One thing is clear: there is a need for a redesign in learning skills on the job, because the context within an organisation often changes drastically. In many companies, a kind of watering-can principle is often applied when imparting content. According to this, all persons of a target group must be treated equally when it comes to participation in further education and training seminars and trainings. This may sound good at first glance, but loses its charm on closer inspection. In this case, the general equal treatment with such a good connotation only has the effect that all employees with the relevant attributes and qualifications are merely lumped together. The individual needs of individual employees are not taken into account. In addition, training may be compulsory for staff, which means that engineers and sales staff, for example, may be lumped together. In the end, this also affects the selected learning offer, which in the end does not really help anyone.
Basically, Learning Space can be divided into different systems. There is the classic Learning Space and the somewhat more complex New Learning Space. The aim of the redesign is to link these two systems into a corporate learning ecosystem. However, this will not work without well thought-out planning of the spaces. In order to successfully implement New Learning Ecosystems in the future, new room concepts are needed.
Nightmare in the classroom
People often underestimate the important roles that the design and conception of a space play in our lives, which may sound a bit exaggerated to some. But room design and infrastructure influence us more than we think. The environment creates a certain atmosphere through which we perceive things and information around us differently. Space has access to our senses and this is where the New Learning takes place: It’s all in the head. Anyone who attended an ugly school in childhood knows what we mean by this.
By creating multi-sensory areas, spaces can effectively support individual learning styles. While many areas of our society are reinventing themselves at top speed, the development of living spaces tends to be left out. On the international innovation terrain, the topic is rather underrepresented. Yet such a way of dealing with such problems turns out to be fatal, because many of the problems of our time simply cannot be solved without well thought-out support and appropriate technology. This can be seen, for example, in questions that have been known for a long time but still persist today, such as: What is happening to our inner cities? – or – how do we effectively counteract the migration from the countryside? These are so-called “Wicked Problems”. These are problems for which there are no clear answers – the formulation of such a problem is the real problem.
So it is not a question of whether we need such spaces, but rather of the ways in which the needs of different locations can be addressed individually. The structure and organisation within a city, for example, must always be looked at anew.
The answers are therefore as simple as they are complex. “Smart City” or “Smart Village” are the two fancy terms that are supposed to bring about a transformation into innovative living space. But this seems easier said than done. If the necessary care is not taken, the problems will remain or will only be solved in the short term. The goal, however, should be to strive for a sustainable solution that helps as many people as possible.
Of course, a well-designed learning space is not the answer to all problems, but it does have a significant impact on employees. A study by Steelcase shows that employees give their workspace an average of only 2.4 out of 5 possible points. This ultimately affects employees’ own performance and length of service.
It's not only the will that counts
Almost all sectors in Germany suffer from a shortage of skilled workers, and international competitive pressure continues to increase. But despite this, companies still find it difficult when it comes to taking an important step forward. Human resources management still prefers to consider cheap alternatives and tried-and-tested trends rather than educational concepts that use terms like “learning development”, “new work development framework” or “learning experience”. But without Smart Learning Ecosystems there will be no Smart Working in the future. New Work Experiences can only be created through well-founded restructuring.
Time for a new era
Whereas in the past learning was limited to a dedicated approach and, especially in the world of work, only a fraction of the time was spent on learning new content, for example in the form of specially organised events and seminars, today learning is undergoing an integration into everyday (working) life. We live in an open source learning world.
This means that, thanks to technology and development, we have permanent access to articles, content in the form of videos and images, news and much more. And that’s what we do: watch tutorials on YouTube, google what illness you might have, or pull legal phrases and legal texts from websites to save a call to the lawyer or tax advisor. Thanks to web forums and social media, we can actively discuss our problems with others and find a solution together in the community. Even journalists sometimes use similar methods to further their research. Even if in many people’s minds the traditional understanding of learning prevails, in which it is seen as a separate process and not as an integrated part of work or leisure time, new structures and work processes have long since become central to the organisation. After all, it is not said for nothing: you never stop learning.
A change of scenery in the office
For one it was a welcome change, for the other a pure nightmare. Working from home. Opinions differed on this point, because on the one hand, one saved the time and expense of travelling to work, but on the other hand, a quiet place to retreat to work was often the exception. From then on, multitasking took on a whole new meaning: doing the laundry, cooking and attending meetings at the same time? No problem in the home office! But motivation sometimes fell by the wayside. But we won’t be saying goodbye to that completely. There are even rumours that some people can work more efficiently and get more done in their own four walls. But many are also happy to finally get back to the office. Internal communication, teamwork, technical requirements, all that simply works at work. New Work, however, does not. At least not without appropriately adapted premises. Similar to the Smart Learning Ecosystem, the following applies here: No New Work in the Old Office. Instead, in a hybrid learning space. Learning is part of everyday work, so a learning management system should also support us in this. In this way, the function of learning becomes an integral part of work. We call this the phygital space and create interoperability between real life technology and digital software.
