SPEAKER 1: So we're very privileged today to have Christian Bigsby, who is Senior VP of Worldwide Real Estate and Facilities for GSK, formerly known as GlaxoSmithKline. And it's a worldwide life sciences, health, broadly-defined company. And he brings a unique perspective.
He's a graduate here of DEA and really embodies, I think, the multidisciplinary training of DEA. And has applied a lot of innovative ideas, to try and look at work environments, and how people interact all over the world, and has made a lot of innovative changes and ideas. And so we're really looking forward to your ideas and talking a little bit about your career trajectory, so that we can get some perspective because I think he embodies one of the kinds of career tracks that might be a possibility for people who are embracing this intersection of fields. So, with that, thank you very much.
CHRISTIAN BIGSBY: Thank you. You should hold that to end and see if it's worth it or not.
Thank you for having me because it's always a privilege to get to lecture at Cornell. I lecture at Cornell a couple of times a year. I lecture at MIT once in a while. And I always like to-- fortunately, I'm on home turf here as a graduate.
MIT, I like to say, I'd like to thank you inviting me. And I can't believe you invited a Cornell grad to come and speak at MIT. But I think of myself as one of their better lecturers. And it's not an ego thing. It's a Cornell thing.
So my career trajectory is completely atypical. And the first thing I would give you is the classic parent of, don't do as I do, do as I say. So I've lived my entire career with one company. Now, I've lived my entire career with one company that has gone through about seven complete restructurings, mergers, acquisitions, just complete cultural shifts inside of a company. So I don't think of myself as working for one company.
I've had one badge. And I've had one employee ID number since I left Cornell actually. I worked a couple of months at IBM as a contractor. But other than that, I left school and went to work for a company, a small pharmaceutical company, called Glaxo, which simply then became Glaxo Wellcome, became GlaxoSmithKline, et cetera. And what started off as a small pursuit of me getting the closest I could to my direct education, it became a complete career trajectory and included just about everything I learned, and much more, that I learned from Cornell in DEA, through other wider human ecology programs, through agricultural programs, and through a lot of work in the hotel school as well.
I degreed in design. I was a facility planning and management student. I minored in gerontology. My goal was to get out of school and do some innovative and disruptive design ideas around long-term care for the aging. So I was looking at facility options, residential options, progressive care options, graduated care options. And it was a very hard sell.
I graduated, unfortunately, at one of the worst economic downturns that ever hit. So getting out of school in 1991 was akin to getting out of school in 2008. It was not a great time to be out in the job market.
It was a very tough sell. And probably the thing that equipped me the best and ill-prepared me the most was it taught me-- and Cornell taught me unbelievable aggressive disruptive thinking before disruption was a cool word. It was before anybody really deemed it disruption. It was this idea of a creative way of looking at problem solving.
What also ill-prepared me was the practicalities of going out and explaining to someone of how they were doing something was wrong. Going out and presenting to somebody that, yeah, you guys have a great business here. But let me tell you be could be doing a lot better. That was not a welcome statement to make to any prospective employer.
Today, you may think of this quite differently when you see all these small little disruptive upstarts that say, well, if I don't get the answer I want from the big company, I'm going to go and do it my own way. And eventually, "the do it my own way" ends up getting gobbled up by a lot of these large companies. But equipping you to get out in the real marketplace, whether you have some work experience or you're just getting ready to start work experience, the idea of being disruptive comes at a cost. And the cost comes in how you learn to position it and how you explain to people that change exercise that you're trying to bestow upon them.
So creative thinking is great. It's also incredibly intimidating. Let that sink in. Because you may not think your idea is intimidating. But for someone that's been doing it for decades, it's very, very intimidating.
I mean everything from technology today, to the way we house people in buildings, to the way people book their travel, looks completely different from the way that I left Cornell University. And I've tried to keep pace with those things. But I can tell you, for everybody out there that has made a living, an entire career, out of things from-- I don't even know if these things will resonate with you. But the old days of time clocks and punch clocks, things like that, these were still businesses when I got out of school. People walking up and, chink-chink, sliding their punch card in to show how many hours they worked on the job site.
Some of my jobs during university were still punch-clock type jobs. That industry doesn't even sound relevant anymore. But people were put out of business in that process. So realize that as much as disruption's exciting, as much as new ideas are exciting, creativity comes at a cost. And the cost usually comes to those that haven't prepared themselves for what the future looks like.
So that may sound really cliche. But please, if you learn nothing else from me today, the change exercise you put people through, and help them with, is the single most determining-- I believe the single most determinant factor on what your success will be like. Great ideas, but if you don't couch it the right way, they will be disregarded and ignored almost wholesale.
So I always ask whenever I do any form of a lecture, whether it's an external speaking engagement, trade organizations, et cetera, to use what we call the mood elevator. So I don't know if any of you have ever seen this. But it's a really basic psychological profiler on the power of positive thinking. And it's this idea that there are a huge range of moods.
This is the very, very synoptic view. There's an incredibly detailed one, that I think has 27 different metrics to it. But it goes from depressed, being utterly despondent over a situation, all the way to grateful. And sometimes you can see, you can be manic over the excitement that you have.
