Young Upstarts

All about entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, ideas, innovation, and small business.

What Corporations Can Learn from Coworking Spaces

By Liz Elam, founder/curator of Link Coworking

I don’t have anything bad to say about my time in Corporate America.  I will tell you that I now enter my work day excited to go greet my members and provide a place for them to get their work done, whatever it maybe.

I like to call myself a Curator and I’ll tell you why – it’s because I’m a keeper of a collection.

Design your space for people not numbers.

I have meticulously designed a space that not distracting and yet beautiful in its simplicity. I took all the meeting rooms and pushed them up against the wall and left the windows open for viewing the beautiful courtyard. I arrange the work areas so that most all seats can take advantage of the view and don’t get glare on their screen. I put plugs all over the place so that no one would ever have to look for them. Whenever possible I bring the plug up so that no one needs to crawl around the floor.  I bought chairs that were designed for an office environment so that people would feel comfortable all day. I probably have more density than a typical office building but people don’t feel stacked on top of each other.

I have lots of choices for people you can work at a desk or you can work in a lounge chair, it’s up to you. I also change the configuration of the furniture on a regular weekly basis. It keeps the space fresh and keeps people from getting in a rut. I also sprinkle the space with whimsical items to make people laugh, pause or smile.

Foster collaboration.

As the Curator, I take the time to introduce members to each other and assist them in finding common ground. People are actually looking for a reason to connect and will delight in finding that connection. We provide an internal email system for them to post, connect and collaborate. You’ll find everything from very technical questions to cars for sale.

We also hold events that help people to learn about each other. We recently introduced the 2N2 – members get up at a happy hour and they have 2 minutes and 2 slides to tell the community who they are. Once members feel comfortable around each other the magic starts to happen. People hire each other. People advise each other. People encourage each other. People recommend things to each other. Stop sending your people to their homes, the place that should be their personal haven – give them an alternative workplace where they can soar.

Nothing, absolutely nothing can replace face to face.

I’ve heard Andrea Bocelli on a CD but 2 nights ago I paid to see him live and it was worth every penny. I’ve seen pictures of Michelangelo’s David but I remember distinctly, like it was yesterday, when I stood in awe and took his beauty in with a gasp.  Phone calls and videos are not the same as being with a person. You miss key visual cues and narcissist like me are continually distracted by our own image on the screen.

People need to meet and meeting in the home is creepy.  Meeting in the coffee shop is loud and lacks any privacy.  Make is easy for your people to meet not only with clients but with one another. As we bring out more and more ways to connect digitally the real value will become more and more in the places where people can connect physically (get your mind out of the gutter).

So, I Curate my space.  I invite people to a beautiful place to connect, collaborate and get done whatever it is they need to get done – you should too.


Liz Elam is the founder/curator of Link Coworking, which has been featured in the New York Times and listed among Inc. Magazine’s “16 Cool Coworking Spaces.” She’s also a primary curator of the Global Coworking “Unconference” Conference taking place March 8, 2012, just prior to South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.

This is an article contributed to Young Upstarts and published or republished here with permission. All rights of this work belong to the authors named in the article above.

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  • Jerrold McGrath

    Great article. A big part of my role is to go out to client locations and sell them on innovation or creativity as a cultural piece and I can’t help but look around the spaces they’ve created for themselves and judge just how easy or hard it will be to make the change they want to see. 

    I spent five years working in Japan and I often miss the open spaces. In fact, when I was working on contract for Denso, I met a young man who had just started. When I asked him what he did there, he said that he didn’t know yet. So I asked him where his desk was and he told me that he didn’t have one, he just wandered around helping out where he could. This is a very different conception of space than I see in Canada and I’m curious as to the potential benefits of working in different ways.