Shenzhen is China's Silicon Valley. It used to be regarded as a workshop of the world, but now it's home to some of the most advanced technology on the planet and some of the world's most innovative office buildings. This is a new home of Tencent, China's biggest tech company. They're the people behind messaging WeChat, which has close to one billion users. It's no ordinary company, and this is no ordinary building. It's been designed to encourage extraordinary thinking.
The traditional tower is very good for - put your head down, get the work done, all that kind of stuff, we know from our own research and experience, that doesn't lead to the best ideas. The random interaction workplace is a really big deal, and it makes a really big difference in terms of the output of that company.
That's why they came up with these sky bridges linking the two towers, designed as a place for people to meet. It's like going to the water cooler in a conventional office to have a gossip, except Tencent workers have to come here because it's the only way they can switch elevators. There are plenty of attractions too, from snacks to extreme sports. Never seen a climbing wall quite this high.
It's pretty intense and, you know, we wanted to make an impact. Because the health of the employee, the well-being of the employee, the fitness and employee is centre to a successful high performance company, which Tencent is. It's a little bit intimidating, that wall, but it could be quite exciting.
For a company built around people hunching over mobile phones, Tencent appears to take physical activity seriously. There's a running track that bends around the two towers, a basketball court, and ranks of pool tables that hint at EU, the English pub, but which look like the Hale from a Quangdong factory. So the other sort of thing that you always associate with tech companies is the bean bags, the lamps. Where is all that?
A lot of companies have moved beyond that. In the end of the day, how comfortable are bean bags?
Clearly the real point of Tencent is work. This is a $500 billion plus tech giant, combining the services of Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google, and even Spotify. But the higher like zones of workstations could be mistaken for a Manila call centre. It really seems just very paired back, absolutely zero frills. The sort of utilitarian, almost like here style lamps - kind of standard issue plants. The building will soon be home to 10,000 people. That's 25% of Tencent's workforce.
From the top, you can pick out other Chinese tech giants while enjoying a sneaky cigarette if the running track lacks appeal. But will sky bridges and ping pong tables really bring about the spontaneous gatherings that designers claim generate brilliant ideas, or will everyone be stuck at their desks WeChatting each other from different floors?