But the psychology is pretty simple. And that's if you just go to a place of curiosity, if you just take something that arms-crossed, don't want any part of this, at least open up your mind to, well, that's interesting, what if? And turn it into a question, you immediately put yourself in the positive half of the mood elevator.
And the reason this is important for a lecturer is if you're talking about new ideas, you're just asking people for a moment to suspend disbelief and at least move into a place of curiosity and inquiry. If you can do that, you immediately can put your audience, your target, or yourself into at least a place of, I might receive something here. I might at least be in the top half of the moods. Because anything below it, you're just going to shut down.
It's a bit like-- hopefully most of you haven't had to do this, nor have you been on the other side of this, but you'll learn this. It's a cliche, but it's true. If you're restructuring, you're downsizing, if you're making people redundant, you're laying people off, when you walk into the room to give them bad news, whatever you tell them, they're going to take 2% to 5% of whatever you say. All they want to know is how it affects them and do I have a job or not?
So you can have a great story, a great background, a great context. But realize those people are really scared. And they're going to get maybe 5% of what you say. If they can at least get to a place of curiosity-- and by the way, telling someone they've been made redundant is not a time to force them into the positive side of this. They need to be grumpy and they need to recognize the gravity of the situation. But in almost every other circumstance, you want to try to put people on the curiosity side and up, of the mood elevator.
So the first question I have for you is not rhetorical. And it really is. And a few of you in the room may have attended dinner last night, you're not allowed to answer this question. But I'll ask you, why does work need a place? Anyone can answer this.
AUDIENCE: Um. So I your article. And it seems like at least work needs a place because it's sort of a congregation spot. It doesn't always need a place. But it functions in certain cases as a place for workers to come, greet, and to see each other and to have a place of community, which they designate as their spot. But times are changing. We may not need a work place as much as a work space.
CHRISTIAN BIGSBY: Great. It's a good answer. I like that. Anyone else want to build on that, challenge it, put their thoughts on it?
AUDIENCE: I think a lot about these simultaneous interactions [INAUDIBLE] agenda. And they walk into somewhere and they talk to you in person. Conversation is always structured.
CHRISTIAN BIGSBY: Agreed. So there's two-- there's two elements to it. There is a really important social aspect to it. Regardless of whether we view ourselves as social or not, we are social beings. We don't function well. And research, health research, clearly indicates people that live very solitary lives, don't just lead less happy lives. They live less healthy lives. They live less fruitful lives, less longevity, et cetera.
A very emotional story for me-- which I do without getting choked up-- so I have a son with Down syndrome and autism. Wonderful kid. Don't pity me and don't feel bad for my son. He's an awesome kid. And he has none of the traditional problems associated with it.
Children with Down syndrome, back in the '60s and '70s, were institutionalized because they were seen as unteachable. And they were too much of a hassle. Mothers would give birth to their children. And their children would be taken away.
They would just say, go home. Tell everyone that-- this is terrible to say-- tell-- just tell everyone that your baby died in childbirth. And we'll take care of the baby. True story. This is stuff that went on in the '60s and '70s. And actually even went on into the early 1980s.
Those children went to glorified cages, in horrible institutions. And usually died at the age of 12 to 13 years old, with no material health problems, just died. Unfruitful lives, nonsocial existence.
So that's the first powerful message. Social is a critical dimension of what we do. Even if you jokingly refer to yourself as antisocial, you're not. You're antisocial by choice. But you have to have a certain level of human connection.
The second part is this idea of serendipity, which honestly is a scientific fact, that if you take the same amount of mass and pressurize it into a smaller volume, there's more entropy. And if there's more entropy, that means the molecules are moving around faster. You have more collisions. You have more heat. You have more generated ideas, all sorts of things.
You can take it in the abstract or you can take in the literal sense. But basic chemistry, basic physics says the same mass pressurized into a smaller volume will create more heat. And I think it's a powerful message for how you look at the social nature of interaction. That's why work needs a place.
There is also kind of the not so scientific side of it, which is the sociological part, which is there's a certain element of shame associated with not taking a job in the public place, whether you like it or not. Sitting at a horrible desk like this, in the early 1900s, was actually probably fulfilling work for people because they got paid. But there was also the ability for the line measurer to walk around with sticks on the desk, tapping to make sure you're processing your paperwork fast enough.
So there is a certain stick to this as well, which is making sure that you're being productive. It can be very powerful in a place like Cornell, where you get a chance to share great ideas and you feel energized by the people around you. But you can also feel incredibly intimidated by the fact that people feel cutthroat or they're pushing you harder than you want to push and you don't get to run at your own pace.
But it's like all great competition, you have choices to either rise to that competitive level or you can just fold. And this is part of why work, I believe, needs a place. It isn't that it needs space. It's that it needs a place to connect, a place to bump into one another, a place to be social, and a place to compete. You need to be careful it's not artificial competition. But it should be a place to make sure there's a competitive spirit.
