The following was printed in the June 2010 One Voice Newsletter which is printed and distributed inside the Business Record. There have been several requests to make this available online and my blog seemed the fastest path to that end.
For the kitchen table–bound entrepreneur or mobile superstar, coworking offers collaboration and camaraderie without the lame staff meetings or the gray cubicle walls. It’s an emerging concept that folds in the “social” of social media while celebrating community and accessibility in a temporary and flexible workspace. It’s founded on the belief that independent professionals and those with workplace flexibility work better together than they do alone.
Coworking spaces like Des Moines’ Impromptu Studio, Foundry Coworking and PM Underground offer independent-minded entrepreneurs a few square feet of desk space – or a small office, resources like copiers and projectors, and the chance to get connected with other like-minded workers. Collaboration and conversation are included free with membership.
“We offer a space that values people over desks or offices,” says Daniel Shipton, co-founder of Impromptu with his wife, Abbie. “We have a passionate community of individuals who work hard, play hard, and love what they do
Coworking is designed for those who appreciate the value in others’ experiences, welcome contrasting viewpoints and thrive on interaction. Among the video games, mismatched furniture and eclectic mix of colleagues at Impromptu Studio, for example, is a relaxed-but-focused energy that can be tapped into whenever it’s required.
“Most of the people we get involved are in the creative professions, along with tech start-ups,” explains Alexander Grgurich, founder of Foundry Coworking. “Geoff Wood, the Des Moines correspondent for Silicon Prairie News, works out of Foundry Coworking and is working on a tech start-up called Volunteer Local. And Jon Thompson, the former IT director at the Great Ape Trust is running Evolve, a Mac-based IT company, from our space.”
“The real advantage to a coworking space for a startup is who you meet, and that you’re seen,” Milne says. “Being seen validates you in a way just having a website can’t.
“Good ideas go viral inside of coworking spaces and the people in everyone’s private networks get involved as well. Having a brain trust of people always hanging around makes for a unique working environment. Everyone has their own projects, but they are always willing to lend a hand with yours. Feedback for a start-up is pretty paramount.”
Grgurich agrees: “I think the most attractive part of coworking is the community that’s involved. You can get super sweet deals on office space anywhere, but what really appeals to our members is the network of people who are hungry for success to advance their product or service.”
Coworking isn’t for everyone. If you expect organization and structure in your workspace, you might not like coworking. If hierarchy and the implied status that comes with a large office is how you measure success, coworking arrangements will not serve you well. But if working exclusively in a home office scares you, you’ll likely thrive in the flexible and energetic environment of a coworking space. Coworking was designed by and for freelancers, creatives and mobile-type workers who need the injection of other viewpoints and regular human interaction in an unstructured environment.
“Impromptu is first and foremost a community,” says Shipton, who is also CEO of BitMethod, a technology development, consulting and training firm. “That means we make decisions based on what’s best for our coworkers. Dollars and egos and resumes are at the bottom of the priority pile.
“Being around great people creates a powerful energy that makes working more productive and more fun.”
For more information about coworking in Central Iowa contact Mike Colwell.