Corporate workplace executives now have an eye on coworking as a platform for corporate innovation . They often start by asking: “What exactly is coworking?” To answer broadly, the term “coworking” refers to any facility that commercially delivers workplace membership as a service. How to use coworking as a platform for corporate innovation depends on the category of coworking offering.
There are three categories of coworking:
- Private Coworking: This means a private members-only workplace facility. Access is only given to a specific group, like company employees in a company, tenants of an office building, owners in a condominium tower, or registered guests in a hotel.
- Public Coworking: This means a workplace offering access to the public. Access is subject only to house rules and payment of a fee, like a day pass or monthly membership.
- Permeable Coworking: This is a Private Coworking facility that allows some outsiders in, subject to specific rules. For example, Zappos Headquarters in Las Vegas is experimenting with bringing the public deeper and deeper into their headquarters to work for enhanced vibrancy, energy and opportunities for serendipitous interactions.
Permeable coworking can be pretty scary to most large companies because there’s a perception of risk to security and intellectual property. Part of successfully using coworking for corporate innovation is knowing how and when to use the platform. If used correctly, allowing corporate employees to become coworking members can support various flavors and intensities of innovation; ideation, strategic planning, and special projects or just engagement with a community of innovators through special event programming, workshops and seminars.
Most large companies still perceive coworking spaces as being primarily for startups. While this is certainly one kind of coworking experience, more corporate-friendly coworking settings like Serendipity Labs are available, where corporate compliance and security are highly valued and corporate employees are welcome.
Executive suites, like Regus, are generally not considered coworking, since they offer mostly individual office rentals and little or no event programming or community building . This isolation and lack of peer interaction is not “working alone together in a community,” as most coworking communities like to say, but more akin to working alone… alone. This isolation is not a recipe for innovation in anyone’s book. Conversely, in a coworking setting innovation sparks because community, discussion, and brainstorming opportunities are readily available.
To envision a world of corporate coworking success, imagine that key contributors don’t get pulled out of the meetings; imagine the end of windowless hotel meeting rooms; imagine no more skirted hotel banquet tables and sweaty water pitchers. Instead, imagine a technology rich, idea rich, environment. Coworking is an on demand- innovation platform.
With coworking facilities now opening in most markets, its a ready alternative for supporting corporate innovation. To get started, it’s as easy as Googling “coworking” and taking a tour or attending an event to find the right ones for your company’s innovation program. Select some internal groups to test this out the next time someone is looking at a training center or hotel meeting space to innovate and, instead, give a coworking space a try.