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Designing the Destination Workplace: Lessons from Fan Clubs and Fairytale Parks

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Think about places you really love to go to and spend time in. Chances are a cinema, your regular bar, shop or even your favourite online universe come to mind.

These are destinations that you can be yourself or more than yourself, and that in some way represent something more than the sum of their parts.

Fan Clubs & Fairytale Parks

We are living in a world where more and more places, processes, products and services (in physical and virtual paces) are being more purposefully designed.

I recently received my 'new members' pack from Disney's D23 club and even though it is made of paper, pictures, and a few trinkets it has burned a memory into my brain.

You could touch, feel and see the amount of genuine love, attention and craft that went into this gift. This is supplemented by a fantastic online site with lots of exclusive content and plenty of other surprising goodies. The D23 club has become one of my go-to destinations because it is so beautifully crafted.

Another place, more physical in this instance, that has become a key destination for my family is Efteling. Efteling is a theme park in the Netherlands and really is a magical place. It is tied together by an overreaching fairy tale theme. The amount of careful and considered thought that has gone into the park is obvious.

There are very distinctive themed lands where you can lose yourself, my favourite is the Fairytale forest. A land made up of some of the most famous (and not so famous) fairy tales represented by automated scenes scattered through beautiful woodland.

I especially love the absence of straight lines on the buildings, a testament to the involvement of artist and designer Anton Pieck, that adds a real human, imperfect touch. The design of the park is so strong it is at once invisible and fully apparent.

Employee Experience- Really?

It has led me to reflect on how much of a destination our workplaces are when we compare them against our own favourite places or beautifully designed clubs or parks. I hear a lot about 'employee experiences' in business literature but to be honest, I don't buy it.

Most of these 'experiences' are nothing more than defined and efficient processes with little or no love, craft or memories built into them. Let me ask you a simple question to illustrate, when were you last blown away by a learning experience in your organisation?

Now I don't mean something that was good, but something that really changed the way you looked at something or created real 'belly level' excitement.

The COVID-19 crisis has shone a light on the need to rethink working in the context of flexibility but only a few organisations are truly harnessing the opportunity to purposefully design a unique physical virtual approach to working. Instead, there seems to be a rush towards the 'golden' (or should that be 'greyish') mean.

Look Inwards & Outwards

As leaders when we speak of competitiveness, USP's and differentiators we tend to look outwards and towards our product or service offerings. True competitiveness lies in our ability to look inwards and create a destination workplace that will attract, retain, empower and transform people.

In order to create this destination, we will need to tap into 'new' but established capabilities and ask new 'what if's'.

What if a theme park designer was to design the workplace, reinvent the employee experience or revolutionise an up-skilling program? What if a fan club creator was let loose on that employee hub that most organisations have in some shape or form? What if a scriptwriter was to write the story of your employee proposition? What if a games developer created a virtual employee immersive environment?

These are questions we have been exploring inCpl's future of work instituteas we try to understand how work needs to reinvent itself and learn from new knowledge sources to create breakthrough thinking.

The new workplace will need a diverse team from disparate backgrounds to ask fresh questions, and design in different ways.

Yes, the workplace will be more experiential, but it will also need to be more social, more holistic, more networked, more platform, more ecosystem and more responsible. All of these ways of thinking will need to be incorporated to create a more evolved form of what we are used to.

Follow us at we will be announcing some exciting partnerships in relation to the Destination Workplace over the coming 2 months.