Futures salon: The Future of the Office

We thank Nikki Wildman, Associate Principal with DesignGroup, for joining us this evening for a discussion on The Future of the Office. Before we get into the conversation, we engage in an interesting sidebar on how we will return to in-person interactions as well as the new limits on personal space may exist. “We all bring our own set of issues to the table” and now we get to relearn how those interactions will occur.

“Not only were we asked to embrace the concept of telework, we were asked to embrace it in the context of a pandemic” opens Nikki. A collection of changes within the workplace have global implications. Zoom call became an overnight installment in our work. These concepts will come with us moving forward.

“How does the office become a tool for retaining and growing teams and employees?” Nikki argues that trust is a critical force for building stability ongoing.


Five trends seem to be here to stick even in a pandemic: in-person collaboration (for spontaneous development of ideas and mentorship [but open offices need to adjust]), the office as a recruitment tool, social spaces provide collaboration and inspiration, “resimercial” furniture is here to stay, and safety above all else (incorporated into furniture and all other aspects such as HVAC technology [particularly HVAC UV-C lighting]).


Have these traits been predated by COVID or accelerated by COVID?

Do we need to expand our transportation infrastructure as the new administration wants to expand. less travel do we need to put $ in the roads that the remote employee won’t need to use to travel on?

Really interesting company data and ideas. The students I spoke with today really struggle with Zoom and working from home. They thrive on social contact and deeply miss in-person work. They also feel like their ability to focus, pay attention to/follow conversation, and find that they don’t get things done without the accountability of a workplace. I’m curious about hearing more from Nikki about how generational differences are considered in crafting these spaces and possibly juggling the amount of at-work and at-home work by preference.

What is the degree to which these actions are behaviors are just something we need to learn for our work and professional lives? To what level do we now need to teach these skills?

Where do we see the “shared office” ie shared?

How does a company create a shared identity among its workers, which has been through common experiences not just in the workspace but alongside it (company picnics, sporting activities, clothing/uniforms, and other bonding opportunities)? Or is this simply abandoned?

How do we resolve the discord between resolving the pandemic currently from the workspace of the future in three years? How do we continue to build these collaborative spaces in a safe way? Does a virtual office exist in the future?

For the last 3 years I’ve worked on a project where I’ve never been in the same state (team members in US, Canada, France, and India). In all our online chat services we’ve created some sort of small talk channel for just random jokes, etc. We also do the period Friday grab a beer and have a social videoconference.

Our company moved to a new building just before Covid hit. The open space concept Nikki showed is what our new bldg went to. Kathy would be happy to speak in more detail to that if the group would like.

What are the socioeconomic influences on the workplace resultant of the ongoing pandemic?

I might need to explain this verbally but what about the replacement of the physical office MUCH later in the future like say in 100 years?

“We all will be embracing this change and I am hopeful that we all evolve our services to build a better future.” -Nikki Wildman-


Salon notice: The Future of the Office

Our next Columbus Futurists monthly forum, which will be Tuesday January 12 at 6:30 PM (eastern) on Zoom.  Our topic for the evening will be “The Future of the Office,” and I am delighted to announce that we will be joined that evening by Nikki Wildman, Associate Principal with DesignGroup.   

Here is a link to a thought piece authored by Nikki that should help seed our discussion:  https://designgroup.us.com/expertise/what%E2%80%99s-next-workplace-design-five-trends-understand

And another article for your consideration:  https://www.fastcompany.com/90575297/as-office-buildings-empty-out-heres-one-creative-use-for-all-that-space

Looking forward to seeing you all in the New Year!

Futures Salon: “STEEP predictions for 2021”

Our theme for the evening is “STEEP predictions for 2021.” 
Society, Technology, Economics, Environment/Energy(Geo), Politics

We start with casual conversation on the hopes that in the coming years we will be able to develop as a nation which more readily embraces kindness and reason. We expect that increased communication and collaboration in a global sense will improve the outcomes for STEEP in 2021.

Here are some of our predictions:


Influx of younger citizens in political involvement.

More similar to 2020 than a lot of people my realize. Similar trends.

A shift towards environmental conversations and sustainability in the day-to-day.

With social media and leadership changes, leadership really matters. Return of empathy and kindness. Leading by example.

Increasing tensions among religious communities due to political involvement.

It will get worse before it gets better. 2020 and COVID issues are not gone.

At the start of the pandemic, opioid usage was a forefront issue. This went down during early pandemic. Now it has exceeded where we are a year ago. This is getting very minimal coverage.


Utilization of population tracking and habits becoming a more daily part of our lives.

