Sunday, 26 July 2015

Beyond Sharing - the Collaborative Economy

"The Collaborative Economy is an economic model where commonly available technologies enable people to get what they need from each other."

Jeremiah Owyang (pictured right) is the founder of Crowd Companies, an Innovation Council based in San Francisco that helps large companies to embrace the Collaborative Economy. "We are talking about the enablement of the peer-to-peer movement, where individuals get the things that they need from each other - from food, to physical space, money, transportation and healthcare services."

Technology is often the prerequisite for this to happen at scale. "Having mobile devices and smartphones is really key."

While the movement is creating disruptions for some industries, it also holds much opportunity. "Progressive companies can glean greater loyalty through crowdfunding, turn to the crowd for new co-innovation and launch their own sharing programmes to expand how they serve their customers’ new desires."

The Collaborative Economy is pervasive, impacting every industry and vertical. "I cannot think of any sector that has not been disrupted.” While Uber and Airbnb may be the first names to come to mind, the movement is much bigger. Owyang talks about over 9,000 start-ups already being involved!

In fact, Owyang believes that large businesses have not choice but to embrace this trend: "Companies who ignore it are likely to suffer, but those that lean in can benefit from using the crowd to their advantage."

Collaborative Economy and Sharing Economy

It’s not so rare to hear talking about the Sharing Economy and the Collaborative Economy in equal terms. But, Owyang makes a clear distinction between the two.

"The Sharing Economy is a subset - sharing is just one part of the whole movement." The word 'sharing' itself is not very appropriate since "in most cases people are not sharing."

Another observation that Owyang likes to make is that the Collaborative Economy could have not existed without the social media space emerging. Yet, it goes far beyond it: "it was in the early stage when people shared media; now we talk about sharing tangible things. The movement involves the physical world."

Hence, for Owyang, the Collaborative Economy is much broader and more complex: it includes peer-to-peer landing, where people borrow money from each other such as through LendingClub, Greenote and Upstart; it incorporates crowdfunding, where the crowd funds a product or service (e.g. Kikstarter, Indiegogo, Crowdfounder); and it empowers the makers movement, where people build their own products.

New business models

To adapt and innovate, large companies have started integrating those trends into their business strategy. A good example within the maker movement comes from the toy company Hasbro. "Hasbro have partnered with Shapeways to enable customers to 3D print their own Hasbro approved toys, fostering deeper engagement and generating new revenues."

Another good example comes from BMW with their on-demand services. They have launched a program called BMW DriveNow, which lets customers borrow, rather than buy, Electric 1-Series vehicles. "The program enables BMW to offer a single car to more customers, increasing utilization, and reducing inefficiencies."

Ford is doing the same with its Ford GoDrive, which enables Ford car owners to share their vehicles with peers and generate revenues. "Rather than own a car in a dense city, now you can rent one from the BMW or Ford lots."

Additionally, Owyang speaks about the 'platform model', where companies create their own marketplace – essentially, the products and services that people make are offered alongside those of big brands. For example, Swisscom has created Swisscom Friends, an online platform to find neighbours who can help you with installations, repairs and questions about technical issues - from computers to mobile devices and the Internet.

What can other organisations learn from companies like Hasbro, BMW, Ford and Swisscom? "They enable the crowd to co-create products, or let customers rent their products instead of owning them. In each case, companies are altering their business model to tap the crowd movement and innovate their business."

So, corporations become more resilient while the crowd becomes part of the company.

The entrepreneurial mind-set 

Silicon Valley, where Crowd Companies is based, is very popular for its breakthrough ideas and technological developments. Owyang himself doesn't deny the benefits that his company gains from being placed at the centre of innovation.

In particular, there are a few ways of operating that set the Bay area's founders apart. "Firstly, they are willing to connect to the ecosystem and to work with the outside market. Secondly, they don't feel they need to own assets. For example, Airbnb is the largest hospitality brand but they don't own any home." For sure, that is quite a remarkable change in doing business.

Owyang also cites an open mind toward new ideas. "Companies can try to build anything. If you want to create drones that deliver burritos, people are OK with that!"

There are also big universities such as Stanford and Berkley, which are "tech-focused, very liberal and produce plenty of talent." And, the area is home of many investors who oftentimes they have been themselves successful entrepreneurs, and now want to give back to the ecosystem by mentoring and investing in other start-ups.

Last but not least, "in Silicon Valley, it is OK to fail. We embrace failure. In fact, if you fail, it is a good thing; it means that you can try again."

