The Work&Place Editorial Advisory Board has just declared “Maybe the time has come at last to shoot the workplace messenger,” by Rob Harris, the winner of the 2019 Outstanding Insight award given annually to the most important and insightful article published on our website.
The article, which appeared originally in Issue #10 last winter, offers a provocative critique of the content and direction of current workplace research activities, suggesting that much of the work is losing sight of its applied role. Harris, an independent consultant and workplace expert based in the UK, began his career working for the legendary Frank Duffy; in the article he reminisces a bit about that early experience and then issues a powerful call for a return to disciplined research that provides valid linkages between workplace design and human behaviors.
Here is the introduction to the article:
I spent some time with Frank Duffy recently, releasing a stream of memories of working with him, first as an employee at DEGW during the 1980s, and then as a client while directing developer Stanhope’s research programme during the 1990s. Along with his long-term business partner, John Worthington, and thinkers including Franklin Becker, Gerald Davis, Michael Joroff and Jack Tanis, to name a few, Frank helped sketch out the grand scheme of what we now call ‘workplace’. Much of the work of their successors has involved filling in the matrix of detail within the grand scheme.
But further reflection has caused me to ask whether, in filling in the finer details, we have recently somehow lost our way. Are we, the ‘workplace profession’, instead of standing on giants’ shoulders, now just pandering to fads and fancies? Or, even more radical, might it be that ‘workplace’ is now done, and that we’ve run out of meaningful things to say?
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Managing Editor, Work&Place