Life at The Collective Old Oak – Town Halls: Harnessing Fearless Feedback to Co-Create With the Community

Life at The Collective Old Oak – Town Halls: Harnessing Fearless Feedback to Co-Create With the Community

One of Apple's little known but omnipresent internal values is "fearless feedback.” Regardless of your level within the company, any employee has the agency to create change by sharing his or her thoughts with anyone. At The Collective Old Oak, we’ve adopted this fearless feedback approach as a keystone of our community.

Since opening our doors, nearly 6 months ago, we've maintained an open dialogue everyday with our members, ensuring they have their voice heard, however insignificant they believe what they have to say is. This forms the backbone of our ‘community architecture’, meaning we are now working with our members rather than for them.

Technology has really helped us harness fearless feedback. We have Facebook groups as well as streamlined communication channels for members to get in touch with the team. However, a key event that forms this framework is our monthly Town Hall. We've hosted it every month since we opened and it remains one of our most popular events. Inspired by Apple and other organisations like the Zegg Community in Germany, the event gives members the opportunity to share any questions, comments or feedback with the team. It also allows us to keep a finger on the pulse of our community.

Old Oak is home to a very diverse group of people. We have engineers from Facebook that live here, through to personal trainers; ballet dancers through to civil servants. In fact, we probably have someone from every sector represented. This diversity is now in our makeup and allows for many great suggestions. Whilst the Collective team has developed the concept, it is our members who have come up with some of the best ideas for Old Oak. As we are located on the Grand Union canal, one suggestion was buying a couple of kayaks for the community. We did so and they’ve become incredibly popular (and a good way for people to meet and explore). 

Another suggestion was having a real time display of all the local transport options. One member built the software and we now have it permanently displayed in the lobby. 

Town Halls are also an opportunity to evaluate our own performance as a team as we encourage members to highlight areas where we could improve. I personally have learnt a lot about managing expectations and know that we could have been more communicative about delays in construction of some of our communal spaces (now all finished!). Members expressed frustration and this was the catalyst for change, however hard it was to hear criticism. Ensuring that any voice can be heard, whatever the idea or issue, is the key to sustaining Old Oak as a thriving community.

As we continue to develop our model of co-living, I know that co-creating with our members will lead to the best outcomes. Technology is helping us run our community (we stream our Town Halls on Facebook Live, allowing people to watch whereever they are) -- but ultimately, nothing is more effective that getting together and discussing in person. It will always be people first, just like it should be. 

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