With a shift towards an innovation-driven economy, fostering creativity on a daily basis is a crucial asset for people in organizations to collaborate, share knowledge, and solve complex problems. Coffee helps you to do so.
Creativity has always been at the core of doing business, but until now it has never been at the top of managers’ agenda. Creativity is essential to start a new business and sustain it in the long run. However, perhaps because it is by definition too hard to grasp or it doesn’t produce an immediate quantifiable payoff, it has never been the primary focus for most executives.
At least not until now, when a radical shift towards an innovation-driven economy has urged organizations of any size to nurture creativity daily, says this article on HBR. It’s a challenging task to nurture creativity and many organizations fail on this. Ask every creative person you know and they will tell you that the wrong type of environment can do nothing but inhibit people’s talent.
If your team have some difficult time to focus and produce the work they’ve been hired for, don’t despair!
Here’s some good news for you: Creativity could be cultivated with some good coffee and a well-curated location. Here’s my story.
Becoming the host of Likemind Helsinki
In 2012-13, I hosted Likemind Helsinki; a monthly morning coffee meet-up started originally in NYC then spread globally, which I had been a part of since 2011.
For as long as I can remember, I have been an admirer of Ray Oldenburg’s work, the author of The Great Good Place and Celebrating the Third Place, who first described the importance of “third places” like cafès, bookstores, and hair salons for the well-being of the individual and society at large. Since I trusted the validity of his theory, I was curious to explore the power of the third place within my own community.
“We are an open mixing place for the general public, but we are strongly committed to bringing together people who may not normally spend time together in the hope that they will become friends, seeking deeper relationships with each other and with the community. A sign I once saw in an old café window proclaimed, ‘There are no strangers here, just friends who haven’t met,’ and that pretty much captures what we’re about.” ―
When the former host resigned, I applied for the position. At the time when I became a host, our Helsinki community included a wide range of international creatives. Those were mostly freelancer, but also full-time employees. The attendance rate fluctuated, though. Sometimes we were a group of ten. Other times only three people. It wasn’t clear why people didn’t show up every month. I thought that one reason could have been that we were always meeting in the same place without any agenda, but I wasn’t sure. Nevertheless, shortly after, I decided to try out some new ideas to try to grow and engage the community.
Changing the monthly venue of Likemind Helsinki
To begin with, every month I chose a different café. I chose it based on a few criteria: the quality of the coffee, an environment with good vibes and purposefully thought through every detail, a convenient location for all participants, and the season we were in.
We visited almost every cafè, market square, and outdoor terrace in the center of Helsinki. We often returned where we had felt the most welcomed. I introduced themed breakfasts and invited some guest speakers over. Changing the venue every month worked well. In fact, the average monthly attendance increased.
However, at some point, I wondered if we could shake up things even more. Could I bring people from the coffee shop to private spaces like galleries, gardens, or bookshops? So, next month instead of meeting in a café, I invited my fellow Likeminders to meet at new co-working space (somewhat a new concept in Helsinki at that time) called Volga for “Likemind Helsinki goes Volga.”
Introducing “Likemind Helsinki goes Volga”
One morning in October over an uncomplicated, healthy packed breakfast, the Likemind Helsinki community joined me in a conversation with the resident creatives at Volga, a photographer, an architect, a visual artist, and some urban planners. We spent the morning learning about their work, exchanging ideas, and debating the recent urban developments in Helsinki as well as our intercultural experiences.
Being the host of Likemind has been an incredible ride. The informal atmosphere that was created allowed for the beginning of some professional collaborations and the start of lifelong friendships. Many of whom I call dear friends today were once members of the community of Likemind Helsinki. And completely beyond my expectations, the community grew +40% in size with peaks of over 20 attendees.
It’s been 5 years since I turned this experiment about “the third place” into a profession. And while I passed the baton to a new host a year after, that experience has been invaluable for the grounding of WE Factory.
What are your takeaways from this story?
Being the host of Likemind Helsinki, I’ve learned that people need to shift energy and perspective to be inspired. Today, “even in the most dynamic and healthy of office environments, it’s so easy to stagnate cognitively and physically at our desks,” as Justin Dauer observes in his first book Cultivating a Creative Culture. [read his interview here]
What to do then? Invite inspiring and interesting people to share their story and their journey. Explore the idea that work doesn’t necessarily happen in front of a laptop but it might happen if you go to a local coffee shop. “Likemind Helsinki goes Volga” succeeded because the unusual context sparked new ways to connect and collaborate. And both freelancers and employees started off their day with the opportunity to learn something new and be inspired.
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