Almost exactly a month ago I explained, as far as I’m able, Edgeryders and LOTE4 at an event organised for Forum for the Future. Several interesting things came up so I’m writing them up here.
No matter what I said, everyone took me to be representing Edgeryders, which felt slightly disingenuous since so many people are so much more involved than I am. I presented to about 30 people along with Alex Soskin, at Hub Westminster, which Alex runs. The audience had been on a walking tour of Unilever Foundry and Makerversity and I think some other totemic reifications of innovation.
I wouldn’t say it felt out-and-out corporate, but Alex’s presentation made more than passing reference to returns-on-investments and definitely detoured out of my comfort zone and into accountancy, and from the guest list I could see there were representatives from well know purveyors of fast moving consumer goods. More than I really intended, I painted LOTE as the opposite of that, laying slightly accidental emphasis on its more quixotic aspects. Or perhaps I just wanted to stir people up a bit, whatever the case I was a bit surprised at how a room that I thought might take the opportunity to look down its nose actually lapped it up (which are similar gestures now I think about it) - the more radical it sounded the more ticked their boxes.
There was some discussion of how the Edgeryders organisation can run without strictly defined structures, which I responded to by pointing out that social norms trump structures, and Edgeryders has plenty of those. I also meanderingly extemporised about the conceptual purity of LOTE; I suggested the whole project has an endearing and persuasive experimental edge that makes you want to get on board - it’s precarity testament to its novelty.
Which links neatly with a more prosaic observation from Alex about his experience with Hub Westminster, where I coincidentally ‘co-worked’ for about a year. I let slip that I may have occasionally been in for more than two days a week, even though that was strictly all I’d paid for. He pointed out that when the desk space was not at capacity people did occasionally take the odd liberty, but, as the space filled up residents felt a moral obligation to more strictly hold themselves to their allotted days - even though as far as I know there was no easy mechanism to enforce this. This is exactly an example of social norms overriding the rules.
Then Forum for the Future gave a presentation which really reinforced to me how fashionable all this stuff is, where I’m not even sure what ‘this stuff’ means. How much it’s captured the imaginations of CSR departments and think tanks - which, presumably, is an opportunity?