DeskMag is doing a series on “The Future of Coworking”. I generally am uninterested in these discussions since they’re so theoretical, compared to the vast amount of exploration of TODAY we could be doing. The closing note by Araceli Camargo from The Cube in London captures this nicely.
Coworking is such a collaborative and diverse organism. Despite the industry being so young, it already has many tangents, applications and visions. So to be able to say what it would look like (in future) would be narrow down its potential. You can read Deskmag’s entire piece, which includes insight from lots of smart people in coworking today including Angel, Tony, Max, and others.
But I wanted to touch on my own comment to expand on what I was trying to say since I don’t think it was communicated clearly.
A danger arises if people and companies turn to coworking primarily as a way to reduce costs. “That’s our number one risk today, and why I’m anxious about ‘find a desk’ systems that many coworking spaces are turning to to recruit members,” Alex said.
In defense of helpful information sites like our own, we say that there’s always a need for people to find coworking spaces via the internet. Displaying prices isn’t meant to be a reflection of the community in which that desk resides. Community spirit is subjective and can’t be measured objectively. And ultimately, the users will decide if the location measures up to the price, and will vote with their feet. Like any business, coworking spaces might be able to attract first-timers with low prices, but they’ll lose them quickly without quality.
I want to be clear that I’m NOT against tools to help people find coworking using the internet. Nor do I have a personal vendetta against listing prices for participation.
The problem I see is that today, there are far more people that have NO impression of coworking than any impression of what they might want. And as Carsten points out, people can and will vote with their feet.
But finding coworking shouldn’t mean finding desks. It should mean finding people. This is far easier for the initiated – the people who have already found and love coworking. They know what to look for when searching for coworking online. They know the value of camaraderie, of being surrounded by smart, interesting, creative people.
But for the vast majority masses, they find a page full of pictures of empty desks and price tags next to them. They visibly associate the value of coworking with desks, and walk in the door of any coworking space with that as the basis of their expectations.
I’m a huge fan of tools that teach people how to do things better for themselves. It’s part of why I love working on Beanstalk and Postmark so much – they’re tools built on top of better and best practices, so that people already following those guidelines will have an enjoyable time using them and people who are less familiar will be trained into the best practices along the way.
Why, then, can’t we have a coworking directory where people are the central entity?
Loosecubes went halfway earlier this year, adding person profiles and a way to “like” a space. But I can’t tell when somebody likes a space if they work there, like the idea of working there, or just likes the price point.
Loosecubes has created an AMAZING place to find places to work, but I haven’t seen it really dig into finding people to work with. This hole is still wide open for somebody to solve well, and provide a teaching tool as well as a marketing tool for coworking spaces that is uniquely valuable for coworking.
I want to participate in a coworking directory that helps me find people to work with, rather than emphasize the places they affiliate with. Sure, the affiliations help if the space has any name recognition, but if not…I’m much more interested in the faces and personal bios of the inhabitants than the size of the desks, the speed of the internet, or the brand of chairs. Once I know there are people I want to hang out with for the day, the rest is just a bonus.
It doesn’t need to be a full blown social network, mind you. But the “Community spirit” that can’t be measured objectively can be illustrated by allowing the members of the space step forward, and show other prospective members what makes their favorite place to work special.
I’m hoping that somebody will be daring enough to build THIS coworking directory. The one that remembers the reason that coworking was created in the first place: to cure the loneliness of the workplace.