Crowdsource Your Next Water Cooler Chat
By Peter A. Bacevice
Just in time for Labor Day weekend, we’re celebrating work with a guest post by Peter A. Bacevice, Senior Consultant at DEGW. Pete is an expert on how people work and learn, and the kinds of environment that support these pursuits.
Fascinated and want to learn more? Book a day at DEGW’s ‘cube to check out the workplace consultancy in action and to ask Pete your questions in-person.
I just finished reading a fascinating new book called Networked: The New Social Operating System. In exploring the profound changes in social architecture stemming from the rapid rise of social media, the authors identify a concept they label networked individualism. The hallmark of this concept – they write – is that “people function more as connected individuals and less as embedded group members.” To understand what this means, think about how many of our daily routines are characterized by participation in a variety of social domains – different groups of friends, work, school, other creative projects, and family. Our participation across multiple intersecting and diverging domains enriches us, but the flurry of rapidly changing activity can also be fatiguing and, paradoxically, isolating. That is, people are increasingly shirking traditional strong tie, close-knit networks and organizational relationships in favor of more fluid loose-tie communities.
Many creative and entrepreneurial workers are abandoning traditional organizations and embracing the flexibility of networked individualism by immersing themselves in a variety of projects and endeavours across similarly crosscutting domains. In doing so, they are leveraging a new sort of professional support community – one that essentially crowdsources the traditional water cooler conversation and co-worker support.
Speaking from experience as a Loosecubes host, it is fascinating to see this new paradigm unfold in my office. I work as a senior consultant at DEGW in New York’s burgeoning NoMad neighborhood where my colleagues and I have regularly hosted Loosecubers since April 2012 – welcoming them to our coffee counter and water cooler for quick chats or lunch time project shares. We have met an array of interesting people pursuing a wide range of activities – writing screenplays, writing code, managing corporate real estate, designing fashion, launching Africa’s largest film company, and marketing products to raise money for marriage equality and human rights.
This network of talented and creative individuals is self-organizing into a real community that is nurtured through openness and mutual trust. In doing so, Loosecubers and hosts are redefining the norms around how work happens and what it means to be supported across professional and social boundaries. People are no longer defined by where they work. Their passions and the communities through which they pursue those passions are increasingly defining our professional lives. Communities like Loosecubes are giving networked individuals a shared identity and signalling a level of mutual commitment and support around work and professional pursuits.
As Labor Day approaches, recommit yourself to discovering meaning in your work and join a fellow Loosecuber to share in that discovery.