That's what this is all about. It's about going away from these Victorian ideas of a person equals square footage, equals processing space. I need a space to be by myself. The notion of waking up in the morning, getting dressed, looking appropriate for work, getting in a car, commuting through some metropolitan area, showing up at an office to be by yourself is an atrocious proposition. Why would you ever do that, other than for some symbolic gesture of, I need the boss to see me?
Well, wouldn't you rather have the boss know you as a key contributor? And getting people into spaces and places where they can connect is what's at the essence of the program. The program is not about making a really efficient office or a really cheap office. It's about finding a place where people can intuitively recognize the people that they should be collaborating with and connecting with. And have enough variety to be able to choose the spaces they need for the activities that they need to pursue.
Frank Becker, who's retired from the DEA program, but Frank showed us-- I have been trying to find the picture that Frank used in the syllabus for years. I cannot find it. And I even tried to get a hold of Frank two years ago to see if I could get the picture. I can't. But this is what research was telling us, the office was in 1989.
So it's tough. But project yourself back to where many of you weren't even born yet. But in 1989, it was a very traditional cubicle and hardwall office setting. And the workplace was telling us it's going to look more social. It's going to look more homelike. It's going to be more oriental rugs and less carpet squares. It's going to be more couches and less ergonomic chairs, et cetera. This is what they told us it was going to look like.
We did research with our own internal folks in GSK. And we showed them a whole collection of cards as to what they thought the ultimate office space would look like. What were they most comfortable with? And this is what they said. This was the picture that they chose.
It's this idea of this sort of comfortable, slightly secluded-- I wasn't so happy with the seclusion part. But it's this idea of this sort of accessible, natural light. It's a little dark. I'm not sure why they chose the one that was so dark. But this idea that it was to be a more casual place. That's what they told us.
The challenge with it was, is that-- this is what the supply said. So true story, again from Frank Becker's class, back when it was called DEA 3-- 250, I believe. It could have been 350. I've lost track of numbers.
But this is a true story of a case study that they did, where Frank went to a school. And the school is one of these old, traditional single-desk schools back in the '80s. And they were touring around in off-hours. And they met the head janitor of the school and pulled janitor aside and said, so tell us here, how well does the building run, how well does it operate, how easy it is to manage? And he said, well, the biggest problem is every single day, I come into this room at the end of classes and the students have moved all the damn desks into a circle or in these little groups. And this room needs to be set up like this.
So every night, I've got to move the desks back. And every night I come back in. And they've done it again. They've moved them back into a circle. He said, so I'm trying to figure a way to just bolt them all to the floor. Quote, "If it weren't for these damn kids, my job would be so much easier."
That's what the supply side runs the risk of doing by applying supply side design. That you're trying to make everything easy for you, but you're not listening to what the people are telling you that they want. Now, you have to be careful, because a lot of times people will tell you what they want and they're gaming the system. They're telling you what you want. But it's because they're trying to err on the side of what I personally want, not what I need to get my job.
And for any of you that have children, want and need are two very different things to try to teach them at the same time. Until they get to be about 18 years old, they are just one and the same. I really need that new shirt. No, you don't.
Not that I have direct experience in that.
So this idea of the supply side is really important, that if you're really doing detailed programming, you need to think through how people use the spaces. So getting back to the question of why do you need a space, it's not so much a space, but you need a place. And what are you trying to accomplish inside of there?
And this is the parable. This is the challenge that we have, is that there are lots of great ideas out there. And this is what brings us to the idea of change. There's all these great ideas. And the supply side is so busy trying to figure out a way to be efficient, or to be scalable, or to have this great solution, that there's no time for innovation, no matter how much better the innovation will make their job.
So a very quick side story. This picture-- and I'll get to why-- this picture was what the customers told us. I was in a workshop with about 10 of us that were part of the supply side solutions. This was about 15 years ago. We were in this workshop. And we got out a the three-day workshop.
And I was having dinner with a couple of the guys. And both of them were just the classic-- not in the curiosity side of the-- just sort of, well, I agree. What am I supposed to do with that? I'd just spent three days in the UK, spent all this money. What am I supposed to do, go home and tell my boss that I saw a picture of a nice green chair?
That's what they took away from it. What am I supposed to do? Give anyone a green chair? That's what they got from a three-day exercise around programming and user input.
So what did they do? Sorry, we're too busy. What am I supposed to do? Give them a chair?
This is a building that we opened in 2015, in Philadelphia. It was the first time in the Philadelphia market we had ever gone away from the traditional setting. And the individual you see sitting right there, with his glasses on-- well, they both have glasses-- but the guy on the right, who's actually a very good friend of mine in the company-- is the guy who said, what I am supposed to do, give him a green chair? No, David. But how's the purple chair treating you?
And David's a great guy. But he's a very staid, steady operator. He's not an innovator. And I don't employ David because he's an innovator. I employ him because he's a great controller and protectionist, to make sure we don't get in trouble. But he's not the guy you put in a programming, detailed, innovation workshop.
And from a change perspective, you realize there's people you'll come across that won't understand how they're going to position this. They won't even understand what you're trying to achieve. And you have to be careful that if you're trying to help someone into the change curve or to the change process, you really have to think through, have you got the great target audience?