But, there are many other locations in the world where The Collaborative Economy is spreading and where that type of mind-set can be adopted. "Innovation should not be limited to one geographical area. It does not have to be just Silicon Valley. It would be a danger."

For example, he sees great potential from places such as Singapore, Dubai and Europe. "Think of start-ups like BlaBlaCar in France."

Collaborative services for work

Within his on-going research, Owyang has been exploring the collaborative services that target the business world of work. “These services help professionals outsource tasks in their work life so they can focus on their core responsibilities and competencies.”

The category appears to be in good health: Zirtual is the virtual executive assistant service that matches busy people with dedicated personal assistants; Sprig delivers inexpensive and hand-crafted meals on demand to employees; PeerSpace provides teams with a creative workspace by bringing together those who need workspace with those who have unused space. And, CloudPeeps provides companies with on-demand community managers.

“There’s even an app for all of that.”

The changing face of employment

Indeed, an area that has been hugely impacted by the Collaborative Economy is the labour market. In some measures the whole definition of work has been re-defining. The easiest example is given by the debate around Uber's drivers’ status: should they be considered and treated as employees or as contractors? "This is a hard topic with significant economic and political ramifications across the globe. And, there is not a clear-cut answer to which way to go."

To make the point, Owyang comes up with a nice analogy: "In 2008, it was all about 'Joe the Plumber.' In 2016, it will likely be 'Carl the Uber driver."

Who's Carl?

"A persona that I created, but an important metaphor for an iconic freelance worker in the Collaborative Economy. One side will argue this individual is becoming empowered, smashing unwanted regulation. The other side will argue that Carl is being used by "Big Tech" for raw profits."

Perhaps, the discussion about full time employees versus independent contractors is too stark a division. "There's a new class of workers that are freelancers, an in-between role that some are dubbing a "Dependent Contractor."

Some start-ups seem to have figured out a solution. An example is Zirtual. "Unlike other marketplaces of workers that use 1099 contractors, Zirtuals are full time employees that have regular office hours, tools and benefits."

Benefits and challenges to this employee model 

On the one hand, the Collaborative Economy is encouraging flexibility in staffing, giving companies the opportunity to have more workers during high-demand times, and vice versa during low demand.

Additionally, "many workers enjoy this new economy as they have the flexibility to work when they want, rather than being tied to a 9 to 5 career job."

On the other hand, the on-demand economy challenges businesses to re-think entirely their training programs, resources, benefits and reward structures.

Will Uber and other start-ups change their employment relationship with partners/workers? The answer(s), which is yet to be found, is likely to impact international labour for years to come.
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This article originally appeared on simply-communicate

Sunday, 19 July 2015

The future of work - think employee experience

Everybody now knows that the world of work has been disrupted. During the past years, many organisations have learned slow and painful lessons about how to adapt the way they work and do business.

On some measures rates of change are spreading across the world: new technology such as enterprise social networks; business models like the free-lance economy; different generations working together - Gen Y, Gen X and Baby Boomers (not to mention our near future colleagues, the Gen Z); and modalities of communication such as mobile interactions, are just a few influences.

Exploring how the workplace is evolving remains within the ambit of many researchers. But Jacob Morgan, the author of The Future of Work and co-founder of the Future Of Work Community has studied, worked with and advised companies for over a decade to help them understand "how to create better experiences for employees," as he puts it.

I wanted to explore with Morgan what the future of work is going to look like. In this interview, he shares his views on a new type of management, the digital workplace and diversity at work. Plus, what he thinks the strengths and the weaknesses of the sharing economy are.

Gloria Lombardi: In your book you encourage organisations to think about and foster a "very different place to work." What does that mean? 

Jacob Morgan: There are a couple of important trends to consider. Firstly, the big global trends that are impacting the future of work - from globalisation, to Millennials entering the workforce, new technology and behaviours invading the company and the rise of mobility.

Secondly, the specific changes that we are going to see in the future of work. Over the next ten years we will see a focus on employee experience. It is about thinking of how employees interact with the company they work for and create a great experience for them - from how the individual finds that job to how they work there and what happens when they leave.

It also includes thinking of new ways to help staff shape their careers, giving them the technology that they want to use - it is about giving them a workplace environment where they feel they can succeed. It is basically re-thinking what it means to work and create a place where employees want to show up.

GL: Which companies are doing well at creating a compelling employee experience?

