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Conjunctured house closing its doors. Going #Nomatik to open coworking model into greater society

Conjunctured, Austin’s first coworking space and one of the original coworking spaces in the world, will be closing its doors at the end of August. Conjunctured first pioneered the coworking movement in Austin six years ago, when coworking was a brand new concept.

Over the years, Conjunctured has explored expansion several times. In 2010 the community banded together to remodel the little house next door that was previously occupied by a psychic. After a six month test lease, we cut our ties and focused on other avenues of growth. In 2011 we nearly signed a lease on a multi office space off South Lamar that would have housed the high demand for coworking in South Austin. In 2012, feeling a high after building partnerships with multiple investors, we nearly signed a least on a 10,000 sq ft warehouse space in downtown. And in 2013, we partnered up with a Conjunctured alumni whose office lease was soon to expire, to launch a special events meeting space, called the Conjunctured Annex, in a new development in East Austin. It was an experiment based on the increased meeting room interest we had been receiving. All the while, maintaining a thriving community at our home location on 1309 E 7th Street.

Screen Shot 2014 08 07 at 9.32.28 AM Conjunctured house closing its doors. Going #Nomatik to open coworking model into greater society

These days, the coworking industry is booming. There are 15 coworking spaces in Austin and over 4,000 throughout the world. Austin is one of the most coworking dense cities in the world in the company with San Francisco, NYC, Berlin, and Barcelona. At the Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC) in Kansas City a few months ago, where coworking space owners and thought leaders gathered to discuss the industry, Emergent Research reported trends on the massive growth in coworking.

Screen Shot 2014 08 07 at 9.30.54 AM Conjunctured house closing its doors. Going #Nomatik to open coworking model into greater society

Screen Shot 2014 08 07 at 9.31.02 AM Conjunctured house closing its doors. Going #Nomatik to open coworking model into greater society

It was also there, that Conjunctured co-owner and author of the recently published, The Fifth Age of Work, Drew Jones, spoke on a panel called “The Future of Design and Work.” He spoke about how corporations are in need of innovation as they struggle to stay relevant as the workplace is evolving and how coworking can be used as a model for finding new talent, reimagining company culture, and inspiring innovation. An avid proponent of coworking since the beginning, Drew owned the first coworking space in Birmingham, Alabama, called Shift Workspace, co-authored the first book on coworking, I’m Outta Here: How Coworking is Making the Office Obsolete, and has been teaching as a business professor at Texas State University since moving to Austin in 2011. As one of the original members of Conjunctured during its first days, Drew maintained his interest in Conjunctured from a distance and when he moved back to Austin, he officially joined the team as co-owner.

Drew and Conjunctured co-founder, David Walker, have together been managing the coworking space since – recruiting new members to the community and keeping the energy (and coffee) flowing. Every day, new emails and phone calls arrive as the mobile workforce rapidly grows. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 40% of the US workforce will be freelance by the year 2020. This, along with the need for independents to be in a productive and social work environment rather than their homes or coffee shops has been driving the demand for coworking spaces across the globe. Although membership at Conjunctured has decreased over the past two years, as other coworking spaces open and expand throughout Austin, it certainly hasn’t decreased enough to call it quits. In fact, the number of inquiries asking about office space, community events, gig hires, and the in’s and out’s of coworking is at an all time high.

So, why is Conjunctured closing its doors? Not the reason you may think.

Yes, the Conjunctured house (the first coworking house in the nation) was purchased last year by a  new owner, and yes the proposed new rents for the next lease term were tripled, and yes there is more competition in coworking than ever before.

But ultimately, we elected not to renew the lease on East Seventh street and made the tough decision not to bring our current members and future members to a new larger space in East Austin—the toughest decision in the company’s history…in order to grow.

The future is bright for Conjunctured, even without signing a new commercial lease.

