Coworking is a commodity. It is a race to the bottom.

I read  “A case against ‘free trial coworking‘” by Alex Hillman from IndyHall and it reminded why I can’t relate to the coworking movement.  I purposefully use the word collaborative workspace when talking about Gangplank because implying that there is a coworking component is a misleading comparison.

Coworking claims to be trans-formative and future thinking.  Changing how people work and think about work, but in reality it is a lie.  It highlights independence of the worker, but still structures itself on old economy models of thinking.

Don’t believe me?  Let’s examine a single phrase from this article to highlight the point.

‘..it’s unwise in an early stage business to give ANYTHING away that you wouldn’t otherwise charge for..’

That is conventional wisdom.  That if you give something away it costs what you gave. The more you have the less I have.  The more I share the more I lose.  This is a dying model.  Repackaging it as a revolution by telling the participants they have ‘independence’ is disingenuous.

The truth is charging for space turns the relationship into a transaction and destroys the ability for real community to flourish.  Coworking is a commodity.  It is a race to the bottom.

At Gangplank we choose to give our space away for free.  All the time, not just on a trial basis. When you give something away, you benefit more than the recipient does.  The act of being generous makes you rich beyond measure, and as the goods or services spread through the community, everyone benefits.  Giving space as a gift with no reciprocity allows us to experiment and create.  We seek to help people be dangerous and challenge the status quo. It’s not for everyone, but it’s how we see the world and we hope to help the right people change their view of the world and how they contribute back to it.  We want to give them the gift of finding the creator within themselves.

Metro Phoenix has been hit harder than most during this recession.  We feel that giving to the community freely let’s us all prosper more quickly.  It increases the quality of bond between our members and ultimately strengthens our community.  It leaves an obligation for our members to help the next person.  The gift creates a surplus as it spreads and ultimately gives us joy.

The argument we always hear is ‘Some one has to pay for it.  You can’t run a space for free’.  The truth is if you were remarkable you would find a way to give it away for free.

The reason Gangplank is hard to quantify is because its worth something more than we could ever charge in rent.

6 thoughts on “Coworking is a commodity. It is a race to the bottom.

  1. Word,
    I catch myself using collaborative workspace now more and more.. nice we finally found something to call it that makes sense :)

  2. so wait, i am confused. is gangplank a coworking space or not?

  3. Briney: No, Gangplank is not a coworking space. It’s a collaborative workspace.

  4. Thanks, Derek, for putting down these principles so eloquently! Twelve-step programs have understood these ideas since 1937, but they are just now percolating through the rest of society: “You can’t keep it if you don’t give it away.”

  5. Nicely done.
    Big fan of you guys.
    Not just a fan of what you do, but WHY you do it.

  6. Well said. I’ve heard this mentioned before (cowork vs collaborate) and this explains the reasoning behind the distinction very well.