From computers becoming household items, through the rise of the internet, to smartphone culture developing, the last 30 years have been a massive paradigm shift in nearly every aspect of society. This series of technological innovations in a very short amount of time altered industries, professions and established corporate ideas forever. On the other hand, with entirely new concepts, industries and avenues to work excellence popping up almost overnight, the future of workplace productivity is starting to grow quite promising as well.

The new age of decentralization

Centralized management has been the corporate norm for much of the past, but decentralization – the idea of transfering control to several local offices as opposed to one main hub – is not exactly a revolutionary concept, either. In fact, companies like Johnson & Johnson have employed it to great effect decades ago. The necessity behind this new wave of decentralization is a bit different, however.

Increasing complexity of business

A small company in an industry with few groundbreaking changes and even fewer stakeholders would most likely prosper with the rigid, centralized hierarchy of yesterday. However, when the market starts getting saturated with new companies, ideas and practices, the company may experience severe difficulties when changing course and adapting to new factors. The advent of the internet highlighted this issue more than anything else. The time between learning of new market developments to acting on them needed to be shorter than it has ever been. Quick decision-making and adaptability were now top tier necessities for companies in rapidly shifting industries.

Adaptability through autonomy

The saturation of conservative and often cutthroat business practices in the 80s and early 90s made the common corporate worker disillusioned. It was clear the rigid, one-size-fits-all management style was losing ground, and a new one favoring agile decision-making and worker empowerment was gradually appearing. Gamechangers, like smartphones and the internet, made it possible for teams to communicate in real time like never before. The rise of startup culture, freelance work, shared workspaces, work from home, travel-friendly jobs and other non-traditional business arrangements placed a greater focus on end results, and less on managerial control. In turn, the increased worker autonomy led to higher morale, heightened importance of having a tight-knit team, more innovations in work processes and, of course, the appearance of a booming industry for specialized productivity tools.

The rise of productivity app culture

With the rapid spike in technological innovation came an abundance of entirely new niches and avenues for profit. The demand for employees with very specific skills increased, and with it, the need for equally specialized software that could maximize the output these employees, often few in numbers, could produce. At the same time, other professionals now found themselves in a situation where they needed to be much more versatile and adaptable. Skills that were alien to their area of expertise were now achievable thanks to the availability of information sources and specialized apps that allowed them to learn faster and easier than ever before. The demand from both of these groups of professionals gave rise to a vibrant, innovation-driven industry encompassing thousands of productivity apps, ranging from office packs, digital encyclopedias, mail clients, organizers and proof-reading apps, to specialized software for clinical workers, architects, accountants, linguists and everything inbetween. Regardless of occupation or industry, anyone was now able to build themselves a toolkit of essential apps that, when combined, could provide a tailor-made solution that worked for their specific use cases.

The future of productivity

It’s difficult to picture the productivity apps of 2030, but there are signs showing where the demand is heading. The industries relying most on these productivity solutions are turning their focus from adoption of helpful software, to optimization and scaling up. Big data, computer learning, and AI-powered solutions are already proving fundamental in helping us work with the increasingly massive volumes of data we are expected to process on a daily basis. In addition, social media platforms have bridged the communication gap between business and customer, leading to an even greater focus on quick decision-making and adoption of customer feedback. These and many other contemporary demands will shape the smart solutions of tomorrow and the next step in our eternal search for increased productivity.