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Steelcase and Microsoft Partner to Develop Technology-Enabled Spaces Designed to Boost Creative Work

By Corey Moss (LinkedIn, Twitter)

Steelcase and Microsoft announced today that they have joined forces to explore the future of work, developing a range of technology-enabled spaces designed to help organizations foster creative thinking and better collaboration. The two companies are coming together to tackle today’s biggest workplace challenges, integrating technology and place in a holistic way. An announcement was also made about Microsoft expanding its Surface Hub reseller network through select Steelcase dealers.

“The problems people face at work today are much more complex than they used to be. They require a new creative way of thinking and a very different work process,” says Sara Armbruster, vice president of strategy, research and new business innovation for Steelcase. “We believe that everyone has the capacity for creative thinking, and people are happier doing creative, productive work. Together, Microsoft and Steelcase will help organizations thoughtfully integrate place and technology to encourage creative behaviors at work.”

According to joint research conducted by the two companies, creativity is seen as a critical job skill driven by organizations’ need for innovation and growth in addition to employees’ desire for meaningful work. Most organizations invest in technology and space as separate entities, rather than approaching them holistically. Joint research has revealed that while people feel more pressure to produce creative work, the conditions are not optimal for employee creativity in most workplaces.

Steelcase study 1

  • Seventy-two percent of workers from diverse fields including Health Care, Retail, Education, Financial Services and Manufacturing believe their future success depends on their ability to be creative.
  • Seventy-six percent believe emerging technologies will change their jobs, requiring more creative skills as routine work becomes automated.
  • There is greater need to collaborate in business, yet only 25 percent of respondents feel they can be creative in the places they currently have available for group work.
  • The study also reveals the connection between creativity and privacy, as employees ranked having a place to work without disruption as the second highest factor that could improve creativity, just behind the need for more time to think.

Together, Steelcase and Microsoft believe that a thoughtfully designed workplace – that brings together the right mix of technology and space design can unlock the creative potential of individuals and teams, stimulate ideas and accelerate business transformation.

These spaces seamlessly integrate the best of Microsoft Surface devices with Steelcase architecture and furniture. The companies have unveiled five new “Creative Spaces” showcasing how Steelcase and Microsoft can help organizations unlock creativity for every employee.

These five initial Creative Spaces are on display now at the Steelcase WorkLife Center in New York City. Spaces include:

Focus Studio: Individual creative work requires alone time to focus and get into flow, while also allowing quick shifts to two-person collaboration. This is a place to let ideas incubate before sharing them with a large group, perfect for focused work with Microsoft Surface Book or Surface Pro 4.

Focus-Studio.Cropped.jpg

Duo Studio: Working in pairs is an essential behavior of creativity. This space enables two people to co-create shoulder-to-shoulder, while also supporting individual work with Microsoft Surface Studio. It includes a lounge area to invite others in for a quick creative review with Surface Hub or to put your feet up and get away without going away.

Duo-Studio.Cropped.jpg

Ideation Hub: A high-tech destination that encourages active participation and equal opportunity to contribute as people co-create, refine and share ideas with co-located or distributed teammates on Microsoft Surface Hub.

Ideation-Studio.jpg

Maker Commons: Socializing ideas and rapid prototyping are essential parts of creativity. This space is designed to encourage quick switching between conversation, experimentation and concentration, ideal for a mix of Surface devices, such as Surface Hub and Surface Book.

Maker-Commons

Respite Room: Creative work requires many brain states, including the need to balance active group work with solitude and individual think time. This truly private room allows relaxed postures to support diffused attention.

Respite-Room.Cropped.jpg

“Every Microsoft Surface device strives to enable the creator in each of us.  Devices like Surface Studio and Surface Hub are fundamentally designed around how people naturally create, connect, and collaborate.” says Ryan Gavin, general manager, Microsoft Surface marketing.   “With Steelcase we have the compelling opportunity to blend place and technology into a seamless environment that allows our most important asset, our people, to unlock their creativity and share that with others. The future of work is creative.” 

“Most employees are still working with outdated technology and in places that are rooted in the past, which makes it difficult for them to work in new, creative ways,” said Bob O’Donnell, president, founder and chief analyst at TECHnalysis Research. “Creative Spaces were clearly designed to bridge the current gap between place and technology and to help creative work happen more naturally.” 

The companies also announced:

  • Microsoft is expanding its partner network into the world of design by bringing in select Steelcase dealers as authorized Surface Hub resellers.

Select Steelcase dealers are authorized to resell Microsoft Surface Hub as a part of the Microsoft partner network beginning today in the United States and Canada, and in later Summer 2017 additional dealers in Germany and the United Kingdom are expected to be added to the program. The companies will announce additional markets in the coming months. As the spaces roll out in the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific, the range of spaces will continue to expand and evolve.

  • Steelcase and Microsoft are working together to develop technology-enabled workplace solutions built on Microsoft Azure IoT technology.

In the coming months, Steelcase expects to announce new technology-enabled office solutions built on Microsoft Azure IoT technology, which will provide companies with analytics that help improve workplaces and solutions to help employees find the best places to do diverse types of work within the office.

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