For those that follow the coworking industry, you’ve noticed new industries adopting elements of the coworking ethos to bring disruption (and innovation) to outdated models. The coworking infrastructure breathes new life into an old model by allowing static work environments to evolve into true hubs of dynamic, collaborative innovation. Libraries, universities, hotels, local governments, and corporations are following the lead of the thriving coworking movement. Conjunctured can grow by opening up new locations, or by helping to innovate within new sectors of the economy.

update source code nomatik venture conjunctured Conjunctured house closing its doors. Going #Nomatik to open coworking model into greater society

In fact we (David and Drew) are headed to Palo Alto, New York, Amsterdam, and Barcelona over the next six months to pioneer a new future for the global coworking movement. You see, Conjunctured may be closing the little coworking house in East Austin, but in doing so, we’re opening the coworking model to the rest of society. Recently announced as one of the winners of the Unlimited Human Potential Challenge M-PRIZE sponsored by SAP for our Nomatik Coworking entry, we’re going all-in on what could be an opportunity to bring the essence of coworking to a broader landscape, making a substantial impact as the Sharing Economy booms and the design of the workplace innovates to bring our society into the Fifth Age. We’re inviting coworking proponents (and coworking space owners) around the world to join us in this movement.

graphic evolution of culture systems Conjunctured house closing its doors. Going #Nomatik to open coworking model into greater society

Moving forward, Conjunctured has partnered up with fellow coworking pioneers, Cody Marx Bailey, co-founder of Creative Space, Texas’s first coworking space, and Tony Bacigalupo, co-founder of one of NYC’s first coworking space, New Work City, alongside international partners, Seats2Meet and the SerendipityMachine from the Netherlands, founded by European entrepreneur and trend watcher, Ronald van den Hoff. Seats2Meet facilitates a dynamic environment where guests work together, meet each other, and share knowledge. SerendipityMachine is a social tool that helps guests make unexpected connections with other guests and local coworkers. Ronald also wrote the book Society 3.0, and has started a movement in Europe that is quickly growing. Serendipitously, it was at the recent global coworking conference where Drew and Ronald first met. Conjunctured has also partnered with Maite Moreno Bosch and David Vilella Balleste of MondayHappyMonday and Neàpolis Cowork in Barcelona in an effort to connect thought leadership and coworking methodology to the business community in Spain. The first client is a winery in the Catalonia region that is implementing a Corporate Coworking initiative to revitalize its culture and innovate its bottom line.

As Conjunctured begins its transformation we have authored a collection of three pitch decks outlining a methodology for authentically exporting the coworking model:

  1. Pop-Up  Coworking – Learn how pop-up coworking can connect you with top talent in your city.
  2. Hotel  Coworking – Incorporate the energy and buzz of coworking into the hotel experience.
  3. The Fifth Age Program – Leveraging Coworking to Increase Innovation in your Company

In addition, we offer an introductory workshop called, The Fifth Age  Workshop, explaining what Activity Based Working is and how it can transform your company culture. We walk companies or licensees through the theory and methodology of ABW – qualifying and licensing participants to work with the Fifth Age tools. Like the Fifth Age Program, these are delivered either directly to the company or to third party groups interested in using them in their own practice.

Introducing Nomatik Coworking membership to the Conjunctured community & Pop-Up Coworking to Austin’s coolest workplaces for community “work-ups”:

So, where does this leave the members of Conjunctured? Conjunctured has always been community-first. As such, Conjunctured is going back to the roots of the original coworking essence, Jelly.

