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Building Communities

When ever I go for a sales pitch, I get this question – How can your platform help build our community?

 The 3 conferences I attended over the last one year, this was one of the most common question. There have been sessions and tracks on building communities and I tried to attend to understand the perspective. 

Technically, Culture is how people in a Community co-exist (live). So, when we build a community, we are directly building a Culture of the space. 
Let us bring this conversation to the context of workplace. Be it a factory, be it an office, Culture existed from the beginning of mankind. So, how is it different today in the context of a #Coworking or #SharedOffice space? 

After sitting through these conferences and talking to various people and my clients and potential clients, I am coming to understand that the aspect of Community in workspace relates to how people are bonded around. The common theme. 

In a factory, the community looks at working together to accomplish a task. Be it building an aircraft or an automobile or any other. Tasks are defined, SLA’s set and employees are trained to focus to ensure all tasks are complete end of the day meeting all the required metrics. Employees rejoice the success of their produce. 

Now, let us move this to an office. What I mean by office is collection of employees working on different parts of the workflow. Be it a Bank or a Technology firm or any other. Organisation sets the objective of the tasks and employees are meant to complete these tasks on time to accomplish the goal. 
In the context of #Coworking and #SharedOffice space, this becomes a little tricky. Why? Because it is not a factory or a traditional office. People from various organisations co-exist. 

How do we build a Community here? That’s the question. I have friends who are working on building their spaces with culture of their ideas. Few succeed and few fail and few are very clear of how they want their community to be. However, no one is able to crack the code for a framework to build communities. Hence turning to technology to build it for them, or help create one for them. 

How to build a Community?

Building a community is a human exercise. We spend time with people who care about and who are like minded, fun to be around with, who inspire us or whom we inspire. At times, even if we don’t like someone’s company, over a period of time, the relationship grows upon us. 

In the workplace, there are no set rules. A culture/community is already built by the time we get there and it takes a lot of work to change people around, alternatively in most times, we adapt to the new environment. If it really gets toxic we move out. 

In a #Coworking or #SharedOffice space setting, this gets even more complicated. Members curate the community mostly. I have seen spaces where the culture is already set and the leadership is very clear on how their space’s culture should be. They let their potential clients know about their culture and make them adapt to their way of seeing things. Alternatively, they just leave it to members to structure the community the way they want and if there is anything required to be done, the leadership steps in to curate the community. 

However, one thing is common, the culture of a #Coworking or #SharedOffice space is not deep rooted because everyone who shared the space and every company has their own was of seeing things and they would not liked to be forced upon. So, there is a very fine line of how culture is built.

How do we translate this to technology? 

For me, curating a community is like creating a product. It starts with a basic functioning design and over the period of time, it evolves into how the users like it. We can take a lot of examples, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Slack etc. and a lot more. In fact I keep seeing new products coming with different value prepositions. 

When Orkut came, everyone was excited to be connected in the virtual world, share pictures and what they have been upto. In no time, Facebook took over as the de facto space for connecting with people. 

After Facebook, came twitter and then came Instagram. Why? Couldn’t Facebook cater to all the needs of people. All the three are same, connecting people virtually to share a message, news, picture or video. But, still, all the three coexist today with differentiation. 

What is the difference between each one? Facebook became de facto for connecting with friends, sharing updates, pictures, videos etc. Twitter became de facto for sharing messages to an audience in a more simplistic manner. Instagram focused on pictures and now slowly towards videos and advertisements. 

Each of these platforms have their communities and build their culture and it is difficult to measure which is better. 

When we bring this conversation down to Coworking spaces, it becomes difficult for each space to create different cultures and communities, so, insteadspaces focus on building a culture which they wish to represent. Based on what the need is, you use the appropriate platform. 

Technology, can help create cultures by identifying interests and gathering members opinions and then structuring an ecosystem which caters to most of the members. 

When we bring this conversation down to Coworking spaces, it becomes difficult for each space to create different cultures and communities, so, instead of spaces focus on building a culture which they wish to represent. Based on what the need is, you use the appropriate platform. 
Technology can help create cultures by identifying interests and gathering members opinions and then structuring an ecosystem which caters to most of the members. 

A word of caution here, building a community takes a long time and as time progresses, it is also important for spaces to adapt to the changing needs. 

Did we crack the code? It is work-in-progress, but sure there are the building blocks. 

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