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Corporate vs. Coworking Culture: a learning curve for all

At the Coworking Europe Conference in Milano this week, I participated in a panel on “Coworking with, in or for corporations?”, with Baptiste Broughton, Jennifer Magnolfi, Alice Soru, and Madeleine von Mohl (our excellent moderator). I was delighted by the choice of the other panelists, and we had a meaningful and enriching conversation, which also covered some of the points from Sylvie’s earlier post on corporate vs. coworking culture.

Some key takeaways:

Coworking is here to stay (of course!), but the traditional corporate model is not dead (yet)

We will see a blended work environment evolving over the coming years… I certainly agree with Jennifer that we are not facing a black & white situation: one model is not better than the other, but according to context, some model might be more appropriate. Also, future workers (employees or self-employed) may switch between different work environments according to circumstances: spending some time in the (traditional) office, other times working from home or from client sites, and yet other moments from coworking spaces.

Many traditional organizations don’t (yet) understand the true nature/value of the NWoW

We see companies opening up to coworkers, but not investing in the required community management to make it a true collaborating/sharing experience. Other companies don’t (yet) see the difference between the shared office space and the coworking space. The New World of Work is not so much about physical environment and technology; it is essentially about culture and values (community management, socializing in the workplace, sharing knowledge and experience).

Whilst large organizations may be attracted to the coworking model, it is important to understand their rationale…

As is clear from Baptiste’s study of French companies and their employees, not all coworkers have the same needs, and not all organizations have the same motivations! For some, it’s about increasing mobility and/or reducing environmental footprint, or it may be cost reduction, whilst for others it’s entrepreneurial spirit and innovation opportunities, to name just a few potential motivations…

A healthy environment can be enriching for both the corporate employees and the coworkers

At the Open Campus in Cagliari, presented by Alice, Tiscali has no explicit expectations to benefit from coworker & entrepreneurial output, but over time the number of collaboration and learning opportunities is growing: the self-employed coworkers also have something to learn from the corporate employees! And vice-versa of course…

Both the corporate world and the coworking spaces need to adjust!

One may be tempted to think that it’s the traditional organizations that have to bridge the culture gap to the coworking world, but in practice, it appears that there are just as many questions on either side of the fence… Also for coworking spaces, opening up to corporate users is not obvious! Both business leaders and space managers alike may be worried about diluting (corporate) identity, increased turnover, leaking intellectual property, etc. All in all, it’s a learning curve for all parties involved!

There’s certainly much more to be said. The points above are only a short summary of an hour-long conversation. Any experiences, ideas, or opinions on corporate vs. coworking are welcome! Please feel free to comment below or via twitter@cdn

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