Angel Kwiatkowski – the founder and Madam of Cohere Coworking Community is down in Austin, Texas (yes I’m jealous) at SXSW (yes I’m jealous) and spoke Thursday night on a panel addressing the future of coworking.
And she disagrees.
And I agree with her. I mean I also disagree with what she disagrees with. I don’t mean I disagree with her disagreement. Make sense? No? Good.
Edit: It occurred to me that I need to make full disclosure – I am a member of Cohere and I know Angel personally.
You can hear the full audio of the panel at the link at the bottom of this post.
In a nutshell what Angel said was this. She disagrees with the idea that coworking as a concept has to have a business model and has to have a business plan and has to be scalable and has to expand to encompass the universe (like Micro$oft has done). He position is that she is happy with Cohere being the size it is and she doesn’t feel the need to expand in size or make a ton of money. You can listen to her to make sure I didn’t misinterpret what she said.
I agree with this approach.
Here is how I look at it. First let me be clear that I do not hate capitalism. I am not a dope smoking socialist hippy who thinks we can solve problems and “fix the economy” by taxing (hating) rich people. I love capitalism. I love getting paid. I love making money. I love spending money. I love money. I love rich people. Rich people spend money.
What I don’t love is people who don’t know when to stop. Aristotle talks about this in depth in The Politics. He explains the difference between bringing in wealth to sustain the household and bringing in wealth simply for the sake of bringing in more wealth.
Too often businesses start to focus on bringing in more wealth simply to have more wealth as opposed to bringing in the wealth needed to sustain the household – or in this case the business. Profit is important. Profit is not everything.
Here is another way to look at it. In our society there is an expectation that individuals and companies continue to expand, or as the new buzzword is, “scale”. To be clear “expanding” or “scaling” is different from “growth” or “change” in the sense of evolution and adapting to circumstances and trying new things. Scaling means to become ever larger as an organization or to take on more responsibility as an individual in the sense that I am using it here.
Anecdote time. When I worked in the oil field we had a guy who drove the fuel truck. This guy was the best fuel truck driver you never saw. His truck was clean. His truck was maintained. He was always on time. He was never sick. The company kept trying to promote him. He would not take the promotions. He enjoyed driving and operating the fuel truck. That is what he wanted to do.
Management couldn’t figure this out. They were fucking baffled by this.
The way of management (and don’t get me started on what a joke “management” is) is to promote people until they fail. If you are good at taking out the trash we make you mail clerk. Then make you secretary. Then make you a salesman. Then make you a sales manager for the city. Then sales manager for the state. Then sales manager for the district. Then you fail. Because that’s too much.
And management tells you that you failed. Society tells you that you failed. You tell yourself that you failed. In fact you were wildly successful until you pushed (or were pushed) too far.
Businesses can do the same thing. Expand until they fail.
All individuals and organizations need to change and grow. Then don’t need to expand or “scale” (barf). Now if expanding and scaling fits your ecology by all means go for it. But don’t force it. That’s the important thing. Scale to your point of comfort and then have the intelligence and courage to stop there.
Angel doesn’t need to expand Cohere until it fails. Angel needs to run her business in a way that brings in enough wealth to sustain the household. And if she’s happy with that she can be happy with that. And if you think she’s wrong then I disagree.