The Coworking Revolution

The Corworking Revolution - Matthew Dunstan

If there is one book to buy about dynamic working on your own, it is “The Co-Working Revolution”. A bit of bias confession here. The author Matt Dunstan is, for all intents and purposes, my spiritual soul mate in the dynamic working enlightenment. He and I worked together at Microsoft when the new world of work was emerging empowered by digital tools and connectivity. We were the pioneers of pushing the boundaries at Thames Valley Park. Among other changes to our work practices and habits, our Server Business Group threw out the cubicles and introduced a range of flexible work furnishings in our space (only after a significant tussle with finance and facilities). Matt and I quickly observed the enhancements to the quality of work and work life. When both of us had had enough of the old school Ballmer/Turner regime downward spiral, our new careers were punctuated by evangelism for these new approaches to working. My crusade was Dynamic Work looking more at the organisational level, but Matt’s was “Coworking” looking more at the individual level.

Matt’s book itself is an impressive piece of writing. Short and conversational enough to be an easy read, but substantive enough to provide countless of insights. Every chapter includes poignant anecdotes, summary bullet points and short checklist tables to aid people in using the material.

His introduction outline provides a useful overview of what you’ll find inside…

  • Use different workspaces to:
    • ‘Go to work’ at the start of the day and ‘come home’ again
    • Remove distractions of hom
  • Co-work with others to:
    • Help you stay motivated during the day
    • Find professional, social interaction
    • Share wins and knocks
    • Network more effectively to create growth for one another
  • Build a team around you to:
    • Create accountability for tasks and goals you set each week
    • Tap into each other’s expertise to solve business challenges quickly
    • Bounce ideas off each other and get feedback

Some of my favourite quotes…

  • “It’s not about the [work] space; it’s about the people and what you do together.”
  • “Understand the activities that create a state of flow for us and build those into our schedule for the day.”
  • “Competitive threats from your co-working colleagues are generally more perceived that real.”

Anyone interested in building “Corporation Me”, even if on part time avocational basis, should pick up a copy.

Dynamic Manoeuvres

Poppies in the wind


Armistice Day today celebrates the contributions and sacrifices of men and women in uniform whose own extraordinary experiences bring insight and perspective to our ordinary lives. The crucible of the battlefield tests principles at the extremes that we can apply in more peaceful contexts. Perhaps literal life and death is not on the line, but financial and emotional survival can be at stake facing the challenges of everyday life and business.

One of the seminal works on battlefield insight is Robert Greene’s, 33 Strategies of War. In it he espouses the dynamic approach to flexibility and versatility…

Understand, in life as in war, nothing ever happens just as you expect it to. People’s response are odd or surprising, your staff commits outrageous acts of stupidity, on and on. If you meet the dynamic situations of life with plans that are rigid, if you think of only holding static positions, if you rely on technology to control any friction that comes your way, you are doomed: events will change faster than you can adjust to them, and chaos will enter the system.”

Without Hot Air

Without Hot Air

One of the three core drivers to Dynamic Work is Environmental especially through the carbon footprint reduction of reduced commuting and business travel. Anyone who takes a serious interest in this side must read the definitive work on the energy calculus (which being primarily hydro-carbon fed is also directly proportionate to carbon impact), must read the definitive, authoritative, objective and comprehensive analysis ‘Without Hot Air.’ It breaks through the myths of the Green movement and Establishment intransigents. It is the Rosetta Stone of the cacophonous eco-debate.

If one really wants to understand the simple, cold numbers about energy production and consumption, current and potential, in the world today, it is the definitive, objective work. It puts into perspective all of the various components of ‘greening’ one life. It takes no issue with people who want to do every little thing to help, but in the concept of broader strategy and policy, it makes the compelling point that scale and perspective are essential. One can be penny-wise and pound foolish. One can expend lots of energy and focus on low yield initiatives (or even counter productive ones), when certain other initiatives deliver much bigger gains. Author David MacKay contradicts the common refrain of activists who say ‘every little helps’. He asserts, the reality is that ‘every big helps.’

In this fully objective, very comprehensive catalogue of energy outgoings by worldwide society, the second biggest use of energy is car travel. Car travel, especially in the context of commuting and other business travel, is a major benefit to Dynamic Work where workers’ activities are more closely aligned to ‘where they are available.’

Tomorrow’s Work

Tomorrows World - Working Families

I have been supporting the Working Families organisation for a number of years as a ‘Changemaker’ member. The mission of the organisation is so completely aligned with particularly the social benefits of Dynamic Work. The group “helps children, working parents and carers and their employers find a better balance between responsibilities at home and work.” Their latest publication is ‘Tomorrow’s World’ which takes a forward perspective on trends and directions in the industry to help firms prepare and adapt for the changing environment and challenges.