And this is the skill set you need to choose on, are you going to develop capabilities to lead people through change or are you going to be a person that's going to make sure to employ people that can help people through change? Because you can be a change champion. But there are some people that just don't have the skills. They don't.
And it isn't a knock. It's just there's certain people with enough of a personality. And I can tell you, it can go too far.
One of the lessons we learned, and the reason it took us almost 15 years to get from the green chair to opening up Philadelphia was-- we spent the first five or six years spinning our wheels because my partner in crime on this, who's a guy who's retired now, but Richard and I had this bombastic way we would go in and explain the absurdity of a hardwall office.
We'd go in and talk about, yeah, because the size of your walnut desk somehow demonstrates how important you are as a company. It would be just as simple for us to give you a really funny hat. And different color hats would tell you how important you are in the company. So it was funny, except for the fact there were people in that building, in that room, in that audience, that thought, this is really scary.
I'm going to lose my home court advantage. I'm not going to be able to have tough conversations with employees behind the comfort of my desk. I'm not going to be able to call people in unprepared. I'm going to have to actually engage socially with people that I may not know all that well.
I'm going to find out there's people in my organization that I don't even know by name. I'm going to find out that the people that I thought were my greatest employees aren't doing a damn thing. And the other people that I thought were complete lackeys are absolutely steering the entire organization.
These were all very, very serious individual fears people had. And we didn't spend enough time understanding that every single person in that audience had something in their mind, that was actually pretty scary on this. And it took me five years, on the airplane between Raleigh-Durham and London, sitting next to people on the planes, that would sit down and that-- and it's always GSK people. It was always-- no matter-- business class was always full of GSK people, going back and forth for R&D or for the sales and marketing teams.
And the number of times I sat down and someone said, oh, hi, I'm Doris. I'm Christian. Oh, you're that guy. You're that guy taking my office away.
That's how I got greeted for five years on planes. And I just wanted to rest going home. And I was just getting an earful. And what I learned in it was for these people, they were very real fears that they had. These were not made up, artificial things that I could poke fun at. These were really people saying, oh, my god, I'm not prepared for this. I have to be so prepared for every meeting with my boss. I have to be--
So we had to help them understand, we're not taking your office away. We're giving you a wider variety. You just need to choose what you're going to use inside of your spaces.
The bottom line in this is that innovation and disruption is something that's fun to talk about, but is scary and causes some real damage. And I think you can make the big mistake of underselling how disruption is so scary to some individuals in the room. And you recognize the classic bell curve of your early adopters. You then have your gap. Then you have your kind of close followers. Then you have, slowly moving to your traditionalists.
Don't waste your time trying to break up the traditionalists. That's just going to be a fight. That's going to be karate versus judo. And for anyone that knows anything about judo-- by the way, I'm not a martial artist. But I think judo is a wonderful analogy for things because the notion of judo is to use the energy of your opponent against them, to kind of go with the flow.
It's a dance, is what it is. It's not an impact sport. It's a dance.
How do you use the traditionalists? The way you use the traditionalists is not to try to throw them around. It's to let them be the rocks of the organization. You're not going to go to them first. You're going to start with the person that's really excited, dancing in the corner over this.
But I can tell you, for the first five years we were doing this, we were looking past the people doing, oh, take us first. Take us first. No. We need to go to legal first.
So I had the internal audit team saying, oh, my god, get me to this setting. We operate like consultants. We need to move around every day. We're on site half the time. We don't need all this space. What can you do for me?
You have generally 30 people. Legal is 300 people. I really want legal. I want a big scalp hanging on my pike. I want to win with legal.
Well, the head of legal just said, over my dead body will you ever take my office away. Probably not the best place to start, when I had not just audit, but I had five other groups of 35 to 50 people saying, oh, take me, take me.
So think of the change exercise. Things are going to get broken in this disruption and you can't go back to them. So the idea of disruption is that it is painful. It's fun to talk about. But it is a very, very difficult journey to put yourself on.
As a really basic principle-- for anyone that doesn't recognize this rendering, this is a CAD drawing for anyone that doesn't use-- that has never seen CAD drawings before. I don't know how completely antiquated this picture is. But I was laughing at it.
I asked someone, can you send me a really old-school CAD drawing of an office? And they said, well, we pulled one off of an electronic file we had, that was actually still, believe it or not, on a floppy drive, if you can believe that. So if you know what a floppy drive even is, but anyway.
But until we break down this idea that a person equals space, it's very hard to even get on the same footing with whomever your audience is. They still translate it as to, I have 50 people. I need 250 square feet per person. So I need this. No, you don't.
What do you need? I need 50 people. Great. We'll give you a neighborhood. 50 people represents a community that has enough of a diverse cross-section of how people work, that it allows you to give them a highly flexible setting, that doesn't individually allocate to people.
The problem we had when we used to use this model is 85% of the footprint of our company, in GSK, was dedicated-- 85% of the footprint was dedicated to 35% of the work activities. We studied it in time and motion studies. That is a classic misallocation of resources in a company. You cannot have one third of your activities supported by 85% of your resources. It's a complete squandering of resource.
