White Paper: the magic of disruption and what it means for the workplace

In a 1973 essay called Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination, the science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke sets out Three Laws regarding our relationship with technology. Only the third of these is well remembered these days:. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. He was one of the first writers to coin the sort  of law that have now become commonplace on the subject of the way our world, including the workplace, can be disrupted by technological developments. They include a corollary to Clarke’s:  Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced (Gehm’s Law)

What each share in common is an implicit understanding that the world is apt to change in completely unexpected ways as a result of disruptive technological developments. They also share the assumption that we are very bad at predicting what the future holds and that we tend to confuse disruption with innovation.

When we make these errors, we can fall into the trap of thinking that the future will be an evolution of the present.

In reality, genuinely disruptive developments take us in new directions and have unpredictable consequences.

Fortunately, if we understand this unpredictability and the true nature of disruption we can also make ourselves ready for it. Nowhere is this more important than in our working lives and the built environment.

While technology can change very quickly, our skills, company cultures and surroundings are not quite so volatile. So, we must make them malleable.

That has been the core challenge for workplace designers and managers for at least the past three decades and their ability to meet it grows more important by the day.

This White Paper sets out the nature of this particular challenge and explores something about how we are meeting it as a sector. I hope you enjoy it.


anthony-brown-450x450Anthony Brown is Sales and Marketing Director at BW.