Co-working in Silicon Valley: buzz word or one of the differentiators for creativity?

Every visit to companies in San Francisco and Silicon Valley has given us the opportunity to get a feel and touch about the way people work together. This is not only mentioned in every presentation with pride, it is also made visible by the presenters in all locations we have visited in those days. What is the essence of this form of collaboration and how does this make a difference.


Our first meeting was organized in one of many “Peerspaces” you will find in the Bay area: these are rooms that can be rented by people who don´t have meeting rooms or office facilities. They are easy to book, all very functional, some with separate meeting rooms, quiet rooms and open spaces, coffee and relax areas, just good places to talk, work, share and ideate.


In Techshops, you will find the ideal infrastructure for building up technical or handy-craft products and solutions. The space has everything you might not be able to afford when you start up your own business, from technical tools and instruments of recent technology (e.g. 3D printers) up to helping and teaching hands by the staff members. What specifically fosters co-working are the cozy coffee places, different smaller or open space rooms, hipster furniture and settings that all inspire for creativity and networking. There is a blend of all kind of industries and skills you will find here (from working metal and wood to sewing and painting) – an ideal set-up to nourish interdisciplinary thinking and doing.


Startups and young companies are located in open space lofts with all kind of design elements, from paintings and sculptures to cool and hip gadgets, small niches with sofas and matrasses and curtains to take some creative rest. This easy-going atmosphere does not refrain people from hard working, on the contrary it fosters a flexible, open way of teaming and let people feel at ease.

But looking also at established companies like SAP and Google, you will encounter Open Space offices as the standard, with flexible seating and meeting settings, colorful furniture, walls you can write or paint on, niches with snacks and drinks all over the place. People work in a friendly and open atmosphere and team up. In global project teams they use simple approaches to stay connected: at SAP they have a wall with the clocks and working times of all geos involved, (US, Europe, Asia) and photos of every single project team member underneath – a first step knowing with whom you work with.

The visit at Stanford University was insightful: the fundamental principle is that students have interdisciplinary lectures and mix up from different faculties to work together. In a lecture at the (Institute for Design founded by Hasso Plattner) students define their personal vision on their main field of interest and experience. By working on it together, they get insights into other industries and topics that matter for “making the world a better place”. Professors take also the role of mentors and connectors to business and companies from the very start. Open areas all around the campus support the sharing and learning mindset from each other in a very diverse environment, students coming from 67 countries (2016).

All of these examples have in common a fundamental open space for communication: startups take the opportunity to network and exchange ideas and team up, individuals get connected to others, teams come together internally and externally by inviting partners and customers to their discussion – customer experience being one of the key principles in the Bay Area.

But there is even more impact: you feel and see the curiosity for and the valuing of any ideas, a climate of diversity and respect of other skills, competences and approaches, friendliness and encouragement rather than hiding ideas and envying the success of others. Overall you will experience that welcoming, networking, sharing and learning are key drivers to co-working.


Author: Susanna Frech