Believe it or not, but last year I took part in 2 extremely interesting Coworking conferences: Coworking Europe (November 2016) and Coworking Unconference Asia (February 2017). I was the only Polish Coworking representative in both of them J. Well, in Asia there were 2 Polish there in total – me, and Kasia, who works on Bali :).
The experience was unique and very inspiring. Both events were absolutely great – perfect organization, great speakers, important topics and issues and the atmosphere you can only get within coworking community. So there were a lot of similarities. BUT – from my point of view there were also A LOT of differences. For me it was surprising and even funny. We are all the same and so unique at the same time.
Let me share with you my obvious or unobvious conclusions. I’m more than open for a discussion about them. As all general conclusions – they simplify (sometimes too much) some issues. But they have some pros too – for example, they help to put some things in a context.
Generally – all I’m writing below is based on single conference experience and Deskmag coworking data provided with a great accuracy by Carsten Foertsch.
- EARNING MONEY vs. IDEALISTIC DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS
The European Union, public funding and “old money” are game changers. In a world, without such leverages, the main concern is how to build sustainable coworking business. It was seen during those conferences. When in Europe we talked about cooperation, personal development, carbon footprint, and mission, in Asia majority of topics were much more down to earth: HR team building, lease agreements, new business opportunities, top 10 tools making the business easier etc… Result? Asian coworkings are much more often profitable!
What’s funny – Poland is much more Asian than European in this aspect. When we were inviting Polish coworkings to the first Polish coworking conference – Coworking Now!, they were interested only when we stressed business orientation aspect of our lectures and workshops.
- QUANTITY? QUALITY?
For a lot of European Coworking operators, only thinking about opening second/third location with fear and stress, it would be quite surprising that Asian managers start with 11 locations (Springboard) from the very beginning. Actually – it was shocking not only for Europeans. Indy Hall (USA) representative couldn’t imagine, how it is even possible. During Coworking Europe conference there was a special workshop about how not to lose personal touch and quality while opening new location – ONE new location :).
- CLOSED vs OPEN
This needs some introduction – due to Carsten Foertsch’s research, Asian coworkers get much less square meters for their workstation than French or Italian. Chinese Coworking movement speaker was telling about Asian private offices need – open space for native Chinese does not match their need of a clear horizontal hierarchy. At the very same time – there are a lot of like-Hubud-on-Bali coworkings in Asia, that are digital nomads oriented, which means much more open space than offices/ teams. So if we say “Asia prefers closed options” we don’t mean ALL Asian coworkings, we think about local entrepreneurs/ workers/ off-shore teams oriented ones. In Europe, this kind of place with a lot of private offices is hardly coworking. Openness, community, relations – those are main factors for European operators. It is seen both in unconference topics and networking discussions.
- OPERATORS vs FOLLOWERS
Another extremely interesting difference – who runs/opens/launches coworking. Singapore Coworking market specialists showed us quite interesting numbers – majority of spaces there were created and are run by… venture capitals. Purpose? Keeping all investments together, which is good for their and investors business. European conference participants are generally life and world change followers. They believe In the whole movement. They see the business and work have to evolve. They are coworkers.
- TIME-SAVING vs MENTORING
This was the most painful lesson for me – there is absolutely no interest in mentoring among Asian Coworking managers. I proposed mentoring oriented unconference topic – 4 persons arrived! 2 by accident J And I was competing with a yoga session, Regional Identity, and Rural Coworking stuff. Everything was much more interesting than mentoring. My session participants (Australian and Thai businessman) told me, that mentoring is considered to be a waste of time… Well – not in Europe. Half of unconference discussion themes there are somehow education/sharing knowledge related.
My biggest conclusion – quite unobvious. Poland is in Asia 🙂 Polish Coworking conference has to be much closer to Thai than Belgic. This is what we are planning next spring – the second edition of COWORKING NOW! the conference will be VERY business oriented!
Do you think the same? Or totally disagree? Let’s get in touch – and maybe meet in North or South America event! I would love to see those and compare!
Marta Moksa – marta.moksa@O4.network