JM: A great example comes from Cisco. They are very focused on making sure that their employees want to be part of the company; they constantly think about what they can do to improve HR processes and all sort of people management programs.

Cisco employees can work from anywhere in the world, set their own schedules and use their own technologies. There is not a very rigid hierarchy. Also, their offices are beautiful and technologically advanced.

You go to a place like Cisco and say 'I want to work for a company like this one'. It is a fascinating environment - very different than working from 9 to 5 in a cubicle where managers always tell you what to do.

GL: Where should more conservative organisations start to move towards those new approaches? 

JM: The simplest thing to start from is to listen to what employees are talking about, care about and want. Employees would give you all the information you need if you are ready to listen - from how they prefer to work to what they value and believe in.

It is up to you as an organisation to make the changes based on what employees are telling you.
Also, you need different functions being involved and collaborating. HR and the whole team of talent definitely have an important role in driving what the future of work is going to look like. But, you also need technology and communication professionals.

GL: You write about the digital workplace as something that every organisation needs to create

JM: Organisations have to create their digital workplace. It is the next evolution of how work is going to be done. In the world that we are living today and the world that we are living towards, if you don't focus on digital transformation you are going to have many troubles in future.

The best way to move quickly and keep up with the changes is to experiment and ensure to have the right team and resources to empower that testing. Just like anything in our personal lives, when new technologies emerge, you test them; and if they are right for you, then you keep using them. Organisations need to have the same level of agility internally.

GL: How is this impacting on management practices?

JM: A very different model of management is emerging today. Before, it was the employee's job to support and do what the manager said - it was their job to make managers look good.

The big shift that we are seeing now is that the manager exists to make the employee look good - the manager is supposed to encourage and empower staff like if they were a coacher or a mentor. This model is going to spread even further in future - managers are there to help employees.

GL: Could you give me a concrete example, which shows the benefits of this new management style? 

JM: The first example that comes to mind is Tangerine Bank, a financial institution that was formerly ING Canada. Their CEO Peter Aceto does a great job at listening to staff and empowering his team members.

Aceto is a big believer in embracing vulnerability in the workplace. Most managers try to act differently at work. For example, they do not show their emotions. But, when they go home they are they become their true self. In contrast, Aceto is comfortable at talking about personal things in the workplace - he is able to connect with employees on a personal level as much as on a professional level.

It is a very powerful approach; I have not seen many other executives doing it that way. And, he constantly outperforms competitors because people like to work with him. This is still a new concept for many managers - it is about acting as a person.

GL: You also write about diversity and women in leadership position

JM: The workplace is changing so quickly that diversity is crucial - you need different perspectives, different points of view and different ways of thinking about and looking at problems.

The biggest area of frustration is that in many companies there is much talk but not so much implementation. Definitely it is not going as fast as it should be going.

GL: What should be done to change the situation?

JM: The biggest area is around education. Before writing my book, I had no idea of what it was like to be a woman in an executive role in a corporate environment. And, I believe many other people are not totally aware of this issue either. So, we need to have more education about the importance and values of diversity.

Also, making a strong effort from the top in bringing more diversity into the company. Again, Cisco is a great example. They have started a huge initiative aim at solving this problem and currently around 50% of the executive team are women.

GL: What's your view on new business models such as Uber in transportation or Airbnb in accommodation?

JM: Whether we choose to accept it or not, the Sharing Economy is part of the new business world. The question is 'What we will do about it?'

Right now, we are still trying to make sense of what it actually means; what this space looks like. There are many legal and regulatory issues to define. But, I think that over the next few years it will become clearer.

The biggest benefit is that people are able to get what they want from each other - you can work, share and collaborate with peers.

However, oftentimes people forget that they still need to go through a business - when you share a car you go through Uber; when you share a room you go through Airbnb.

So, the business acts as the middleman to connect people together. It is just a different type of business model. I think that this is part of the confusion.

GL: Healthy debates are going around the changing nature of work as a consequence of those new business models. For example, there are challenges around regulation and whether people should be contractors or real employees. How do you see it? 

JM: Overall, I think it is a great opportunity for the world of business. The Sharing Economy creates jobs for many people that might not otherwise happened. It is a big positive for everyone who wants to be more in control over their schedules, working hours and the type of work they do - you are your own boss when you work for Uber.

GL: What should large enterprises do to adapt to those new business models? 

JM: Firstly, organisations should be tapping into the on-demand workforce.

