Innovation and Business Growth Can Be Fostered Through Coworking
By Neil Carlson
Neil Carlson is the CEO and co-founder—along with his spouse, Erin Carney—of Brooklyn Creative League. When he’s not at work, he coaches his daughter’s softball team and serves as dungeon master for his son’s Dungeons & Dragons posse.
Do you want to get smarter? Innovate more quickly? Grow your business faster? Then you may want to consider joining a coworking space. Researchers from Harvard University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently published a working paper—summarized in the Wall Street Journal—that found that coworking spaces serve as a flywheel for innovation and technology adoption among early-stage companies.
According to researchers, the two key factors were physical proximity and social interactions. According to the Journal, researchers “found that ‘knowledge spillovers’ were greatest between dissimilar startups that worked within 20 meters (22 yards) of each other.” Proximity led to socialization, which, in turn, led to idea sharing about technology. Not surprisingly, spending time in common areas like kitchens and shared lounges extended the “distance of influence,” underscoring the importance of community and collaboration in innovation and knowledge sharing.
Coworking Can Offer Social Benefits That Expand Your Business
All of this comes as no surprise to the members of Brooklyn Creative League, who have been sharing knowledge, collaborating, and innovating for nearly 15 years. “Being at BCL was a key driver of our growth and innovation,” says Jim Crews, founder, and CEO of Media Refined, a digital publishing company. “We had a ready pool of talent to draw on and a community of fellow entrepreneurs to spitball ideas and problem solve together.” Media Refined doubled revenues while at BCL and was eventually acquired.
“The benefits of working closely include the ability to quickly implement ideas that are working well for other companies,” Maria P. Roche, lead researcher and an assistant professor of business administration in the strategy unit at Harvard Business School, told the Journal.
Coworking Spaces are Often Ad Hoc R&D Labs For Small Businesses With Limited Resources
BCL regularly hosts working groups for companies in different industry verticals–architects, software developers, filmmakers–to facilitate knowledge sharing, collaboration, and socialization.
“Hosting continuing education classes at BCL is hugely beneficial,” says Keary Horiuchi, cofounder, and principal of TOLA Architecture. “For the cost of a pizza party, we could knock out our AIA credits, learn about new materials and techniques, and build relationships with our peers at other small firms. That’s much harder to do when you are in your own office or—god forbid—working from home.”
Indeed. As we continue to navigate a “new normal” way of working, it’s important to remember how vital in-person interactions are to, well, just about everything—innovation, technology adoption, and human happiness. “The study also underscores drawbacks to all-remote work, including the loss of unplanned interactions,” Dr. Roche told the Journal. “The ability to gather immediate feedback from someone in proximity can be really important, especially when doing creative work.”