Caravan to midnight

As I have noted before, blog posts often result from the intersection of two events or thoughts.

I am conducting a wrap-up at Workplace Trends on 24 October, and have been mulling over a piece that draws together the wisdom of the likes of Duffy, Oseland, Harris, Oldman and Coster, to name a few – theorists and practitioners who have made a massive contribution to the world of workplace, who have so positively changed the lives of many – and will do so for many years to come.

Then on my travels I stumbled across a workplace hidden within a dynamic, progressive and successful organisation that made me want to weep. The thick air blast-dried by the radiators, the massed ranks of recuperating seating from battles lost and long forgotten, the groans of an aching kitchenette, the squint of a tinny striplight and collective afternoon breath of a snatched lunch. Great work was being performed by committed and motivated people in an environment insulted and injured. It shouldn’t have to be this way.

It reinforced the fact that the relentless caravan of conferences, seminars, presentations, awards, papers, research and proclamations of great change in the world of work whistle along a motorway that carves through a landscape hidden beyond the excavated mounds at the soft verge, scooping up the hitchers from LinkedIn Groups, random paying attendees and from professional groups, swelling greedily, gathering momentum as it bloats.

Meanwhile in the undulations of the landscape, where the pace of life eases and the only hint of the triple carriageway is a steadily diminishing hum, little changes. Whether in the elbows and knees of large organisations, in manicured business parks or in settlements where people still greet strangers, there is a domain beyond.

Where is the disconnect?

Self-propelled and fuelled by its own hot air, the caravan sees only Junctions marked by a new technology or a re-cast paradigm. Consumed by its own desire to sustain itself, it has left much of the real world behind, denying it exists or even matters.

The caravan needs to slow, needs to turn off the superhighway, to meander, to lose itself – to rediscover why it set off in the first place. Otherwise, it will be midnight, the tarmac will have run out, it will believe it has arrived – and it won’t have any idea where it is.