For those that study the coworking movement, you’ll know that before there were coworking spaces, there were Jelly meet ups. Jelly was started up in NYC and quickly spread throughout the world as people craved what would soon become the coworking movement. These were coworking meet ups at various places around town, usually once per week. Coffee shops, people’s apartments, libraries—anywhere there was wifi and plugs. There were no membership fees and it was very ad hoc. Before you went to a Jelly, you would check out the local Jelly wiki page and see who was going and what they were working on. Often people would share their twitter profiles and a little info about themselves so that folks had an idea of what to expect. Conjunctured was founded by four twenty-somethings that became united through Austin’s Jelly community, Dusty Reagan (founder of Austin Jelly, currently: owner/operator FriendOrFollow),  John Erik Metcalf (currently: Director of Business Development at Radius Intelligence), Cesar Torres (currently: Lead Designer at Sidecar), and David Walker (currently: co-owner/operator at Conjunctured).

jelly austin Conjunctured house closing its doors. Going #Nomatik to open coworking model into greater society

The above photo is a throwback from 2008. Jelly was amazing. You met new people all the time. It was social. It was fun. It was adventurous. It got you out into the city exploring new places. Many people experienced professional “community” for the first time in a Jelly environment. Once a week coffee shops were overrun with a flashmob of coworkers. It was surreal to experience first hand. As coworking spaces have opened up at a rapid speed, the Jelly movement has pretty much disappeared. Was Jelly simply a stepping stone towards coworking spaces? Why do you need Jelly when you have a coworking space to join? Jelly saved the isolated mobile worker. It helped the independent get out into the world—meet new people all the time and be exposed to an energy of innovation.  It was a culture hack. And it was inspiring. A new place, a new experience that everyone looked forward to each week. The ironic thing about coworking spaces, as they became more prevalent, is that they have become just “the new office.” No longer a cultural hack, but becoming more and more a cultural norm. It has become part of the routine. The same people. The same experience. A consistent experience sprinkled with a little new-ness here and there while housed in a community environment with all the convenience of an office. Coworking space communities are notoriously silo’ed off from each other, creating a lack of collaboration and interaction between the very people that desire connectedness. What also got lost, was the excitement of breaking into new ground. Breaking a rule in society—doing something you weren’t supposed to do, but you knew was on the right side of history. It was the revolution of the nomadic worker realizing the power of connection and the innovation that comes with adventure.

pop up coworking block Conjunctured house closing its doors. Going #Nomatik to open coworking model into greater societyTo reinvigorate some of the adventure, Conjunctured is launching pop-up coworking as the next evolution of the Jelly movement. We’re partnering up with a handful of Austin’s coolest workplaces that have historically only been open to its employees. (If your workplace is interested in being a venue, sign up at Nomatik. And Independent coworkers can sign up too.) We’re giving our members the opportunity to experience that excitement of the Jelly movement in environments that would not be possible without the mainstream adoption of the coworking ethos. And companies get a chance to get access to some of the most talented independents around to hire for contract gigs. See, companies get it more today, than they did six years ago. It’s no longer a battle of the freelancers versus the full-timer’s. In fact, many companies pay the coworking membership for their employee because they know its a better environment than they could provide. We’re creating a Nomatik Coworking calendar so that members who have the Nomatik Coworking membership can opt-in to work from the inside of companies that never before knew how to open their doors to an outside community. And now, thanks to the adoption of the coworking model, it’s possible. It’s also reimagining how companies hire talent. Why go through an outdated interview process when you can just work side by side with potential collaborators for a week?

It’s a new way for companies to hire independents for projects. It’s a new way for companies to share their mission. It’s a new way for the citizens of a city to step into a new environment in a trailblazing fashion and share their energy with organizations they are fans of, but have yet to have the opportunity to collaborate with, in a meaningful way.  It’s a way for talented freelancers who have opted out of corporate America to opt-in to gigs with high paying clients. It’s a way to solve what they’re calling “the Talent Gap.” Also, it’s a way for employees of companies to feel the intangible of being a part of coworking experience.

And it’s an experiment for companies to see what it would be like to have a coworking space inside their corporate campus. If they want a permanent installation, we can do that for them with our Fifth Age Program. To be one of the innovative organizations to opt in to pop-up coworking, let us know nomatik.com/#contact.

