Let’s be less figure-driven and more playful in workspaces – Birgit Gebhardt

Birgit Gebhardt, an independent trend researcher for whom the future of work is paramount, questions what makes us human. Is it our emotions, our communication skills, or perhaps the ways we learn, grow, and explore in our work and personal spaces? Is it a mixture of all these factors combined?

Back in 2012 when the digital transition was emerging, Birgit began envisioning a future in which our human experiences could work in tandem with artificial intelligence. She refers to this future as the New Work Order. While working as managing director at Trend Bureau, she encountered a client involved in office refurbishment who wanted to know how communication was changing in the office. With that knowledge, she realized it would be possible to design the entourage, environment, and workspaces.

“We have not realized the impact,” Birgit told Sonophilia, “of how many communication spaces we are into and [whether we use] these spaces, as they are of such a big variation, to be more efficient for ourselves, in a digital didactic where we understand in which space we go for which intention.”

AI, in this sense, will be key in Birgit’s vision for the future of communication spaces, whether it will assist us in quicker information acquisition or be more integrated into our daily tasks. She noted that technical gadgets and many forms of media have become “extensions of our human perceptions… There is an enforcement of our biological capacities by these gadgets, which will further enhance our self-efficacy.”

With that, pattern recognition becomes the pillar upon which creativity relates to AI, which then continues into a generative AI that is constantly developing ideas from multiple sources. It continues to learn and remember. Birgit predicted this connectivity will bring about novel solutions and challenge us to be creative in entirely new ways. 

“I think in the future, we should concentrate more on our emotions, personal motivations, individual talents, and work styles and try to combine it into something new. We have an enormous innovation pressure, which is globally experienced… We just have to experience how far our way of thinking and being creative differentiate from the way we can use AI to enhance our thinking in these creative tasks. I would wish that we do it more emotionally ourselves, because otherwise, we would neglect our competencies for the sake of the AI.”

AI is ubiquitous, there’s no denying it. But emotion is a major factor in Birgit’s future world of work, one in which smart infrastructures would help accommodate both efficiency and joy. This is why she is such a strong advocate for the prospering idea of gaming.

“I think what we should do is be a little bit less packed and figure-driven and more playful. Gaming is a smart infrastructure that allows us to be playful, with a storyline which motivates us to interact. This form of interaction is the highest level of learning, experiencing, getting immediate feedback… You learn very, very quickly in games how to think strategically.”

Birgit is fascinated by how accurately the gaming industry is able to pinpoint the levels of interest in their audiences; with in-app purchases, players are tempted to play more and spend more money, which has therefore pushed the gaming industry to major success. Birgit advised this spill over into our work styles and help create a more individualistic education system.

“I think for certain learning styles, it can really give a very objective interaction analysis with the player. It can enhance us to educate and to train people more individually in their specific talents. One of the potentials we have for the future is that we don’t need these average standards for everybody anymore. We need diverse teams, and that means that we need to train in individual competencies. That’s possible via gaming.”

In order for this future to arise more readily, Birgit believes that our ways of working must change with AI, especially when it comes to very human aspects such as gut feelings, emotions, curiosities, or personal motivations. This correlation can enable us to integrate our human capacities. Human resources should be the curators of these new spaces, with data becoming more available as long it’s acquired individually and can give feedback on our experiences and interactions. Our personal and professional lives will merge more and more, bringing about more self-organized teams and smart environments that can adopt to our diverse needs and talents. 

In spite of these possibilities, she cited some potential shortcomings for this envisioned future.

“We will enter a world where the truth becomes a matter of negotiation, I would say. Our human perception is the search for orientation and thus our natural biological form of recognizing truth will be increasingly deceived, consciously to inspire us in a playful way, but also partly to manipulate us. This will result in multiple realities that we will model to suit us, and which will become plastic and tangible in mixed realities. I think this requires a new creativity in how we deal with information around us.”

And isn’t this balance of human experience and connection the root of the Sonophilia Foundation? During her time with this organization, Birgit was fortunate to have interviewed Simone Kühn of the Max Planck Institute, who studies environmental psychology and neuroscience and works on behavioral and neuronal plasticity. These fields struck Birgit for their inherent correlation with human capacities and qualities. Their conversation was for a film she was creating about new learning techniques in the future.

“When we learn, normally we focus on the task or the message and are less concerned about the environment, but it has been shown that the more varied the learning environments are or were and could be tried out, the easier or more adaptable the transfer of learning to any other situation was, in favor of learning in many situations in order to get the most out of it.”

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