Collaborative Capability in Coworking Spaces
* Article: Collaborative Capability in Coworking Spaces: Convenience Sharing or Community Building? By Marcelo F. Castilho, Carlos O. Quandt. TIM Review, December 2017
"This study explores the development of collaborative capability in coworking spaces. It is based on the perception of collaboration among 31 coworking founders, community managers, and coworkers of those spaces. In-depth interviews around the meaning of collaboration and its challenges were conducted in 14 coworking spaces located in six Asian countries. A set of factors was identified and a model was proposed based on a set of four dimensions: enabling knowledge sharing, enhancing a creative field, enhancing an individual action for the collective, and supporting a collective action to an effective execution. The “Convenience Sharing” and “Community Building” coworking types based on Capdevila (2014) suggest different conditions under which collaborative capability develops. Convenience Sharing coworking spaces tend to foster collaborative capability through knowledge sharing and effective execution, whereas Community Building coworking spaces tend to foster collaborative capability by enhancing a creative field and individual action for the collective. Overall, this study contributes to a theoretical model for coworking spaces to help coworking founders and community managers make strategic decisions. The findings suggest that collaborative capability in coworking spaces depends on the interlacing of a set of factors along four dimensions that relate in varying degrees of intensity to a two-fold coworking space typology."
By Marcelo F. Castilho, Carlos O. Quandt:
"Collaboration in coworking spaces may be subject to different interpretations. It may be seen either as a byproduct of the space, or as the very reason why such a place exists. However, a coworking space cannot be defined as just a place where diverse actors such as entrepreneurs, freelancers, and offsite workers interact. Different and often conflicting needs may yield a socially complex context where a community is formed and can be transformed by this socialization (Van den Broek, 2013).
Coworking refers to a specific way of organizing people around work that, by its own nature, facilitates collaboration, characterized by the co-location of economic actors, leading in some cases to the emergence of a highly-collaborative community (Capdevila, 2014). In that sense, a coworking space nurtures business ecosystems, given the potential for knowledge sharing and learning practices in a particular space that results in opportunities for innovation in business, services, and products.
Some view coworking as more than a convenient way of sharing resource – they see it as a way to escape the isolation of working alone and feel it provides a convivial space to break the loneliness (Moriset, 2013). For others, coworking is a “state of mind” (Kwiatkowski & Buczynski, 2011). Finally, others even view coworking spaces as “serendipity accelerators” (Moriset, 2013).
The reasons to join a coworking space are mainly to access the space itself, the direct contact, the events, and the sense of the community or “home” that all of this provides (Stumpf, 2013).
Ross and Ressia (2015) expand those reasons by considering four aspects that make a coworking space appealing:
- Flexible, precarious working conditions associated with a broader macro-social economic reality.
- The attractiveness of flexible alternatives to either working from home or a corporate office.
- Opportunity for social interaction that brings also the benefit of a better separation of working and home activities.
- Opportunity to participate in collaborative projects and put related skills into practice.
Coworking spaces are certainly places where a propensity for social interaction can be enhanced, as can a willingness to share resources. However, what actually differentiates a coworking space from other spaces for work and learning is its complex social concept (Waters-Lynch & Potts, 2017), which can be described in terms of motivation to work together in a “good neighbours” and “good partners” proposition (Spinuzzi, 2012). Good neighbours work alone, focusing on their own tasks, politely alongside others; good partners actively foster the trust required that can lead to formal work collaborations.
The good neighbours and good partners proposition suggests there are different levels of collaboration in coworking spaces. Capdevila (2014) proposes a collaboration typology for coworking spaces that considers cost, resources, and relational approaches. The cost-driven level is about the rental of specific physical spaces, where building a community is non-existent and sharing knowledge is a secondary goal.
The resource level is about a common physical space that attracts people or organizations that look for a mix of personal convenience and socialization advantages. In the relational level, the focus is on the synergistic effect of collaboration from a community shaped by a diverse social network of people with both strong and weak ties that choose to share resources serendipitously while in close proximity with each other. It often starts with a community, not a space, and it may take some time to build.
A relevant aspect of collaboration in coworking spaces is to understand the behavioural motivation behind the individuals’ desire to share their resources and networks with each other (Kenline, 2012). In this sense, a coworking space is the reflection of a community well-being dependent on a common mental ground for emerging relationships (Stumpf, 2013). As a socially-constructed phenomenon, collaboration in coworking spaces is a product of cultural and social practices, as well as an expression of a shared mental space of values and beliefs.
A better comprehension of collaboration capabilities in the context of coworking spaces might boost, for instance, a diverse social network with some specific socialization advantages or through some community building strategies that sustain higher levels of motivation to work together. This highlights the importance of new sources of firm competitiveness through the identification of factors and dimensions related to collaboration in coworking spaces." (http://timreview.ca/article/1126)
From the conclusion
By Marcelo F. Castilho, Carlos O. Quandt:
"This exploratory study proposed a set of dimensions linked to collaborative capabilities in coworking spaces in order to help strategic decision making among coworking founders and community managers. It suggests that collaborative capability in coworking spaces depends on four interconnected dimensions that relate to various extents to two different types of coworking spaces, where collaboration capabilities foster such spaces as enabling contexts to reconfigure organizational resources through knowledge sharing, enhancing a creative field, supporting individual actions for collective results, and supporting collective action towards an effective execution. This study also proposes that Convenience Sharing coworking spaces are mostly related to knowledge sharing and supporting a collective action towards an effective execution, whereas Community Building coworking spaces are more related to enhancing a creative field and enhancing an individual action for the collective.
The study was conducted only in Asian countries in a relatively limited sample of spaces. Possibly, the results would be different if the interviews were conducted in a different cultural setting. Additionally, there are several political, cultural, and social aspects that might reveal differences between developing countries and developed countries within Asia regarding collaboration in coworking spaces. Nevertheless, this study can contribute to the coworkers’ perspective, helping them to decide whether a particular co-working space will be more aligned with their particular needs for collaboration. In a broader perspective, this research may also contribute to an evaluation of the level of collaborative capability that can be supported by different types of coworking spaces. This would also support decision-making processes linked to the configuration of coworking space strategies and their capability to promote collaboration among participants. Further studies could involve the application of the resulting model of two types, four dimensions, and underlying factors to coworking spaces in other regions to verify model validation and potential adaptations." (http://timreview.ca/article/1126)
- Moriset, B. 2013. Building New Places of the Creative Economy. The Rise of Coworking Spaces. Paper presented at the 2nd Geography of Innovation Conference, January 23–25, 2014, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
- Spinuzzi, C. 2012. Working Alone Together: Coworking as Emergent Collaborative Activity. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 26(4): 399–441.
- Stumpf, C. 2013. Creativity and Space: The Power of Ba in Coworking Spaces. Masters Thesis, Corporate Management & Economics. Zeppelin University.
- Van den Broek, W. 2013. The Future of Coworking. Deskmag, October 31, 2013. Accessed December 1, 2017:
- Waters-Lynch, J. M., & Potts, J. 2017. The Social Economy of Coworking Spaces: A Focal Point Model of Coordination. Review of Social Economy, 75(4): 417–433.
- Waters-Lynch, J. M., Potts, J., Butcher, T., Dodson, J., & Hurley, J. 2016. Coworking: A Transdisciplinary Overview. Working Paper. Melbourne, Australia: RMIT University.