Secondly, it comes back to the employee experience - organisations need to change their idea of what it means to work. Maybe, companies will not have full-time employees any more; maybe their staff will stay there just for a couple of months as opposed to five years.

So, it is really about re-thinking the whole model of what it means to be an employee and to work for a company.

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This article originally appeared on simply-communicate

Sunday, 12 July 2015

theblueballroom - When leaders move on

When Sheila Parry (pictured right) founded theblueballroom in 2001, the internal communication's world wasn't completely cloudless. "At the time, organisations were very hierarchical; much more than today. The big divide between what a company was saying on the outside and what it was like to work inside struck me."

There was no hint, either, of communication being seeing as the oil in the engine. "There were a lot a people who used to talk about internal branding. But, they didn't actually know what they meant."

There was the promise of a job, and the reality of a job. "There were good leaders and managers, good storytelling, products and brands. Yet, not enough was done internally."

For Parry, it became a personal mission: although she started her career in advertising "I always wanted to work with companies in helping their staff feel and be part of their organisation."

And, that is what she has done by building and leading her agency in the last 14 years.

Still today, when she announces to the world the appointment of Kate Shanks as the new Managing Director of theblueballroom, Parry’s commitment to employee engagement and improving organisational life is predominant.

Changes since 2001

Parry has reasons for looking back and seeing a sea of changes. Today, companies have realised that they cannot overlook the importance of their employees. "Most organisations have started to recognise that their business success relies on the efforts of their people; staff are not only the biggest assets but also the biggest investment."

Whatever the imperatives at work, the rise of social media has accelerated the change that was already happening in our society. Pre-Internet, Parry did certainly network with people she met at University, at work and at events. She could form her opinions on whether a company was standing up for their values or not. "Somehow I managed to have my networks."

But, "there was neither Facebook, nor LinkedIn nor the other virtual networks."

Digital technology has speeded up the ability to be aware of what is happening somewhere else, giving people a voice. "Now, you can see what people think of working at a company; employees can publish their thoughts on real-time on sites such as Glassdoor or on their personal accounts. In the past, we did not have such an ability to self-publish and share."

Leadership

Some of the best leaders have realised that they will have to treat their staff with respect and empowerment if they want their business to succeed. One of them is founder of Virgin Group Richard Branson, whom Parry greatly admires."Almost everybody follows him on social media; millions of people buy his books; hundreds of individuals listen to what he say. But, only a few people actually follow up with actions on what he says about leadership."

Parry talks about flexibility, seeing people as individuals, and not as numbers. “Asking employees to be truly entrepreneurial within the organisation and represent the brand. And giving people a second chance when they have made mistakes."

Indeed, Branson has been championing those values for years. And, Parry thinks that Virgin Group "lives those principles more closely than any other organisation that we could name."

Surely, there is only one Branson. But fortunately, other leaders, both in and beyond the public eye, seem finally to understand that it comes down to respect. For Parry, good entrepreneurs treat staff as people. "Employees are not an amorphous group of 'talent', 'resources', 'brainpower', and all the words that companies use to define their workforce, which makes you think that they are inanimate. 

Employees are individuals with brains, hearts and feelings; they are not a block that a leader can move from a place to another."

Freedom within a network

Full marks for flexibility, but caution is advised in assessing the type of freedom given to staff. For example, within health and safety. "Take transportation companies such as airlines. One of their biggest requirements is to ensure the safety of their passengers. There will be some specific rules for staff to follow; operational procedures that guide people to behave in a way that doesn’t leave much room for personality.”

While health and safety is such an important hygiene factor of an operational environment, Parry believes that "efficiency and productivity will not come with rules. They will come with people doing things in a different way, in a novel way, in a creative way."

Perhaps, the word we need today is 'guidelines' rather than rules in its strictest sense. "Generation Y keeps away from the word 'rules' - it is about finding a way around it."

On the positive side, Parry’s observation is a reflection of something deeper about working for an organisation: having a clear sense of the direction of the business and wanting to embrace it.
"If you can join a company that has a purpose where you can tie in your personal mission and desire, then you are at the beginning of a good time at work."

So, employees can still have freedom and initiative within standards.

Moving on

The world of work is changing. It is truly right that an agency that wants to help companies move forward should also have new blood, ideas and approaches. Kate Shanks, who has been supporting Parry for the last three years, will become theblueballroom official Managing Director in September. Parry will step down into her new role as Chairman.

"Kate and the new team will be in touch with today's world; they will think and do things differently than in the past. The agency will be more proactive, constantly evolving and developing new offers."

