A new food->coworking metaphor just showed up in my feed reader. New York Times food reporter Jennier 8. Lee gave the presentation above at Taste32008 conference, a partner program to the TED event.
Jennifer runs through some history of the Americanization of Chinese food, particularly dishes like General Tso’s Chicken and Chop Suey. She then goes on to share her exploration of “regionalized” Chinese food, and how there are variations on every continent of the planet. The common thread across all of the continents is that while their versions of Chinese food are barely recognizable as Chinese food to the Chinese, they are recognizable from region to region!
Bear with me, I am going somewhere with this.
What’s fascinating about the non-chinese Chinese food is that there’s a great deal of consistancy across the world, from menus, to restaurant naming (how many China Gardens could there possibly be in Philadelphia?) to decor.
And yet, there’s no Chinese Restaurant HQ.
Unlike the restaurant chains, which invest years in branding and menu development to ensure careful consistency across their locations, the Chinese food industry seems to be a phenomenon of starfish organization.
What does you’re region taste like?
You might imagine the smile on my face widen while watching this video, as near the end Jennifer mentions a derivitive of the Egg Roll that, you guessed it, has a Philly cheese steak inside. Originating in the city of brotherly love, the cheese steak egg roll has traveled to other regions of the US, usually by hand of someone who moved from Philadelphia to another city.
Coworking: the Chinese food of the workplace
Cooking dinner for yourself is great but it gets old, so periodically you order takeout. You’ve got a favorite chinese food restaurant in your neighborhood. You may have tried a few other local spots, but this one has just the right flavor you like (and bonus, they deliver for free). When you travel to another city, and have a craving for…you guessed it, Chinese food, you won’t have to ask too many people to find out their favorite spot, and have a pretty good chance of it feeling…and tasting…just like that spot at home. They may not know your name when you walk in the door, but the familiarity is there all the same.
Working from home is great but it gets old, so periodically you like to get a change of scenary, so you hit up your local coworking spot (be it an office, for more formal coworking, or a cafe with some friends for a Jelly session). You’ve bounced around to most of the cafes, bookshops, and other coworking spaces and found the one that’s right for you (and bonus, they have free wifi). When you travel to another city, and need to get some work done, you won’t have to look much further thant he coworking wiki to find a local favorite spot, and have a pretty good chance of it feeling just like that spot at home. They may not know your name when you walk in the door, but the familiarity is there all the same.
What other lessons can Coworking learn from the decentralized empire of Chinese food restaurants?
Whatever you do, don't build your coworking community alone.
Join the 3000+ community builders who get my newest posts, lessons, stories, and tips like "How to fund your coworking space" and "Why I hate the title Community Manager"