Update the Source Code of the Workplace

Between Corporate Coworking, Hotel Coworking, Pop-Up Coworking, among a slew of community initiatives – Conjunctured has its hands quite full. Coworking, like any movement, grows and evolves. Times, they are a’chang’n, as they say. If you would like to participate in Coworking 3.0 – let us know. We’re looking for partners, allies, and a community who gets it. We look at all this as a sort of Open Source Coworking.

All this being said, the little house where Conjunctured started is open for coworking throughout the month of August, with the lease being officially over August 31. If you’re one of the hundreds of community members who still have a key to the house, you’re especially invited to come by. There will be a closing party, details to be announced soon. Stop by and say farewell to the USA’s first coworking house and Texas’ longest running coworking space.

If you would like to show your support in a financial way, please consider sending a few bucks to paypal@conjunctured.com or sign up as a Philanthropist member on Nomatik.com. This will help us close out some final Conjunctured expenses, and will allow us to start fresh into our next evolution. We’re also considering selling the Conjunctured brand to the right individual, especially if we can find some strategic way to grow together: Nomatik + Conjunctured. Contact david@conjunctured.com & drew@conjunctured.com to start the conversation. 

Support the movement and Stay Updated:
Follow us on twitter: http://twitter.com/conjunctured
Follow us on facebook: http://facebook.com/conjunctured
Visit the newly launched, Nomatik website, and sign up to a membership that is right for you or your organization.

Please consider sharing this news to friends and colleagues who are passionate about the coworking movement and the mission to Build a Movement to Create a Better World of Work  - Press info here. Drew and David are available for interviews. Also, if you’re a coworking space owner and you’d like to introduce  the Coworking Model to large organizations in your city, let’s partner together on the Fifth Age Program.

About Conjunctured & Nomatik Coworking:

Conjunctured is one of the most established coworking spaces in the world. Based in Austin, Texas, we grew out of the epicenter of the innovation economy. Our Nomatik Coworking brand is our way of bringing the community experience and talent of coworking to organizations in the US and throughout the world. Nomatik serves as a “disruptive bypass” (1)  that brings together the interests and needs of the growing population of independent professionals with companies prepared to embrace open structures and open innovation.



The Lonely Frontier

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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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It is cliche to say, but change is never easy.  The kinds of organizational changes I am advocating in my new book- The Fifth Age of Work- are far from easy.  The comfort of familiarity and tradition should never be underestimated.  Established tradition and known routines make the world easier to understand and navigate.  Yet, established traditions and known routines also bring us some of the most stultifying and inhumane cultural practices in the world- subjugation of women (“well, that’s just our tradition”), slavery, the caste system, etc.

Moving forward into unknown futures and frontiers is always scary.  Just imagine what it felt like for early American pioneers when they left their families in Europe and moved out to the prairies of Nebraska. Willa Cather’s world was stark, beautiful, and lonely.  Frontiers always are.  The world of work and organizations that is emerging is also frightening.  Asking established professionals to significantly change their worlds is challenging, to say the least.

“Hey, I know you  used to have a huge office with a big oak desk and two personal assistants, but now we’ve taken that away and you need to work in the cafe with all of the other folks!”

Naturally, few people will want to do this.  However, we are at the cusp of a new frontier, and the comfort of tradition is no longer a good enough excuse for not embarking on the journey and crossing into the unknown.  It’s what I call the difference between slingshots, which propel in one direction into the future, and boomerangs, which go out a bit and then return to where you started.  No question, people do get hurt by rocks flung by slingshots.  But tradition for the sake of tradition, I contend, hurts many more people.

 

Source: Drew Jones Daily Drip

Guest Post: Thoughts on Corporate Coworking

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 following is a guest post from Dennis Tardan, an outspoken and passionate member of the Conjunctured community. We’ve had conversations at length about the ideas inherent within our Corporate Coworking initiative and the dialogue has resonated so much with him that we invited him to share his thoughts here on the blog. Thank you Dennis! 

