Tag Archives: core values

Coworking Core Values 5 of 5: Collaboration

This post is part 5 of a 5 part series exploring the 5 core values of coworking: CollaborationOpenness, CommunityAccessibility, and Sustainability.

2 months overdue, but the final chapter of my coworking core values series.

I’ve written and rewritten this draft, and every time I come back to it I remember this post from Derek Neighbors:

You can’t do collaboration, you have to be a collaborator.

I think this is poingant for a number of reasons – not the least of which is that it fits my own mental model for coworking so well. Coworking works because it throws away so many of the bad habits we’ve learned and puts the focus back on the people again.

Collaboration isn’t something you do, it’s the biproduct of being a better collaborator.

Trust & High Contact

In my essay on Community as a coworking core value, I mentioned communities of trust. Coworking spaces allow for there to be a focus on the formation of trust and deeper relationships between coworkers, because office politics, hierarchies, and succession planning are removed from the equation.

Going one step further, coworking creates opportunities for people to interact in a “high contact” environment. The serendipitous nature of a coworking space means that people are often spending far more face time with each other than in an office where people only interact when they need to.

Learning by Example

Coworking spaces are great places to learn how to be a better collaborator. The founders of the best coworking spaces tend to look to their members as collaborators more than customers – an important model in Indy Hall’s success. The members who work together – not just with each other but with the space itself – tend to have the deepest bond with the community. New members see this as something they want and can have for themselves, and along the way not only learn how to model good collaborator behaviors from other members but become new models themselves.

Learning to Ride a Bike

Learning to ride a bike alone is a painful series of trials and errors. While you might’ve watched somebody else do it, you’re likely to fall and scrape your knee on your first try. Teaching somebody to ride a bike, however, requires them to be a good collaborator more than it requires them to be a good teacher. They need to guide you, support you, and help you find your own “balance”. It requires that the new rider trusts their instructor/collaborator, and spend a fair amount of time together.

The collaborators that work in coworking spaces are very similar. Good collaborators earn trust first. They spend a lot of face time together with their peers. They don’t instruct, but instead guide, support, and help you find your own way.

In the best collaborator relationships, it’s a two way street – each person has the ability to provide that experience for the other at some point in their time together.

Coworking provides one of the best natural environments for this to happen.

Want more? Here are my other essays on the core values: CollaborationOpennessCommunityAccessibility, and Sustainability

To the comments!

This is my perspective on collaboration as it pertains to coworking. What’s yours? Leave a comment below.

 

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Coworking Core Values 4 of 5: Community

This post is part 4 of a 5 part series exploring the 5 core values of coworking: CollaborationOpenness, CommunityAccessibility, and Sustainability.

I think community is my personal favorite of the coworking core values, and perhaps one of the most misunderstood or most often taken for granted.

It’s easy to make mistakes around the idea of community. Experts in the field of sociology can’t even agree on a definition, Wikipedia mentions that by the 1950′s there were nearly 100 “discrete definitions”.

It’s the people.

In the context of coworking, though, I believe that a focus on community means putting emphasis on the people, their interactions, and the relationships that form above everything else. At Indy Hall, every decision we make considers members and their opportunities to interact with one another.

We > Me

We organize events that encourage people to explore each others interests in and outside of work. Show and Tell, Lunch & Learns, and Happy Hours provide a spectrum of formal and informal opportunities to step away from the desk and get to know a coworker.

We share rituals and experiences that allow new members to join the tribe and develop camaraderie.

We broadcast our favorite places to hang out outside of our coworking space so that people can easily gather on their own.

We attend and support other events and initiatives together, both enhancing them with the sense of “togetherness” but also showing the uninitiated that the “togetherness” is accessible to them.

We learn, share, grow, play, experiment, celebrate together. We commiserate and console each other as well.

The coworking space is a tool

A coworking space is just that – a space. It’s not a community until it has people in it.  

Geoff and I wrote about Coworking as a “clubhouse”, and I think that language is more accurate of a description than “office” for most of the best coworking spaces in the world. But it’s important to remember that in order for a clubhouse to be useful, a club – a community – should be in need of a home.

This is why I stress the “community first” not just as a mental model (as in, “consider the community first”), but as an order of of operations. Can a community form because a coworking space exists? Absolutely. But it takes time, and therefore a financial runway for what might be an undeterminable amount of time.

You don’t own a community, you belong to a community.

Its that very natural sense of belonging that I think drives people to coworking spaces more than anything else. But I think that as a coworking space owner, it’s important to remember that you’re not the coworking community owner.

I think the best relationship for a coworking space owner to have is to belong to the community that inhabits the space. That connection is authentic, and therefore breeds more authentic relationships in the space. You don’t necessarily need to be a leader in that community, but you should be prepared to be an active member of that community.

I was actually remarking to my friend this morning that I absolutely love that I can come to Indy Hall as a member, far more than I care about coming to Indy Hall as an owner. The oft-forgotten truth is that coworking space owners can get the same benefits from coworking as the members do, mostly due to the fact that they themselves are (or should be) members.

Communities of Trust

People in proximity is a good first step towards community, but as I’ve said community doesn’t really happen until people are interacting. We’ve found that relationship formation is the primary event that transitions a group of people towards being a “community”.

