In a challenging, complex and competitive environment, business leaders everywhere are united by a common desire: to anticipate the future and act on it now.
At Steelcase a team of 43 WorkSpace Futures researchers, strategists and advanced applications experts spend a lot of time thinking about the future. Specifically, how to think about the future through a set of themes and by co-creating applications with leading organizations. It’s a rigorous approach of studying evolving issues and weak signals — what they call “embedded pockets in the future horizon that are likely to become more persistent over the next 10+ years.”
360 Magazine asked this team to share their perspective about the various patterns they see forming around work, space and information — the patterns and behaviors that leading organizations should be thinking about to better prepare their companies for tomorrow. They identified four macro themes shaping how we work:
- Creative Collaboration
- Living on Video
- Culture Matters
- Economics of Wellbeing
Trust is the Currency of Collaboration
Insight in Brief: Creative Collaboration
In a highly competitive environment creative collaboration is becoming critical. Organizations prize it as a means to innovation and, ultimately, growth. Creative collaboration requires a wide range of professionals: scientists, engineers, architects, designers, educators, artists and entertainers whose economic function is to create new ideas, new technology or creative content.
If you want to leverage the creativity that exists within the company, you have to bring people together. Director of research Terry West points to research conducted by the University of Michigan that demonstrates how groups outperform individuals at problem solving. “The lone expert will solve the problem the quickest and come up with an adequate solution. The group of average people will take longer and the process will be messier, but they’ll outperform the expert every time. Their diverse ways of thinking, their different experiences and perspectives bring additional dimensions to the problem.”
If collaboration is messy when teams are together, the work gets even harder when teams are mobile and distributed. Donna Flynn should know. As director of WorkSpace Futures, she manages a team of behavioral and social researchers located on three different continents. Her team researches and lives this highly topical issue. “Distributed collaboration is a big trend in business, thanks to technology, mobility and the globalization of business, but those factors also make it a huge challenge,” she says.
Flynn’s team has researched collaboration and identified three key dynamics that must be managed for successful collaboration: building community, inspiring flow and trust.
“A highly effective distributed team must have a strong sense of community. That’s done by building social intimacy through personal interactions, having a shared mind over team goals, and having space that works for the group,” says Flynn. We tend to think of “flow” in terms of individual work, she notes, but “collaboration is about building things together, so you need to get the group thinking creatively, building together and achieving a sense of group flow.”
Collaboration elevates the importance of trust relationships. Without trust there’s no real teamwork, no co-generation of ideas and content. Groups can excel at collaboration when they learn to harness their diversity, build trust, and develop shared purpose and intent.
Flynn’s distributed team established key practices to build these shared understandings and started with in-person meetings. “At some points in a project, people simply need to be together to do the best work,” she notes. When they’re not together, the team uses web-based tools to make content visible. Audio and video calls are part of daily life. One of the key principles to make this work is a collaborative mindset. “That’s an important thing. We ask everyone to be flexible with their lives and schedules and share the burden of being a distributed team.”
Supporting creative collaboration in the workplace requires understanding human interaction, and knowing how to create spaces that provide the right level of human engagement across both digital and physical mediums. Democratic sharing of information, eye-to-eye interactions and the ability to co-create content equally are key. Providing choice and control over the spaces where people go to collaborate – with one other person or with groups of people – is essential in creating workplaces that people choose to work in because they can collaborate successfully.
As the focus on collaboration grows, Steelcase researchers underscore the need to balance that with time and places for individual work. “There is a lot of research about the importance of collaborative work, focusing on teams, building open spaces, etc., which is great,” says Flynn, “But that’s also raised the ante for the importance of private time and the psychological needs that people have for focused work.”
How companies help people balance their private and social time can vary dramatically around the world, both organizationally and culturally. In places where space comes at a premium, as in Asia Pacific, office layouts are very dense and people learn to work in close quarters. “Different cultures have different requirements and expectations for how much focus time people should have or who controls that time,” notes Catherine Gall, director of WorkSpace Futures. “There are a lot of great reasons to move to more collaborative work models, but you have to be thoughtful about the tax that could place on individuals.”
The need to be social at times and private at others is a core human need. Collaboration fuels productivity and innovation, but it’s hard work and people need to recharge. It becomes critical to help people move across these two key modes of work by managing the transitions.
