Innovation Commons: Entrepreneurs need place, space and a good espresso

Among the many great outcomes of the recent BarCamp and Mesh conference binge was a coming together of like-minded young tech thought leaders and the creation of a new initiative – the Innovation Commons – “third spaces for Canada’s tech entrepreneurs”. A national network of community-based coworking spaces and cafes, catering to independent entrepreneurial and creative professionals. David Crow continues to lead the tech renaissance as the Executive Director of this effort:

What the heck is a third working space? Home = 1, Work = 2, cafe/other/InnovationCommons = 3. For many of us home and work are the same thing. Human beings are social animals. We thrive on the energy that comes from the collisions with other individuals. It’s the creative tension from differing view points. It’s the energy and excitement of BarCamp, mesh, and other events that we need to capture. The cafe lifestyle that begins to develop in urban environments. Why not provide a self-sustaining environment that facilitates, encourages, and fosters the energy and the people.

Boris is our Mann in Vancouver who got the ball rolling thanks to Bryght, Patrick Dinnen and Jevon MacDonald are on board. I have signed on, as have others. And we Canucks are connected to Silicon Valley coworking evangelist Chris Messina.

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Innovation and creativity, contrary to common belief, is not the lonely work of scientists in lab coats and the solitary artist in their studio. The creative process is influenced, inspired and taught by others. Knowledge is exchanged among peers and transferred from one generation to another. The social nature of innovation is critical to those seeking to commercialize their creations and ideas. The innovators of the future need “third places” – not home, not the office – places where the amazing creative energy of DemoCamp, BarCamp and Mesh happens on a daily basis among passionate communities of practice. Places where work gets done, ideas developed, knowledge exchanged, companies formed and social capital built.

Entrepreneurs. Artists. Marketers. Developers. Designers. People doing interesting things. People willing to teach and willing to learn. Passionate people.

Government and large companies are struggling with how to capture and develop these most ineffable qualities – creativity and innovation. Creativity cannot be engineered. It is not built on an assembly line. In the new global competition for creativity and innovation, the winners will be based in communities – both local and global, geographic and professional – that can create environments that are supportive of their creative process and allow the best and brightest to emerge. This presents a serious collective action problem: who will invest the human and financial capital to build the community and protect it from being co-opted by narrow private interests?

Innovation Commons and Coworking are emerging as lightweight yet powerful meta-innovations: innovations that support innovation. Inspired by the ideals of community, supported by sustainable business models, driven by passionate young leaders, influenced by the economics of open source software, this is exactly the right innovation at exactly the right time. Watch or join the revolution. Innovation Commons will be a nonprofit organization, and the business model will be published under a Creative Commons license. Open, community-driven and networked.

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