Crowdsourcing and coworking. Two words that sound similar and are indeed connected. Related to alternative work methods, coworking and crowdsourcing allow groups to join together to solve problems and create business value. This article attempts to defines these trends and explores the ways in which they are connected.
Many independent professionals dream of having their own office for conducting business with employees, partners and customers. As is often the case, reality sets in and we discover that negotiating a lease as well as hiring a realtor, lawyer and subcontractor could put us out tens of thousands of dollars.
The alternative? Starbucks or Tully’s. Being able to meet with colleagues, grab a cup of coffee and perhaps check email while on the go is a great way to get business done and stay productive. The coffee shop option can work, provided that your meeting topic is conducive to the location. For example, it may be a great place to discuss ongoing projects, but may not be suitable for a first time meeting with a client or potential investor.
A new option that is gaining momentum is coworking. Coworking combines the benefits of a traditional office with the coffee shop model. The idea is that you come to work each day (to an actual office), but work in cubicles, small workstations or desks like you would at a coffee shop. Coworking allows you to network and connect with like-minded individuals, allowing you to share common interests and potentially share resources. The fact that each worker represents a different company or interest actually strengthens the network, allowing groups to form that represent various backgrounds and experiences.
The term “crowdsourcing” relates to large groups that are organized to solve a specific problem. Mentioned frequently in relation to Web 2.0, crowdsourcing is often associated with other terms like “mass collaboration”. The crowdsourcing model can been seen in many Web 2.0 applications currently being used to today such as Wikipedia and Joint Contact.
Building on the idea of a traditional printed encyclopedia, Wikipedia solves the problem of content management and creation by permitting anyone (anywhere) to contribute to its online archives. An enthusiastic volunteer force of contributors provides not only an adequate number of topics to rival Encyclopedia Britannica, but redefines our notion of an informational resource by providing a number of unique and diverse subjects.
Joint Contact also supports the crowdsourcing model by allowing groups to create documents, tasks, discussions and other items related to project management. Joint Contact solves the problem of information management, allowing professional groups to build supportive models that foster communication and collaboration.
Making the connection
Crowdsourcing and coworking provide tremendous benefits to the small business community. Under a coworking model, individuals who have complementary skills can work together to answer questions, provide different points of view and create value. As mentioned, the benefit of gaining different perspectives when faced with a problem are usually better than working in isolation.
Crowdsourcing relates to coworking in that both groups (virtual and physical) are likely to produce more than if they where to work independently. For example, conducting an in-person project review meeting will always produce diverse and interesting results. In some cases, more questions may be produced than answers which may result in your project taking a new and unanticipated direction.
Social networking websites like LinkedIn represent the coworking model in the virtual world. One example of this concept is through the use of LinkedIn’s “Answers”. Using Answers, people submit questions to the LinkedIn community that may be related to business, marketing, technology or human resources. Under this crowdsourcing model thousands of people instantly access this information, allowing them to respond, contribute and add value.
Lastly, both models allow small business owners to benefit from economies of scale, allowing entrepreneurs to reduce their monetary cost by spreading any expenses with their peers. Surprisingly, crowdsourcing and coworking are based on a similar pricing model, if cost does become a factor. In small business, this provides great flexibility as circumstances often change.
Even though coworking is not a definitive technology, it can be associated some of the most widely adopted technology concepts and services available.