Another update from muggy Geneva - no thunder yet but no doubt it will strike just as the pre dinner drinks start on the boat cruise around the lake.
What really strikes me about this conference is the number of people who are using their children as part of their presentations and discussions. Whether it’s something their teenager says about technology or something their 20-something does to stay in contact when she is abroad, there is almost as much chat about delegates’ offspring than the deals they are working on or the pitches they are making.
And it all comes down to the fact that these youngsters are the occupiers of the future and the time has come to really get to understand them, to get to know what they want, how they operate and just how powerful the technological tools they have grown up using are to the future of office design.
Chris Luebkeman from Ove Arup and Partners opened his presentation this morning by reminding us just how huge the generation gap is between people in their 40s-50s and someone in their 20s.
“Who here has kids who are about 20?” he asked the room this morning. Around 75% of hands shot up. “Do you think they’re normal?” he asked, raising plenty of laughs and, interestingly a drop in hands. “This is a generation that has never known anything other computers and technology.
For them, same sex unions have always been legal, the Simpsons has always been on the TV, AIDS has always been around, Thatcher and Reagan are their history, not their memory and James Bond is just a ladies man - a spy guy with nothing to spy on as far as they’re concerned.”
His point was that when you look at how different a life the world’s 20-somethings lead, and how it is all they have ever known, then this is bound to have a real impact on how they want to work and what they want their offices to look like. They want everything quicker, faster, more connected. They have no need for permanent desk space - they have grown up communicating on the go, wherever they are and they can be having seven conversations at once with people all over the world.
This afternoon’s session on the 2030 office picked up on these points and took them further - so what does industry need to do to respond to this generation of social media-ites? “The 15-year old kids on their mobiles and laptops today will be 35 in 2030,” said the speaker. “They will be our industry leaders.”
And as someone else pointed out, they might not care so much about what buildings look like from the outside just as long as they can use the wifi and have a breakout session on the inside.
“Our kids look at life through a tiny screen they can hold in their hands,” said one speaker. “They are a portable generation.”
“Buildings need to be simpler,” said MAKE’s Ken Shuttleworth. “They need to be designed from the inside out,” said another delegate. “It’s all about making them work harder on the inside.”
So … 20-somethings, whether they know it or not, have never been so powerful in terms of shaping the skylines and office designs of the future. Their parents and elders are using them as a jumping off point for all future thoughts and potential plans.
All fascinating stuff and a great theme for 2011 but one thing I would ask is “where are those 20 somethings?” Shouldn’t we have some here telling us how they think first hand (not about life and angst in general mind! Just the technology stuff). Maybe next year?