Being bolder

Being bolder is also in the agenda. Parry talks about the need of the agency to be seen more. 

"On our new site you will find the two fundamental concepts that define what we do, how we think and how we work." One is the Pride Model; the other one is Connected Culture. Those principles guide theblueballroom's approach to employee engagement and the digital workplace.

While today those principles are published on the site, "in the past we would have talked about them behind closed doors, just in clients' meetings. We would have taken that knowledge and thoughts to the clients and not shout about them."

Perhaps, it was an oversight or just a lesson to learn from. It was actually a client that volunteered the fact that people from outside could have never realised the value that the agency could offer. "One of our values is actually to be bold; and we have to be bolder," remarks Parry. "The agency needs to be more visible and better understood. This is another thing that Kate will be able to bring."

The future story and trends

thefuturestory is a sort of brand that the agency has created for spotting the important trends that are affecting the workplace. Plus, their impact on people management and communications.
Not surprisingly, there is technology. "We have always to have technology on our radar - our ability to know more, access more and being more connected."

But, there is more to cover with thefuturestory. For example, diversity and age disparity. "The fact that people are going to live longer is going to have a huge impact on society and our welfare state. Not just in the UK, but globally. We need to comprehend what work is going to be like when you have all those different generations together."

Another important trend that the agency is exploring is around a business ability to reinvent itself in order to survive, which is not an easy task. "You can be clever and stop to think about how you can disrupt yourself to move forward. But, actually doing it is hard."

Sometimes the change requires a new re-thinking of roles and people in the business. "Employee retention is great, as a target; but what about striving for employees' injection of new energy? You need a network of people around you who challenge you with novel ideas."

Indeed, having the courage to execute is always difficult; particularly when it comes to 'cannibalise' yourself.

But, perhaps, Parry is in the right position to make those remarks as she is leaving her leading role inside the company that she found and always loved. Yet, the transformation happening to the theblueballroom looks exciting: "Every organisation has a story; every company has a future story. We will keep thinking through new challenges and reinventing ourselves just as we are helping other organisations to think and work through theirs."

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This article originally appeared on simply-communicate

Sunday, 5 July 2015

How SAP co-innovate the future

SAP Co-Innovation Centre in Palo Alto shows that innovative workplaces are truly achievable inside large organisations. "This is a trend that is happening in the Valley in general," says Director of Design Services Eliad Goldwasser (pictured left).

Together with colleague and Program Manager Uwe Palm (pictured right), Goldwasser shows me around one of SAP’s unconventional buildings, "which is all about innovation". In this area of the campus 300 designers, user experience developers and product managers, work together on the next generation of business applications integrating with technologies from 3D printing, to drones and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Not the usual type of office 

Some visitors may have bizarre reactions when first seeing the open space. It can go from 'Didn't you have enough money to complete the building?' to 'What is going on here?'

Goldwasser himself had his own concerns when he had to move to the new building a couple of years ago. "Coming from a cubicle type of office, I was hesitant at first. How is it going to work out for the team and me? Will it be too distracting?"

But, listening to him today, there is no way to he nor his colleagues would think about switching back to the previous work environment. "Here, we can work with our teams very effectively; at the same time we have all the opportunities to find quieter moments when we need them."

The events area

The space can be turned upside down. That is perhaps what makes it so compelling.

In the incarnation of a playing field the area for internal events is as far from the traditional office as can be; it sees a stage area in the centre for speakers with picturesque cushions for the audience to sit on.

Across the stage space there are smaller rooms, which are separated through curtains. Here, teams form and have privacy; for the entire duration of a project, they isolate themselves from the noise and traffic. "They can just focus on developing their ideas."

Yet, teams are not completed immured. "From theses rooms, employees can still see people walking by. If they need someone to join the group, they can immediately ask for them."

Writing on walls

The atmosphere inside the rooms feels more like a reunion than a business meeting. A high percentage of the surfaces are white boards. "Whenever people have an idea they can write it immediately on the walls, or on the tables. So they do not lose their thoughts," says Palm.

Everything noted is going to be preserved until the duration of the project, which sometimes can last for months. "No one is going to cancel those notes; no one will take out any of the artifacts that the team is working on. No one is going to move tables and chairs."

Differently from the traditional meeting rooms, which usually employees have to leave once the session ends, here teams feel free and secure to solicit and let their ideas grow.

