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Why Social Interaction Will Save Us: Coworking and Social Force

Groundwork art opening

Dear friends, there is enough love.

Let’s be honest, today’s presidential inauguration was one of the biggest moments of social awkwardness in recent history. Some of us are dragging around like it’s the dawn of the apocalypse while others are celebrating a new era of radical change. Trying to navigate between these seemingly alien viewpoints generates inhibition, uncertainty, and mistrust. I watched many folks at Groundwork! tune into the inauguration live stream, earbuds in place, lost in thought. What happens next?

Leadership and Social Force

I spent two days this week in a leadership retreat with a local program called Leadership SouthCoast. Full disclaimer: I’m a total nerd when it comes to things like leadership skills and team building. So I was really into it. As part of this program I was introduced to the concept of social force. To paraphrase: we can exert positive or negative forces on each other through our social interactions. When we are aware of our social force and we use it for a positive outcome, it becomes leadership. Super simple, right?

So it got me thinking about Groundwork, because almost everything goes back to Groundwork for me. I thought about how coworking spaces are really physical spaces that produce social interaction. I feel pretty confident saying that social interactions increase greatly for our members while they are within the bounds of our space.

Which means that we are amplifying their opportunities for leadership.

Social Interaction will Save Us

I spent a good number of years living in South America. Developing economies are less efficient. You have to do old-fashioned errands all the time, and this generates social interaction. When I returned to the United States, I realized that a byproduct of our increasingly efficient and automated lives is that we can accomplish a lot without having to leave the house, never mind engaging in a conversation.

We spend less time interacting and more time consuming. This diminishes our opportunities for leadership.

Efficiency, automation, and screens are not going to go away, so we need to be intentional about creating spaces to interact. And while I do believe in the power of coworking, I don’t believe it will save the world alone. From the humble corner store, to local taverns and book clubs, we all need to nurture and support the spaces that allow us to be human.

Will you show up?

A cursory session of Facebook research revealed that many people I met at Leadership SouthCoast do not share my political views. Nor do many of the people who show up at Groundwork! every day.

But we are all so much more than who we voted for. We are so much more than the memes we post on Facebook.

Can we show up with authenticity? Can we fight for our own views while truly loving and appreciating others? This is our test in the coming years. I’m looking forward to bumping into you, in the real carbon world, with all of your complexity.

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