Celebrating our past by looking forward.
As we celebrate our 100 year anniversary, we’re focusing on the future by collecting dreams and ideas from around the world. Our year-long anniversary project, “100 Dreams. 100 Minds. 100 Years,” is a springboard to the century ahead.
“Our present economy’s strength lies in the narrative of the former while the future for all of us lies in the narrative of all those entrepreneurial dreams of what might be.” John Hockenberry, Jounalist and Author
INTRODUCTION BY JOHN HOCKENBERRY
There is magic in places of work. Objects that connect with hands and minds tell the timeless stories of work. Each day’s heroic climb from “to do” to “done,” stepping swiftly past all of the urgent tasks, pausing for moments of whimsy and inspiration, to reach all of the things we dream one day we might have the time and insight to finish.
Our present economy’s strength lies in the narrative of the former while the future for all of us lies in the narrative of all those entrepreneurial dreams of what might be. Throughout time, workshops have been devoted to this powerful magic and because, in our time, there are so many workplace hybrids of work and play, or work and home, the magic is spreading.
In my life one can see workshops from centuries ago preserved in the museums of our time. The revolutionary changes in the tools of work in the 20th century I have lived in my own work life. In this young century the cameras and microphones and recorders of my own profession of electronic journalism have miniaturized into a single object. My workshop today fits neatly into a pocket.
I remember the excitement I felt the first time I went into a real machine shop or the garage workshop of my clockmaker grandfather with its deeply evocative smells of oils and varnish and paint.
I remember my mother’s sewing room piled high with her dress patterns. Each pattern fronted with an illustration of what the finished garment might look like, a sketch that was also a dream.
I remember the feeling of opening my own father’s toolkit, the lid seemed to be a door onto everything my father had ever touched, fixed or built.
It was with these thoughts in my mind that a group of designer/collaborators and I approached the project of the Steelcase centennial commemoration. We could easily see the power of work objects to look back in time. There were plenty of such objects in the Steelcase archive. The offices from 100 years ago were little more than tiny add-ons to the enormous factory floors that often adjoined them, they were places for clerks to move paper and foremen to look down and see the real work getting done. Richer spaces for creative work or the projection of power were the inner sanctums of lawyers and architects, politicians and bankers. They were direct descendants of quiet meditative spaces found in churches or libraries. They were clearly not meant for everyone. They spoke to a past that was rapidly being swept away. Within those objects the future that would make most of them obsolete cannot be detected. So for us to think about the next century, to “only look forward,” as Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett insisted, we would need to shed the literal Steelcase history and focus instead on the spirit of anticipating the nature of work years into the future that has kept the company around this long.
We thought that we would have no trouble finding leaders and successful creative characters to answer the question:
“What will it be like 100 years from now?”
“How will we work?”
“What tools will we use?”
“What shall we make?”
“What problems will we face and solve?”
For us though, we were not interested in soliciting mere opinions from people who would not be around to see the future and have to face what they got wrong or near wrong. Our challenge was to find people who might naturally want to think 100 years into the future recognizing that most of them probably weren’t born yet. Now, instead of the task of crafting a corporate message we had found ourselves a lovely mystery to solve, could we find those citizens of the future and get them to imagine the century stretching out before them? If we could get them to do that we could use their dreams as seeds to motivate current leaders and thinkers to dream bigger and beyond their own lifetimes. Could we create a collective dream state bridging the powerful wisdom of experience and hindsight with the fearless whimsy of inexperience and foresight?
Being open to the value of people’s dreams, regardless of their background and education, people who have most of their lives ahead of them, became the frame for the questions at the center of the entire Steelcase 100 initiative. “What place do you dream of doing your life’s work. What tools do you imagine you will use? What do you dream of doing that will be important 100 years from now?”
Our idea was to ask this simple set of questions to 10-year-old children from around the world. Put their answers on video, and invite them to draw a picture of their dream with themselves in it.
Like Jack’s magic beans these young dreamers became the seeds for a larger conversation with the 100 Minds. From the musings of 10-year olds we find ourselves face to face with giants in their various professions. We asked them to use their wisdom and experience to look forward through a century they will not witness but for our invitation. I had the privilege of getting some of the first looks at the grown-up dreams and offerings we got back.
It was surprising how optimistic people’s entries were. Even though there was interesting tension between what various people thought were priorities, what changes people believed would be most important and what problems would loom the largest over the next 100 years, there was agreement that things certainly could and would improve.
