The 4th annual Global Coworking Unconference was held in Berkeley, California last week. It was an amazing event, and I really felt like this was the year that GCUC grew into it’s own. The attendance was the usual mix of people looking to start or just starting their coworking spaces, veteran operators/owners, vendors and people in the general shared office and real estate world. Everybody came excited to learn, share and make new connections and see friends they hadn’t seen in a year.
The irony for me was that, even though GCUC was in my own back yard, I wasn’t able to participate as much as I have in years past. I’m happy to say my kids come first for me these days and well, they did last week too. Actually, I decided that Thursday was “Bring Your Daughter to GCUC Day” and had my 15 year old join me. She loved it and was disappointed when I told her she had to skip GCUC on Friday to attend school.
Anyway, what with all of my mom duties, I missed the entire unconference (my favorite part) and only caught one panel. I did, however, get to introduce my daughter to my long time coworking friends, connect with some new faces and, as expected, I came away with a great feeling about the coworking world and the possibilities it offers to help people work happier.
So when I pondered my biggest takeaway I realized that it it was simple. We hear it all the time from new people entering the industry, whether they’re touring our spaces, calling and asking questions about how to run a coworking business or attending GCUC for the first time: “Everyone was so friendly!” or “I felt so comfortable asking questions!” and “I was surprised at how open and helpful everyone in coworking is.”
This is my take-away: We collaborate. For us it’s about coopetition, not competition.
As an industry, we are changing the way businesses interact.
I love this about us. I love that we open our spaces to all forms of business, that when people join our communities they don’t compete with each other. That even when people who would traditionally see each other as competition meet in a coworking space, they open up and share ideas, sensing an opportunity for collaboration, rather than a potential threat to their individual businesses. In fact, we as an industry see that our businesses and the businesses of our members are enhanced by collaboration. Coworking people share “trade secrets” with each other openly. We share business concepts, financial models, community building best practices. We help new spaces to open and provide them with the mentorship needed to allow them to succeed. This open and supportive environment has allowed us, as movement seedlings, to grow and flourish into a real industry. And the corporate world is taking notes.
For a long time, there was a sense that if the coworking movement became “about” business that we would lose our authenticity, our community roots. That the five core values would be forgotten in the search for profits. I think that it’s just possible that what may happen instead is the corporate business world will learn more from us than open plan seating and big community tables. They’ll learn the coworking industry offers more traditional businesses knowledge that through the values of Collaboration, Openness, Community, Accessibility and Sustainability, businesses can increase employee engagement, productivity, innovation and enhance their bottom lines.
My daughter is going to enter the world of work some time in the next 8 years. I’m excited to know that we are building a future where it’s expected that we care about our members, each other and about making this world just a little better. One happier coworker at a time.