The Magic of Coworking

First published on August 27, 2012 by Gilbert West. Context is important.

The Way We Work

I’ve been wanting to write an article about the “magic of coworking” for a while now. I feel it every day, I really do, but whenever I go to write something about coworking it just sounds like I’ve joined a cult.

To truly understand the benefits of coworking, you have to experience them. If you haven’t already, then you’ll just have to settle for a story.

Are you sitting comfortably? Let’s begin…

Once upon a time there was a programmer called Jonas who came from the far off land of Sweden. One day he found out he was going to be a father and he developed a sudden interest in children’s apps as if a magic fairy had sprinkled “daddy dust” over him. He would sit and day dream, thinking about how he could make some kind of modern day equivalent of a bath book for parents with smartphones and tablets.

His big ham developer fingers were good for punching out code and doing hard sums, but they weren’t so good at drawing pretty pictures that children would like. He did try, but most of the kids ran away in tears ( OK, OK, I made that bit up ).

And so one day, when Jonas was sitting next to Jennifer, he did the “coworking lean”. That’s when you notice someone is doing some kind of work that you’d find useful, but you are rubbish at yourself. You lean towards them, tell them it looks interesting, ask them if they’re busy and then offer them a coffee.

In this instance, Jennifer was busy making some illustrations for a website. So they had a coffee, made the app and that’s the end of the story. Ta da!

Well not quite. Coworking can be magic, but it can’t perform miracles. You know that Gandhi saying,

“It takes a village to raise a child?”,

well there’s another well known phrase at the BetaGroup coworking space,

“It takes an active and talented coworking community to come together to help create a multi-lingual childrens’ application and make it ( NOW ) available in the Apple appStore, the Google Play store for Android and the Amazon Kindle store.”

We’re still working on our punchy sayings, but we’ll get there.

So once Jennifer and Jonas agreed to work together, the magic started to happen. Beautiful illustrations were created and programmery stuff linked it all together. But they found that they still couldn’t do it all by themselves. They had no idea whether or not the app would be a big hit and make lots of money and they didn’t really want to spend a lot of money testing the market to see if there would be any interest in their children’s book.

Which is where the rest of us stepped in.

It started out with a casual request to borrow a microphone to record all the names of the weird and wonderful animals who would star in this app.

I’m a podcaster on the side and had recently purchased a shiny new microphone and was happy to lend it to them. Then they thought that they should really make the app available in as many languages as possible because that’s the way we think here in Brussels. Languages are not an afterthought here in our great multilingual city.

They looked around and saw that the village was very linguistically talented and would cover many corners of the world they had mapped out in their plan for world domination of the farmyard animals app space!

And so, one by one, after much debate over the difference between a chicken, a hen, a cockerel and a rooster, we made our way into the recording room to record the names of animals in our respective native tongues.

Each of us gave about one hour of our time to help this project come to fruition. Nothing compared to the time invested by Jennifer and Jonas, but a vital part of the process that was made so much easier by the fact that we all share the same working space.

As for me, yes I see the magic happen every day.

I’ve worked on short projects for my coworkers, explored new joint ventures and even have a retainer with one of my fellow coworkers. So yes, the ROI on your monthly fee will definitely come back to you.

I mentioned the “coworking lean”. This is an advanced move, practised by the experienced, socially adept, 3rd Dan coworkers. More often than not, the “magic” happens over food when out at lunch time, cooking, eating and mingling over coffee. That way we cut through the networking bullshit, get to know each other, discover the value of our skills and finally take the leap and work together. Sometimes it’s 20 minutes of solid advice, sometimes it’s a lifetime of partnership as new company directors. I’ve seen it all and I see it every day.

So good luck to Picaboo and may you all live happily ever after.

The End.

If you’re wondering where all the magic takes place and what it’s like, visit us at BetaCowork in Brussels.