3D modeling of spaces and environments shifting our perspective of space and time to work virtually at a real-time interface that works globally.

New drugs and treatments with new pipelines for our accelerating our healthcare environment.

CRISPR gene editing technologies expanding in both usage and applied settings.

Rapid testing both for COVID and a future pandemic/disease becoming standard in airports or other events which could be done while waiting.

AI automation in visualization and robotics. A Starbucks without any human interaction. Robotics aiding healthcare worker shortage.

Integration of technology to the hospital interface. Tele-medicine as an excellent example. How we talk to a doctor, how we shop, how we ultimately adapt to those changing needs with emerging technologies.


An unexpected boom is possible, not the recession that may have even been “overdue”.

A boom in some areas, a loss in some sectors of the economy, such as service, to create economic conflict. Displaced individuals who are politically charged leading to further conflict.

Sharpening and division between the really high paying jobs and the more numerous low paying jobs which may be hurt further by automation.

While it remains to be seen, trends suggest lockdowns to suggest different strategies to be more or less effective. Automation showed that it will really play a huge role in supplies manufacturing and flattening the original curve.

Income inequality will not get better. Increasing transformation of how we view income, where lower income will not be able to improve their situation no matter the effort. This will be true especially as the rest of the world increases in case count.

A large arena of individuals of who are disadvantaged in the pandemic. Where service industries and entertainment will be deeply damaged unless we come up with solutions to support these sectors. This will be driven by the safety we feel.

Due to a lack of vaccination, we will not restore confidence in safety as we will not reach high enough herd immunity to prevent another bad season in 2021.

A strong case of the “socialist curious” among us. Perhaps a certain stabilization from the top is necessary here to push against these economic arena changes.


A lot more people will embrace nuclear. Now that we are in third and forth generation reactors, we will have new faith and interest in nuclear energy on both sides of the aisle.

Power and recharge-ability of batteries will greatly improve. This “game-changing” event will expand range and bring this to the long-distance market such as semis and heavy drivers.

A focus on carbon emissions will shift us towards nuclear, solar, and wind. A growing awareness among young people and corporations to address these issues (and even profit from it).

Private sector and industry are far ahead of the government at this point (e.g. Paris Accords). Industry are accelerating at alternative energy sources rapidly.

Environmental disasters will increase. More hurricanes and/or stronger ones. More wildfires. But also, the opening of arctic sea-lanes at the great advantage of Russia. Increase in arctic shipping.

Space and the ethics/environmental consequence of commercialized space travel will become a forefront conversation.

A return to discussions on nuclear weaponry.

A rise in electric vehicles. Markets and individuals addressing climate changes. Better planning of pandemics.


The new administration reaction to equity, equality, and we will see a rise in the voices of the ignored. Should get a more diverse group of voices that will be uplifted. 

Younger Gen-Exers and Millennials will take.

Expect another plot twist or two before the end of January.

There might be a reckoning on China.

Young people usually don’t get involved but made a difference in the election, but will they sustain that energy over the course of the year?

Will see a political realignment, might see a 3 party system emerge, the GOP may need to do some soul searching.

The poorly coordinated global response to the COVID-19 pandemic will lead in two directions:  some will see the need for concerted, cooperative global effort, while others will claim the poor response is proof that global responses are doomed to failure because individual nations cannot be trusted.  That is, political voices will continue to bifurcate over the issues with global import.

American dominance isn’t guaranteed anymore.

There may be a major attempt on the life of Biden or Harris.

One two punch of virus and climate change.

Trumpism isn’t going away.

Alot of the political dynamics are not new.

Electoral college reform.

These notes were written jointly by Matthew Dunn and Onyemobi Anyiwo.

Salon notice: STEEP predictions for 2021

The next Columbus Futurists monthly forum will be Tuesday December 8 at 6:30 pm (eastern).

Our theme for the evening will be “STEEP predictions for 2021.”  Come ready to share your predictions for the year 2021 across the dimensions of: 
Society, Technology, Economics, Environment/Energy(Geo), Politics

I’ll also ask you to assess the probability of each prediction as well. Very much hope you can join us on the 8th!

NEXT: Virtual Reality and the Future of the Arts

I have a friend who recently confided in me—somewhat sheepishly—that she had spent $50 on a virtual concert ticket for her favorite band, Blackberry Smoke. She worried that others might judge her for such a seemingly extravagant purchase for what amounted to a live stream of a concert. (I should note that the $50 also got […]

-David Staley

October 12, 2020

Read the full article on the Columbus Underground site.