I am a communication coach.  As I navigate the corporate work environments around the world, I find there to be a distinct drop of energy whenever I walk onto the offices, onto the floors, into the cube farms of my varied clients.  These clients range from the largest corporations on the planet to small and medium-size firms who have created a physical footprint where what they define as “work” is accomplished.

I know this is not the intention.  But it is the reality.  I don’t know how long it takes for the spirit and the energy of the original venture to begin attenuating but I’ve seen it happen over and over.  It drains until there is a general malaise that is to some degree or another soul-sucking.

You hear people talking about “having” to go to work or “working for the weekend” or “so very glad the day is over” and other endless permutations and combinations of TGI whatever.  Some of that is just the wail of the human carp, a hybrid life-form that it is so easy for us to morph into in challenging times.

However, I’ve come to believe some problem is structural and environmental.  The office/open office/cube farm formats that organizations enshrine as work places in an attempt to have some control over the time and energy of their workers, I believe is not conducive to the creativity and collaboration necessary for companies to thrive in the 21st century.

We need better solutions.  Corporate Coworking is one of those ideas that I believe can be applied to many office environments to release pent up creative energy and help workers and management at all levels innovate through increased collaboration and communication.

Historians of the 20th century who study the industrial progress and innovation of the post-World War II boom in the United States understand how much innovation came out of having “water-cooler conversations”.  Over and over, people of different disciplines and levels in the corporate hierarchies would meet at the actual water cooler.  They would chat and informally discuss a problem or challenge they might be having.  Just sharing the situation and getting an outside perspective, time and time again, would lead the sharer to thinking of a solution or a to going in new direction.  Eureka!  They would return to their offices, or drafting boards, or manufacturing floor with an idea that was a game changer.

The “water cooler effect” has been studied and documented.  Now, by integrating the concept of Corporate Coworking into already established work environs, desperately needed creativity, collaboration and innovation can experienced!  Want to know more?  So glad you asked.   Drew Jones, David Walker and Thomas Heatherly are taking their Conjunctured Coworking concept to the corporate world.  The world will never be the same!

If you’re interested in doing a guest blog post on the Conjunctured blog, let us know

What is Leadership Today?

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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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Today my new book- The Fifth Age of Work- has finally arrived.  In the book I outline the various points of convergence between the growing world of freelancers and small businesses, on the one hand, and a rapidly transforming corporate world, on the other.  For firms interested in thriving in the Fifth Age, as opposed to just hanging on to previously fought battles, a new form of leadership will be required.  While I’m not sure exactly what that will look like, I am beginning to cultivate some ideas.

For starters, Gen Y does not do alpha males.  Gone are the days where someone rises to the top because he is tall, in shape, and used to play high school football.  Today, men and women who have hard technical chops (design, engineering, analytics) are the ones who get respect, not the blokes who are good at golf or who kicked ass in the Dale Carnegie program.  Also, a much higher premium is now being placed on collaborative influence over individual influence.  As IBM CEO Ginni Rometty recently said, people are now being valued for what they share, not for what they know.  This may seem like a small and simple point, but I suspect as we go forward this observation will become increasingly profound.

As I said above, I’m not altogether sure where this leadership bus is heading, but I suspect it is heading to some place we haven’t been before. Probably wise to buckle up and keep our eyes open!

Source: Drew Jones Daily Drip

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At the Crossroads

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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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Standing at the Crossroads!

There is something about Austin, Texas, and there is something about Conjunctured, though I’m still not sure what that something is.  However, here we are, and both Austin and Conjunctured sit as crossroads for people in local, national, and global communities.  Not a week goes by here at Conjunctured when someone from out of town doesn’t come by for a visit and an opportunity to connect.  Then there is SXSW, during which the world comes to Austin (and to Conjunctured too).

