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Grassroots community, the Kansas City Startup Village, coworks in one of Sprint’s corporate creations – in an uncorporate collaboration.

David Walker

Co-Founder at Conjunctured
David believes in mindful openness, heart trust, empowered expression, friendship leadership, and community camaraderie.

He is the co-founder of Conjunctured, Austin’s original coworking community. Conjunctured supports the business+heart+cultureeco-system and holds space for a more connected and harmonious co-existence.

The idea for the event came up when Erik Wullschleger, general manager of the Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars, grabbed coffee with Marcus and fellow Kansas City Startup Village co-leader Adam Arredondo.

“We have this really cool space and want to put it to work, so why not move KCSV for a day?” Wullschleger said. “Whether it’s our network or a physical space, as a corporation we have an opportunity to take big resources and repurpose them for the community.”

Last Friday, the Village was welcomed into the space for a day of co-working with Sprint employees, local government officials, Silicon Prairie News and, just as importantly, each other. To get into a new environment and new thinking, but also to run into people they otherwise would never, or rarely, see.  Article: KCSV co-working day at the Sprint Accelerator may be just the beginning

Why this is a big deal:

  • Large corporation partners with local startup community in a big way. This may be the accidental development of one of the world’s first corporate+community coworking ecosystems.
  • Repurposing of space for greater impact. This space was purposed for a Sprint initiatve. But now it has been co-purposed for the Kansas City community. An innovative way in sustainable space scalability.
  • Anytime corporations open themselves up to the public, they help contribute to the positive evolution of the corporate world. Independent, free thinkers have long been disenchanted by the corporation. Not all companies operate like Initech, but the anti-corporate independents of the world don’t know this because most corporations are too busy keeping to themselves. It’s refreshing to see two disparate forces coming together.
  • As the collaboration continues, I’d imagine Sprint would start opening itself further into the greater KC business community. I’d imagine Sprint would start letting their employees cowork together with the greater community, embracing an open rather than closed model. There are plenty of ways the two communities can leverage each other to create a cohesive business community where corporations, freelancers, and entrepreneurs are all allied together in Kansas City.

And this is actually quite poetic when you learn the next unfolding fact. There’s a global coworking conference called GCUC. The conference has been hosted in Austin since its founding in 2010 and has moved for the first time this year to….Kansas City. Serendipity! I’ve been to every GCUC since its beginning, but I may not be able to make this one. In my absence, I hope someone leads a discussion panel on Corporate+Community Alliances. And certainly, invite the Sprint & KC Village crews to share what they’ve experienced first hand – creating an ecosystem where a global technology corporation and a grassroots entrepreneur community are able to cowork together.

The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed. – William Gibson

Employee Experience Design: Corporate Coworking, Part V

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Drew Jones

Head of Consulting at Conjunctured
Drew Jones, Ph.D is an organizational consultant, educator, and writer. He is a Lecturer of Management, Organizational Behavior, and Corporate Social Responsibility in the McCoy College of Business Administration at Texas State University, in San Marcos, TX. He has consulted with firms in the software, food and beverage, construction, advertising, sports management, coworking, and for profit education industries. He has published two books (The Innovation Acid Test: Growth Through Design and Differentiation, Triarchy Press 2008), including the first book about the coworking movement (I’m Outta: How coworking is making the office obsolete, with Todd Sundsted and Tony Bacigalupo, NotanMBA Press 2009), and has a third book (The Fifth Age of Work: Redesigning Work for a MobileSocial World, Night Owls Press), coming out Fall 2013. He has been involved in coworking since 2007, as a coworking space owner, partner, academic researcher, and consultant. He is a partner at Conjunctured Coworking.
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Over the past two weeks we have been writing about our new foray into corporate coworking.  We’ve been chatting about leadership and community, which sit at the center of any organization or social movement.  When we move the conversation from coworking in its native environment to coworking in a corporate environment (or Activity Based Work), we are no longer talking about freelancers or small businesses, per se.  We are talking about employees.  Full time employees who work for a single company.

Large Open plan office area Employee Experience Design: Corporate Coworking, Part V

It might turn out that, whether we call it Activity Based Work or corporate coworking, the real beneficiaries  of integrating more human-centered approaches to work will turn out to be corporate employees who are required to show up daily to work in uninspiring, sterile officescapes.  If any category of modern knowledge workers needs a dose of coworking energy, it is people who are stuck in the corporate cage.

Employee Experience Design (EXD)?

These observations come from my background in anthropology.  Across the corporate landscape, there are anthropologists that work as consumer researchers, both as employees and consultants, for some of the largest consumer brands in the world.  Firms such as Ethnographic Research Inc., Ethnographic Solutions, Conifer Research, and Pacific Ethnography, conduct ethnographic research for companies seeking to better understand the customer experience.  Carried out under the umbrella of designing for customer experience, this research falls within the broad category of user experience design ( UXD).  UXD, while drawn from human-computer interactivity, is used more generally to talk about the way brands ‘dive deep’ into customer experiences.  The goal: to understand customer needs and unarticulated needs, so that the sponsoring firms can sell more products.  Nothing in the world wrong with this.

