What do you get when you cross a Knitting Lesson with WordPress Users Wales?

Please pick one answer from the multiple choice list.

a) a woolen laptop?

b) a Fair Isle spam blocker?

c) an Aran mouse?

d) coworking?

Obviously the answer is d), Coworking.

This week WordPress Users Wales met to talk about plugins, it’s a bit technical but if you want an explanation check out this post on WordPress plugins . We shared the meeting space with some people learning to knit, the click of knitting needles in symphony with the tapping of keypads. The gathering happened at a fantastic venue in Castle Arcade, Cardiff called indycube, which promotes the idea of coworking.

Mark Hooper (@markjhooper) who founded indycube told me a bit about indycube and the idea behind coworking. I think the coworking approach has some real benefits and provides a great opportunity for people to be social and exchange knowledge in these days of potentially solitary remote working. This is what I learnt.

  • Indycube is a Community Interest Company (CIC) that provides desk space in a relaxed office environment for basically anyone who wants to use it.
  • It costs £10/day to use the facility which includes wifi and free tea/coffee.
  • The idea is to offer freelancers, micro-businesses, remote workers and others an alternative to sitting in coffee shops, hotel lobbies or the back bedroom all day.
  • Most importantly it encourages coworking.
  • The idea behind coworking is that you sit alongside people who may have absolutely nothing to do with what you are working on.
  • Through social interactions with these people there will be some knowledge exchange and hopefully a serendipitous event that benefits you both. This could be a business idea, introduction to a new contact or valuable piece of information.
  • I know from my own experiences that some of the best things I’ve worked on have come from being outside of my silo(s) and having apparently random interactions.
  • Having a conversation with people, who routinely I’d have no reason to speak with, has generated some very useful things.
  • For a good explanation of the ideas behind coworking and how it works have a look at the Wikipedia entry.
  • Also have a look at the indycube website and this Western Mail article.

I think there are many benefits to this sort of working. I did once see something similar to coworking in a big service organisation, but with a narrower focus. The organisation relocated its many dispersed project teams into a single purpose-built innovation facility (a big shed). They told me that the cross-pollination between apparently unrelated teams was highly beneficial for the organisation. Previously many projects ran late, over budget and never quite delivered on promises. Following the coworking, or colocation exercise as they called it, better projects got delivered, on time and to budget.

In the case of indycube, a third sector (a CIC) has delivered something which other organisations could well learn from. Imagine parts of public services coming together, and working with people from places they had never even heard of or even thought about. What an opportunity for serendipity.

Finally a lesson in never making assumptions about people based on appearances. Two blokes entered the indycube room fashionably late on Tuesday. They looked like absolute certainties for being WordPress plugin enthusiasts. Trendy urban chic clothes, longish hair, beards and possibly a t-shirt with an obscure Minecraft picture (Sorry guys). To my surprise (and the person next to me) they turned left and joined the knitting class, I was already making them a space on my table. I bet their blogs about learning to knit were on WordPress though!

So, what’s the PONT?

  1. Coworking is something that could help remote and solitary workers socialise more often and avoid becoming isolated.
  2. Going to somewhere like indycube (designed to meet your needs) has got to be better than hanging around a coffee shop or a hotel lobby using the wifi.
  3. The chances of serendipity and great things happening from mixing with people you have no real connection with should not be under estimated.

Picture source: A fantastic woolen laptop. Unfortunately it wasn’t made on the evening. http://www.flickr.com/photos/katemonkey/5665916936/

About whatsthepont

The things I’m currently interested in are: 1.How people learn and share knowledge; 2.Social Media, Web2.0 whatever you want to call the world of the internet; 3.Better public services.

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