Glocal Community

From our vantage point here at Conjunctured, we have seen the global coworking movement go from a handful of small spaces (in New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Seattle, Portland, and Austin) into a sure enough global phenomenon.  Some places fade out while others come online.  Given the movement’s growth, it now hosts a much broader cross section of people.  We are no longer just local outposts for freelancers seeking a place to work.  Thriving coworking spaces now have corporate telecommuters sitting next to freelancers and small businesses, and often have corporate sponsors of various sorts.  In short, at 2,500 spaces worldwide, coworking is going mainstream.  But what does this mean?

This will mean different things to different people, of course, but for us it means that we now find ourselves intersected with the broader world.  We have become a nexus, a crossroads, of a whole host of organizations and people.  We are not entirely sure where these relationships will go next, but we are eager to start making new things happen.

Our Crossroads

Thus, here we are at a crossroads.  Rather than just staying home in our cozy house in East Austin, we have committed to opening the design and cultural values of coworking into the broader world.  We are inviting other folks, folks who are not indigenous to coworking, into the space to share the experience with them. We are opening up to the outside, explicitly, and encouraging an exchange between people from different walks of life.  We want to spread the space and values of coworking to companies, government organizations, schools, and hotels, to wherever the velvet community of coworking can make the world a better place.

Freelancers. Corporates. Musicians. Governments.  Educators.  Our doors are open!  Hopefully yours are too?

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.

Co-Leadership: Corporate Coworking, Part III

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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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Co-Leadership is the third installment in our series on ‘corporate coworking.’  In Part I we introduce the notion of corporate coworking to a broader audience.  We have been kicking this around for a while, and apparently so have others in the world of HR (see John Sullivan’s parallel but rather different take on corporate coworking here).  In Part II, we talk about the cultural dimension of working (and coworking) in corporate organizations.  Today, in Part III, we explore the leadership dimension of the changing world of work as it is informed by coworking.

Across the coworking world, numerous innovative leaders have been busy pioneering, quite literally, an entirely new approach to leadership.  David Walker here at Conjunctured, Tony Bacigalupo at New Work City (NYC), Alex Hillman at Indy Hall (Philly), Jacob Sayles and Susan Evans at Office Nomads, Roman Gelfer at Sandbox Suites, among others, have successfully created and nurtured this new organizational form for many years now.  It is sometimes easy to forget that as recently as 2006 coworking (as we all know it today) didn’t even exist.  Talk about making shit up as we go along!

Defining (C0) Leadership

While the intricacies of a person’s leadership style are quite personal and unique, what each of these pioneers has in common is an ability to build thriving, organic communities without overly taking center stage.  The leadership success that they’ve had stems from an egalitarianism that is for the most part alien to the corporate world.  As David Berreby put it most eloquently over a decade ago in his Strategy & Business article, “The Hunter-Gatherers of the Knowledge Economy,” gone are the days of the alpha male lording over the tribe.  Counterdominant behavior is now the norm, and consensus and sharing have replaced hierarchical notions of leadership.  Even Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, gets it. In a recent speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, she suggests that in today’s organizations a “person’s value lies not in what she/he knows, but in what he/she shares.”  Such a mantra has also been at the center of the success of coworking over the past seven years.  Which leads to the question: How do we define such a leadership style?

Arguably, by putting words to it we might in fact be spoiling it, so apologies in advance.  However, I strongly believe that, in the same way that the ‘organizational form’ of coworking is a model that the corporate world desperately needs if it is to ever be fully humanized, the style of leadership that has driven the success of coworking is equally important.

burning man Co Leadership: Corporate Coworking, Part III

For this, I refer to what is happening in coworking as co-leadership.  One would think that this is already a highly developed notion, but not so.  David Heenan and Warren Bennis’ book, Co-Leaders: The Power of Great Partnerships, is a nod in the right direction, but doesn’t go near far enough.  What I am talking about here isn’t about two or more people leading an organization together, but rather ‘leadership being an emergent social dynamic that is merely the result of the context co-created by a group of people.’  Perhaps at the center of the context are visionaries like David, Jacob, Tony, Susan, and Alex, but their visions are advanced not through traditionally defined leadership, but rather through the sharing that Ginni Rometty talks about.  This isn’t “servant leadership,” either, which usually has as its goal the purely financial success of a firm or organization, even if that is achieved in a more humble manner.

