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e-Locus: For a Larger Integration of the Individual at Workplace

Risultati finali

Small and medium enterprises (SME) cannot escape the impact of new technologies that modify production, sales and administration. In the knowledge economy the workflow from design to market depends on blending some of the tools, methods, technologies, applications, as well as concepts of management, that are best suited to any particular company or activity. The difficulty lays in knowing which of those different means and approaches will produce maximum performance at minimum cost and this, within the cultural context and learning capacity of each particular company. The e-Locus cluster project consisted in the study of nine European projects involved in the design of the new workspace and focusing on the better adaptation of people at work. The attempt is to describe the context of what is known as "New Working Environments" and to show that it is not longer just an abstract concept, but a material reality, made of new relationships within a global space constituted by the office/factory/market, a continuous whole without boundaries. Several strategies allow SMEs to prosper in this complex business landscape. Whether occupying a niche in the value chain or joining a regional or a sectorial cluster, or creating a local or international partnership, all those strategies are based on collaborative or cooperative approaches. Project's conclusions are twofold: The sudden surge of information and knowledge is reshaping our past and present activities. In this sense we are vastly improving our legacy economy. This surge of knowledge is also shaping a different future. We are entering a new type of economy and we do not yet know where it leads. But SMEs do not have the resources to spend on philosophic and abstract concepts: they must attend short term issues in order to survive. There are two different situations: Existing SMEs must adapt their structures and strategies to the new ways of working and to the changing needs of their providers and customers. Those of new creation must, from the start, take advantage of the possibilities offered by distributed and mobile activities, adopting new organizational structures and management concepts. The circumstances, problems and solutions are not the same for the former and the latter. Most futuristic scenarios, no matter how daring, are based on linear projections within a reasoning that belongs to the present socio-economic model. However there are strong reasons to believe that external factors, alien to our reasoning and to our accepted socio economic rules, may once more alter the course of history. If this happens to be the case, we will have to change our mindset far more drastically than we are prepared to, even in these times of wonderment. Therefore, to prepare for the future, rather than scenarios, what we need is to propose "what if" interrogations. This is only briefly suggested because, as said before, SMEs are rightly mostly concerned with the present. Fortunately they are also more flexible and quicker to adapt to change than LEs. This is well expressed in the metaphor of the school of fish and the whales: The former change directions in large numbers almost instantly, whereas the latter take longer to change course.