Establishing Communities in Space
Most days pass through a surprisingly predictable rhythm at the office. You may not know when each will happen, but they consist of times of group interaction, quiet focus, helpful conversation, laughter, whispers and more. It's the natural ebb and flow of people and their energy as they spend all day working together. There are times of noise and boister and times of quiet focus. Each end of the spectrum is essential to help build commonality and community.
In order to establish a community you need a common purpose and a space designed to be supportive and productive to the goals of that community. Its members are somewhat stable in order to establish rhythms and rituals. Be it a home, church, country club or office they should encourage a variety of individual and group interaction. You can opt in and be active or lay back for a more passive interaction. To sustain a community, once these roles are established, others must replace those that stepped down. These communal archetypes are tough to change and the community structure tends to dictate personal behavior as much as inherent personality.
Corporate offices are now incorporating many of these community concepts. A valid pause for skepticism is that changing an office's pale gray cubicle walls to an industrial chic modular design doesn't change the already established archetype inherent in a pre-existing corporate community.
Service-based establishments be it a restaurant, retail shop or dance hall typically must maintain and dictate how the members of their community behave. Since it's a newly formed group, it helps to tell them how to act and interact. Signs, policies and social cues dictate when to sit, how to eat, what to buy and how to dance. It's one of the reasons we pay a lot of money to service based establishments. We don't want to worry about our decisions and we want to have a good time. Cruises and Disney revel in this.
Coworking spaces have the trick of bridging the divide between a service oriented shop and a privately owned home or office. It allows a thoughtful progression of work that includes all the components of productivity: focus, collaboration, learning and socializing. These don't happen in a vacuum so the structure or schedule to cue times for interaction and socialization along with opportunities to collaborate and learn with others is essential. But communities can't be built just anywhere. While these communities seem inevitable, they only happened a certain way because the conditions were just so.
Post by Trent Sultemeier