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C HAPTER 11

The Gr een Wor kplace of the Fu tu r e
We should all be concerned about the future because we will have to spend the rest of our lives there. —Charles F. Kettering, American inventor and the holder of over 300 patents

Much of this book has focused on strategies that are designed to create
more sustainable workplaces, but within today’s constraints. Thus, although many of these strategies are cutting edge and transformative, they are still built within the context of existing infrastructure, policies, and cultural norms. To become better stewards of our environment, and to build sustainability plans that are themselves “sustainable” over the long term, it’s critical that we also plan for a future set of parameters. What will workplaces look like ten, fifty, or a hundred years from now? How will our environment be able to sustain them? And how will employees, managers, and executives need to change how they work, live, and play to be effective in this future?

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To put this in context, think about major innovations that have happened over the last few centuries and how quickly they have changed how we work. Consider some of the highlights: 1023 1202 1436 1543 1792 1800 1807 1814 1829 1841 1843 1861 1876 1901 1902 1908 1938 1959 1965 1972 1973 1979 1981 First paper money printed in China. Hindu–Arabic numbering system introduced to the West by Italian mathematician, Fibonacci. Johannes Gutenberg invents printing press with metal movable type. Copernicus publishes his theory that the earth is not the center of the universe. William Murdoch invents gas lighting. Count Alessandro Volta invents the battery. Humphry Davy invents the first electric light, called an arc lamp. George Stephenson designs the first steam locomotive. American W. A. Burt invents the typewriter. Samuel Slocum patents the stapler. Alexander Bain of Scotland invents the facsimile. Ernest Michaux invents the bicycle. Alexander Graham Bell patents the telephone. The first radio receiver successfully receives a radio transmission. Willis Carrier invents the air conditioner. Model T first sold. Chester F. Carlson invents the photocopier. First jet engine is built. Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce both invent the microchip. Compact disc invented by James Russell. Word processor invented. Ethernet (local computer network) invented by Robert Metcalfe and Xerox. Cell phone invented. First IBM PC invented.

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1984 1991 1991

1995 1998 1999 2001 2001 2004

Apple Macintosh invented. World Wide Web invented by Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau. U.S. government offers Internet access to the general public for the first time. First commercial short message service (SMS) message is sent in the UK. DVD (Digital Versatile Disc or Digital Video Disc) invented. Google started by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in Menlo Park, California. BlackBerry invented by a professor at Waterloo University in Ontario. Apple Computers publicly announces its portable music digital player—the iPod. Toyota’s Prius hit the U.S. market. Harvard University student Mark Zuckerberg invents Facebook.

Think about all of these completely transformative innovations and how our lives at work and home have been forever changed because of them. Just over a hundred years ago, people didn’t expect buildings to have air conditioning. Just thirty years ago, there were no cell phones to get connected, and just twenty years ago there was no Web to surf the latest news. The acceleration of the impact of these innovations is also profound. It took radio thirtyeight years to gain an audience of 50 million; it took Facebook two. The first commercial text message was sent in 1992; the total sent each day now exceeds the total population of the planet.1

Pr ed ictions
It’s hard to believe how quickly the world has become accustomed to a technology-rich and lighting-fast paced way of life. Each of these innovations gave us a solution to a problem of the day—faster travel, more comfort, and quicker access to knowledge. Now that we are facing major environmental

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problems, can we leverage—even accelerate—this same innovative spirit in search of solutions? The next economic shift will be to a society of ideas There have been dramatic shifts over the last several hundred years that have profoundly altered the ways that economic and social activities take place. Those shifts have not always been consistent across disparate societies, but, in general, they have led countries and regions from economies that are agriculturally based (centered on farming) to economies that are industrially based (centered on factory production) to economies focused on information (centered on knowledge work). The type of economy you live in determines the kind of work you do, how you support your family, the business relationships you maintain, and the education you need. Many believe the next shift (post-knowledge work) will be built around an economy of creativity and new ideas. Armed with technology, global access, and the need to differentiate in a highly competitive marketplace, people with creative minds and the ability to synthesize and collaborate with others effectively will be the ones who succeed. What is driving the movement to this new economy? Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, recognized the role of “conceptual output” in 1997 in a speech at the University of Connecticut when he said, “The growth of the conceptual component of output has brought with it accelerating demands for workers who are equipped not simply with technical know-how, but with the ability to create, analyze, and transform information and to interact effectively with others.”2 By 2004, he expanded on these remarks, referring to reductions in manufacturing in the United States, outsourcing to India and China, and an excess of supply and the global marketplace all leading to the increasing conceptualization of economic output.3 Since then, a number of influential writers and thinkers have predicted the movement away from the knowledge economy to one of concepts and ideas, including Thomas Friedman in The World Is Flat and Daniel Pink in The Whole New Mind. So if a conceptual or idea-based economy is inevitable, and creativity, innovation, and design are the methods for creating value in this economy,

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