So what did we do? We took away a significant part of that 85% and made the footprint much more nontraditional, a lot more meeting spaces, a lot more huddle spaces, a lot more social spaces, a lot more soft seating spaces. But we didn't just do the classic of, put a couch next to the elevator, which is what people used to do, like, oh, we need a spot.
Look at this. We have this dead zone over here. We'll just put a couch next to the elevator. Well, how many people are usually sitting at the couch next to the elevator for any meaningful business activities?
So we had to design everything from the bottom, up. But that 85% to 35% was the hallmark moment for us realizing, oh, we have a problem. Where is the other 65% of that work activity happening because it's not happening in the office and the cubicle. It's happening in all these other places, that don't exist.
So people were finding ways to use space that we didn't even provide to them. They were using things like cafeterias for meetings, rightly so. They were using-- the problem is they were using six-person meeting rooms to make a phone call because there were no one-person rooms.
So we changed our model to this significant variety of work settings. And this variety of work settings provides about seven different settings, everything from a telephone booth, all the way to a 16-person conference room, to a simple adjustable ergonomic desk that you can work at, that's all of four feet long, that's just to do emails or do a quick call, things like that.
But that variety of work settings shrinked our footprint by almost half in the office settings. And it didn't just shrink the footprint in half. It also got a huge diversity of how people used the space. And the statistics tell us 95% of the people that use those spaces would never go back to the way they were.
So there's a lot of freight on the front end. But 95% of the post-occupancy evaluations say, I will never go back to that traditional work environment again. So it's a success story on a number of fronts. But it took the exercise of giving them data, helping them through the process, and spending a tremendous amount of resource on the change exercise. Explaining to them that you're not being thrown in with strangers.
You're not going to be sitting doing confidential stuff at a table. You'll have all these different settings. And walk them through the process. So instead of spending all the time on construction, we spent the time bringing people through that change curve.
This is what it looked like before, fairly horrible. And I say, this went on from 1960 until 2000. This isn't something that popped up. And then 10 years later we reinvent it. These were early days cubicle models that came out of the '60s. And they got implemented because they were really durable furniture solutions.
The problem is they never died. These were the opposite of Ikea. These were things that you could drag behind a truck, and they weren't going to break, versus Ikea, which I think has like a built-in 36-month obsolescence, where it just starts to fall apart after that.
But you had the cubicle. Which by the way-- I love these-- so you have all these wonderful-- you know, you can't see it in here. But around the back here is the typical bookshelf, with all your autographed pictures and things like that, that have nothing to do with work. But they're like a trophy case, right. There like today's big game hunters. You can put lots of stuff in a trophy case.
You had the cubicle full of books, that by the way almost every single one of those notebooks violates some level of legal retention records for files. But people never want to throw anything away because I've got these cabinets. And for anyone that has an apartment, what do you do when you have an apartment? What do you do when you have drawers? You--
AUDIENCE: Fill them up.
CHRISTIAN BIGSBY: Fill them up. That's right. If it's there, they're going to get full.
Horrible, non-natural lit, double-loaded corridors. And there's a whole psychological element to this, which is kind of funny too. And that's that the people that use the space all the time were the people that had the worst settings.
The admins, and the secretaries, and the executive assistants, they're in the office almost all the time. The executives, that have all the windows, are never there. But the admins get the internal fluorescent-lit spaces. So you have this sort of strange inverse programming solution that makes no sense.
But as we started to transition, we realized that you can do this in a way that doesn't feel crowded, doesn't feel cramped, is not just simple open plan. It's about variety. It's about brand immersion. It's about putting things into people's spaces so that they get a chance to experience and navigate. And it doesn't feel crowded. And it doesn't feel like they've been put out to pasture on these things.
For a couple of you, I used this joke last night. But-- I run the risk of picking on people in the room. But the problem I have with these pictures is that with the exception of two of them, they were clearly taken by architects Anyone want to tell me why the pictures were taken by architects and how I know that?
If you saw me last night, you're not allowed to answer this question. Come on. Someone answered the question.
CHRISTIAN BIGSBY: You got it. Because there's no people in it. Designers always have the people in it. Architects take them when they're empty because, isn't my design wonderful, even though your design is not being used by anybody. So it's a little tongue in cheek. But it's actually an important message, in that you want your spaces to look good when they're being used, not when they're being staged for a sterile, empty environment.
This is the essence though of when it comes to programming and building around people and doing user-centric design. This is the journey that every employee goes on every day. Because you can design a space, but how the people interact with that space, and how the people experience that space, and how people are served inside of that space is the piece that gets missed.
If you take a class in the hotel school versus the DEA school, there is a much more hospitality-based bend in the hotel school. In the DEA program, there's a much more design and programming based, more of a psychology-based approach towards it. Both are really important. And both are essential in terms of how you look at this.
I believe that the next transition of real estate is going away from any form of traditional, structured space and starting to blur the line into technology. Because this is the journey that we need to recognize, is that it isn't about-- as a supplier of space to my company, I don't-- I'm being irresponsible by thinking of a person from the time they walk in the door till they leave the door.
