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Seats2Meet Work Space

Seats2Meet Work Space (screen shot from the video below)

The Dutch are quite adventurous in devising all sorts of new strategies and concept - and that’s partly also why I live in Amsterdam. Nothing is impossible, everything can at least be tested. Most people though might know the phrase ‘going Dutch‘ as a concept to split up bills in bars and restaurants evenly. Although there are exceptions, being ‘tight’ does not apply to most Dutch people.

A piece of evidence for this is the concept a Dutch company called Seats2Meet introduced. In the book ’The Serendipity MachineSebastian Olma, an expert working at the interface of creativity and economy, describes it as a ‘disruptive business model for Society 3.0‘.

Amongst others, Ronald van den Hoff, one of the founders of Seats2Meet wrote about “Society 3.0. A movement. A change agent in our turbulant world.” What van den Hoff and other researchers mean with Society 3.0, is what we have heard of a lot lately: Most of us already got involved – it starts with Zipcar or AirBnB accounts: The trend goes by the names of collaborative consumption, participatory design, user-centered innovation, culture of openness and sharing, from consumption to prosumption etc.

What Sebastian Olma here links with the business world is serendipity, something we have long forgotten: random, unexpected encounters were valued in the 1960s in Paris: The so called ‘derivé’ was an exercise of the Situationist movement. This concept of Serendipity might easily become a new hype in the world of today, a world more scheduled and planned out than ever.


Illustration of Seats2Meet’s Fusion of Meeting and Work Spaces
(Illustration by Yulia Kryazheva in “The Serendipity Machine” licensed under CC: BY-NC-ND)

Social Capital

Seats2Meet was “a traditional meeting business catering for hundreds of professional users every day”, yet they had space for extra people. What they did started out as an experiment: they opened their most of the day (apart from the lunch and coffee breaks) empty lounge area and its tables for independent professionals / freelancers / free agents / digital bohemians / knowmads.

By registering online, anyone can come to work for free in the Seats2Meet lounge, which includes free coffee and lunch. The payment is however not entirely free, one is supposed to pay with ‘Social Capital’, the ‘currency’ defined by S. Olma as ‘the attitude to be open to unexpected and valuable encounters and to share your knowledge and talents’.

The trick seems that by registering online one enters their skills set into the system, which then is visible to everyone else. Individuals are encouraged to choose the Seats2Meet location depending on the skills and expertise they would like to find, the knowledge pool they hope to tap into. As an example, a Communications professional might want to go to a location where many Software programmers hang out, as they might need a programmer for an upcoming project. This concept of merging real and virtual space is defined as “Third Space” (Joe Pine Infinite Possibility). Author S. Olma clearly shows the parallels to the concepts introduced by Joe Pine in The Experience Economy: Businesses no longer only deal with services or products, they create experiences “to leave a memorable and lucrative impression”.

Illustration on Seats2Meet's Mesh Structure (Illustration by Yulia Kryazheva in "The Serendipity Machine" licensed under CC: BY-NC-ND)

Illustration on Seats2Meet’s Mesh Structure
(Illustration by Yulia Kryazheva in “The Serendipity Machine” licensed under CC: BY-NC-ND)

A Win – Win Situation

1. The freelancers would normally work isolated working alone at home, in a coffee shop or the public library. Once they enter Seats2Meet’s work lounge they enter the ‘mesh: ”a constellation of networks of professionals forming a dynamic collective intelligence to which everyone contributes meaningfully in his or her own way.” This is the ‘Serendipity Machine’: it sets the stage for ‘unexpected encounters’, connecting free agents to become dynamic nodes in a dynamic network.

2. How does this free ‘service’ work out within a business model? It’s very simple:

“A new study reveals that you don’t need a big company advertising budget to drive sales—face-to-face word of mouth among friends and family drive more purchases than any other purchase influence. It’s an insight of vital importance to every small business owner.” (Forbes)

The social buzz created through the workspaces equals free marketing for Seats2Meet.

They even go a step further: Companies interested in the concept can use their software platform:

Seats2meet.com engages in fanchise rather than franchise. Fanchise basically means franchise-as-sharing. The “fan” in fanchise refers to someone who believes in this new way of doing business, someone who is eager to build his or her own serendipity machine and link in to the Seats2meet.com ecosphere.” (The Serendipity Machine)

Sounds interesting? In order to learn more about what ancient potlatches have got to do with disruptive business models you will have to read it: More about the book, download it or find out where to buy it on www.theserendipitymachine.com or check out Seats2Meet‘s network in the Netherlands. In the spirit of Society 3.0, please share it with your network!