What can coworkers learn from the world of biology?

Anelia Heese is a Community Manager at Inspire9, one of Melbourne’s thriving coworking spaces. We asked her to share with us why she loves coworking.

Australia is experiencing an era of fast paced innovation which is a changing the way we work, live and learn. The business world is reflecting these changes, many having launched their own startup funds, independent startup divisions, or moved their teams into coworking environments.

This concerted effort has led to startup terminology being adopted in the everyday vernacular of the business world. Nevertheless, startup jargon can sound confusing and obscure to outsiders: ‘Incubators’, ‘startup ecosystems’, ‘failing fast’, ‘growth hacking’, ‘seed funding’, ‘proximity development’, ‘ripe for disruption’ – a true buzzword minefield.

Look closely at the terms listed above – they’re closer to biology than the mechanical engineering that inspired well-known business terminology since the Industrial Revolution.

There’s a reason the startup world borrows so much of its terminology from biology. Innovation, the driving force behind the world’s most disrupting and successful startups, often happens organically. And just like the natural environment impacts the type of ecosystem that thrives in it, so does a physical office environment that influences people who work within it.

photo of people having coffee meetingd

I work as a Community Manager at Inspire9, Melbourne’s original co-working space for startups, freelancers and creatives. The decommissioned Australian Knitting Mill building, with its high ceilings, open plan layout and two hundred windows that bathe 700m2 of wooden floorboards in natural light, is currently home to over 70 different companies. You can find anything fromtravel technology, IT developers, lifestyle copywriting, sustainable energy solutions, to education platforms, psychologists, art curators and smoothie companies.

How does such a diverse group of companies and individuals – with their dogs, music, table tennis, weekly yoga sessions and camping trips – ever get the chance to get some work done, let alone collaborate? How can this chaos ever lead to something that becomes the next Facebook, Airbnb or Uber?

One of Melbourne’s most prominent startup success stories, CultureAmp, started right here under Inspire9’s roof. After attending a conference, Didier Elzinga was invited to dinner by fellow speaker, Tom Howard. Tom is the co-founder of Melbourne startup Adioso, one of the very early bright stars that made it into the coveted Y-combinator, a Silicon Valley based accelerator program.

desk in open plan office with whiteboard on brick wall in the background

When the two other guests, Jon Williams and Doug English discovered that Didier was working from home, they encouraged him to join them at the newly-found coworking space, Inspire9.

For six months, Didier sat side-by-side at Inspire9 with Doug and Jon, and shared the struggles and hardships of respective businesses. Finally, someone suggested the crazy but inevitable: that they should join forces. Doug English, Jon Williams and Didier Elzinga became the cofounders of CultureAmp, a startup that has grown from eight to 100 staff in the past two years, raised two rounds of funding and are helping hundreds of companies create a better day at work for their employees with their SAAS engagement and culture pulse checking tools.

My position at Inspire9 provides me with the amazing opportunity to see a journey similar to Didier’s on a daily basis.

People come into our space with their ideas and their willingness to have a go. During a potluck lunch, a game of table tennis or over a beer at Friday Night Drinks, they meet someone they’d like to collaborate with. Ideas are shared, people connect. It’s true that some ventures fail, but some also succeed.

Again, there is something we can learn from the seemingly chaotic interplay in biological systems, in that all parts are all interconnected. This high level of interconnectedness forms the basis of a thriving community. This community, in turn, defines the “culture of innovation”.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Melbourne’s Coworking community check out the Coworking Tours being held daily throughout MKW17.