Not all that long ago, there were 3 places you could go for coffee in my town: a popular independent coffee shop, with somewhat variable service, near the town centre supermarket a chain coffee shop, normally full to gills with mums and toddlers and a café bar (over 21s only) with wifi. In the past year or so, there’s been an explosion of new coffee shops. Alongside the familiar coffee chains and supermarket coffee shops that have moved in, there are a whole host of new independents. We’ve got coffee/delis, coffee ‘and something to go with it’ cafés, and a pop-up coffee shop, which has now popped along to the pub up the road. So, what’s going on here? Is this sudden surge of coffee shops catering for a hopelessly caffeine-addicted local population? Possibly. But, if so, it’s not unique. My (un)scientific research on this topic – chatting to people I know – has revealed that many other small towns are also experiencing a flood of new coffee shops. Changing communities Perhaps what we’re seeing here is an indicator of socio-economic system change. Towns like mine are changing from retail hubs into social hubs, so people go there to meet/eat/drink. Hence there are more food and drink outlets. And, since coffee is a high-margin, high-consumption product with a decent shelf life – we shouldn’t be surprised at the proliferation of coffee shops in that mix. Coffee shops offer us a chance to connect with people. But, that normally means connecting with people you already know. So, while connecting over coffee may energise existing connections, it may not do as much as we’d like to create new communities. Creating new communities Network theory gives us some language to explain what’s going on in a coffee shop and how we might create new, thriving communities. [ALERT: If ‘theory’ isn’t for you, and you want to go straight to the practical bit, then just scroll down – and find out how Randomised Coffee Trials are helping create communities in big organisations] In a coffee shop, we see lots of small groups (2, 3, 4 people) chatting to friends around a table. But we rarely see much interaction between people on different tables....Read More
Leading change in a VUCA world
Working with the dynamic patterning of change is a strategic leadership capability in a VUCA world.
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