February 2018, « Third Places and Coworking » by Sophie Boutillier

Emerging in the early 2000, the coworking movement, or collaborative workspace, emerged in San Francisco in the Californian universe of Web 2.0 and free software. The spaces of coworking are defined as “third places”, according to Oldenburg’s definition, which take place between the living space and the working space, as for example coffee shops or libraries where young innovative entrepreneurs meet to develop their project.

Thus the coworking would be a new mode of work organization based on a sharing working space, developed to promote exchanges and synergies between coworkers, and to promote innovation. The coworking is generally presented as a new revolution of work organization, as the Taylorist and Fordist revolutions at the beginning of the 20th century. While the worker of the 20th century was a robot-worker, placed in the incapacity to take initiatives, the worker of the 21th century would be creative, autonomous, flexible and responsible working in an open and collaborative space. Thus the spaces of coworking should be working spaces encouraging innovation under all its forms (product, process and organizational) in, a friendly working atmosphere, generally thanks to new technical tools, such as FabLabs and 3D printers.

These spaces of coworking can be created according three different ways: 1/ by local authorities who consider it a solution to push local economic activity, to create jobs and to promote entrepreneurship; 2/ by Schumpeterian entrepreneurs who have detected in this phenomenon a new entrepreneurial opportunity. In the media and in the Web, a lot of advertisings try to attract new coworkers thanks to low rents and user-friendly working spaces; 3/ by multinational firms, such as Microsoft, Google or Pepsi, which create in big cities free coworking spaces under an open innovation strategy, to pick up new ideas and innovations. So by these different ways, the creative capacity of coworkers is captured by big firms and Schumpeterian entrepreneurs.

Nevertheless, spaces of coworking do not attract only individuals with high capacity to innovate, but also individuals who are looking for a job, and who create by this way their job. In these conditions, synergic relations between coworkers do not exist. If coworkers can talk with each other about their projects in the cafeteria, the place of coworking gathers individuals with independent careers. In this context, synergic relationships do not exist.

What is, in these conditions, the creative and collaborative revolution announced? In reference to the system of louage during the 19th century, before the development of mass paid work, number of individuals are looking for a hypothetic employer, only technical tools are changed. The coworking spaces are multiplying around the world to attract the innovative capacity of some, while others, without paid job, create their own job. On the other side, Fordist enterprises always exist. This way of work organization has extended form industry activities to services activities since many years. Under the current productive system, the old and modern forms of work coexist, as well as the different means to capture the created value.

*Clersé, University of Littoral Côte d’Opale, France / Research Network on Innovation

January 2018, “Creative rationality and innovation”, by Joëlle Forest*

Since the last 15 years, financial support to innovation provided by public authorities, estimated today at ten billion euros, has been doubled in France. This support is extended to serve a national ambition that aims, on the one hand, to revive the economy and resume the path of prosperity in a context marked by growing international competitiveness and, on the other hand, a way of meeting the major challenges of our contemporary world (climate change, increasing scarcity of resources, health issues or the aging of the population). Unfortunately, we must mention that the multiplication of measures (we have apparently gone from around 30 support mechanisms in the 2000’s to 62 today) is not producing the expected results.

What then should be done to go beyond the stage of commanding innovation and to build an effective capability to innovate?

We will have to innovate in our way of thinking about innovation. More precisely, if, in 2014, 70.2% of the allocated state support related to the growth of private R&D capacities, it is because the conception of public policy in France is based on the linear innovation model inherited from J. Schumpeter. But this model has limits. The challenge is to think of innovation from its central process, namely the design process. Then it is possible to consider other possible means of action.

Adopting an artificialist perspective, the focus should be made on the creative rationality, which is the ability to bring together apparently distinct worlds, to find the unthinkable link between different actors like Johannes Gutenberg (the inventor of the printing press) or Bertrand Piccard (the father of the solar impulse project). Creative rationality is a form of thought that invites to knowledge crossing and leads to an adventurous transgression because the combination of knowledge belonging to different universes lead us away from the established norms and paradigms as it can be observe from numerous examples.

To move in this direction, the society must question the capacity of the educational system. The confusion between innovation and entrepreneurship is detrimental: our system is not conducive to knowledge crossing, or even “kills creativity” to quote Ken Robinson. It will then be necessary to rehabilitate creative rationality in the training for engineers. Such rehabilitation leads to the implementation of a “pedagogy of adventure”. It involves the indiscipline of students and teachings. Such pedagogy compels us to devise Human and Social Sciences that are not imported as such from universities, but become meaningful in engineering schools.

This book ends with raising the question of the extent to which the education system favors the deployment of creative rationality. After having caution against the risk of a harmful confusion between innovation and entrepreneurship and following the conclusion of an abundant litterature, this book explains how our education system harms the knowledge crossing and kills creativity to use the wording of sir Ken Robinson. Then the author strives towards the rehabilitation of creativity rationality in the training of engineers. Such rehabilitation leads to the implementation of a “pedagogy of adventure”. It involves the indiscipline of students and teachings. Such a pedagogy compels us to devise Human and Social Sciences that are not imported as such from universities, but become meaningful in engineering schools.

See: Joëlle FOREST, Creative Rationality and Innovation, Smart Innovation, London, Wiley, 2017 ; http://iste.co.uk/book.php?id=1246

This book dispels a number of myths surrounding innovation.

* University of Lyon, INSA Lyon


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