The day is bigger than that. As the global economy has happened, the day starts from waking hour, sometimes before waking hours. And it goes till you go to sleep at night. So whatever your day looks like, you have to recognize you have customers that are managing a global economy. And every experience that they have over the course of a day, or a week, or a month, or a year is a demonstration of how well that person interacts with their setting, and how easy we can make their job so that they're not being distracted.
I was at a management conference in October. And one of the things they're doing is this campaign called Making It Easier. And Making It Easier is all about making sure that the support functions to the core business are doing their job, so that we can discover great products, conduct great science.
One person-- I took back one quote. And I said, this is everything you need to know about our mission and where we have work to do. One employee-- there's a submersive experience. We could go into a room and it said, what does it feel like to be a GSK employee? And the person said, quote, "Support functions add to my workload."
That is everything you need to know about being a non-core member of the organization. If you sell projectors, everybody that doesn't work on the actual building, research, and technology of this is a support function. So somewhere there's somebody sitting in a manufacturing plant that did this assemble. So let's say it was Flextronics assembled this.
Flextronics assembles this. The whole design of that facility is supposed to be to make sure that they can assemble this repeatedly, in a high quality manner, in a safe environment, and feel like they can get their job done easy. Not, where is the parts?
The warehouse is a mile that way. The carts are over here. The components are over there. That's what we need to think about, is how do we provide the right kind of experience?
And if you look at what happens in the course of the day, you start up in the morning, ah, got to go to the office. This is not my parking day. We have some sites where we don't have parking for everybody. So you go on this rotary program of one in three weeks you don't have parking.
You wake up. You forgot, oh, my god, it's not my week. I don't have a place to park. I'm going to take mass transit. Not a big deal, but it changes the plan of your day.
You get in to a meeting. You get into the meeting, the people you're supposed to be meeting with, nobody showed up for the meeting. I can't get a decision. What do I do now?
You have some minor inflection points. You presented an idea. The idea failed at 8:00 o'clock. You went to lunch.
There's a-- it doesn't sound like much-- a four-minute line to go grab a sandwich. But you literally were back-to-back in meetings. You ran down. Nowhere to grab food. I got to run back to my meeting. And now you can go through the rest of the day hungry.
Think of what this does, not just in terms of the frustration of the day. But think about the underlying stress that it creates, that has nothing to do with your core job. So far these inflection points and these hassle points are not part of your core job. You haven't even gotten-- you're working-- in my company, you're working on a clinical activity, where we have a drug that is about to make it to market and we found a risk. We found a toxicology risk in the product.
Would you rather have that person worried about whether they can get a sandwich, or whether they can get a ride to work, or would you have them worried about whether or not the patient is going to have a toxic response to a central nervous system drug? These are real issues. And not everybody gets the privilege of working for a company that actually does do decisions that are life and death-based. But it can become very, very heavy. And it can become very weighing at times, when you realize every one of these bits adds to stress level. Sir? Time? Yes.
SPEAKER 1: [INAUDIBLE] about three minutes or so, so we [INAUDIBLE]
CHRISTIAN BIGSBY: Promise. At the end of the day, what do you have? You have no energy. And you haven't even gotten to your core job.
This is the part for me that's interesting. And this is where I'll try to wrap this up. We're living in a time of technology immersion. What I mean by that is, this is the corner store. This is the hardware store back in the late '40s, early '50s.
This is where people watched television. They didn't have it in their house. No one could afford it. And there was no programming.
You had to go to a central point in order to get access to the best technology. Nowadays, the technology you have in your pocket is probably better than any place you'll find in a corporate setting, with the exception maybe of NASA and the central labs at-- or the National Labs out in Berkeley.
Most of the things you can get in the open market now are better than what you can actually get in a corporate setting. So the central draw of bringing people to a place, for a reason to get access to technology, isn't there anymore. So what do you have to do?
I believe what you have to do is find ways of making technology much more interactive in the work setting, to get rid of those inflection points during the day and those stress points during the day. And being able to come into a building and actually get guided through your day, making the workplace a virtual moving walkway to guide you. Not to take away from the important human elements of interaction, but to help guide you through some of the things that you can do in the course of a day.
So you badge in. And it basically tells you, one of your critical collaborators is on site today. Both of you have time available at 2:00. Should I book a meeting? Yes, I should. Instead of spending three hours, trying to get in touch with your collaborator and see if you could meet today.
Guiding you through these types of things are really important interactive elements, that is the part of the next technology. The next technology is designing an experience so that the human part of what you do is really embracing technology, not that technology is taking away the human element of what you're trying to do. So using technology in the places that don't require you-- sorry. I didn't realize there were this many still in there.
But the idea is, how do you show up to a building and be guided through it, so you can spend your time doing your core job? There are all sorts of analytical tools to help us do that. And we have a tendency to get excited about the whiz-bang ones that do something that I think is completely off the mark in terms of the priorities we should be given.
So if you look at-- Sorry. I'm going to skip through this. This is what it's all about. You're going to make mistakes.
So the point of getting from x to y for innovation, everybody tries to bet on the big gamble. So a quick question, why do you want to get from x to y? What's y?
