from screens being perceived as impediments to being treated as the portals they are; exponentially accelerated at this moment of crisis. 

The nuance is that, given burgeoning ubiquity and flexibility of these bright surfaces, the humanity on the other side of the screen is more readily being seen and appreciated with nothing having really changed but our individual, personal perception through the medium. 

No longer are things considered to be on-screen so much as being through the screens.

Does that make sense?

You may have seen the Rotterdam Philharmonic performing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” with each musician playing from home in synch with each other to create something that became, ultimately, profoundly moving. 

This group-video technique that not so long ago may have been seen more as Gimmick is now, newly, revealed to offer a deeper, personal & emotional connection: with no alteration to the medium, only the context.

The barrier has gone; the people are the experience. Screens perceived as hard barrier is set to evolve into them being embraced as the windows of opportunity that they are.

First and foremost; I sense that people are (re)discovering our innate need for human contact. What may have seemed an oasis of alone time at the front end has become, in short order, a period of people’s seeking and finding ways and reasons to reach out and connect with with one another.

With that, what is happening, now, seems to be a heightened perception of others – other people – as individuals; separate and apart from genetic, philosophical, even political differences. Within this exponentially-growing phenomenon are people presenting themselves in video released to the world as samples and examples of their most intimate selves: we see people dancing, singing, sharing hobbies and interests, offering anecdotes and personal coping mechanisms without a political word being spoken.

Seems an auspicious beginning; perhaps a reawakening. Irrespective of disparate political perspectives; anyone can do something nice for a neighbor…and we’re doing that. It’s happening.

Along with all this personal sharing seems to be an appreciation for just how easy it is to do or say something comforting or nice; the ease with which a simple gesture can be made to enhance the life of another person and the willingness of myriad individuals to reach out and join others in ad hoc acts of positivity.

If you see someone, say something…

Just today, at the local Smith’s grocery store (I have escaped to the Mountains of Utah to ride this out with My Guy; physical proximity and ready access to loving arms is a tremendous stress-reliever), as I passed-by an employee restocking one of the deli cases. I gave her a nod and said, “Hey, thanks for working on the front lines. I appreciate being able to come here and get groceries. YOU…are appreciated.”

Stopped her cold. 

She said that is the first time anyone has said anything like that to her…or to anyone in the store, as far as she knows. We talked (from a distance!) about her grandchildren, wearing masks, stress and acknowledgement, what’s next. Good encounter.

A few moments later and a few yards away, I was chatting up the ladies behind the cheese counter (from a distance) when my new friend came over just to repeat to me how much my comment had meant to her. The two asked the one what she was talking about and in no time there was a cacophony of “You’re awesome!” “No, YOU’RE Awesome!!” “Keep smiling!” “I will if you will!”

We all parted company in great spirits. 

This took nothing. 

We’ve Been Here, Before

In retrospect: the magnitude of AIDS deaths can be hung on a government and a President (Reagan, lest we forget) who not only did not care; but those in power would laugh and joke behind not-always-closed doors that “…those people deserve it…”

This time, it’s really not so different. 

We have a government that does not care about the wellbeing of vast numbers of citizens, multiplied by the breathtaking ignorance and incompetence that festers, grows and infects the chambers, hallways and offices of governance and power that used to draw respect from most of the world. 

Many survivors of the plague of the ’80’s and since remember and continue to deal with the residue and effects of that plague. Though I speak for no one but myself; I’d offer that many of us can share our experiences of how we dealt – and continue to deal with – the cruel and invisible randomness of such a fatal thing.

Out of AIDS in the ’80’s came a new community. 

I hope to be a part of a nation that finds resonant and powerful, evolved community out of this crisis. 

I hope we do find ourselves in a recalibrated reality; with yesterday’s status quo jettisoned in favor of a new, clear-eyed priority for humanity. Assumptions Explored, newly Liberated from Preconceptions  and enlightenments successively revealed.

It can happen.



Popular throughout the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies,

“IMHO : Creating Compelling Experience” 

remains a free download from the Apple bookstore and iTunes.

Seriously: Free.