Julie Barnhart-Hoffman, interior design principal and researcher, believes space that clearly conveys its purpose to users can help. “We’re putting cues into workplaces to help people manage their private and social needs. For example, when I walk into a space that is zoned as a ‘library’ the space should communicate that it’s a place for quiet and reflection. I should feel calmed and focused by the space. Then when I walk into a collaboration space, it prompts me about how open and collaborative the space is going to be. I should feel like the team is building and innovating together and sense the energy in the space. We can use space to make work a richer, deeper experience.”
The right balance of space can help build community and inspire group flow. One key principle is to help teams reach common ground by creating spaces with standing-height worksurfaces that encourage democratic participation, or designing spaces that allow for working side-by-side. Another important concept is to allow teams to make a space “theirs” even if it’s a shared space by giving them the freedom to reconfigure, redefine and customize the space to fit their needs for the time they’re using it. By creating social areas near workspaces to promote informal interactions and development of social bonds, you can use space to help build intimacy. When the transition from work space to social space is seamless, work breaks are not only less distracting, they can even help propel the work forward.
The bottom line remains trust. “What’s your bank of trust like? If it’s a really rich account that’s full of trust, you can make a lot of progress. But if your balance is low, you’re going to face a lot of challenges,” Flynn notes. “Once trust is built, you can get away with a lot when you’re apart from each other — you can have assumptions and you can wring that relationship out in a lot of different ways. But you need to come back together again and rebuild that trust.”
Mixing our virtual and physical presence
Insight in Brief: Living on Video
Our increasing desire to be connected in more than one place simultaneously means we need destinations that deliver the best set of choices and experiences. People will choose the places that are more dynamic and foster a greater sense of engagement, both virtually and physically.
Ever wish you could be in two places at once? Steelcase researchers see it happen every day in a condition called “mixed presence.” People and the content they create can be present in a meeting physically and virtually via video conference or an online chat. Technology has dramatically expanded our virtual footprint, giving us multiple new ways of being present through our images, voices and content in more than one place at the same time. Our presence can be felt via email, Twitter, Facebook, text messages, phone calls, low resolution video chats, high-definition videoconferences, digital file shares in the cloud and more.
The Sociology of Technology
The more work becomes global and teams become distributed, the more important collaboration becomes to an organization. The people who are co-located have a kind of presence privilege over those who are remote. If you’ve ever been the person on a phone conference, struggling to hear the conversations among your teammates who are all in the same room, you’ve experienced “presence disparity.” Participation is limited, as you are unable to read people’s body language, see content on whiteboards, hear side conversations or see other behaviors that add context and meaning to a conversation. Addressing this successfully requires understanding the sociology of work, the nature of human interaction, and the emerging need to interconnect our physical and virtual work experiences.
Mixed presence requires us to rethink how we interact with technology. “Technology is a powerful configuring force in the ways we work because we use it to create information and knowledge,” notes Terry West, director of research. “But its control stops at the end of the power cord, or the battery life. Technology companies have very little control in the world of the user. They do not own the ‘situated-ness’ of devices or of software, meaning they cannot socially or physically situate them. That’s the missing link. Understanding how to situate technology is actually based upon the sociology of work.”
Workers are at the epicenter of a major shift in work styles as they toggle between their physical and increasingly virtual presence. One sign of this shift: the growth of both individual and group videoconferencing. Every day, everywhere, people are meeting and interacting on video, and research shows that video traffic is dramatically up.
More and more we see distributed teams meeting on video for weekly sessions, while individual team members meet daily on video for a quick touch-base. As a result, the way we connect to live, work and learn is giving way to an emerging new behavior: living on video. research shows that this behavior is following a natural course of market adoption: for some individuals and industries it’s a bold new way to meet from afar, and for others it’s the new normal.
What’s driving this trend? Lew Epstein, general manager of the advanced marketing + applications group, says the growth is propelled by globalization and enabled by lower bandwidth requirements, higher quality resolution, and a broader range of scalable technologies and price points. video used to mean big equipment and high cost, often with real estate dedicated to its exclusive use. “Now video is mobile, one-button simple, inexpensive or free. And because video comes to us on small devices that fit in our pocket or purse, its utility and frequent use increases too. video is everywhere, becoming a ubiquitous medium that’s economically accessible and increasingly available for us to choose.”
