How to find Flow in Eco-Sustainable Coworking Spaces?

Collaboration in eco-sustainable spaces through the perspective of Flow theory

The central phenomenon of my research is the examination of space and its interactions. At an early stage, I determined the appearance of collaboration in coworking spaces, initially with a qualitative in-depth interview, later with a special research method named videography. In the long-term, I plan to create an eco-sustainable space, through the principles of design-communication where Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow theory and even the measurement of Flow dimensions could play a significant role.


Herbert Simon, Nobel Prize in Economics (1978), considered design’s central role in creating artifacts. In “The Science of Design”, he proposes an inclusive definition of a designer: “Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones” (Simon, 1969, p. 55). Further, he emphasizes the crucial role of design as a complement to natural science in all professional training: “Schools of Engineering, as well as schools of Architecture, Business Administration, Education, Law, and Medicine, – all of these, is centrally concerned with the process of design”.

The design should consider the people for whom it is actually intended to be. The design should be humble enough to assume that everyone has something to bring to the table and all can contribute and improve the current design. In this way, we can “cultivate knowledge and design intelligence” among the community (Meyers 2018).

Design-communication (hereinafter DIS.CO) is a new design process approach. It is at the same time a ‘philosophy’ and a methodology (theory & practice). DIS.CO is communication integrated into development: it is an approach that builds upon intuition and empathy in the exploration of design problems at hand (Cosovan 2018).

DesignCommunication is a new theory and practice of communication integrated into development.
Find out more here in the concise presentation!

Dr. Zoltan Buzady, Associate Professor of Leadership Development

Compared to the more standard design thinking process type social manifestation, design-communication moves out of the box of design-thinking. The provocative methodology and approach of which is based on its own independent knowledge base, the experience of Flow mental state, as defined first by Prof. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. The DIS.CO process is an intelligence-driven existential analysis and based on the Socratic philosophy of dialogue according to Viktor E. Frankl. In conclusion: The coefficient of the constant and the variables are the final composition, and creativity is the human and emotional manifestation of survival instinct (Cosovan 2018).

Using the above approach, I completed research in coworking spaces with an attempt to measure the potentials for effective collaboration. I choose videography as a research methodology. Videos are used in marketing and consumer research also with an attempt to better understand the consumers’ point of view, by literally attempting to capture the context on-screen (Belk 2005).

The second common use of video in research is to record naturalistic observations because the videographer is more interested in capturing what people actually do, how they behave, rather than what they say about what they do.

In this respect, the same approach is applied in FLIGBY: Players’ 29 leadership skills measured on actual managerial decisions taken during the simulations. We think this is much more objective, than their own subjective estimations. An independent system then is analyzing their actual behavior. This is much more accurate then relying on so-called ‘external evaluators’ and ‘assessment center experts’. They too tend to be flawed, as it was shown that their judgement on what constitutes good leadership is dependent on their on criteria and set of values. This was show in a very interesting Harvard Business School study: ‘Most HR Data is Bad Data – The Idiosyncratic Rater Effect of Skills Measurement.’

Dr. Zoltan Buzady

A brief overview of coworking spaces

These areas are practically conceived as office-renting facilities where workers hire a desk and a wi-fi connection. More importantly, places where independent professionals live their daily routines side-by-side with professional peers, largely working in the same sector. This creates a circumstance that has considerable implications on the nature of their job, the relevance of social relations across their own professional networks, and – ultimately – their existence as productive workers in the knowledge economy (Gandini, 2015).

Spinuzzi calls this a logic of ‘good neighbors’ or the ‘good partners’ approach, a partially communitarian, organizational rationale by which business outcomes are pursued through temporary partnerships and collaborations among peers working in the space, resulting from a combination of complementary skills and social relations (Spinuzzi, 2012).

„Coworkers lifestyle – tribalism in space”

During my research, we filmed for several days in three coworking spaces located in Budapest, Hungary. I finally came to the conclusion that coworking spaces’ mission is is to create an experience environment that facilitates community interaction, and a sense of adoration for the coworking lifestyle.

