What Corporations and Organizations Can Learn from Coworking

Enrico Cassinelli —  May 9, 2012

In the video embedded at the bottom of the page, produced by Mutinerie, an awesome coworking space in Paris, there are some interesting considerations about Coworking and the corporate world.

It has already been pointed out that many businesses, especially small businesses and startups, are abandoning their offices to move towards shared workspaces.

But even if the trend is involving big corporations, I don’t think that large organizations are going to completely switch to Coworking, at least not for now, for logistical and cultural reasons.

Still, Coworking successful model can bring a gust of fresh air in the corporate culture, starting from the relationships between employers and employees and between employees and work.

So, let’s see what Corporations and Organization can learn from coworking:

1 – Back to the Roots

If you strip the concept of “Company” of its cultural superstructure, you could say that the heart of a company is “its ability to mobilize energies toward a certain goal“.

Time ago, to mobilize those energies you had to gather many people in one place, being it a factory or an office, because that was the place where machineries were operated and supplies were stocked, where the Boss could keep an eye on the overall organization’s productivity and where the workers were enabled to communicate with each other to get their work done.

Nowadays, having a place to gather lots of people to work is not necessary anymore.

Our machineries are laptop computers, which can be brought anywhere, our supplies are datas, which are stocked in the cloud, and our boss can monitor our productivity with software, the same software that we can use to communicate with each other.

2 – Look at the Office in a New Way

So, if the office is not a necessity, what is it going to become?

If you don’t need to gather people in one place anymore, people still need a place to go, as nobody likes being alone.

And above all, human interaction is the sparkle that fires up innovation.

What your company has to offer to its employees, apart from the space itself? Is your comapany fostering community and collaboration? Or are processes and hierarchies too rigid for people to interact in a creative and productive way?

3 – Employees Are Not a Company’s Property

In the contemporary world organizations, communities and people themselves are becoming more and more horizontal.

In coworking spaces, successful products and services are being developed by people who partner up with each others.

Similarly, a company should adapt itself to this new trend, giving more trust to its employees and giving them more chances to participate and collaborate to the decision-making process.

As pointed out by Charles Duhigg in “The Power of Habits”, in ’87 Paul O’Neill, freshly appointed CEO at Alcoa, enabled simple employees to send requests and suggestions directly to the executives of the company (including himself).

The approach proved to be successful, Alcoa’s market capitalization rose by  $27 billion in a few years, and the company became one of the safest place to work in the world, having a nearly zero rate of work related accidents (you can read an excertp of the Alcoa chapter from Duhigg’s book on the Huffington Post)

The key is to start considering your employees more like partners who work with you in a common business venture.

4 – Have a Vision

What’s the cement that keeps people together in a coworking space? What’s at the heart of these diverse and composite communities?

Is it the phisical space they share? Is it the coffee machine?

Nope.

What keeps a coworking community together is a common vision, shared by its members, managers and owners: a vision about how a workspace should be and how human relationships in this workspace should develop and grow.

As pointed out by Simon Sinek in this wonderful TED speech “How great leaders inspire action“, having a clear and inspiring vision will bring enormous benefits to your business, because that’s what drives the consumer’s decisions.

And even more insightful:

If you hire people just because they can do a job they will work for your money, but if you hire people who believe what you believe, they will work with their blood and sweat and tears.

By having a vision and sharing it with the people you employ, you’ll be able to strenghten the community sense in your workspace, and you will have a much more motivated and loyal workforce.

5 – Don’t Foster Precariousness

During hard times being part of a community such as the one which grows in coworking spaces might prove to be a real safety net for the independent workers. That’s because people tend to help each others.

So, don’t foster precariousness. It’s proven that happy employees are more productive: be loyal to them, and they’ll pay you back.

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Enrico Cassinelli

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