Each of the 100 minds insists on a message of hope eerily echoing the relentlessly upbeat notions of our kids. A fusion of whimsy and warning, a meeting of two generations about to part company in the pursuit of the future. Both groups sketching out a workshop of the future for addressing what is important in a mission to last 100 years. It was architect Patricia Urquiola who brought me back to earth, who put me back in the workshop.
“I see a future where we are going to fight indifference.”
From the whimsy of 100 children to the brilliance of 100 great minds from enterprise, these dreams are just the beginning. Let their words, their dreams, be your springboard…
- “We have to think about the world before making new things,” said Siddesh from Mumbai who told us he wanted to make intelligent tsunami-proof buildings in the future.
- “One day it will be cool to work with people from all over the world.” said Jan from Germany.
- “The world is a book we learn from and I hope this book is endless,” said Lili from Shanghai.
- “Whether it is better or worse in the future, anything is possible. It’s all up to us.” The greatest genius, Cassidy reminded us, comes from knowing what you must do and that you can and must do it.
Founder and Chairman, IDEO, Palo Alto, United States
“Creative confidence — the natural human ability to come up with new approaches to solve a problem and the courage to try them out — is one of our most precious resources.”
I dream of a future in which people no longer divide the world between us and them, “creatives” and “non- creatives.” It’s a myth, and it’s one that holds us all back.
My life’s work through IDEO and Stanford is to unlock the creative potential in as many people as I can. Because, when adults regain the joy and creative confidence they felt as children, magic happens.
People who have it make better choices, and they take action to improve the situations they can.
The future asks each of us to find the courage to unlock more creative confidence in the people around us — and ourselves. When I dream of the future, I dream of this.
Founder, Deepak Chopra LLC, Carlsbad, United States
“I dream of a transformation in collective consciousness resulting in a peaceful, just, sustainable, healthy, and joyful world.”
I dream of a world where a critical mass of 100 million people have personally transformed into a consciousness of love, kindness, joy, compassion, gratitude, forgiveness, and equanimity. Their personal transformation could lead to a transformation in collective consciousness resulting in a peaceful, just, sustainable, healthy, and joyful world.
Owner, In Transition, Amsterdam, Netherlands
“I believe that “being human” will transcend our current notions to include powers of creation that remain unacknowledged today.”
Mayor, City of Detroit, Detroit, United States
“Detroit’s future is promising. We are blessed with a wealth of talented young people, committed residents and unlimited potential.”
I envision a future in which we create a strong city and an outstanding opportunity to build a good life in Detroit.
Making our city safe for residents, businesses and visitors is our first and most important priority. Providing an education system that prepares our kids to go to college is also essential for our future. Thanks to our efforts to clean up city government, we are again attracting new jobs and investment back to the City of Detroit and it is critical that Detroiters have the skills necessary to compete for those jobs. We will continue to work to strengthen Detroit’s neighborhoods, improve services and attract new residents. We will be a great city once again thanks to the support and help of people who love Detroit all across the world.
Chief Executive, Lifeline Energy, Cape Town, South Africa
“Imagine an Africa with women leading it into the future. they would not just be left to pick up the pieces after war. they would be integral to averting conflict in the first place.”
My dream is to see African women emancipated from energy poverty. No longer will women have to walk along dusty paths with jugs of water or stacks of firewood on their heads, to cook with stoves that harm their lungs, or to burn kerosene lights that damage their eyes. No longer will she worry that her children will drink kerosene believing it to be clean water or feel the anxiety that comes from a candle tipping over setting her house alight. She will be at the forefront of the use and adoption of renewable energies, not just as consumers, but also as owners and investors.
President, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, United States
“We think having Google at our disposal has changed how we think about knowledge retention, but imagine when that knowledge is literally ” integrated into your being.
In 2112, creativity will be the most valued form of work because creativity is about going against what everyone (including yourself) believes in. By 2112, our minds will be directly connected to computers. We think having Google at our disposal has changed how we think about knowledge retention, but imagine when that knowledge is literally integrated into your being. We will all know all that we need to know, together, by being interconnected with all the information of the world. The answers won’t be at our fingertips, they will be within us. And so goes any room for debate.