The publication also features a piece which I contributed titled “Top 10 Myths of Flexible Working”. I’ll feature one of the ‘myths’ here as a taster…

“Myth #4 – People abuse it to skive off.” Actually, in the flexible work environment the more pervasive problem that actually transpires is not people doing to little work, but actually doing too much – the ‘crackberry’ syndrome of not knowing when to turn off. While some eager managers might welcome this 24/7 productivity, it does require managing and tempering. It can be a simple problem to moderate with some coaching. One of the key changes to adopting flexible working is having a management-by-objective (MBO) culture. Look at more areas to manage performance based on outcomes and the ‘how’ of the work becomes much more versatile.”

I was discussing this particular myth with a several partners recently and they concurred with the upshot. One noted that there were poor performers who abused the system in the current conventional working environment and they just shift their tactics in a new, flexible environment. Another noted that it is not the environment or even the pretence of supervision or discipline that pre-empts abuse, but rather motivation. In the world of ‘knowledge’ work. At worst, someone can be sat at their desk all day watching YouTube (And if your IT department filters out the obvious websites, then they find others. And if the IT department switches off the Internet entirely, then it really is very difficult to do most professional jobs in this day and age). At best, someone can be staring at a screen and not thinking productive thoughts, but thinking about the footie, last night at the pub or whatever. The point is that just keeping an eye on someone sitting at a desk is a pretty outdated and ineffectual means of optimising productivity and effectiveness.  Flexible work can be a catalyst to introducing not just enhancements to work life, but also enhancements to management effectiveness.

And What Do You Do

And What Do You Do

As I have posted previously, Katie Ledger’s concept of ‘Portfolio Working’ is sort of the flip-side, supply-side version of ‘Dynamic Working’ but from the staff perspective. Dynamic Work looks at how a company is more flexible with its resources such as staff. Portfolio Work looks at how a person (staff) is more flexible with its incomes such as employment for a company. From the ‘SOA’ metaphor, Katie’s concepts are ‘loose coupling of compute resources’ in action in the human world of endeavour. Now Katie has teamed up with Barrie Hopson to structure, elaborate and colour this world that she has explored and lived for many years.

Corporates have long known the benefits of having multiple suppliers, securing diverse revenue streams and building a portfolio of assets that play to their strategic strengths. This book is a must read for people who want to apply these same principles to their personal lives for careers that are rewarding both financially and personally.

The official launch is 19th November in London which I won’t miss. If any of my readers are particularly interested in this area, I have access to a few invitations to the launch which I am happy to share out on a first come, first serve basis.

Tired Dragons

Edwin Lynn Tired Dragons

In honour of Father’s Day, I thought I would pay homage to an inspiration of my father, Rev. Edwin Lynn, to my interest in Dynamic Working. Dynamic use of spaces where people come together must be in my genes. You see, 36 years ago, decades before carbon concerns, economic crises and intensified pressures of two income families, my father, wrote a book called ‘Tired Dragons’, subtitled ‘Adapting Church Architecture to Changing Needs.’

His introduction could just as readily describe the increasingly outdated fixed and fractured workspaces in outdate office buildings where so many labour every day…

“Once upon a time there were church structures built with dignity, sustained by belief, and strengthened with community purpose. Many of these structures are today’s tired dragons, their energies spent, their fire nearly extinguished, their tails drooping.”

His words on the simple seating in the church could have been taken out of a business justification for removing all the fixed desks in our office (something my team and a number of units at Microsoft has instituted).

“In the context of order, pews have taken on a theological importance. Their symmetry symbolizes the desired order–not the extreme social order of the pew renters and purchasers of colonial times but the order of religious tradition. However, to sit securely in the pews, smugly oblivious with present changes is inconsistent with a revitalized, meaningful religious belief. Architects have created fancy building shapes and spectacular roof structures, clergymen have inspired changing worship forms. Nevertheless, congregations have refused to change their attitudes, and their immobile seats confirm their rigidity. The obstacles are difficult to overcome. Until the rigid pew structure is changed, the church will not substantially alter its present course. The pews are where the people are, and unless they are willing to alter their patterns, there is little hope for the tired dragons. This does not mean that by destroying all pews we would have a revitalized church; it only means as long as pews are worshiped, there is little hope for a relevant church.”

In the world of Dynamic Work, as long as desks and cubicles remained fixed in place, there is little hope for a ‘relevant’ business.

Free Agent Nation

Seth Godin Tribes

Seth Godin’s latest book ‘Tribes’ offers up a passionate plea for more dynamic work fuelled by the initiative of pervasive and distributed ‘leadership’ for change.

“Organisations are more important than ever. It’s the factories we don’t need.”

I like the quote because it provides an important point of clarity to his radical proposal. Too often, in fact often with the concept of ‘Dynamic Work’ here, people misinterpret that a call for dramatic change is a call for complete change. To go from one extreme to another. With Dynamic Work, people interpret that it’s all about taking everyone out of the office and going to home working. That is not the case. The ‘office’ still can be a useful tool in modern business (as ‘organisation’ are in Godin’s vision) and not all work that leaves the ‘office’ goes to the ‘home’ (it can go to lots of other places as well).

Godin offers up a trove of insights about Leadership (though not Management), communication, motivation and other essentials for driving a dynamic business built on new principles of community, customer co-creation and employee empowerment.

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