The Fifth Age of Work and Free Coworking

Veröffentlicht am 13. November 2013 von Felix Schürholz in Kategorie: CoWorking Basics, Konzeptionelles, CoWorking Kultur, CoWorking News International, Creative Environments, Entrepreneurship, kleine Unternehmen, Gesellschaftliches, New Work, New Life | Trackback URL | Zur Diskussion

The Fifth Age of Work Andrew Jones (Large)

The book “The Fifth Age of Work: How Companies Can Redesign Work to Become More Innovative in a Cloud Economy” by Andrew M. Jones is out now. Thanks to an advance copy provided by Genevieve DeGuzman of Night Owls Press, I am able to write a short review and put the book into perspective with regards to the most important trend I see in Coworking at the moment: Free Coworking

In his book, Andrew M. Jones looks at the past, present and future of work. Based on the framework of Nigel Nicholson of the London Business School in his book “Managing the Human Animal“, Jones postulates a Fifth Age of Work, following the four described by Nicholson. According to Jones the Fifth Age of Work is characterized largely by three factors:”…the technological underpinnings of the cloud, the growing cloud of talented, independent freelancers, and new ideas about working on the cloud…”.

The book is written as “a wake-up call” for managers of larger companies that are still holding on to a more traditional organizational model. Jones sees the move from a Fourth Age of Work to a Fifth Age of Work as a “design challenge”. He argues by focussing on three design elements (talent, workspace and licence) this workplace innovation is “doable”.

In his book Jones offers many examples of companies that have already embarked successfully on this journey, like 3M, W.L. Gore & Associates and Herman Miller.

By engaging in practices like: More creative licence, increasing choice and flexibility for employees, “Activity Based Work”, ROWE (Results Only Work Environment), “anytime, anywhere” work programs etc. Jones provides some evidence that companies cannot only save a lot of money in terms of real estate but also gain a more productive and engaged workforce.

Now many people might ask themselves what all this has got to do with coworking and free coworking in particular?

According to Jones:” On the freelancer side of the equation, we have seen the explosive growth in work movements such as coworking, Jelly meetings, and numerous dynamic startup scenes…”. Coworking for Jones is:”…in many ways….a living embodiment of these new Fifth Age values among workers: both the desire for autonomy, on the one hand, and the penchant for seeking out communities of like-minded people to work with, on the other.”

People, who read this blog regularly, know that I am a strong advocate and activist for free coworking. I was therefore very intrigued to read what Jones wrote about the Zappos work innovation that I mentioned in my article in May. Jones sees it as follows:”…at the extreme end of the Fifth Age corporate continuum sits Zappos, one of the first companies to experiment with large-scale corporate coworking.” He writes further:”Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has committed $350 million so far to the Downtown Project…and has advocated for a vision of transforming “downtown Las Vegas into the most community-focused large city in the world.”"Part of this vision includes coworking, and Zappos aspires to make downtown Las Vegas the “coworking capital of the world.”

In the Fifth Age of Work, Jones makes a strong case for corporate and sponsored coworking, both facets of what I see as free coworking. “Given that most members of coworking spaces are freelancers who are often seeking new projects, there is a natural and logical fit in pairing coworking spaces with companies.”….”While some coworking spaces already have relationships with local employers and firms,…most coworking spaces still remain a relatively untapped resource for creative talent for most big companies”.

While I think this is largely true there is another point that I believe should be stressed and developed in this context.

Coworking Spaces are what I would call “Centers of Development & Testing”. The term development in this context not only refers to the development of  products, services and businesses, but also to the personal development of coworkers and their careers. By the same token, testing in this context refers to testing of products and services for example for other or larger companies as well as testing of personal business ideas and testing of personal career opportunities.

With the book “The Fifth Age of Work” Andrew M. Jones has written an invitation to bridge the gap between companies and individual freelancers in the time of the cloud. The “Fifth Age of Work” frees the worker from old and traditional modes of work. Now and with more companies joining, people receive a licence to work, where and when they work the best. This is where I see free coworking and I hope that the book by Andrew M. Jones will encourage more companies and coworkers to engage in all the different forms of free coworking.

 

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