However, it is worth asking a basic question: If anthropologists are indeed helpful in uncovering hidden meanings and values in researching customer experience, why is this ethnographic inquiry rarely (if ever) applied to understanding the experiences of a company’s employees?  That is, if the methodology is effective, then surely such research can be used to better understand, and design for, the working experiences of one’s employees. After all, just about every company in the world writes shiny platitudes in their annual reports about how ‘important our employees are,’ or how ‘we are only as strong as our people,’ or how ‘we treat our people with respect and have a culture of integrity.’ blah blah blah.

The answer, sadly, is that most (though definitely not all) companies really don’t care.  Customers have money to spend and can potentially bring money into the business, while employees, despite all of the candyfloss language to the contrary, are (in the eyes of most companies) just a cost.  Why spend money worrying about something that, at the end of the day, is just costing us money?

Cynical, perhaps.  Wrong, no.

coworking space 2 Employee Experience Design: Corporate Coworking, Part V

However, if new and more human-centered workplace solutions, such as corporate coworking, were integrated into the larger grid of corporate work, there is no question that the experiences of workers would be improved.  This also must include flexibility options so that workers who, for example, have children, can spend time with them when needed.  Also, reducing the cost and waste of commuting will improve the quality of the work experience for employees in companies that have the &*#@ to adopt new, human-centered solutions.

We don’t assume that firms will start spending money lavishly on employees or on ethnographers to study employees.  Rather, in ABW and corporate coworking, improved employee experiences (EXD) do not have to be costly.  They are, actually, quite simple.  The challenge is to commit, get started, and see what happens.  Your employees will thank you!

Co-mmunity: Corporate Coworking Part, IV

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Drew Jones

Head of Consulting at Conjunctured
Drew Jones, Ph.D is an organizational consultant, educator, and writer. He is a Lecturer of Management, Organizational Behavior, and Corporate Social Responsibility in the McCoy College of Business Administration at Texas State University, in San Marcos, TX. He has consulted with firms in the software, food and beverage, construction, advertising, sports management, coworking, and for profit education industries. He has published two books (The Innovation Acid Test: Growth Through Design and Differentiation, Triarchy Press 2008), including the first book about the coworking movement (I’m Outta: How coworking is making the office obsolete, with Todd Sundsted and Tony Bacigalupo, NotanMBA Press 2009), and has a third book (The Fifth Age of Work: Redesigning Work for a MobileSocial World, Night Owls Press), coming out Fall 2013. He has been involved in coworking since 2007, as a coworking space owner, partner, academic researcher, and consultant. He is a partner at Conjunctured Coworking.
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Earlier in the week I wrote here about the concept of co-leadership as part of the social dynamic that has made coworking a successful movement over the past seven years.  Even more fundamental to the movement, though, is community.  While perhaps the notion of community has been so overused by so many people in the past decade that it has started to lose some of its meaning, there can be no question that it is the foundation of the coworking movement.

Marissa Mayer was probably right

Not too long ago Marissa Mayer made headlines when she demanded that those Yahoo! employees who had been untethered from the office were being required to come back to the hive and work at the office.  The reaction to her decision was quite strong, with some accusing her of being out of step with the vibe of the industry and the times.  Her reasoning, though, seems to make a lot of sense.  Communication, collaboration, and innovation very often happen within and between people who are co-present in the same space.  This is the stuff of whiteboards, Post-it-Notes, prototypes and mock-ups, and the myriad iterative steps on the long road of innovation.  Despite all of the promises to the contrary, online collaboration platforms (Asana, Mavenlink, and Base Camp) simply don’t stack up to the experience of people sharing and working in the same physical space.

shift workspace 1024x601 Co mmunity: Corporate Coworking Part, IV

Working ‘home alone,’ as many advocates of coworking have argued for years, can be quite a drag.  Zappos’ Tony Hsieh weighed in on Mayer’s policy change, suggesting that it’s not working from home that is the problem, but rather that working at home alone is the problem.  This is not to suggest, and I am not suggesting, that all work needs to be collaborative, group work.  In her brilliant book (Quiet) and TED talk, Susan Cain argues very persuasively for the the value of introverts and the importance of quiet, heads down work.  The original kernel of an insight that can become an actionable innovation often has its origin in the mind of an individual.  From there, though, to get that idea out into the world, usually requires a team effort.

So, to suggest that all work needs to be done remotely, as advocates of ROWE might suggest, or that all work should be done at the office, as others might suggest, probably oversimplifies the issue.  What is really needed is balance, because some days it is nice to work from home in your pajamas. Especially if you are not feeling well.

But at the heart of thriving, innovative companies (W.L. Gore, Semco, Google, 3M) lie communities of people interacting in physical spaces.  This is nothing new to the coworking world.  We are all about co-presence.  Heck, even when we don’t know much about what the person next to us is working on, we somehow thrive off of their energy.  Parallel collaboration, or something.

What we see in the corporate coworking model we are designing is a venue and platform for injecting more opportunities for communities to develop and flourish inside large firms.  This might mean us encouraging some firms to incorporate more flex-work policies that extend greater choice to their people.  But for sure this will also include our suggestion that, while on campus, as many workers as possible spend time in the on-site coworking space, jamming alongside colleagues.

For this process to be truly helpful for companies, there will need to be accommodation for private, quiet, solo- work as much as there is for open, collaborative work.  This is one of the key lessons we are learning about coworking in its native habitat- variety and flexibility are essential for creating a balanced work environment.

Maybe Yahoo! will revisit this one day soon, and begin to incorporate more flexibility and variety, and perhaps even corporate coworking, into its larger workforce/workspace management process.