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Howdy Corporate Coworking- Part I

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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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A Bit About the Journey to Corporate Coworking

This is the first in a five part series on corporate coworking here at Conjunctured,  We have been in the kitchen now for quite some time, and are starting to take some goodies out of the oven.

Over the past couple of years we have been exploring various ways to grow our business.  On several occasions we came frighteningly close to signing leases on BIG and very costly spaces.  It makes sense, it seems, that if a coworking space aims to grow it would want to open a second or perhaps bigger location.  For quite some time we were driven to have multiple spaces here in Austin.  Not so much any more.

Thing is, there are such awesome coworking spaces (Vuka, Link, Posh, Plug and Play, Soma Vida, Capital Factory, Center 61, Golab, Tech Ranch, to name just a few) already spread throughout Austin, that that need is already being met.  Overall, we have one of the most balanced and vibrant coworking ecosystems in the world.  Just another of many reasons to love Austin!

As we explored various options and directions, it became clear that the coworking world, both here and around the world, is healthy and thriving.  However, there are other parts of the world, particularly many of the world’s large companies, that are in desperate need of cultural renewal.  Recent research by Right Management Consultants shows that 86% of corporate employees surveyed indicated that they are looking to move jobs in the coming year.  This is horrible (and costly news) for human resource managers across the corporate landscape.

Meanwhile, other firms, such as Macquarie Bank in Sydney, are embracing Activity Based Work, a workforce/workspace management solution that is eerily similar to traditional coworking. In ABW workplaces, all employees (including the CEO and other officers) forgo offices and are instead armed with a laptop and a locker.  People come and go and work in one of 8 Neighborhoods or Cafes, and move around from space to space on a daily basis.

one shelly street Howdy Corporate Coworking  Part I

What Macquarie discovered was that the design of the space actually became a lever, or mechanism, for initiating significant change in the company.  Participants cite the accessibility of the CEO (who works out in the open space with everyone else), and the elimination of meetings (because everyone is accessible all the time anyway) as drivers of what they refer to as the democratization of their workplace.  What starts as a design project becomes a cultural change project.

Coworking spaces are not encumbered by all of the toxic politics that define so many companies.  Rather, we all work in spaces where we choose to go.  If companies could possibly tap into the energy and vitality that thrive each day in coworking spaces around the world, there is no question that this would make the world a better place.  The values that the coworking community stands for ( autonomy, community, transparency, accessibility, fairness, collaboration, innovation, authenticity), as has been pioneered and exemplified over many years now by New Work City, Indy Hall, Office Nomads, Citizen Space, etc., are in short supply in much of the (corporate) world.  Our vision for launching corporate coworking (our version of Activity Based Work) stems from this recognition- working in a large firm does not have to suck!

Hopefully this is just the beginning of a long journey that has many passengers.

Efficient, Cheap, and Soulless: The Global Afterlife of Capitalism

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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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Donating to the problem

 

afterlife of clothes Efficient, Cheap, and Soulless: The Global Afterlife of CapitalismIn an NPR story this morning, The Global Afterlife of Your Donated Clothes, we learn yet more about the dark side of our cultural addiction to cheapness.  Some 80% of donated clothes ends up in the hands of the textile recycling industry, which simply puts those materials back into the wicked cycle.  Twice in the past half-year manufacturing facilities in Bangladesh have collapsed/caught on fire, killing scores of innocent people in the process.  In what can only be described as slave-labor conditions, workers in this Bangladesh facility were required to return to work even when employees at the bank in the same building were told to stay home because of safety concerns with the building.

Cheap costs dear

Sadly this is nothing new.  This is the stuff of Wal Mart’s “everyday low prices,” or of its more recent promise- Save Money, Live Better.  In her book, Cheap, Ellen Ruppel Shell documented the interconnections between bangladesh collapse afp670 Efficient, Cheap, and Soulless: The Global Afterlife of Capitalismour addiction to cheap and the global labor conditions that make cheapness possible.  Her book is informative, depressing, and important.

At Foxconn’s manufacturing facility in Shenzhen Province, where yours and my iPhones were made, 17 people committed suicide in 2010-2011.  With little to no social mobility, and unable to ever buy the products they make, workers there are caught, like their peers in Bangladesh, in the crossfires of our love of cheapness. And efficiency.

What’s Wrong with Efficiency?

So why is this a problem?  From a managerial perspective, of course, this is not a problem at all.  Rather, it is a reality, the realization and application of principles of efficiency carefully taught and learned in business schools around the world.  Even more to the point, it is the realization of a management agenda dictated, in large part, by the triumph Wall Street and their Economist lovers (see the Chicago School here).

Ronald Coase, 1991 Nobel Laureate in Economics, has recently been worrying about this too.  In his 2012 Harvard Business Review article, Saving Economics from the Economists, Coase challenges the hegemony of economistic thinking, suggesting that what he calls Blackboard Economics has replaced our understanding of how people and culture, not numbers and statistics, actually sit at the center of any economy.  “Coase argues that in the early 20th century, economists began to focus on relationships among statistical measures, rather than problems that firms have with production or people have with decisions.”  “It is suicidal for the field to slide into a hard science of choice,” Coase writes in HBR, “ignoring the influences of society, history, culture, and politics on the working of the economy.”

Humanistic Economics

As a remedy, Coase and a few colleagues have proposed a new economics journal, one that focuses on the human side of global business, in addition to (and not necessarily opposed to) the more narrowly defined principles of efficiency that tend to predominate today.  At the end of the day, the challenge of humanizing economic transactions won’t occur in the classroom or in a new academic journal, it will happen only through the behavior of American (and other Western) consumers.  If we were to care enough to break our addiction to Cheap, and in doing so stop rewarding the scientists of efficiency, fewer real-life tragedies like those in Bangladesh and Shenzhen would occur.

DJ