StartUp Culture Series Part 3: John Arenas of Serendipity Labs

In our final StartUp Culture series article, John Arenas sat down to discuss the evolving workplace and how his company, Serendipity Labs Coworking, is helping steer the ship. Serendipity is creating co-working spaces throughout the country, including a new space in Houston's Esperson Building.

As demand for this kind of office solution has grown, Arenas and his team at Serendipity set out to create more than just the typical co-working spaces. Looking for the right balance of workplace and hospitality, Arenas utilized the perspective of a startup so his team could deliver the right experience in their coworking offices. 

StartUp Culture Dials-In What’s Been Overdone                          

When cubicles and closed-off office spaces clearly weren’t working, many office environments overcompensated by embracing open floor plans that were far too open. Pieces in The Washington Post and Fortune magazine explain the intent behind open office layouts was good, but smaller amounts of work were actually getting done due to excessive distractions and noise.

Rather than reverting back to cubicles, Arenas and Serendipity Labs created balance between quieter spaces and collaboration areas. “The pendulum had swung to open space. It’s not that that was wrong,” says Arenas, “it’s just that we had to dial it in.” By giving workers the freedom to choose where they’ll go based on the nature of the task they’re performing, startup culture creates an environment where more work can get done in spaces that fit the specific workstyle needed.

StartUp Culture Sets the Trends

In order to keep Serendipity Labs at the forefront of where workplace trends are headed, Arenas and the team first figured out where they should–and should not–place their attention. “If you look at what the trends are, you’re probably looking into the past,” Arenas said.

If you're looking at current trends, you're probably looking into the past

Instead of just looking at trends that have worked for offices historically, Arenas envisioned a startup culture that sets the trends others will follow. “The trends have been collaboration and open workspace,” Arenas said, “the trend going forward is having the right mix of spaces and opportunities to work in the ways you need to.”

StartUp Culture Pushes the Boundaries

In order to set trends that are actually effective, Arenas notes that one cannot hesitate when instituting bold, new ideas. “Optimism and propensity for risk allow you to do things where many people would be more comfortable taking baby steps,” Arenas said.

Rather than implementing new ideas one-at-a-time in really small increments, Arenas suggests the startup mentality of shaking things up with a goal of being 10X better than what’s been accepted in the past. This, he believes, is vital if genuine innovation is to take place. “Conservatism really ends up killing ideas. You really have to stretch or you don’t achieve anything new.”

Key Takeaways:

  1. Startup Culture gives employees freedom to choose, creating balance between floor plans that are too open or too closed.
  2. Rather than following trends that have worked in the past, the startup mindset recognizes what is becoming necessary in the workplace and responds accordingly by setting new trends (such as mixed office spaces).
  3. Unlike the traditional manner of taking baby steps toward new ideas, Startup culture empowered John Arenas and Serendipity to think and stretch big, invoking dramatic changes to the workplace that come from a different, far more innovative perspective.

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