Come Listen to Island Futurist Bob Johansen talk about his book Office Shock and the future of Officing

If you were a young adult or a college student back in the early 1970s, you probably remember the ground-breaking book Future Shock, written by journalist and sociologist Alan Toffler, along with his wife, Adelaide Farrell.

The book, which has sold more than 6 million copies worldwide and still comes in a variety of colorful dust jackets, concluded that the modern world of 1970 was undergoing “too much change in too short a period of time”.

According to Wikipedia, Toffler argued that society was undergoing an enormous structural change at the time, a revolution from an industrial society to a “super-industrial society“. This transformation overwhelmed people, and he reasoned, accelerated the rate of technological and social change leaving people disconnected and suffering from “shattering stress and disorientation”—what he termed future shocked.

Office Shock slide 1Fast forward 50-plus years to Bainbridge Island, where local author and Toffler disciple, Bob Johansen (along with two collaborators) has penned Office Shock, a recently published tome that takes a deep dive into what the office of the future may look like, with the reasonable-sounding subtitle, “Creating Better Futures for Working and Living.”

The 78-year-old Johansen is one of the founders of the Institute for the Future in Silicon Valley, which rolled out of the Rand Corporation and the Stanford Research Institute. Toffler was on its advisory board early on.

Simply put, Office Shock strives to examine the unsettling changes in where, when, how, and even why we work. Johansen and two other futurists – Joseph Press and Christine Bullen – argue that the office of today is both a place and a process – offices and “officing,” with a new range of choices including what they call the emergence of the “officeverse.”

Office Shock Slide4Here’s a quick primer from the book:

Office is a noun. Office places are mostly in buildings, but that’s changing

Officing is a verb that describes work processes and social interaction to get work done.

Officeverse is the future anytime/anyplace world of where you will work, when you will work, and how you will work.

One of the key ideas stressed in the 282-page book is the concept of what Johansen and his colleagues term, “Futureback Thinking.” Basically, it’s the notion of “thinking backward from the future rather than from the present-forward.”

Office Shock Slide3From the book: “The present is so noisy, so painfully and violently noisy… Many people are stuck in a cage called now while occasionally thinking about what’s next and only rarely thinking about the future. We need to release ourselves from thinking only present-forward. Being here and now and mindful can be virtuous, but not if we are trapped in the now. Do you feel stuck in the present? Do you feel owned by the present? If so, you need future-back thinking to explore where (you) will be heading.”

Office Shock includes some cool old photos of workplaces from yesteryear, and eventually explains the office of the future based on what the authors conceptualize as the seven “Spectrums of Choice for Better Working and Living”. These include ideas such as Purpose, Outcomes, Climate Impacts, Belonging, Augmentation, Place and Time, and Agility.

The notion for the book was started during the Covid 19 Pandemic when Johansen – who has consulted around the world to private companies like UPS and Proctor & Gamble, and large non-profits like United Way – was approached by a giant Scandinavian modular furniture maker – USM.

“The CEO asked me how can (he) start a conversation about the future of the office will be; what’s coming after the traditional office.” That interaction led to a two-year research project that resulted in the publication of Office Shock earlier this year.

While Johansen, who has authored 11 other books in the business realm, says Office Shock’s original research was aimed at CEOs, “rising star leaders,” and what he calls “creditable edgies” in organizations, he says the book really is applicable to anyone wondering their place in the working world.

“Why do you want to work in an office, should be a question asked,” he says, “not an assumption made… There are good reasons why you want to meet in person,” he adds, “orientation, team-building, renewal, culture and shared values” and the like.

But in the not-too-distant future, Johansen maintains, other questions will emerge, “With whom do you want to office? How will you augment your intelligence? Where and when will you office? How will you create an agile office?”

OfficeXpats logoJohansen, who now does the majority of his consulting from the friendly confines of his home office on Bainbridge, will share his thoughts on “Futureback Thinking” and the tenants of Office Shock at a local presentation on Thursday, March 30th, from 5:30-7p.m. at OfficeXPats in The Pavilion on Madison Avenue.

The event is free and open to the public, but if you click on following link you can register for the presentation as a non-member of OfficeXPats. Info

“In the short time since Office Shock went on sale globally, it has become clear the office shock is about so much more than offices and hybrid offices,” Johansen says. “Forcing people back to office buildings is understandable, but risky. The next few years will be a great opportunity to prototype better ways of working and living.”

*Images provided by and used with permission from JoAnn Monroe, Engagement Manager for Bob Johansen

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