We’re living on video at work because it helps us be more effective. “There’s an immediate connection and a wealth of content that video provides versus other media,” notes Epstein. “Hold your phone, aim it toward an event, a business presentation, or a crisis in the streets and record and send it anywhere in the world. Get feedback on the prototype you created for the project. Interview a customer on the spot and share it. The uses are endless and the impact is huge.” video helps leverage an increasingly mobile work force. Epstein’s own team of 10 people is located around the globe while he works in the San Francisco Bay Area. “I’m often on video three or four times a day. There are countless people in leadership positions around the world managing distributed teams, who not only need to communicate using video as a medium, but also need far more insightfully-designed environments to host those conversations.”
Business isn’t the only arena living on video. Digital tools are dramatically changing education. Online courses, integration of technology with physical learning spaces, the move from instructor-led teaching to team- based learning models are just some of the many different ways in which universities and K-12 environments are changing rapidly today. This is also happening in healthcare where patients and providers are connecting on video to reach medical specialists and subject matter experts from remote areas around the world.
The Intersection of Place and Presence
Balancing our physical and virtual selves begins to create what Frank Graziano, principal researcher, calls “a lovely tension” between the processes involved in mixed presence and the places we use. “What are the intersections where place and presence come together? How can place augment these processes? How can it, explicitly or quietly, infer process? These are the issues that matter, so augmenting how presence, place and processes come together really matters.”
Places where these tensions are best resolved become what Graziano calls “gravitational hotspots”: destinations that help organizations and individuals perform better by communicating more easily and collaborating more effectively. “How do the fingerprints of a project team, those mixed-presence artifacts, endure? A great project space has physical detritus of where the team has been, the ideas and issues they’ve worked through. Just like your workshop at home or your kitchen accrues objects and materials. These things are hugely important in terms of cognitive function, how we think about the work and how we share it with others, and it gets more complicated the more forms of presence are involved.”
Julie Barnhart-Hoffman, design principal and user-centered design researcher, says living on video requires the workplace to offer a “palette of presence” — a range of spaces that support people switching back and forth between a physical and virtual presence. “So many businesses are spread out geographically, and living on video can help compensate for the distance. Distributed teams depend on each other constantly. Our own finance department uses wormholes (always-on high definition video connections situated within a workspace) to keep teams in constant communication. It’s an elevated level of presence and it allows global teams to have just-in-time contact, which is important for collaboration and building trust.”
Graziano says mixed presence highlights the dual nature of space as both physical and virtual. Just as a document may exist as a digital file or printed page, similarly a physical space can have a digital back story: a user guide, material specifications, comments from users, etc. “Physical and digital are tightly bound to each other,” he notes “and the better we can get them to complement each other, the more we can help others make the most of mixed presence as a tool for creative collaboration. Space today needs both a physical and virtual character to it, not one or the other. The things that are physical seem to want to become virtual. And things that are virtual seem to want to express themselves physically.”
Creating a Destination
As videoconferencing grows at a rapid rate today, Steelcase researchers see it becoming a primary medium for most forms of collaboration, communication and connection. As people shift to using video more as a part of their everyday lives, that behavioral change will lead to a dramatically different work environment from what most of us have today. But even as video use has accelerated, the solutions designed to improve the user experience have not kept pace. As a result, there is an opportunity to transform today’s complicated, static and technology-centered videoconferencing solutions into complete applications that are more intuitive, dynamic and user-centered.
For example, when you observe how people receive a phone or video call, you see a pattern – they begin to move about looking for a quiet place to take the call. Social media is driving us to live more out loud, but there are times when we need to talk in private or discuss confidential information. “Most likely we want a space where we will not be disturbed or will not disturb others, a semi-enclosed setting, and yet the choices are extremely limited,” observes Epstein. “Today you’ll likely end up in a conference room designed for four, or six, or eight people which is a mismatched, poor use of real estate for one person. Instead, what you need is a destination that’s nearby, optimized for one and can accommodate two people, and is ready to amplify the user’s performance and experience in a simple and convenient way.”
