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So, what the heck is coworking?

Yesterday I had an interesting debate with Dutch Design Workspace(@ddwschina) on twitter about the definition of Coworking in respond to my speech at 3rdspaceconference about “Coworking in China”. In this speech, I referred to the term of Coworking as the narrow sense of “Coworking Space”, which was used firstly in 2005 by Brad Neuberg to describe a physical space which he firstly called ‘9 to 5 group’, and soon became the growing worldwide movement of independent café-like community spaces for freelance professionals and early stage startups. A Coworking Space is normally built organically upon an existing coworking communities and operated under the values of “Collaboration, Openness, Community, Accessibility, and Sustainability” and share information and knowledge freely among one another and numerous web or event based platforms have been created to serve that purpose. At Xindanwei, we have been actively contributing our knowledge and experience about coworking through online platforms, conferences, events, and lately introduced Coworking Manual apps.

Yet by means the term “coworking” stands for something much broader, it means a new way of working, which is co-operative, open, collaboration & network based rather than singular, isolated and individual based.  It was firstly coined by American game designer and fun theorist Bernie DeKoven in 1999 as “computer-supported collaborative work”, however, for people who works in the creative disciplines, collaborative way of working is an essential way to tackle complex problems emerged in our rapid-changing world and generate novel ideas and effective solutions, because creative ideas and solutions are often the result of combined efforts of a team or group of creative minds, and often arise in collaboration when people share their ideas and for example build links and find analogies.

One of my favorite Dutch Architects Ben van Berkel has been researching extensively on the network practice of architect and collaborative process which he named as”liquid architect“. He pointed out:

“Network practice allows architects to be involved with design, technique, detail and execution by building close working relationships with other experts…The empowering quality of the new co-operative process derives from the increased transferability of knowledge. Strategic forms of co-operation may include structural engineers, industrial, new media and graphic designers, cost calculators, management, consultants, process specialists, stylists and photographers. Made possible by the use of new technology, relevant knowledge stored inside all of these disciplines becomes available due to connectedness. As an expert on everyday public information, the policy of the architect is not to improve society by providing the best understanding of it, but simply to collect information that is potentially structuring, to co-ordinate it, transform it, and to offer a centralising vision on the basis of that information.”(The new concept of the architect, UN studio)

Another example would be the in-house projects established by one of the largest advertising agencies Wieden+Kennedy in their different locations worldwide to attract and engage with multidisciplinary creatives “at the forefront of technology, arts and commerce” and to adapt themselves “in a dynamic world”.

In fact, in a world of widely distributed knowledge, most of the companies and organizations cannot afford to rely entirely on their own internal talents and resources to stay innovative and competitive, more and more open innovation models such as user innovation, participatory design, crowdsourcing and know-how trading.

Coworking will continue to act as the stimuli and catalyst of knowledge sharing, serendipity and accumulation, as well as the vehicle of co-creation and co-development. Our next challenge would be: how do we integrate these random creativity and novel idea’s generated by group dynamic and interactivity with the existing business model and come up with  abundance innovation outcomes? I am here to learn.

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