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.

2 thoughts on “Shrink the Office

  1. Kile – Thanks for this insight into the human dynamics of project management – the timeline and proxemics (spaces) related to upfront budget investment. These front-end investments pay back richly, saving money on the back-end by improving communications at every level. And zooming doesn’t do everything and isn’t designed to cover what direct physical proximity can do — in due course.

    • Thank you, Doctor King… Your alignment and endorsement means much. In embracing technology (which I do and love), all too often the human foundation to communication is overlooked in the thrill of flexibility and immediacy. Tech can vastly enhance and even deepen communication between humans…”it can also obstruct by omission.” Thoughtful construction and application makes all the difference. IMHO!

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