Searching for the “Vireos”

In the latest issue of the LEADER, the official publication of CoreNet, two of my former colleagues, Mike Joroff and Frank Becker, co-authored an article entitled, “Exploit Change and Uncertainty to Drive Corporate Value.” Becker and Joroff collaborated with me on several projects, including Office 88 (Becker-1983) and the Agile Workplace (Joroff- 2003) The authors make the case that many of the assumptions about the office, technology, and work need to be updated and revised to reflect the new trends visible in the global workplace.

One of the most interesting concepts in the article is the notion of “vireos.” Joroff and Becker define vireos as the opposite of “black swans” which are metaphors that describe hard-to-predict events that come as jarring surprises and have a major impact on the course of the economy or social events (think 9-11). Vireos are objects, actions, and ideas in our current environment that we do not see, but if we did see them they might give us a much better grasp of a possible future. A vireo gets its inspiration from the North American white-eyed vireo, a bird with a melodic song that is very hard to find, unless one actively looks for it hidden in its surroundings. One example of a vireo is the concept of “anytime, anywhere” work style. This was evident at least 25 years ago, if observers noticed how college students used the internet to work virtually anywhere.

I can think of a number of “vireos” that may impact the workplace of the near future. For example, with the advent of sophisticated robotics, we may see many job functions in corporate real estate be supplanted by robots. I read about the possibility of robo-bosses, robots that oversee and supervise a group of employees like call center administrators. Just as we have autonomous cars, we may witness autonomous buildings, which conduct self-maintenance and repair using sophisticated software and robotic maintenance crews. Robots may replace janitorial staff and other low level worker activities in building operations.

Another vireo is the use of 3-D video in the marketing of commercial property. Virtual tours of available office space is becoming a standard brokerage marketing tool. 3-D video tours will evolve as a continuation of this phenomenon. Adapting gaming technology in lease negotiations is another vireo. A CRE leasing manager could develop a lease in real time with a broker and a landlord using such applications. Such an innovation could reduce the leasing process by 80%-90%.

What about facility management? The vireos here are the latent possibilities of the Internet of Things (IoT). With every system and subsystem of the building’s infrastructure having an Internet connection, building management can play a monitoring role only, as the building self-regulates and adjusts within prescribed parameters. And owners will be able to manage and monitor portfolios remotely across vast geographies.

So what are the vireos in your market and environment? Being alert to emerging trends is a critical skill for the CRE manager, who must constantly “look around the corner” to see what’s coming before it arrives and it’s too late to react.

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