If relationships between coworking members are like tendons, then trust is the the muscle that makes a coworking community strong and healthy.

We start by trusting our members, and knowing that sets a stage where trust is a valued part of being a part of the community. When you start the relationship with coworking members off on one where you don’t trust them, you can’t ever expect them to trust you, either.

No two communities are identical

Indy Hall’s original tagline was “this is how Philadelphia does coworking”, and we remain true and honest to that statement. We didn’t stick a CitizenSpace clone in Philly, we looked around and took the time to understand the communities that already existed, what those people were like, and how a Philly-flavored coworking space would work.

I wouldn’t ever encourage somebody to replicate Indy Hall, nor do I think it’s really replicate-able. Instead, I urge people to learn from the lessons we’ve learned, share some of our ideas, but interpret them to fit their community .

I personally think that the coolest thing is that communities, like the people in them, have personality. Squelching that personality is a waste – instead, embrace it. Own it. Live it. You’ll love it.

Want more? Here are my other essays on the core values: CollaborationOpennessCommunityAccessibility, and Sustainability

To the comments!

This is my perspective on community as it pertains to coworking. What’s yours? Leave a comment below.

 

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Coworking Core Values 3 of 5: Openness

This post is part 3 of a 5 part series exploring the 5 core values of coworking: Collaboration, Openness, Community, Accessibility, and Sustainability.

The core value of openness may seem redundant after reading about accessibility, but the nuanced difference is an important one.

Coworking, much like its sister movement of Barcamp, was given birth to by a group of advocates of open source methodologies. Their ideas of openness are the reason that Barcamp and Coworking are the core reasons that the two movements exist in the first place, so without this core value, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here writing these essays, and I certainly wouldn’t have the global community of coworking participants to call my comrads.

I think Chris Messina says it best in this interview,

Openness is unfortunately one of those words that’s become somewhat geriatric, losing its teeth and forgetting what it means . . . There’s the Facebook “Openness” and Adobe “Openness” and Government “Openness” and they all mean different things. When I think of openness, I think of “freedom”, “forkability”, and “interoperability.” Regardless of the definition of “open” or “openness” that you use — yes, you must always fight for openness, and you must always fight for decisions to be made that are more transparent, more expansive, more liberal, and more inclusive. This should be the case for both moral and economic reasons. When I think of openness I also think of biology and the human body. The human body is an “open system” and thrives because of its openness. The human body is constantly exchanging things it values little for things it values more. Whether you’re talking about oxygen and CO2 or nutrients and waste, the body cycles – value in and waste excreted. It requires openness to live.

The fact that Chris and early coworking founders realized that by making coworking “open”, that it could evolve into something much larger than any one of them could control – and that would ultimately be the best thing for the idea.

Freedom

Coworking as a movement embodies freedom and independence. It represents choice, the ultimate freedom. Coworking Seattle’s about page says…

Coworking is about making the personal choice to work along side other people instead of in isolation.

…and this rings true to Brad Neuberg’s comments about what drove him to create the first coworking group.

Forkability

This idea is important on two levels.

“Forkability” is the ability to take the “source”, of one project and use it to begin a new project. In software, the source is code. In coworking and other non-software applications, the source is lessons learned, ideas executed, and core values.

Coworking has become a global phenomenon because the idea was “forkable”. The early founders made their lessons, ideas, and values available to people like myself to build our own versions on top of. And in turn, we created even more possibilities for newcomers to the movement.

On a local level, forkability means that the members of a coworking space should be able to make it what they want it to be, within bounds of reason.

I’ve described Indy Hall as a “blank canvas” an office. That is, what happens when you provide basic office amenities only – desks, chairs, power, internet, meeting rooms, bathrooms – and let the people who inhabit that office decide what’s most important to them? Giving them an opportunity to make it their own.

The stories I tell of the cool things that happened at Indy Hall aren’t things that Geoff or I went out of our way to make happen. The stories I tell of the cool things that happened at Indy Hall are all stories of other people, our members, who built on top of the most basic infrastructure we could provide.

What’s particularly cool about coworking is that it gives people the chance to create new solutions to the problems they have, rather than relying on the old solutions that haven’t been working as well.

Our members know that we are open to them forking Indy Hall, especially when the things they decide to do benefit other members in addition to themselves.

Interoperability

And most importantly, we contributed back to the origin of our fork whenever possible. That’s the primary motivation I have for sharing as much as I do on this blog as well as on the Coworking Google Group. I’ve learned so much from others, and want to give that back.

With all of the coworking “forks” running around in the wild today, how do we share back, keeping the ecosystem alive and healthy?

I think that the understanding and being committed to of these core values – Collaboration, Openness, Community, Accessibility, and Sustainability – are the key to maintaining interoperability between forked coworking initiatives.

Common core values provide common ground for discussion and understanding. Being able to bring together those disparate opinions and ideas are going to be increasingly necessary as we learn more beyond where people work, and continue to explore how people work and why people work.

Want more? Here are my other essays on the core values: Collaboration, Openness, Community, Accessibility, and Sustainability

To the comments!

This is my perspective on openness as it pertains to coworking. What’s yours? Leave a comment below.

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