Note: Ken Crawford wrote this in October, 2013 upon the occasion of joining a coworking space for the first time.
How much difference does it make where you work? The environment, space layout, sound, visual cues? The social interactions? The commute? The inspirations or distractions? The tools and resources?
I’ve just joined a new coworking collaborative – The Grove Dallas, a new ad-venture growing from The Grove New Haven. This has been described as the next stage of evolution from the home office and the coffee shop office. A great alternative model is the likes of Union – which is an intentional community formed from the base of a purpose built coffee shop.
What I like about The Grove is it’s intentionality around collaboration. While I may not be working on many “group projects” I do value having creative innovators close by so that I can gather inspiration, input and feedback from them. I enjoy hearing what other people are doing, which may be completely unrelated and yet somehow sparks something in me that does propel my project forward. And there are often synergies that develop – the whole being greater than the sum of its parts – that kind of thing. If I’m not in this kind of environment, then how can I have that experience?
Since I started my business in February I have largely been working from home, squatting in coffee shops like Panera and Starbucks. I attend networking meetings and do my 30 second commercial at the chamber of commerce, Netweavers, etc. I joined Success North Dallas, which is a collection of highly successful and motivated folks. All of these are good places to meet people and make connections for business referrals. I have not experienced them to be great places to develop collaboration. That may say more about me and my work style than anything. Either way, I haven’t been getting what I needed.
I just started reading a book by Bill Aulet – Disciplined Entrepreneurship. On nearly every page I find something that makes me to a head slap and realize I would have been more productive, efficient or effective if I’d read this book a year ago (or 15…) Among those insights is the critical importance of finding partners for a successful business venture. Aulet argues that the most viable endeavors are not solopreneurs. Partners bring added insights, corrective input, energy and enthusiasm, etc. One of the things that I have had trouble finding since starting this venture is a few good partners. I have had numerous generative conversations, but all have stopped short of full-fledged collaboration. I have already seen that The Grove is a perfect place for generating these very relationships.
I don’t know how long I’ll work here, or where it will lead. What I do know is that the investment of self – to say nothing of time, energy, effort, and money – is already paying dividends. AND I know that wherever my path leads, this community and what it is teaching me will bear fruit for years to come.