The Cornell University International Workplace Studies Program (IWSP) was launched in 1989. Focusing on the ecology of new ways of working, the IWSP has established itself as an international leader in the study of Integrated Workplace Strategies (IWS). Using the framework of organizational ecology, the workplace is viewed as a complex ecosystem. Our research simultaneously considers the interplay of work processes, physical design, information technology, and organizational culture. Over the past thirteen years the IWSP has addressed topics such as non-territorial, shared, and universal footprint offices; the nature of remote collaborative work; the management of workplace change to help organizations make the transition from more conventional to more innovative workplace strategies; and most recently, an exploration of new ways of constructing and procuring zero-time space as part of an Integrated Portfolio Strategy to help dynamic organizations better manage uncertainty.

Factors Shaping the Research Agenda

The IWSP research program has been driven by five factors all stimulated by fierce global competition that continue to transform organizations and their workplace strategies:

  1. The costs of doing business.
  2. The need to improve the quality of products and services and the speed with which these are brought to market.
  3. A desire to attract and retain the best-qualified staff under labor conditions where the demand for available talent and expertise often exceeds the supply.
  4. Ever-changing information technologies that generate new opportunities for working and conducting business electronically.
  5. Emissions reduction for global climate change mitigation.

Action Learning

The goal of the IWSP research program is to help organizations gain insight into new workplace strategies and practices that they can consider for implementation in their own organizations. To that end, we believe that a form of ActionLearning makes sense. By ActionLearning we mean working together with our learning partners through on-site visits and discussions to better understand the implications of the team findings for the research sponsors own organization. A key element of these discussions is the opportunity to interact in a lively forum with senior members of the target organizations, thus creating the opportunity to better understand the mindset of senior managers shaping the organizations of the new millennium. ActionLearning gives consortium sponsors the opportunity to go considerably beyond what might be gleaned from simply reading a published research report. In effect, the IWSP mixes highly personalized corporate training activity, with corporate benchmarking and focused research.