NEXT: Zoom Globalization

A curious phenomenon has been happening at our CreativeMornings Columbus event series. Ever since we moved into Zoom, a number of people from outside Columbus have been attending our events. We’ve had participants from Detroit and New York, but also from Mexico City and Stockholm as well. In May, I hosted a design event over Zoom that […]

-David Staley

September 14, 2020

Read the full article on the Columbus Underground site.

Salon notice: The End of Permissionless Innovation

The next Columbus Futurists monthly forum will be Tuesday November 10 at 6:30 pm on Zoom. Our topic of discussion that evening will be “The End of Permissionless Innovation.”  We will base our discussion off this article from the Brookings Institute:  https://www.brookings.edu/blog/techtank/2020/10/07/the-end-of-permissionless-innovation/

The last 30 years in the United States have been marked by what has been called the era of “permissionless innovation.”  Many of the decisions about what to innovate, when to innovate, and how to bring digital products and services to the marketplace have been left to tech companies. They decided what products were needed, how they were deployed, and who could purchase them.   With the release of the House Antitrust Subcommittee report, there are growing signs that era is coming to an end. A combination of forces is moving the country towards what likely is to be greater public engagement, oversight, and regulation.  

Futures Salon: “Predicting the Presidential Election”

We open this evening’s salon, “Predicting the Presidential Election”, with group introductions as we have a nice collection of new members, the usual core, and members returning from previous years. This meeting represents our fourth conversation on these predictive models in political science. Will these models be able to predict this election in this tumultuous new normal? Let’s talk about that.

David Staley then introduces James (Jim) Bach, a proficient predictor of elections, who successfully predicted the popular vote outcome of the last three elections. Models often use public opinion polls, which are themselves built on a complexity of other factors, and therefor are harder to manage/balance/equate. Here, he describes different assumptions and proposes other models for how voters will vote.

He presents three (original) models built on one of the following variables: 1. Unemployment rate in the third quarter of the election year. 2. Change in GPD over the second and third quarters of the election year. 3. Change in RDPI per capita. X. To each variable the number of the years the party has been in power of the White House. Interestingly, the RDPI appears to depict the incumbent party vote share the best, with a ~0.7 R-squared value.

Historically, these models fit closely with the actual results, where model 1 (unemployment) often is close to predicting the incumbent party vote percentage of the popular vote. Model 2 appears to do even better, where variance is further reduced. Model 3 fits even better. Notable exceptions exist, where political events and social conditions pull votes away from the incumbent in ways the model does not predict for.

2020… is a problem. But for these models, it caused: 1. Pandemic-induced depression. 2. Stimulus injection into the RDPI. The recession hurt GDP but the stimulus increased the RDPI, impacting all of the models, where their inherent dependent variables become hyper skewed.

Model 1 then predicts a 51.3% incumbent vote. Model 2 predicts a 25.6% incumbent vote, the largest landslide in history. Model 3, the most accurate one so far, the incumbent will receive 81.7%. While all of these models were reasonably predictive before, he expects the true vote to be around 47% for the incumbent. So what happened? The changes in the US political landscape have made these models less useful. The popular vote and the Electoral College outcome are different. Voters are possibly less likely to vote due to economic interests. Democrats and Republicans live in increasingly different fact worlds, where they do longer match.

He analyzed the same question in the ANES 2016 and the 2018 Pilot Studies (https://electionstudies.org/data-center/anes-2016-pilot-study/ and https://electionstudies.org/data-center/2018-pilot-study/), thinking about economic changes in the country. An immediate trend is present, where Democrats reflect better on the economy when their president is in the White House and the same is true for Republicans. A question is raised on how we define those voting groups where multiple questions are used to define the strength of those voting blocks from weak, medium, or strong Republicans/Democrats.

If Democrats and Republicans no longer see reality the same, how can we use public attitudes to predict behavior? More importantly, how does one govern with two realities in place? If the suburbs are going Democratic, then what is the core of the Republican party? These complexities are very difficult to model and show that this new normal we live in are highly unpredictable.

An additional model is proposed, http://primarymodel.com/, where the turnout at these events also can be a strong predictors. However, caution is raised that, like public opinion polling, it is another endogenous variable, a dependent variable measuring another dependent variable.

Are there enough undecided swing voters to make a difference? Jim does not believe so. In the crazy last two weeks in particular, no change really is seen from the incumbent. In this case, things appear to be rather diametrically locked, where the incumbent and the contest are not changing and might even be fortifying in their positions. As noted, mass mail-in voting has already shown to be challenging and this factor also is not interior of these models.