Simply providing video tools isn’t enough. “We need to think about the intersection of social, spatial and informational needs of people,” notes Epstein. “How can we bring workspace design, video communication, and informational tools together in a more scalable and user-adaptable space? Socially, for example, we look at the dynamics of how people are interacting on video when connecting one-on-one with another person, or conferencing with a group. What if I need to break out of a larger videoconference and have a brief side conversation? How can I see and interact not only with people, but also the information we need? Can the space help decrease distractions and increase engagement through lighting or acoustics? Can it offer a better scaled screen and camera position that works for one or two people comfortably? In our personal lives it might be fun to have the family all squeeze in front of the camera when we Skype with Grandma, but in our work lives that can make it difficult to interact comfortably – especially when the camera angle on most mobile devices point up our nose!”
“Today, it’s just you and your device. We need to design destinations that augment your technology so it dramatically improves your experience.” Designing for these experiences will look more like an ecology of work behaviors that live in a close relationship to situating physical and virtual circumstances. Solving for these needs will demand a well-rounded response to a set of increasingly available choices – allowing people to self select where they want to work, how they want to work or who they want to work with. That’s because the places and spaces that offer users choice and control are the ones that will be chosen.
“We can see how globally intertwined business has become, and yet we can’t be everywhere,” notes Epstein. “Working shoulder to shoulder is better sometimes – especially when co- creating – but the reality is that we can’t always work together in person and the demands on our time are not diminishing. Given these realities and the growing prominence of video in our everyday work lives, we’re developing new ways to shape video experiences to make them immensely better.”
Space Shapes Behavior — Behavior Over Time is Culture
Insight In Brief: Culture Matters. More Than Ever.
Space shapes behavior. Behavior over time equals culture. Real estate is often called the second largest business expense after salaries, yet its cost pales in comparison to that of a culture that inhibits an organization. If space shapes behavior and ultimately culture, then space is a strategic lever whose time has come.
There are two reasons why a company has an office: 1) to support the work that generates revenue and 2) to support the culture of the organization. Much time is spent considering how an office supports work processes, but not enough time on what kind of culture the company needs to succeed.
As Terry West, director of research, states, “The place where the people are is where an organization’s knowledge is. You cannot leverage the scale of the knowledge that exists within an organization when everybody is sitting individually and disaggregated. The collective whole is greater than its sum of the individuals. And certainly greater than a lot of disaggregated, individual components just trying to link into a server someplace.”
Organizations want their people to come to work to harness collective knowledge, to embed it in the organization and to achieve the benefit of scale. Ironically, it’s the technology organizations, whose products have given us the freedom to work anywhere, who seem to deeply comprehend the synergy between technology and space. Companies such as Intuit understand the value of leveraging the creative power of their people; they realize the preeminence of the social nature of work and the social interaction of work. They understand the power of place, and configure their spaces in a way that reflects the social nature of work and the respect for each other. Google and countless other technology firms, large and small, encourage, or even require that employees come to the workplace, recognizing that their collective knowledge is a more powerful engine for creativity and problem-solving.
“Leading organizations are the ones that recognize the opportunity to create spaces that stitch together the three key drivers behind their purpose: strategy, culture and brand,” says Paul Siebert, director of corporate strategy and development.
“We’re engaging with many future-focused organizations and are learning a great deal about how these dimensions intersect — how to fuse them together, and understand what spatial and user-level strategies should be considered.”
Ultimately human interaction is how value is created. “When the social, spatial and informational elements are thoughtfully designed, you are augmenting human interaction,” says Siebert.
Culture As Democracy
“The culture of the organization is vital to success, yet it’s not something leadership can own,” explains Dave Lathrop, director of research and strategy. “Executives can help steer the culture but it has to be co-created by the population of the company. How can people best work together? How much collaboration and idea sharing and innovation do you want? Will it be a leader-led company or a more consensus style? The culture manifests itself through these choices and the manner in which workers are supported by their environment. Do people have control over how and where they work? Do you talk collaboration but not provide the places where people can effectively work as a group? Management sends a powerful message through the places where people invest their heart and soul to further the organization.”
Winston Churchill famously said “we shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us,” and the thought applies equally to homes, institutions and businesses. A company’s goals and aspirations are manifested in space. “Every culture builds place. It’s always been that way. If the culture of your organization could build
its own workplace, what would that look like? What tools and furniture and space would be in the work environment,” Lathrop says.
