As this year begins to really swing into action, I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between networking and co-working. As social media continues to grow and expand and take over more and more of our time and energy, at what point is it no longer about promoting our own personal brand and more about sharing ideas and experience to further our profession?
First lets look at the idea of networking.
Social Networking, as defined by wikipedia (the ever-reliable “factual” resource), is :”a social structure made up of individuals (or organizations) called “nodes”, which are tied (connected) by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as friendship, kinship, common interest, financial exchange, dislike, sexual relationships, or relationships of beliefs, knowledge or prestige.”
In a nutshell, we’re talking about our twitter/facebook/myspace/linkedin/drinking buddies. This is a network of people that we socialize with, share news with, etc.
Now lets look at co-working
Again, hitting up wikipedia, co-working is: “a style of work which involves a shared working environment, sometimes an office, yet independent activity. Unlike in a typical office environment, those coworking are usually not employed by the same organization. Typically it is attractive to work-at-home professionals, independent contractors, or people who travel frequently who end up working in relative isolation. Coworking is the social gathering of a group of people, who are still working independently, but who share values, and who are interested in the synergy that can happen from working with talented people in the same space.”
With networking, you’ve simply got a group of people with common interests sharing information, communicating back and forth, basically promoting themselves in whatever endeavor they’re in.
Coworking, on the other hand, although similar, is what happens when you take social networking to the next level. A group of like minded individuals, perhaps in similar industries or industries that regularly intermingle (think architects, engineers, contractors), come together to pool their resources in a common work sharing environment. Can we say GENIUS!
What I have seen lately, as we continue to claw our way out of this recession, is a growing popularity, really more of a viral epidemic, or co-workers coming together all over the US. Some examples:
Also here is an article at gigaom.com about coworking.
These are a few examples that I’ve been following for a couple of months now. CoWorkJax had their “kickoff” a couple of weeks ago and it was hugely successful. Entrepreneurs seemingly came out of the woodwork to participate in this event, this groundbreaking activity that is Co-working.
Why don’t we see more architects and engineers doing this? How many sole proprietors do we have in Jacksonville alone? Imagine for a second if 5 architects got together and leased one office space large enough for a series of workstations, a plotting station and reception desk in a storefront downtown. Imagine now that you are one of those architects. You’ve got projects piling up (small projects sure, but you’re spending more time working than playing with your kids). You’d be able to turn to your co-work colleague and say “hey I need some drafting help for a few hours/couple days. Interested?” They’d say “hellz yeah, brother!” And suddenly you’ve got a collaborative office where everyone is working simply to create better architecture (cause you’re all sharing ideas, details, consultants, expertise, etc).
Can you imagine that?! Oh how sweet it would be. I can imagine it, I can see it, I can taste it. It’s there, all we need to do is reach out our hand, collectively, and GRAB IT.
Now, what are your thoughts? Is it time to revolutionize the architectural/AEC community or am I just paddling up the blog-sphere creek without said paddle?
Great post, Jeremiah. When I lived in Raleigh, there was a co-working space called DesignBox (pretty sure it’s still there). It was mostly artists, though I think there was a guy who did architecture-related work at one point. They actually had a rule that no more than one person from a specific field or specialty could have space there at a given time, so that there would be less competition and more cross-pollination of ideas. I thought that was pretty interesting as a model.
There are lots of different forms that co-working can take; one I have heard of since the recession started is that some larger firms have been more open to subleasing some of their space to individuals or smaller firms after they have downsized and have too much room in their offices. Anything like that seems to be a good way to allow more collaboration and idea sharing, as well as providing more structure and support space for those who decide that being their own boss is good, but working from home might not be the best solution for them. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see more of this, as one thing the economy of the past several years seems to have done is cause people to rethink how they work and whether their future might just be one of always putting their own “brand” first.
Bryant, thanks for your comments. Designbox sounds like an interesting idea. I’ll have to look that one up.
I’ve also heard of larger firms, and even some smaller ones, leasing out office cubes to smaller practitioners. It’s a great way to collaborate but also to generate a little revenue as well. Empty space only costs money after all. I think we’ll see much more of this as the months go by and we continue to crawl our way out of this recession one day at a time. Cheers!
I like this idea a lot if it could work in my area. I have also considered the idea of a virtual office, but haven’t gotten to the point of executing on it. The recession put that one on the shelf. I didn’t realize this was happening, so now I’ll have to look into it more. Thanks for sharing this.
Lee, this is happening everywhere. You’d be amazed by the results via google or bing. I’ve been steered towards virtual offices by a couple of people as well. It seems like an interesting idea, but then I’m much more in favor of a physical location where ideas, services and expertise can more immediately be shared. Thanks for the comments! Cheers.