About Neil Usher


Neil Usher is Chief Workplace and Change Strategist at GoSpace AI, an internationally renowned workplace strategist and former Workplace Director at Sky. His books Unf*cking Work, The Elemental Workplace and Elemental Change and blog are a must read for anybody with an interest in work and workplaces. 

Posts by Neil Usher:

In a crowd of truths, we can discern and reclaim what it means to be human

In a crowd of truths, we can discern and reclaim what it means to be human 0

This is the second of two responses to an excellent article by Antony Slumbers, the first being this perspective from my mirrored room, in this instance offering that his views offer a far too presumptive picture of how technology will shape our work future. The paragraph headlines are from Antony’s original article. One person’s optimism is another’s pessimism. A decade ago the dream of liberated commute-free teleworking was, to many, the nightmare of enforced seclusion to the soundtrack of the dishwasher. The deployment of robots for the performance of menial tasks creating time and wealth for leisure is another’s horror at the loss of employment and resultant anomic fragmentation and decay. The fatally pointless optimism of Candide’s Dr Pangloss was agnostic in regard to every such outcome. It was positive only because there could be no alternative, and therefore no better alternative.

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Reflections on the future of work from a mirrored room

Reflections on the future of work from a mirrored room 0

This is the first of two responses to an excellent article by Antony Slumbers, in this instance offering that his views offer too conservative a view of how technology will shape the future of work. Dr Pangloss, the teacher of metaphysics in Candide, Voltaire’s hilariously sarcastic attack on Leibnizian optimism, offered a timeless and universal explanation of the most cruel and tragic events as “the best of all possible worlds”. I would argue however that far from creating a landscape of optimism, it facilitates a dismissal of all significant change as an irrelevance given that effectively we have no option other than to happily accept it. For example, whether property transitions to a service or remains locked in its existing institutional quagmire, it doesn’t matter. Either way its fine as it’s the best we can hope for. Accept it, happily. A Panglossian future only looks appealing if you’re –well, Dr Pangloss.

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A unity of opposites at Sky Central

A unity of opposites at Sky Central 0

It’s drummed into us from an early age that we can’t have it all, as a result we consider choices as being a binary either/or situation. The workplace design brief (where it’s actually undertaken, an entirely separate discussion) positions choices similarly – open or closed, focussed or collaborative, modern or traditional – the decision point existing along a sliding scale from one natural extreme to the other. Yet there is a way to consider workplace design as an attempt to achieve the “unity of opposites”, an idea proposed by the pre-Socratic aphoristic philosopher, Heraclitus, the original thinker on change. This holds that the existence of an idea is entirely dependent on the existence of its opposite, that one cannot exist without the other. The framework is considered here in its application to the recently completed Sky Central in Osterley (West London), a newly constructed 38,000m2 NIA activity-based workplace over three floors that is home to 3,500 of the total 7,500 people on the Campus. It may be considered as tool for aiding workplace brief development, or for understanding how a workplace has been conceived and functions.

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