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Business, Unusual

In today’s world of avant-garde start-ups disrupting traditional industries, innovation is jump-started by unconventional ideas. The very concept of collaboration is changing with new-school thinking and evolving tech providing fertile ground for a 21st-century way of doing business.

Apps are now connecting people in ways we never thought possible. There’s networking app Shapr that matches users with potential mentors, partners or collaborators, based on their interests and experience. Unlike some other social tools, Shapr limits each user to 50 active connections, since researchers claim our brains can only really manage 150 personal relationships at a time. In the workplace, apps like Slack simplify office communications into one place, reducing internal emails by 49 percent. Its popularity with modern teams has skyrocketed its valuation to around $3.8 billion. New open-source, fully customizable versions of Slack (like Mattermost and Zulip) are gaining traction and prove this trend of tech-enabled offices is constantly being redefined.

A ball pit at C2 changes the way participants collaborate by bringing play into the mix

Harnessing this integration of – and investment in – new tech and networking, events like Montreal’s C2 business conference are bringing together ideas about commerce and creativity in unexpected ways. The event sees businesspeople and creatives converging not only to discuss ideas, but with the goal of sparking further innovation. Think keynote speeches delivered under a big-top circus-style tent (past speakers include Steve Wozniak, Diane von Furstenberg and Richard Branson), discussions led by industry leaders like neuroscientist Dr. Naveen G. Rao, art installations powered by Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets, along with meetings on chairs suspended 18 feet in the air – a prime example of an unconventional workspace.

The newly reopened and renovated Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth Montreal is partnering with C2 to further redefine the traditional meeting environment, creating the first (and only) permanent C2 space – on the hotel’s top floor and rooftop. “Espace C2” immerses participants in an environment outside their comfort zone, changing the way they interact and integrating some wild, C2-style activities (such as creative labs set in a ball pit, where play is used as a catalyst for new ideas).

Neuroscientist Dr. Naveen G. Rao discusses how recent AI developments are impacting business at the 2017 C2 conference

At the forefront of this growing trend for connected, tech-enabled workspaces, Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth also boasts a new business hub designed with the modern entrepreneur in mind. There’s a wall covered in oversized sticky notes for brainstorming and a boardroom with a 180-degree curved screen for videoconferencing with multiple mobile users across time zones. It can also be used to display different types of data – crucial for complex decision-making and brainstorming sessions. Business leaders like Dr. Linda Sharkey, co-author of The Future-Proof Workplace, believe the momentum of this trend has a huge impact on how businesses now operate. “Large companies are using technology in the boardroom to shape strategy with access to deep data. This is taking the guesswork out of decision-making and creating a more collaborative environment.”

A new meeting room at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth features a boardroom desk that doubles as a ping-pong table (rendering pictured)

Access to this almost unlimited information is also changing the skill set – and personality – required of future workers, says Sharkey. “The profile of boardroom members will change from not only industry experts but also those who are curious learners with an appetite for change and a future focus.”

It’s clear the next generation of workspaces and boardrooms aren’t all business, and the hotel’s new hub reflects that, with game consoles to switch up thinking and a boardroom desk doubling as a ping-pong table. A 3-D holographic display is in the works for dynamic, mid-air visualizations during presentations and parties. For a hotel with so much history, Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth’s ideas are firmly set in the future.  


Written By: Kelly Stock 


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