While this concept isn’t new, or proprietary to any city in particular, traditional and emerging creative spaces demonstrate a new vision of collaboration characterised by a default state of mind: openness.
All kinds of professionals, especially entrepreneurs, are adopting the lifestyle that until recently was only the preserve of freelancers and artists. With coworking spaces blooming at every corner and trendy coffee shop, anyone can follow in the footsteps of the nomadic entrepreneur. Whether or not this is the ideal lifestyle is a question open to debate, but the socio-cultural fascination it generates is, however, unquestionable. If in the 60s Madison Avenue symbolised the highest social and professional achievement, so then, does Silicon Valley and the growing tech hubs around the world today. Constantly the top of discussion, in every medium and every industry, entrepreneurship is the new paradigm for success.
Appearing to be ahead of the curve and with a utopian ambition of making the world a slightly better place, the entrepreneur is an inspiring figure, like an artist, in constant search of process, patterns and inspiration.
Artists being quite cliquey, there’s no surprise that entrepreneurs are too. The spaces they frequent can be seen as a reminiscent of early 1900s cafés littéraires, which play an equally important role as both social aggregators and information hubs. Although locations are important, it is the individuals who help shape a unique culture and atmosphere – an irreplicable community with its own social etiquette. French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu referred to these socialised norms of guiding behaviour and thinking habitus, and although each habitus is different depending on the physical space, the desire for collaboration is a recurring trait.
For example, coworking spaces and cafes designed for digital nomads usually encourage an interaction-based, laid-back atmosphere. But it’s the “regulars” who create the unique socio-cultural milieu. Although everyone is welcome, the space is not for everybody and has collectively accepted behavioural rules. Collaboration and community are highly valued. Coworkers are predisposed to talking to each other and exchanging skills, knowledge, ideas and contacts. Testing Alpha versions of apps, completing short surveys and actual ‘elevator pitches’ are the norm.
However, this high level of human interaction can be perceived as tiring, unproductive and even irritating. Just like coffee connoisseurs might describe Grande-Vanilla-Spiced-Caramel-Lattes as an insult to coffee culture, some entrepreneurs try to avoid the wantrepreneur-filled spaces in favour of more discrete environments where people work without necessarily interacting with each other. In these locations, the crowd is slightly different, the age group significantly higher and it’s more common to see successful minds engaging in more low-tech conversations. Either way, these types of spaces remain excellent for running into the exact people you need to by complete chance.
While social protocols in different spaces may vary, one fact is consistent: the social architecture is always more important than the physical one. The people frequenting these places are particularly open to creativity, new ideas, points of view and collaboration. Moreover, knowledge and networks are seen as free, exchangeable resources. Because anyone entering a space accepts certain underlying, and unspoken characteristics, they are surrounded with like-minded people with whom they can exchange useful information. It creates a sort of validated, networked knowledge, enabling them to save time and resources through simple conversation.
This openness, and fluid collaboration seems to be inherited from fundamental values of the digital age – information and knowledge can be infinitely combined, reconfigured and repurposed to build something new. This is the heart of Internet culture – programming frameworks, code, and interfaces are made to be open, shared and explored.
It’s a concept described by Maria Popova from Brain Pickings as ‘Combinatorial Creativity.’ It means that nothing is entirely original and everything builds on what has come before, “We create by taking existing pieces of inspiration, knowledge, skill and insight that we gather over the course of our lives and recombining them into incredible new creations. In order for us to truly create and contribute to the world we have to be able to connect countless dots, to cross-pollinate ideas from a wealth of disciplines, to combine and recombine these pieces and build [something] new.”
Although collaboration between industries might not be the newest behavioural observation, it’s tremendously exciting that professionals from entirely different backgrounds and sectors now have not only designated spaces for collaboration but also feel a unanimous and universal acknowledgment of the values of such collaborations.
One example of this is Mother at The Trampery, a coworking space in London designed to bring together the corporate, tech and design worlds. It’s not unusual to find architects, artists, drone startups, and makers of all kinds ideating with brilliant minds from Unilever and Coca-Cola over beer.
Marketing managers from Fortune 500 companies and two-person startups exchange visions of the future of retail, transport, and branding over coffee. There is a sense of kinship that everything and everyone matters, and that we all have something to bring to the table. Traditional hierarchies and structures are broken down, and celebrate the power of genuine, human, collaboration and combinatorial creativity.
Have a look at 5 hotspots for digital nomads here