Co-Working and Serendipity. It’s just like having Tapas with Strangers

Ultracomida Aberystwyth - Quality Tapas, Look almost gone!
Ultracomida Aberystwyth – Quality Tapas, Look almost gone!

This is a post about co-working, however let me start with something I learnt over the weekend, an essential for your etiquette handbook. When asked; “are you visiting Aberystwyth for anything special?”, DO NOT REPLY WITH, “We’re here to bury my Mother in Law’s Ashes”.

It’s a bit of a conversation killer, stuns hotel receptionists into silence and generally leaves everyone feeling uncomfortable, except the gravedigger. He was cool with it (and the payment in cash). If faced with a similar dilemma just make up some random excuse for being in town, it’s the polite British thing to do.

Back to co-working. I was recently trying to explain the idea of co-working to a friend, who understood, but wasn’t completely feeling the love (fully embracing the economic, environmental and social benefits).

They got that it involves spending your working day in a space shared with complete strangers. They understood that it might be cheaper and more convenient for people who operate as small businesses or sole traders, compared to renting an office or working from home/the shed. The benefits for people who move about a lot and need a working space in different locations, at different times were crystal clear.

All these obvious benefits are summarised here, and in this article about Indycube who operate many co-working spaces across Wales. They are great spaces, full of interesting people, I’d recommend spending some time working at one of them.

Where I felt my friend was struggling was around the ‘intangible benefits’, the unplanned things that happen when; you put random strangers together, get them talking, and see what happens. With Mark Hooper, one of the founders of Indycube, we spoke about ‘serendipitous conversations’. Something beneficial that comes out of what appear to be completely accidental and random events. Co-working perfectly creates the environment for the serendipitous conversations to take place.

Ultracomida Aberystwyth - the finest Tapas in West Wales
Ultracomida Aberystwyth – the finest Tapas in West Wales

Why is Co-Working like Tapas? My unconvinced friend totally gets Tapas. They love the bite size pieces of tasty Spanish food and the sociability of it, mixing with friends over a small sherry or spritzer (darling**). So, how about this, a place where you sit and have your tapas at a communal round table with complete strangers.

This is what I did in Aberystwyth on Friday night, in the finest Tapas restaurant I’ve been to since Santiago de Compostela in NW Spain. Ultracomida serves Tapas in the room at the back of the delicatessen. I have written about the challenges of leaving the glorious A470 and getting to Aberystwyth, but it is well worth the expedition on the A44 across the Cambrian Mountains. Basically there are two large round tables that seat about 10 people each, and a bar you can perch against. It’s worth booking a seat at one of the tables and seeing what happens.

Time will tell if had a serendipitous conversation at Ultracomida on Friday, but I did learn a huge amount about some very diverse topics:

  • How to make ice wine,
  • How Italians make coffee and why it is the best in the world,
  • Why accidents have produced some brilliant innovations,
  • Inspector Montalbano and Italian Municipal Architecture,
  • The beneficial properties of Camel Milk, and
  • Monty Python and The Life of Brian*.

Even my wife, who was initially ‘lacking in enthusiasm’, got around to enjoying the conversations (somewhere in the planning I’d forgotten to mention this wasn’t a ‘romantic table for two’ event).

Hopefully my unconvinced friend will make the connection between ‘Tapas with Strangers’ and the benefits of co-working. At the very least we should go to Ultracomida in Aberystwyth and do a bit of action learning. Perhaps Aberystwyth also needs an Indycube next door?

So, What’s the PONT?

  1. Conversation over food is a good way to share knowledge and information. Someone from Spain told me this week that it helped reduce email volume in their organisation.
  2. Co-working is a great way to have serendipitous conversations.
  3. Could mixing Co-working and Tapas be the next big thing?
Yes, I sat next to Judith Iscariot in Ultracomida
Yes, I sat next to Judith Iscariot in Ultracomida

*Ultracomida in Aberystwyth has a Monty Python Life of Brian connection. The actress who played Judith Iscariot, (Sue Jones-Davies) became the Mayor of Aberystwyth 2008-2009, thirty years after the film had been banned for blasphemy in the town. Judith lifted the ban and had the film shown with some of the Pythons in attendance, and I had lunch sat next to her in Ultracomida about 5 years ago. Good story huh!

** Darling…. my unconvinced friend will get this reference.

I have mentioned Indycube before:

About WhatsthePONT

I'm from Old South Wales and I'm interested almost everything. Narrowing it down a bit: cooperatives, social enterprises, decent public services, complexity science, The Cynefin Framework, behavioural science and a sustainable future. In 2018/19 I completed a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, looking at big cooperative enterprises and social businesses in NE Spain and the USA. You can find out more here:

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