What do coworking spaces and music festivals have in common?

A few months into my time at the BizDojo, I came across this “Don’t Fuck Up The Culture” letter from Brian Chesky (Co-founder and CEO of Airbnb). I printed out a sign that said “Don’t Fuck Up The Culture” and pinned it to my desk so that I would see it every day. It was a potent reminder to me during a time in my work that was incredibly stressful and emotionally taxing, and I wanted to do everything I could to avoid letting those stressors roll over into my interactions with residents. The way that Chesky phrased the maintenance of a corporate culture resonated with me:

“Culture is a thousand things, a thousand times. It’s living the core values when you hire; when you write an email; when you are working on a project; when you are walking in the hall. We have the power, by living the values, to build the culture. We also have the power, by breaking the values, to fuck up the culture. Each one of us has this opportunity, this burden.”

The idea that every one of our (inter)actions are important and weighty is particularly true in the context of a coworking space, where if people don’t like working in the space, they won’t. The vast majority of our residents are not employees with no choice over their workplace - they’re freelancers, entrepreneurs, independent workers and creatives. If we aren’t doing our job properly as a Community Team and our space becomes less than stimulating, positive, and productive, our business fails.

I’ve started to recognise it across multiple arenas of my life, too. The “Don’t Fuck Up The Culture” mantra becomes obvious in the context of personal relationships (my mother), team relationships (athletic training partners), and most recently, other professional spaces. I noticed this particular attention to micro-actions when I was recently working on a music festival in a different city with a brand new team around me. Show day was a potential perfect storm for stressed out staff: an inaugural festival, in a city who’s infrastructure was still lagging after a serious natural disaster, a core team that hadn’t run an event of that size before, and to top it off, the weather wasn’t particularly playing ball.

There were concerns about gate sales. About bar takes. About site access. About the stage being blown over if the winds got too high. But the magical thing? The festival director and all senior management were unknowingly practicing “Don’t Fuck Up The Culture” by treating every single team member on that site with absolute grace under pressure. And when those at the top of the pyramid practiced that, it rolled down through the ranks to the frontline staff - the bartenders, the caterers, the gate crew, the artist liaisons - and on to the crowd and the artists. The result? A palpable sense of positivity and mellowness throughout the entire event that nearly everyone involved commented on… not something to take for granted at a music festival!

I left that experience with a very clear picture of what was possible - and how to achieve it - when we are good to each other under even the most stressful and trying of circumstances. It was a hugely useful metonym for what we must always remember to do as a Community Team at the BizDojo: be good to our coworkers and our residents in even the smallest moments. And when we ask if we’re creating the supportive, stimulating, and productive coworking space that we know we’d want to work in, it’s those moments we have to measure.

Sarin Moddle is the BizDojo Community Manager for Auckland. Follow her on Twitter.