Thank-you For Letting Me Be Myself

mused on 14 Oct 2016

In a recent issue of Business Insider UK (10 Oct 2016)¹ there was an article about micro-lofts that were co-located with shared space for meals, working and so on: a kind of hybrid home and office space bookable nightly at a rate competitive with a hotel room. I was reminded of the William Gibson aphorism “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed”.

I think at the time he was reflecting on differential access to technology but I’m confident using it in this circumstance. It shows the degree to which the models for space and its consumption are changing, and becoming increasingly targeted to the needs of very precisely defined segments of the market, creating compelling environments to attract people. As you can see from the article above, that bar is rising rapidly.

This whole market for office and residential space is in the early stages of the kind of disruption we associate with many other sectors of our economy.

As a start-up what are you looking for from your location, maybe co-location with others in a similar stage of development, access to others with services you can trade, people of like mind with whom you may share work and non-work interests, a great place where the energy is good? That’s starting to sound like something we might call a community. Let’s be careful though, sometimes a word with wide meaning (have a look at the definition from Merriam-Webster below!) can hide some important considerations. It’s not just a group of people on a site, is it? Seems to me that community in this context should mean something you feel connected to, that it has meaning and value to you, that its worth something. Maybe your thinking in a different direction, perhaps co-locating with major firms who might have an interest in your activity, where you can test some of your ideas with people with deep knowledge in the area, perhaps in an investment incubator that would help you accelerate your development. That’s likely to have a much different style and feel but would none-the-less constitute a community.

Then there is the provider perspective. You can find anything from a kind of collective in which the community decides whether you are appropriate to join, to providers who provide no more than shared office space. In this continuum there are many providers who are trying to offer community as a means of differentiating themselves from other providers. Even in corporate environments you can start to see the development of this kind of thinking. There the idea of community gets blurred with organization and functions and all kinds of other relationship dynamics. You will appreciate how the involvement of the company in a ‘community’ will change its dynamic, for instance company involvement as a community member will produce different dynamics than as community sponsor than as community steward.

At the heart of this is you – the user, customer, employee that values a community (and therefore makes it a legitimate basis of differentiation for the provider). In this increasingly atomised world of work, where people move from project to project, across locations, finding spaces in which you find community, welcome, connection will be one of your key satisfiers. In the competition for talent that has been emerging over the last few years, everyone knows that removing friction and creating environments in which each individual can fully realise their potential is among the most important criteria in workplace choice.

For providers then the advice must be to give extremely careful thought to how you people locations, with careful attention to community creation and management (including what role[s] you as the provider take). This should also include clear views on what you expect.

¹ The Business Insider article I found was here:  http://uk.businessinsider.com/zoku-hotel-amsterdam-us-2016-10?r=US&IR=T/#zokuis-a-japanese-word-meaningfamily-tribe-or-clan-1