“The holy grail here is giving the reins, the broader set of permissions, to the users,” says Frank Graziano, principal researcher with WorkSpace Futures. “Companies provide places for working but not always
the places for place-making. By that I mean they don’t allow users to create places that, like Christopher Alexander (author of “A Pattern Language”) has advocated, spring from the users’ cultural and social points of view. That’s what makes our applied research and consulting workshops so powerful.” In Steelcase workshops, a cross-section of employees from various departments and levels in the organization collaboratively generate ideas for what the work environment should be. They build models from simple materials that represent these environments.
“People do this all the time at home. How come we all of a sudden get dumb when we walk into a business,” asks Lathrop?
Consider the home kitchen. It’s planned and equipped per the cook’s requirements. Certain tools and cookbooks are kept handy. Some work processes and ingredients are used regularly, others avoided. A kitchen may invite collaborative cooking or it could be the domain of a chef in charge. Knowledge workers need the same: a place where they feel comfortable, that has the necessary tools handy. A place that can be reformed and adjusted based on what needs to be done.
“Culture is behavior over time, and behavior over time comes from trust. That’s how you get something useful out of that behavior. If people don’t trust each other, you have avoidance,” says Graziano.
“Trust is built by allowing a team to determine how they work on a project or how they communicate. And it’s also trusting your staff to help determine the place where they work and how to use it,” he notes. “You can’t say ‘you can work anywhere you want, just as long as you sit right here where I can see you.’ You have to allow people to speculate about what their work could be, where the organization is going, how the culture functions best, and they’ll create the most extraordinary places.”
In an increasingly global workplace, trust is also built through the understanding of local and regional culture. People tend to judge culture against their own set of values and beliefs, but as you go further away from your home culture, you have to work to change the way you think and be willing to embrace new ways of working. Catherine Gall, director of WorkSpace Futures, believes that understanding communication patterns and how the creative process works across cultures is critical, and that it’s important to recognize points of convergence and divergence.
“In our research of 11 different cultures, we explore what type of collaboration or exchange of information is preferred. Is it a top down or bottom up kind of communication? Is it a culture that allows multiple people to offer multiple points of view and then the boss makes the decision? Or is it more of a consulting culture where you actually give your idea and influence the ultimate decision- making process?”
All of these factors come together in the places where we work and are critical elements of creating spaces that augment human interaction, the critical ingredient in amplifying the performance of an organization.
Create great communities of practice — the microcosms that braid together to build a living ecosystem for the company — and in turn create a living culture. “Why else create a workplace?” asks Graziano. “Companies have a space to support people doing work and the culture they’re trying to nurture. Nothing else matters. If the workplace doesn’t do those two things well, then you might as well just move to Starbucks.”
Wellbeing as a competitive advantage
Insight In Brief: The Economics of Wellbeing
The return is high for those who invest in the physical, cognitive and social wellbeing of their people. The risk is even higher for those who ignore it.
“The issue of wellbeing at work is not about massage chairs and being able to take a nap,” says Catherine Gall. “That may certainly be part of it, but it actually starts with just about every aspect of your culture, and includes making sure people understand what their job is about, that they have a sense of purpose and contribution, and that they have the right space, tools and resources to be successful.”
Wellbeing is Good Business
Addressing workplace wellbeing means understanding the many facets of wellbeing: physical and mental health, our connection to others, our sense of purpose, the ability to care for the ones we love and our connection to the world around us. Forward-thinking organizations are going above ergonomic issues, to think about wellbeing holistically
and view it as part of their business strategy. Organizations can compete more successfully if their employees feel a real sense of wellbeing – physically, cognitively and socially.
The costs of not addressing the issue are huge and gradually becoming a major pain point for organizations and countries alike. Workplace stress is now considered a global epidemic and organizations are struggling with the ramifications: lower engagement levels, absenteeism, increased risk of heart disease, escalating costs.
Everywhere in the world, people suffer during their work day. The physical issues that we had in the Industrial Age have given way to a new set of physical issues resulting from the technologies we use. More and more people are suffering from too much work, and not enough time for their personal or private activities. Cognitive overload and too much stress during the working week can result in potential risk for absenteeism or loss of retention. People will just leave.
“That is what we see happening in Asia right now,” comments Gall. “One of the ways you keep good people is by making their day as positive, enjoyable and fulfilling as they expect. Otherwise they will leave you and go to a competitor.”
