The Leader Magazine

DEC 2018

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the lea D er December 2018 47 Why is the adoption of this technology seen as so challenging? The heated debate around the use of personal data has raised red flags at tech companies around the world. And, it has only given greater onus to the right to privacy and how our data is being handled or used. The workplace will be no different, and possibly be more contentious. No doubt, monitoring of employee data – while legitimate, according to the vast majority of employment contracts – has to be handled very sensitively. This is particularly the case when external contractors are handling said data. To properly gather and use data required for AI, firms must take a three-step approach: anonymising data by design, ensuring full transparency of what is available to view and where, and enabling a fully transparent opt-in process that highlights the benefits for each option. "The Circle" plays on our concerns and, in some cases, on our paranoia about what the power of data might allow others to have over us. As we spend so much of our time in the workplace, it is only right that these concerns centre on our working environment and the relationship with our employers. The end of the workplace as we know it? We are in the fourth industrial revolution, it would seem, and we are going to find a new balance. From the perspective of progress there has always been a lag between technological inception and ultimate adoption. Many pieces of tech that we are excited about now will fall by the wayside, some will be just plain wrong, and there will be left-field creations that will come late to the game. Just because it can be done doesn't mean it should be done – the workplace is a place where humanity converges to produce something better; technology will enable this but cannot replace it. Technologies such as AI are eyed wearily by some users who are concerned about privacy and its potentially de-humanising effect on the workplace. From my perspective, AI will greatly enhance the user experience in the workplace, if applied in the right way. This is not just about big data but about making the average working day more productive and enjoyable! If access to intelligence allows us to cut working commutes by 15 minutes or save time currently wasted on searching for a meeting room or tracking down hard-to-find documents, it can make the whole working experience a lot better. This is the very positive, human outcome of greater access to data. Every day, we waste time trying to access information that is buried across multiple different platforms. The availability of a single, intelligent data source will provide a happy outcome for people and place. s o, where is workplace getting it wrong? In reading "The Circle," I think the only conclusion to reach is that in workplace, we have to be more honest with ourselves and question everything. We should not fall prey to consensus-based decisions of what might or might not be right. Collaboration is not the only mode of work we should plan for. Co-working is not necessarily the future of workplace. Productivity is not the only barometer of success. The campus concept itself is highly successful and new iterations are increasingly productive and well thought-out. But we must not lose sight of the business and personal objectives that underpin and drive it. In the novel, the workplace within the Circle fosters a collective, unquestioned following by all employees. It is the focal point for the 10,000 "Circlers," their personal and professional lives intertwined and constantly monitored. Creating collaboration and wellness has actually produced homogeneity. And that brings me to my own conclusion that we have to question everything, all the time, and be honest when we say that every project has to be treated differently. The best workplace design is real, human, straightforward, yet intelligent. We should never let an over-reliance on technology or data override that relatively simple belief. We are human. We need to stay human. Based in London, Sam Sahni is the regional principal of strategy for Unispace, a global business- interior design fi rm.

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