CHRISTIAN BIGSBY: Change. What's at y? Why do you want to get to y? You want to get to y because there's a market there. You want to get to y to respond to where there's an opportunity.
The problem with it is, markets have a tendency to exert influence. And when they exert influence, the destination of y changes. So what people try to do is they try to jump from x to y when they don't know where y is going to be by the time they get there.
You have to apply some agile methodology that says, get part of the way, just start making small changes. And if you make the small changes, you can keep renavigating in a feedback loop to get to where y will eventually be, because wherever you target y today, it will be wrong.
A bit of warning. The warning is, technology, if it's used inappropriately, is a horrible, horrible thing for human nature. It is a constant drain on energy and becomes a way of really corrupting the ethics if you depend on technology alone.
So there is a dark harbinger in here, which is you need to use technology appropriately, not assume it's the answer to everything you do. And the less structured you can be in the human part of it, the more you can let technology guide people where you want to force those collisions and those collaborations.
So I'll end with this. The answer is where do you want to work today? What do I want to do today? How can I be guided through this?
And the goal of this is to get people to think differently about the place people are trying to work. The place people are trying to work is wherever it suits them, wherever they can make connections with people. But how do you guide them through that decision around where do I want to work today, it comes down to companies taking seriously the prospect of where my people are. And as I like to say, companies for years have felt like the people will come to the mountain.
The mountain is going to have to start to come to the people because the average intelligent employee is starting to demand a different level of flexibility than what they saw 20 years ago. So the most disruptive idea I'll share with you is, companies have to figure out ways of going to where the talent is, not expecting the talent to come to the companies.
So I will pause there because I know there were some questions in the room. But thank you, I hope that was really helpful. Sorry to do a mad dash at the end.
SPEAKER 1: Great. So I think I'll just throw out some [INAUDIBLE]. Stephanie Seck, are you here?
AUDIENCE: I'm here.
SPEAKER 1: OK. Great. So do you want to lead off with one of your three questions, maybe the one on the-- using [INAUDIBLE] to apply innovation, but, you know, whatever? You can put whatever you want in.
AUDIENCE: My goodness. I'm having trouble remembering the question I wrote on it, unfortunately. So I believe the one he was referencing is, I was wondering what you think makes one step of the-- in the article you wrote about incorporating technology into the [INAUDIBLE] process. What makes one area superior for human connection than another?
It had this sort of face-to-face interaction part that's great. But where--
CHRISTIAN BIGSBY: [INAUDIBLE]
AUDIENCE: I think it's also a sign of the process that can be made more technological [INAUDIBLE] the process should be left for the human intelligence.
CHRISTIAN BIGSBY: So I think it's important to recognize, when it comes to technology, when it comes to services, when it comes to the human experience, there's a-- I refer to it as a social gradient. There are certain things that fall into the true category of ritualistic behavior, that are really important human interactions. And there are other things that honestly are just consuming and noise and they're more sort of analytical exercises.
If you don't do the ritualistic part of it, the sociological fabric I believe suffers. So the example I used last night over dinner was, if you order a bottle of wine-- sorry if I shouldn't use wine in an academic setting. But wine is a good thing one because there's a very--
CHRISTIAN BIGSBY: Ritual-- yeah. Sorry. Yes. Fair. Yeah. Fair. That's Rick.
But if you look at wine, we've known for 20-plus years that a screw cap is a vastly superior preservation and aging technique to wine. But if you order a really expensive bottle of wine at the table, and they bring it over and they unscrew the top of it, there is a audible groan at the table because it feels like it cheapens the ritual. There's something to the ritual that we all-- I wouldn't want to define what the ritual is. But we know the difference between cutting foil, pulling a cork. And the risk associated with what's in that bottle is a very human experience.
It wouldn't be as much fun to walk into a wine store with some device that scans a bottle of wine and sends you feedback that says, this bottle has a 50% chance of being corked. This bottle is 90%. It takes away sort of the risk and the spirited element of that.
But then there's also things like, it would be plenty helpful to just know how much wine in cellar-- I don't have a cellar by the way. I'm just using it figuratively-- how much wine in my cellar needs to be drunk now because you lose track of stuff. Like, I have a friend that has something like 3,000 bottles of wine in his cellar.
He has no way of tracking it. And he doesn't find that fun. He finds it frustrating, like, oh, my god, I opened a bottle I totally forgot I had. That's on the other end of the non-ritual, nonceremonial part of it, of just the analytics. It would be good to know what's sitting out there that I forgot that I had. So basic inventory types of things. So I think you have to respect the social gradient. Yes?
AUDIENCE: Sorry, I have a general question.
CHRISTIAN BIGSBY: Yeah. Sure.
AUDIENCE: I was just wondering if you'd talk a little bit about-- you said you minored in gerontology.
CHRISTIAN BIGSBY: Yeah.
AUDIENCE: I'm very interested in that. And I'm wondering if you got that into career path at all?
CHRISTIAN BIGSBY: So I-- my plan was to do more designs specifically in aging facilities and care of the aged. I had a tough time making that as a sales pitch. So I knew I was interested in health. I knew I was interested in Alzheimer's and things like that. I was interested in nutrition.