According to a coworker in HubHub, a symbol works when users operate it, use it, modify it. So, you may scatter bean bags in any space, but if no one sits on them, then you have to take further actions to induce real collaboration. For example, if the senior management in a multinational company office is not honest about allowing organic collaboration, all those bean bags will be pushed aside into the corner, people walk by and it will not work out. There are numerous symbols, but it is important for the given community to figure out what they actually want. There are these trendy things such as the soccer table, the office pets, etc. at some places they work well at other places they have no impact. So it is evident that it is not the symbol, the item, the installation, the furniture per see, which matters. What really counts is how the community thinks and what works for it. By building a set of office symbols or infrastructure externally, can still become dead investments.

Creativity at work is not a simple function of fancy co-working space furniture, colored walls, and team-building activities! What is needed is a deeper understanding of what constitutes a meaningful activity to an individual and the team members. This what we call Flow-promoting Leadership theory – the art of creating a work context which is condusive of Learning, Flow and Happiness.

Dr. Zoltan Buzady

As difficult to measure the success of collaboration in coworking spaces it is also difficult to measure the appearance of Flow in everyday life. The uniqueness of the FLIGBY game lies in the fact that it stimulates the phenomenon of your virtual office colleagues and management team. Conceptually it is challenging to link Flow, as an indicator, to dimensions measured in finance and economics. The problem is that of how to monetize happiness or Flow mental state. 

If we follow this line of thinking following valid questions might arise: How can Flow be given a measurable value? Is Flow always a positive experience? The following quotation by Csikszentmihalzi clarifies:

Flow experience, like everything else, is not always just “good” in an absolute sense. It is good only in that it has the potential to make life richer, more intense, and meaningful; it is good because it increases the strengths and complexity of the self. But whether the consequence of any particular instance of flow is good in a larger sense needs to be discussed and evaluated in terms of more inclusive social criteria.

Prof. Mihaly Csikszentmihályi

The most common way to measure Flow’s mental state is by asking respondents about their experiences, which has been achieved via the following methods: interview questionnaires; experience sampling methods; and self-report questionnaires (Lonczak 2020). The Flow model shows the emotional states that we are likely to experience when trying to complete a task or collaborating, depending on the perceived difficulty of the challenge and our perceptions of our skill levels.

According to Csíkszentmihályi, three elements are required for creativity. In this particular case they can be easily transferred to collaboration also:

  1. Culture of symbolic rules – in DIS.CO this is termed as ‘ a system of concepts, rules, and symbols defined jointly by the facilitator and the group’;
  2. Innovators, who bring new things into the symbolic realm – that, in the ritual of design communication, means that the members of the group become innovators themselves’;
  3. A pool of experts, these members are expected to recognize the innovation and to legitimize it in the overall design thinking process to the relevant facilitators and to the wider professional audience (Horváth et al 2018).

The next step in my research will be to create a space, based on the idea of eco-sustainable clubs and coworking spaces, whose purpose will be to provide the opportunity for eco-conscious collaboration. These new spaces definitely must be areas also characterized by the presence of the Flow phenomenon!

Máté Bencze
Ph.D. candidate, Institute of Marketing, Media and Designcommunications, CUB


Belk, R. – Kozinets, R. (2005) Videography in marketing and consumer research, QualitativeMarket Research: An International Journal, Vol. 8 Iss 2 pp. 128 – 141

Csikszentmihályi M. (1992). Flow: The Psychology of Happiness. Rider. ISBN 978-0-7126-5477-7. Retrieved 25 October 2015

Gandini, A (2015) The rise of coworking spaces, Ephemera Journal

Heather S. Lonczak, (2020)

Horváth D., Cosovan A., Csordás T, Horváth D. és Mitev A. (2018): Beyond the Scope of Design Thinking: DesignCommunication. In The 21st Century: Academic Design Management Conference Proceedings. Boston: Design Management Institute, 653–662.

Meyers R. (2018) Urban ecological architecture: an integrated approach to environmental health in the city

Simon, Herbert A. (1996): The Sciences of the Artificial. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Spinuzzi, C. (2012) Working Alone, Together: Coworking as Emergent Collaborative Activity Journal of Business and Technical Communication 26(4), (2012), pp. 399-441.