Science and fiction
Yes, that’s right, we made up the word “phygital”. But not the rooms. There are already numerous projects that 7places has been able to put into practice in cooperation with various partners. These include corporate learning environments such as the smart tourist information centre in Karlsruhe or the innovation department of Daimler AG, which is currently still in the planning stage. In addition, many of our customers are to be found primarily in the museum and tourism sector. After all, there is a lot of learning potential to be conveyed here. In these learning environments, for example, there are large-scale walls, 360º experiences, VR and AR, as well as game-based learning elements. There are hardly any limits to creativity – we just can’t do magic.
Sense-phony of space
A well-designed Smart Learning Environment should do one thing above all: intoxicate our senses. Shape, colour, light, acoustics, climate – all of these should strike us and really inspire us. First and foremost, this happens through the actual infrastructure in the room. In addition, through the stories and content that are conveyed by the digital room design. This happens through innovative storytelling and the didactics of a smart learning environment in the form of games, images, texts, videos and so on. Later, tangible elements are created in the room, including haptic elements, information boards, button models and surfaces, and also intelligent components such as apps. Everything is networked and this not only means more flexibility and better organisation, but also offers the possibility of continuously evaluating valuable findings for constant optimisation – i.e. numbers and data that arise when experiencing these spaces – scientifically. This information is also of valuable importance to us. It gives us important knowledge and experience that we can then make available to the subsequent creators of Smart Learning Environments.
Where to put the rooms?
We have not yet answered one question quite clearly. Namely: Which rooms are we actually talking about? Are we talking about classic offices, conference rooms or rather sales and training rooms? In fact, the answer is simple: our phygital Learning Spaces can be applied to all conceivable spaces. The various technologies and concepts can be individually combined and adapted as required. Nothing is set in stone. This is a very important aspect when it comes to planning spaces. Ongoing progress often results in settings and situations that are difficult to predict. This makes it all the more important for us to offer a flexible range for the perfect use of space. This is the only way to actively shape the future. Nevertheless, to give a few examples, let’s take a closer look at the corporate use case.
When it comes to product presentation, for example, numerous companies invested in showrooms at trade fairs before the pandemic. These are basically nothing more than smart learning environments. Now, however, companies have the chance to invest the considerable sums that are needed for a trade fair presentation in phygital rooms. These are then located directly in the heart of the company and can communicate the latest innovations, functionalities, processes or similar to both employees and customers. Of course, there are numerous other uses for such learning ecosystems besides their function as showrooms. For example, as creative spaces in which new ideas can be developed creatively and collaboratively. Entire IoT buildings with the corresponding technology are also conceivable.
It's worth it, I promise!
As already mentioned, companies tend to hesitate when it comes to switching to Smart Learning Environments. But why is that? Unfortunately, there are always some reservations about this topic. So without further ado, let’s discuss a few of them.
Firstly, there is the claim that Smart Learning Environments are insanely expensive. But that is not true at all. Of course, we also know that areas such as digitalisation and high tech play a very important role in the innovation sector and are not always affordable. Nevertheless, this does not mean that such an ecosystem has to cost a lot. Even with little effort, the necessary basics for a development space can be created. There are no limits to creativity – thanks to our expertise, well-founded data sets and diversity of ideas. On the other hand, the competition is not sleeping, of course, and it is really only a matter of time before innovative concepts like this one become more and more established. Those who want to be pioneers are advised to dig into their pockets early. Unlike markets like NFT or the revived Metaverse, we’re not talking about bold speculation about things that no one has really used before, let alone needed. This is about the future of our living space, the future of inner cities, the workplace, even our own four walls. We have recognised this, have you?
As we can see, it is worth investing in future-proof learning spaces in every discipline and respect. With new technology, software and development, you can turn your employees into students. You determine the content of the learning experience as you see fit, as well as the form of presentation, for example as a video, image or e-learning journal. There is no one learning space, but there is the chance to adapt different spaces to the needs of different learning experiences in the future. The era of the professor and the webinar is coming to an end. Successful leaders need change. The keyword is appreciation of employees. If you want to be an attractive employer in the future, you value the well-being of your employees and will be rewarded with loyalty and better performance in the company. New Work creates more balance within the organisation itself and inspires people to develop more innovative ideas. These ultimately bring more revenue to you and the company, which you can use to not only bring showrooms, corporate exhibitions and the future trade fair stand directly to your headquarters, but also to continuously improve them. In this way, you make what you do directly visible to your customers.
In the book New Work Needs New Learning, Professor of Human Resource Management/HRM Prof. Dr. Anja Schmitz and Learning and New Work Designer Jan Foelsing explain in detail how learning is changing as a result of various developments and how this is also influencing organisations and their learning spaces.
Our co-founder and CEO Katharina Aguilar has also worked intensively on this topic and shares her expertise with the world in various lectures and events. In cooperation with the Learning Development Institute, she explains what is important when designing physical and hybrid learning space concepts. Be curious and take a look. Alternatively, you can find the lecture via a QR code in the book by Anja Schmitz and Jan Foelsing.