Moderately popular incumbent presidents in moderately prosperous times are often likely to win re-election historically. But often, if the scenarios are worse in the country, the incumbent is removed. Will the protests and pandemic change this historical outcome?

Jim describes the theoretical interest on building a model which is able to predict an outcome based on a factor which is not immediately related. Using public opinion polls to predict popular vote election outcome is like measuring someones legs to determine their height, it is measuring the same thing. But to take factors which are exterior of those complex measures and predict the election outcome provides a more theoretically interesting conclusion.

In summary, Jim says that 2020 broke his models. Are we in a period of relative chaos in this arena of political science? It seems so. We may now see a greater weight on qualitative studies over these harder quantitative methods. Now we get to see how this upcoming election supports the opportunity for new models to better predict the political shifting we clearly see.

We thank Jim for his awesome presentation and conversations and we look forward to talking with everyone again next month!

Salon notice: “Predicting the Presidential Election”

The next Columbus Futurists monthly forum will be Tuesday October 6 at 6:30 PM on Zoom.  Our topic for the evening will be “Predicting the Presidential Election.” James Bach will return to share the results of the model some political scientists have used to predict the outcome of previous elections.  You may recall that James shared the results with us for the last three elections, and the model proved correct each time (even the 2016 election.  Note that the model predicts the winner of the popular vote, not the Electoral College.)  What does the model say this year?  Given all the unprecedented the uncertainties, is the model even relevant to our current political moment?  

Futures Salon: “The Workforce of the Future”

We return to our evening time slot to discuss the future of the workforce as outlined in a recent review by PwC’s global People and Organization:

This review sets out to help envision the workforce in 2030, where the opposite forces of collectivist and individualism, as well as the contract between business fragmentation define four different potential worlds: The Red World, where innovation rules, The Blue World, where corporate is king, The Green World, where companies care, and The Yellow World, where humans come first. This review further details the potential role of leaders in these different Worlds and how the infrastructure of the workplace would be structures in each one. We have asked the group today to envision these worlds and which ones seem to be the most likely, both on a local and global scale.

As the current pandemic situation unfolds, we are starting to reveal that, through the power of this virtual connection, workforce talent exists in nodes. These nodes open possibilities for project specialists, where teams can be assembled to handle the details for particular projects and then dissolve for new efforts. Now that digital meetings are becoming the standard, this flexibility shows potential for growth in whatever World we are approaching. Caution, however, should be placed on how the advancement of technology matches with these World ideas and whether or not there will be backlash against the implementation of AI and technology in the workplace.

Online retail appears to be a measurement of how the pandemic has accelerated the reliance on technology. Massive system usage increases, stresses on the supply chain, and a general shift in products purchased pushes the need for strengthening these systems, often solved by these companies through automation. Perhaps these changes were bound to happen, but the pressure placed through this rapid technological adaptation/advancement shows that we have a new reliance on it.

We consider whether this review is overly optimistic of this technological incorporation into society and the workforce, where automation is always a good thing. It is to be noted that automation would never replace a particular job, but that the person implementing that automation would be shifting where that job would be. A recommendation is also placed to view the Amazon series, Jack Ryan, as it provides and interesting example on the incorporation into society.

Knowledge Economies and Knowledge Work was additionally recommended to continue this conversation on how to act as leaders and support the changes in the workplace: “This practical book serves as a guide for corporate leaders and managers, knowledge managers, workforce professionals, policy makers, labor economists, human capital researchers, and educators. It helps diverse audiences understand the implications of this transformation and helps them navigate this new economy.”

Future leaders will have to prepare for a world of human computing resources. A cognitive divide may begin to develop between those who frequently interact and are reliant on technology and those who are more casual users. Cyber attacks, then, become part of an underground economy in individual information, company stability, and corporate conflict.

Would a future exist in which large conferences are having “live” questions and answer sessions, regardless of time zone and location? Or are these more static interactions destined to shrink and become more flexible and versatile? There is a serious opportunity in which rotations of team leadership, virtual team setup, and specialists become the hyper adaptable solutions to these ever-changing problems.

Will the entire workforce even be able to interact with these changing times? Or will this be part of that cognitive divide? How do we teach students, train specialists, and adapt to a cooperative society with machines? Does this solely fall onto the education system? Or will some be permanently left behind, further worsening the divide between those at the top and those at the bottom? The current environment has accelerated the learning environment to this new highly flexible learning environment and maybe this is the necessary leap to advance into any of these World systems. We are moving through a period of inevitable change, thrown rapidly on the system, but new innovative solutions today will have massive effects for generations to come.

We thank the entire group for their amazing discussion on the topic and look forward to talking again next month.

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