When you think of coffee shops, you might think of dark walls and wooden tables, cups of frothing lattes and plates filling with pastries, the smell of dark roast wafting on the air. These are all the physical components that denote a coffee shop. But there is something deeper about what makes a coffee shop that is not simply a matter of the physical components in the store.
A coffee shop can act as a place for individuals to read or do individual work or a space for community salons. One of its most important functions is as a place for people to have dialogues outside of their normal networks. (Quote from “Where Good Ideas Come From”). These spaces are also places where the adjacent possible is. This from an information gathering lens is a place where people can gather new connections and new viewpoints.
A coffee shop has the infrastructure for many different interactions, but the primary interaction we will concentrate on is the paradigm testing and accumulation.
Coffee shop interactions are the Adjacent possible.
A collection of people from different walks of life that have the ability to overhear others’ conversations
Coffee-shop type spaces don’t have to necessarily be coffee shops. They can be in atriums (like the photo below), they can be nestled in art galleries and in the wings of science labs.
How to Build Successful Coffee Shops
- Places where people feel comfortable staying for a while
- Places where you can hear others talk
- Places where you feel familiar with some people
- Camaraderie: These places make you feel like, if you overhear something these people beside you are talking about, you can
- “Culture”: These coffee shops bring together people with some shared identity. Maybe the coffee shop has a robot theme, or in a neighborhood where there is a strong sense of identity. This is a tricky thing, because the culture shouldn’t feel exclusionary. But the more people feel like there are some things that they have in common with the people around them, the more comfortable you feel reaching out to others.
- Potential for deeper engagement: Have community boards where people can post other events in the community, and maybe other events happening in the coffee shop.
- Signals of welcome: Birch coffee in NYC does not have plugs or wifi to discourage people from working on their laptop. They also have signs for people to put on their table to start conversations with the people around them. This signals to others that they want to be engaged with the people around them. A bit heavy-handed, but it is a mindful way to consciously design engagement into a space.