Despite a large pool of resources in emerging economies such as India, China and Korea, leading organizations understand that knowledge work is actually based on training and making sure employees understand the brand and culture of the organization. This takes time and requires work environments that are designed for the wellbeing of workers.
Designing for wellbeing means providing workers choice and control over how and where they work. That requires understanding the flow of a person’s day, and the many transitions they make between the modes of work they perform. Focusing, collaborating, socializing and learning are the things they do. How they do them is where the opportunity for enhanced wellbeing lies. At a physical level, workers need a palette of posture – a range of solutions to sit, stand or walk with the ability to shift postures often. Cognitively, people need spaces that allow them to focus and process information with limited distractions, whether they’re working individually or collaboratively.
Socially it’s important to create spaces that give people a sense of belonging to the larger organization.
“We need to ask what kinds of affordances and environments we can build to support focused work,” says Donna Flynn. “How can we help people move between collaborative work and private focused work? How can we support workers’ physical and psychological needs and thus support healthier, greater wellbeing?”
“We believe in giving people a palette of place without increasing the floor plate by more thoughtfully planning the space and being aware of the need to balance privacy and social modes. Put people in control of how they work and where they work, and you make them more productive and less stressed. That’s healthier for both the individual and the organization.”
Giving workers access to the spaces that support their physical and cognitive needs, match their tasks, and support their work style preferences is key for the future. And the future is now.
It is not the answer that illuminates, but the question.
Understanding human behavior in the workplace is a core tenet of the 43 researchers, strategists and consultants at Steelcase.
“The group’s focus is human-centered, future-oriented design research, which is all about identifying and exploring possibilities as an input to the innovation process,” says Sara Armbruster, vice president of WorkSpace Futures and Corporate Strategy. “We set up hypotheses of what the future might bring based on the full body of research we do, and then work with a variety of academic and corporate partners to form a potential scenario that’s worth tapping into. Our goal is to understand the impact on behavior and culture, because work is an inherently social and human- centered activity.”
Armbruster’s group is intentionally diverse, with people of varying background and profession, many of whom have decades of experience. “I think part of Steelcase’s success is because we put a premium on the depth and richness of critical thinking. In a lot of corporate environments there’s so much pressure on immediate results, that they don’t always see the value of developing a really deep and rich understanding of an issue. We have an immediacy too, but we also create the environment to ask those really deep questions – not just about what’s happening right now or what might happen tomorrow, but also five and 10 years from now.”
“We challenge our questions about how work and life are evolving. Our business is workspace, but if work and life are blending and recombining in different ways at different scales, and things are shifting more and more in that direction, what are the implications on how people work? Where they work? What they expect when they are working in a workspace? This is how we start to explore possibilities and create really interesting insights that provide new fuel and context for understanding how space can augment human interaction, and ultimately amplify the performance of people and the organizations they work for.”
The team, based in North and South America, Europe, and Asia, uses many research techniques based in the social sciences. In addition to doing field- based research, including observation techniques and video ethnography, they regularly engage with a network of people and organizations who are also engaged in asking highly interesting questions.
Sara Armbruster vice president, WorkSpace Futures and Corporate Strategy; manages Steelcase’s research and applications development activities and strategic planning process
Lew Epstein general manager of the advanced marketing + applications group, a team of 10 developers based in four countries; co-developer of media:scape®
Donna Flynn recently joined the Steelcase research & strategy team after eight years with Microsoft; Ph.D. in anthropology, Fulbright scholar, advocate for insight-driven design strategy
Catherine Gall Paris-based research director with 20 years of experience in bridging cultural workplace issues, working with companies on social and organizational studies and work- place design research; co-author of the 2009 book Office Code
Frank Graziano principal researcher for 18 years at Steelcase; one of the contributors to the new book Making Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration; an original researcher on media:scape; service/brand architect for Workspring project
Julie Barnhart-Hoffman design principal, extensive experience in workplace design research; co-developed a patent for LearnLabTM; group defining, designing and prototyping future business concepts
Dave Lathrop director of research and strategy, with a background in psychology, communication and organizational change; leads Perspective group, responsible for helping form the company point of view on future of work and organizations
Paul Siebert director of research and strategy, develops foresight on the future of work; human-centered design leader in innovation and brand building
Terry West nearly four decades of experience in work environments including product development, corporate strategy, and current position as director of research