No, it's not just real estate. Despite cyber-this and virtual-that, "location" remains perhaps the most under-rated variable-tool in the boss's kit.
Last week in New England was mostly devoted to "Theo's return"—that is, the return to the Boston Red Sox of recently dis-affected "Boy Genius" General Manager Theo Epstein. One of the things that had most irked Epstein, and prompted his earlier departure, was that in his mind the business side of the franchise was given more consideration than the player side. In the negotiation for re-entry, a host of changes were made. One of which was, per the Boston Globe: "Before, baseball operations was situated in the basement. Now, it will move upstairs and join the rest of the business operation." As I said, this was hardly the whole story, but it was/is a reminder that such stuff matters. I'm a design freak. So where does the design group, and especially the chief designer, nest? Is design's Main Man/Woman on "executive row" with finance and marketing, or on the "7th floor," light years from the Big League action? In my experience, the answer to these questions is the answer to a lot of the "strategic direction" issue. In days gone by, the HR folks lived planets away from the Big Boys. As talent takes a front seat, the HR chief is within screaming distance of the power players.
One implication of this is that it really is worth going to the mat politically for the political position/space you think you deserve. Or the opposite: If you are up to something subversive, getting several galaxies away from the power center is (professional) life & death—in my case, In Search of Excellence only passed conception because Bob Waterman and I were 3,000 miles from "corporate" HQ at McKinsey (and even that was almost not enough). For the Big Cheese, pouring over space design, the smallest details thereof, is worth the effort times 100 at times of transformation. Want to underscore innovation? The product-developers and their boss should be brought in from the cold.
Think about it.