Indeed, that security makes these working areas a selling point to staff. As Goldwasser puts it: "You have to have your head in the right place, both physically and psychologically, if you want to nurture creativity."

Internet of Things

A recent internal event was a hackathon around the Internet of Things. "We invited employees from all the campuses to develop ideas and concepts for one week. People were asked to form small groups; each team was made between 3 and 5 members," explains Palm.

The week was very intense. But, a lot of valuable work came out of it. "People came up with some great ideas," adds Goldwasser.

However not all concepts made it through the process; only a few of them went to the incubation stage. "We start from playing. But, ultimately our ideas have to have real life application."

Analytics and more 

SAP Co-Innovation Lab has achieved quite compelling results so far.

A good example is recent work around analytics. "We are collecting data from sensors, and creating alternative ways of visualising them, which makes it easy for staff of any department to be aware of what is going on in their building," says Palm.

Another good example is the Medical Research Insights. The project, launched in Germany, aims at helping medical centres to manage the data of patients to find the right treatments, better and faster. SAP technology is enabling doctors to surface all the historic data of sufferers who had similar symptoms in the past. Ultimately, clinicians can make more accurate predictions and prescriptions about particular patterns of cancer that would not be possible to track otherwise.

Developing apps

The second floor looks like an explosion of start-ups concentrated all in one place. "Here is where we currently develop mobile apps and similar products," says Palm. This applies to both consumer and enterprise applications.

For example, they have just built an instant messaging app for the German National Soccer Team, who do not have the chance to get together often. "It is a sort of WhatsApp for their internal communications. Players use it to communicate with coaches as well as between themselves about trainings, and exercises," explains Goldwasser.

On a wall, there are many other works in progress with step-by-step and interactive sketches on how to build an application. "We work through iterations until we reach the final detail and perfect design. We keep improving by getting feedback from both our users and other SAP engineers."

Peaks and valleys

"Peaks and valleys is how we work." Not surprisingly, there are moments when employees work on projects that demand plenty of energy. "You may get under pressure to get things done, and work extra hours."

But, then comes the valley. "We call them Light House Projects." In quieter periods, people are encouraged to work on something they feel very passionate about. "It can be a prototype or a presentation on a particular interest. Depending on how far they can go, they can be developed further and become products."

The environment and processes encourage staff to use their time wisely; to be focused and put their head down when times require. But, they don't forget to have fun and develop themselves creatively.

Toys for grown-ups

While walking on a floor decorated with red and blue fishes among other fun, child-like images, Palm looks to his right and tells me, "we also have some toys for the grown-ups." This sounded grand, yet my mind was still wondering what he meant.

Not far from us is a smart vending machine, which is born out of a SAP project on the Internet of Things (IoT). The device tracks down what drinks and meals are in high demand and sends real-time, accurate reports to the staff responsible to fill it up. It also adjusts the temperature based on the ambient conditions.

And, if something goes wrong, no one needs to trouble - the 'toy for grown-up' calls the appropriate technician to fix the problem!

The office of the future

Goldwasser and Palm enter another area built around the concept of unified communications (UC). The 'the office of the future' builds an integrated digital experience to virtual conferences; it gathers groups of people from anywhere in video, web and audio meetings. It is made of large multiple screens - each one for every person joining the session. Everyone can see each other and collaborate on the white board that is on the physical wall of the office, yet projected virtually on the screens for everyone to see.

It sounds like another world but in reality, when you see it in action, everything makes more sense.

The 3D printing laboratory

This is the place where employees can test new technologies - from virtual reality devices, to drones and 3D printing with plastic, wood, robber and other metals.

"You can pick up a robot if you want, or try out the soldering machine," says a member of the laboratory just as if he were offering me a cup of coffee. He continues very nicely, "you can also go on the rollercoaster with Oculus Rift if you prefer." I stick to the latter, and would have liked to stay there for the whole afternoon; it is just like being at the amusement park.

But, games aside, it is the huge potential of the whole 3D enterprise that is really fascinating. For example, organisations could start creating 3D-world training and development programmes for their employees and enhance their ability to learn. Think of fire fighters who have to be prepared to face highly unsafe situations in the field; or physicians who need to deal with complicated patients' disorders. Having a 3D world that simulates and prepares them for those experiences beforehand could be tremendously useful.

Indeed, here you look at it, and play with it like a toy. However, SAP employees keep focused and grounded. "We are having fun; but ultimately we think of real-life use cases."

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This article originally appeared on simply-communicate