What will be at a premium in this new world? What will enable us to retain our unique stamp of humanity? Our unique ability to create ideas and concepts that go against the all-powerful norm of the factual. The ways of thinking and working that artists and designers embody so naturally will be in higher demand. They are the ones who are used to flying in the face of reality, of suspending disbelief to come up with what is next. These skills will be universally recognized as how we advance society’s future, rather than a nice “add-on” as they are perceived of today. Creativity will be the new currency of work, the world over.
Senior Curator, Architecture and Design, The MoMA, New York City, United States
“In 100 years, design will be at the center of things, a benign and necessary force in all facets of human experience.”
One of design’s most fundamental tasks is and has been to help people deal with change. The technological, political, scientific, cultural, moral, universal acceleration of the past century does not show any signs of slowing down. Change might just become a constant, a paradox that will make design even more necessary.
President, Universidad Europea de Madrid, Villaviciosa de Odon, Spain
“Education is the key to transform society and make it progress. We can’t build a better world made up of the dreams of millions of human beings who have no access to education.”
Design Director, Yang Design, Shanghai, China
“The future should be what you think is what you get — by means of advanced technology and innovative material, we can directly translate our abstract ideas into products.”
Executive Director Global Business Growth, Geyer, Sydney, Australia
“…I dream that we don’t erode or lose the rich cultural diversity that exists around the globe – that it continues to inspire creativity and innovation.”
President and CEO, IDEO, Palo Alto, United States
“In 100 years, machines may manage the economy, not economists or politicians.”
Architect, Patricia Urquiola Studio
“Gender, race, sexuality, ideology, and faith are just going to be unimportant characteristics that will not define ourselves.”
Founder and Partner, William McDonough + Partners, Charlottesville, United States
“We don’t just eat the apple. We grow a tree that will feed generations to come.”
In 100 years we will create marvelously creative places where we can celebrate the positive intentions. We can celebrate the abundance of resources. We can find ways to promulgate continuous use cycles, rather than closed loops. We can all celebrate our resourceful world as one not of limits but of generosity and abundance. And we’ll have the same thing with our intelligence. We get to be resourceful people, appreciating solar income and materials and people optimizing our time and relationships, manipulating the currency of day to day flows into capital formation. We don’t just eat the apple. We grow a tree that will feed generations to come.
We need to do the work of 100 years and celebrate the abundance of the planet. And then take a look back 900 years to the wisdom of the poet and philosopher Hildegard of Bingen: “Glance at the sun. See the moon and the stars. Gaze at the beauty of earth’s greenings. Now, think.”
Professor and Composer, MIT Media Lab, Cambridge, United States
“Creative collaboration between experts and everyone else is the key to cultural vitality in the future.”
We all admire the great geniuses around us – from Da vinci to Einstein, Beethoven to The Beatles – but we have a tendency to put them on an unhealthy pedestal, in a category so different from the rest of us that they seem almost a distinct species.
Paradoxically, technology has tended to enlarge rather than to shrink this divide. On the one hand, artists use social media to create a seeming closeness to fans that tends to elevate celebrity and promote marketing rather than to invite true communication. And crowd-sourcing invites everyone to participate in large projects, but one’s individual contribution is too often lost – literally – in the crowd.
So we must work urgently to eliminate this divide, and to create contexts and experiences where people from all backgrounds, ages, skills and experience levels can work together on ambitious and significant projects, each bringing his or her life experience and special perspective while benefitting from everyone else’s comments and contributions. The arts – and music in general (simultaneously so universal but also potentially ghetto-izing) – are a perfect laboratory for such a new ecology of creativity. At the MIT Media Lab, we are trying experiments in bringing children from far-away lands together to compose symphonies and rock songs and in inviting the entire “ city of Toronto to collaborate with us to compose a new symphony. In such cases, the general public works closely with music students, computer programmers, and celebrated musicians, composers and designers to make something splendid and valuable that none could have done alone.
Chairman and Artist, Chihuly Studio, Seattle, United States
“In the future, I hope people will enjoy and work with the light and color the world has to offer; go out on a limb and turn dreams and ideas into reality.”
Out on a limb…that’s where an artist works. When it came to Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem, I set out to work on a project and I didn’t know what it would end up being when I finished…
The idea of taking these huge blocks of crystal from Alaska halfway around the world to Israel was a dream, an idea, and I went for it. It is up to all of us to embrace the crazy ideas we have and make the future bright. In the future, I hope people will enjoy and work with the light and color the world has to offer; go out on a limb and turn dreams and ideas into reality…that is how you succeed in creating something beautiful.