I ended up where I am because pharma was the closest thing I could find that had an opportunity to do both the real estate and the design side. So I get to do things in laboratory settings. I find the aging and the health part of it part of the energizing story behind purpose of what I do.
So while I don't get to do the hands-on work-- I don't get to meet with patients. I don't get to do drug development. I don't get to do any of those types of things. But the mission of what the company does is the thing that gets me up every morning because you feel like, this is really exciting.
The reason I was fascinated with the idea of aging was because my family didn't age. My family-- I'm serious. My family mostly smoked themselves to death. But I had one person over the age of 90 in the entire history of my family.
My dad, when he hit his 60th birthday, was the second oldest man in the history of his family. So I was fascinated as to what's going to change, and how this is going to change, and how does quality of life get affected. Because I felt like you still have this notion of, you reach a certain age and you get put on an ice floe somewhere and just drifted off, instead of how do you keep this huge population as a respected and contributing part of society? Yes.
CHRISTIAN BIGSBY: Hi.
AUDIENCE: When you were talking about the disruption that you were planning two offices, I thought it was really interesting when you touched on the topic of hierarchy and how a lot of this design disruption disrupts the natural hierarchy that a space expressed. You know, people don't like that. But I think you might consider it to be beneficial if a manager has to go out and interact with their lesser high-ups. And so I was wondering if I could explore how you would balance a person's need that might not necessarily be the most healthy for a company and their desire to do that, with need to actually move forward?
CHRISTIAN BIGSBY: Yeah. It's a great question. And actually shame on me because it was something that I did want to say is, one of the caveats I'll put to this is that we were very successful in GSK because we took advantage of a major, major cultural shift that the CEO decided to take. And that was moving away from rules and hierarchy and moving much more towards collaboration and even footing.
And I remember when he first took the role he, in one of his big global broadcasts, had-- you don't typically see your CEO do an artwork, piece of artwork, as his back slide. But it was a picture of this very kind of cool, stylized person in a hat, arms out like this, with a whole collection of people inside of the arms.
And he said, this is how I want leaders to behave inside of this company. I am sick of leaders doing this, in this organization. And that, for us, became a major hook that we could keep signposting back to you to say, do you remember this? This was about getting you out amongst your people. And this was about getting collaborative with your people.
Because he fundamentally believed-- or he was selling. We all believe. But he was selling the idea that if you can get access to leaders, you can get access to decision making much better. Instead of scheduling a meeting to get an answer on something, you can look up, look across the table and say, have you read that proposal yet? What did you think? Is that a yes or no, a go or no-go?
And we were getting feedback from certain customers that the first places we piloted it, they were saying our decision making has been cut by 80%. They're like-- we, as in speed of decision-making has been cut by 80%. They were just throwing off sort of reflexive views on it. But it was, I get access to leaders I never had before. I never had a chance to ask direct questions of my boss before.
So it breaks down the nonessential parts of hierarchy. And what it also does is it really gives leaders a bit of a kick in the britches to start thinking, how do I behave in a way that allows my ability to enable the people to do their job, not all things go through me. And what it did was it started to filter out who are the bottlenecks in leadership.
So it became an interesting exercise. But the reason I think that's so important is, you have to be loyal to the values of the company you're trying to build for. I was sharing this with some folks last night that, you can go and tour Google because, oh, I want the Google space. No, you don't.
Unless you really have a similar value structure and a similar objective to what Google does, it's not going to make sense for you. You can't take Goldman Sachs and put it into Google and think it's somehow going to be a good fit. They're two totally different models of how they do their business. It's a great question.
SPEAKER 1: This is the last one. We've got to wrap up. Thanks.
AUDIENCE: So you said earlier that GSK went through about seven reconstructions. When you were starting off with the company, did you ever feel that the fear of change as an [INAUDIBLE] change?
CHRISTIAN BIGSBY: Um. I think I was a little too naive to be too afraid of the change. And I've always I've always enjoyed a good fight. So I never really shied away from it. I think where it was really frustrating was, as a very junior member of staff, trying to have credibility to make a case for the change. That was the hardest part.
So the answer is yes. But it wasn't in the way of, oh, my god, this is changing. It was more of a, how come I can't get anyone to listen to my ideas? And if I yell louder, maybe they'll listen. It doesn't work real well.
SPEAKER 1: Well, you can meet me right after class. So I think we need to cut it off just so people can get to class. But Jess, you want to come up. We want to do a little minor expression of appreciation.
CHRISTIAN BIGSBY: Thank you, Jess.
AUDIENCE: Thank you very much. Enjoyed it. Thanks.
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Christian Bigsby, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Real Estate & Facilities at GSK (GlaxoSmithKline), gives a Health, Hospitality and Design Industry Seminar, "Real Estate and Services: Designing an Experience," Feb. 9, 2018. Offered by the Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures, the seminar course (HADM/DEA 3033/6055) provides a unique opportunity for students to learn from industry leaders with proven success in the emerging industry that combines elements of hospitality and design with health, wellness, and senior living.