Co-leadership, as it seems to be evolving in the coworking world today, is different.  It reflects the counterdominant values of today’s Gen Flux, where Silent Gen and Baby Boomer assumptions of power and authority no longer hold.  That said, this is, even if it is a totally different animal, a form of leadership nonetheless.  Perhaps un-leadership is better than co-leadership.  Either way, it is clear that, in light of the cultural values that are rising to the surface in a highly networked global culture, such an approach is effective.  Yet another of many lessons that the rest of the world can (and should) learn from the world of coworking.

Designing Culture? Corporate Coworking, Part II

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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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Within the past week we have begun sharing our vision for how we want to extend the coworking experience ‘beyond coworking.’  What we are calling corporate coworking is elsewhere referred to as Activity Based Work (ABW), but it is really more than that.  At the heart of this is culture.  Our growing passion is to transform, and evolve, the cultures of as many organizations as we possibly can.  How do we propose to do this?

Transcending the Standard Corporate Culture Model

There is no shortage of consultancies out there that claim to understand and measure corporate culture.  Several of them, such as Denison Consulting, Chandler Macleod, Human Synergistics, and Walking the Talk, have developed highly “scientific” formulas for measuring a company’s culture.  The results of their surveys inform companies that their culture is ‘people oriented,’ or ‘customer focused,’ or ‘aggressive,’ or some other combination of words used to describe what is going on in that company.  Visually, the results of these surveys are most often color-coded, so that a company is more or less red, blue, or possibly even green.

denison Designing Culture? Corporate Coworking, Part II

But what really, at the end of the day, do these sorts of assessments tell us, or more importantly, what do they actually do for an organization?  After the results of a survey are presented, the client company is then faced with the challenge of changing values, behaviors, and a whole host of other rather personal things.  Implicit in this approach is an accusatory tone that says to many people within the firm that they have the wrong values and beliefs, and that in order for the organization to change in a desired way those people need to change (who they are).

This is rubbish.  What starts out as a bunch of words ends up with just a bunch of other words.  All firms aspire to be innovative, fair, customer oriented, grounded in integrity, focused on all stakeholders, etc.  What company doesn’t want these things?  What is presented by the A-List culture consultancies is merely candy floss masquerading as science.  Managers know that they need to attend to culture, yet they are so wedded to and blinded by the magic of science that they lie down and eat the candy floss.

Coworking as Change-Management Methodology

As the various experiments in ABW are showing, a company doesn’t need words about values, beliefs, and feelings in order to embark on meaningful cultural change.  Rather, what is needed are commitments.  The physical design, and the socio-physical-psychological interaction of people in well-designed spaces, creates patterns of community interaction on its own.  Of course it’s not all in the space alone.  It also includes giving employees choice, flexibility, and autonomy in how they do their work.  Companies can say that they aspire to be all sorts of things, but what high-performing knowledge workers really want is not that mysterious.  They want:

1. Trustworthy leaders

2. A business strategy that has a purpose beyond $

3. Involvement in meaningful work

4. Colleagues that don’t suck

5.  Maximum flexibility in how they organize their lives

6. The opportunity to innovate and grow professionally and personally

These things only become accessible and real to a group of employees if a company commits to them.  This entails designing spaces and policies that flow in accordance to the organic flows of human nature.

A culture change process that starts with the materiality of design has the potential to actually build culture, through design, without using an excess of words and colors.  The challenge, it seems, lies, first, in building the spaces and policies that align with human nature, then second, just getting out of the way.