As you may know we are investigating new modern office styles through a series of articles. Last week we reported about the cooperative Betahouse in Berlin and earlier we spoke about the rise of the office in the cloud lead by the Facebook generation. This is part three in this series — a reaction to the first article.
As an answer to our article ‘How The Facebook Generations Starts A Design Office’ we stumbled upon some new interesting insights regarding stories offices that try to work footloose on a global level. Distance and sharing space is not the most important element of the new office, but the network itself is. An interesting example of such a loose office is FoAM, a Dutch/Belgian/Swedish collaborative and multi-disciplinary office doing research on themes like food, society and building technology. The organization embodies an attempt to join forces in order to learn from each other’s experiences, and to get a broader understanding about the different cases they work on.
With footloose departments in Amsterdam and Stockholm, a ‘real’ office in Brussels and an possible extension in Singapore, FoAM is an interesting example of the next generation office. However, FoAM already exists for ten year, and could therefore be considered as an early experiment in nomadic office styles. FoAM is based on networks between like-minded people. The idea when setting up FoAM was to work on a flexible basis without too much overhead. Internal communication used to be quite a struggle over the past ten years as working in the cloud is only possible since a couple of years.
Now the office has grown to twelve official core members, accompanied by temporary team members. This construction as a trans-disciplinary, horizontal and distributed organization remains being one of the difficult aspects, as one of FoAM’s members explains. Especially when it comes to clear internal policy and external communication. The boundaries between the core members and the organization are diffuse — each member has his or her personal network on a local, regional or global scale, ranging from local friends and acquaintances to the world economic board. The office in the cloud has its advantages. It’s strong altogether and very allround in all its dynamics, not only from a professional but also from a locative aspect. FoAM has, for instance, the possibility to hook up with all sorts of networks in different parts of the world.
There are some points, however, that are not clear yet, as explained in response to my article. From these insights we can possibly learn when starting an office in the cloud. How to keep budgets and finances clear? And scale? After its recent expansion, FoAM is seriously looking for a scalable tool to work in the cloud. With five people you’ll have no problem in the cloud, but with twelve people the organization gets truly difficult. Any tips are welcome!