It seemed to have happened overnight - that one minute there is some weird and random thing called 'WeWork', and the next thing you know, everyone is trying to start a shared working space or get into one.
For reference, a co-working space is somewhere - a building - that you go to rent a desk or a single office. It's the alternative to renting out the entire floor of a building or the building itself.
Typical co-working spaces cater to knowledge workers - people that do their work with a laptop or with a pen. You know who I'm talking about - entrepreneurs trying to come across as more legitimate, startups not looking to pay for the overheads, creatives, and in some cases corporates too.
Regardless of my assessment of who this kind of arrangement suits, something brilliant happens at almost all of them. Talking. Talking at lunch, while you get coffee when you're on the way to a meeting, or at a networking event organized by the community manager.
And these little moments are amazing. I don't know if it was intentional, I doubt it was, but in my analysis, the most stand out feature of a kombucha-on-tap-serving-shared-co-workspace is the watercooler talk it enables.
This kind of thing used to be - well, it used to be a normal part of going to work. We took it for granted, the short micro-breaks that happened at the office all the time, naturally, without them needing to be engineered or facilitated or encouraged. But of course, COVID-19 changed all that. We went from having random conversations to a calendar stacked full of end-to-end Zoom meetings, along with a mildly worsening coffee addiction followed by a nightly alcohol binge.
And here's the thing, as pointless as small talks can be, I believe we need to get them back. We need to have some pointlessness because the fact is - people can't be on all of the time. The small chats you have in-person are a source of creativity and ideas. At a minimum, they are a time to brag about your ideas, organizing them as you pitch. Or for venting hangups - which gives your mind a break while the next idea comes along.
Having spent the better part of "as long as I can remember" thinking about ideas and trying to come up with new ones. I can tell you from experience that nothing stimulates ideation more than collaboration and co-location. The energy you get from being in the same room as someone - whether you know them or not - is not replicable on Zoom, Skype, or MS Teams.
I also believe that the most important time to double down on creativity and innovative thinking is now. Because the cliché is true, the one that says "the world keeps changing". I would add to that cliché is that these days "it's changing faster and in more ways than can be predicted". I think the companies which will be the most successful over the next twenty years are the ones that put energies, time, resources, and overall effort into working ON their business. People who are trying to break their businesses today to make them less breakable tomorrow. Companies that have battled through and survived, sure, they might be around. But if I was to put money on who is going to win big in the long run. It's going to be the guys and girls who invested in ideas now.
But you know what, you get it, this all sounds great so - what's your point Krystian? What are you getting at? Well, what I want to do is suggest an idea that combines my enthusiasm for collaborating on ideas with co-working spaces.
It's pretty common knowledge that office leases in Melbourne's CBD are being slashed or not renewed. It also wouldn't be a stretch to say that the companies severing their links with those spaces aren't necessarily going to jump into a free-for-all-co-working establishment either.
So here is my idea, what if, instead of a [insert a corporations name here] renting out a whole level or building. They co-lease a space with their key collaborators and build a micro-community-co-working place of their own.
'Example Company A' goes from "na we're not going to renew the lease because everyone's working from home now" to "we renewed the lease and invited/opened it up to our key suppliers B and C and our professional services supplier D". "All four companies can send people to the same space whenever they need".
Benefits include people having an environment that builds relationships, enables the sharing and testing of ideas with the people you're going to have to pitch the ideas to at some point anyway.
Think of this link hosting a party and allowing people to crash for the night. You get to choose who stays, and you get to make sure they don't necessarily stay forever - though if you've created an environment that is so comfortable that people don't want to leave, well, that's a mark of success.
You could even go a step further and open the space up to students from one of the many universities around Melbourne, creating a brain farm with the next generation of bright stars. And if 'Example Company A' was brave, they could open up to the public too. The point is, of course, is to allow random interactions. Okay letting, the general public in is a stretch, but the student thing would work.
What 'Example Company A' stands to achieve is a lab of innovation without spending six figures on a consulting firm to tell them how to do it.
I am happy for "Example Company" to be swapped out for a "real company" and for this idea to be put to the test. Because I honestly think this is worth a shot. If you hear of someone taking up this idea and putting it to the test, send through the case study.
Have a great day.