CEO, Henn Architekten, Munich, Germany
“We need to ensure that the seed of education is planted deep into the thinking of mankind and its diverse societies.”
I believe that the key to the future is education. How well we are educated determines how well we understand the context in which we live and operate. A context in which we, as individuals, make decisions that have global consequences.
We need to ensure that the seed of education is planted deep into the thinking of mankind and its diverse societies. At the forefront should be the provision of education to every child, to nourish their brain and soul. This is our responsibility as educated individuals and globally operating companies. Children need education to ensure that they have a secure future. And to enable them to make educated decisions. Education is a flower that will make humankind blossom. Each of us can and should contribute to make this happen.
University Professor, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, United States
“The workplace of tomorrow will regenerate each one of us, our families and our communities, sharing access to precious resources and to the sustaining qualities of nature.”
Author, Hudson River Valley, United States
“Imagine what would happen if you started respecting your own wishes of how to” spend your time.
Why does it matter where you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum? Because introversion and extroversion are at the heart of human nature — one scientist refers to them as “the north and south of temperament.” And when you make life choices that are congruent with your temperament, you unleash vast stores of energy.
Conversely, when you spend too much time battling your own nature, the opposite happens — you deplete yourself. I’ve met too many people living lives that didn’t suit them — introverts with frenetic social schedules, extroverts with jobs that required them to sit in front of their computers for hours at a stretch.
The personality psychologist Brian Little points out that we all must act out of character for the sake of work or people we love – occasionally. We all have to do things that don’t come naturally — some of the time. But it shouldn’t be all the time. It shouldn’t even be most of the time. As Little also says, acting out of character for too long can make us stressed, unhappy, and even physically ill.
This is particularly important for introverts, who have often spent so much of their lives conforming to extroverted norms that by the time they choose a career, or a calling, it feels perfectly normal to ignore their own preferences. You may be uncomfortable in law school or in the marketing department, but no more so than you were back in middle school or summer camp.
Dean, Rotman School of Management, Toronto, Canada
“We have to rethink how we utilize workers in our advanced economy.”
SHIRLEY ANN JACKSON
President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, United States
“In the future, there will be virtual spaces for the most energetic and imaginative people to come together and change the world.”
Managing Director, Chris Bangle Associates, Clavesana, Italy
“In 2012, isn’t the whole world up in arms because they want to be Meaningful Participants? Why wait 100 years?”
Author, Washington, D.C., United States
“Forget fanciful, futuristic forecasts. Give more people the freedom to dream – and the future will take care of itself.”
As much as I’d love to zoom around in a flying car or teleport to Barcelona for lunch, my dream for the next 100 years is simpler. I just want more people have the freedom to dream. After all, that’s always been the key to progress…
Over the next hundred years, our challenge is to expand that freedom to the billions of people around the world for whom the future means simply surviving another day rather than building a new tomorrow. If we unshackle even a modest fraction of those souls, we can liberate the talent to confront the challenges that remain.
Cinematographer, Geissbuhler Associates, New York City, United States
“We are in the infancy of civilization…in a hundred years, we will watch mankind mature into adulthood.”
In the future, we will be okay having less stuff. We will give pause, not when we ponder the waste of throwing something out, but rather at the more important moment of purchase in the first place.
All objects will be made to either decompose or last 100 years, not 100 days.
Choosing one’s impactful actions will carry with it a weight much greater than today:
Where do I live? How much do I eat? How many children will I have? Am I using more resources than I am entitled to? What is my occupation and what good does it bring to the world?
We see that we are part of something larger…Our strong sense of responsibility will not be limited to our own family anymore, but extend to our community and all of the world’s citizens as our interconnectedness becomes ever more interwoven.
RICHARD SAUL WURMAN
Founder, The WWW Conference, Newport, United States
“Dreams unlock not just a better version of something, dreams unlock the possibility of addition, subtraction, opposites and void. Dreams unlock a space in which ideas are formed.”
SHARE YOUR DREAM
We will the future by dreaming it. For 100 years Steelcase has mined for human insights, and to celebrate our birthday we’re gathering dreams of what the next century may look and feel like. We started with 100 children from around the world, and 100 brilliant minds from enterprise. Now it’s your turn — we invite you to be part of our worldwide centennial celebration — will you share your dream with us?
Tags: Collaboration, Energy & Environment, Innovation, Insights, Work/Life
Filed under: 360 Magazine, Featured Articles