#Silversquare

Behind the Scenes at Silversquare, the collaborative model

What makes you want to get up in the morning?

Rather than simply providing office spaces, we seek to create and engage communities, enabling people to connect. This way, we provide not only an office space, but a breeding ground for entrepreneurs. Our team is the heart of this community. When it is happy and beaming, this dynamic radiates throughout. 

I know that our visitors pick up on this very quickly. The same goes for prospective candidates. This is one of the things that helps set us apart.  

What was the inspiration?

When Silversquare was still a small operation, we intuitively fostered a collaborative model. Then, as we grew, the question of this model’s implementation really came to the fore. We realised that this approach required proper planning... 

I was struck by a meeting with Nicolas Pelletier, who I met through the APM network. His story is unique. He suddenly became allergic to his work, coming out in hives in his office, all because the way his company operated was out of step with his own values! 

To solve this problem, he turned it into a collaborative organisation. 

Does a collaborative organisation mean that the leader disappears?

A collaborative organisation is based on a horizontal model, wherein projects are led by the entire team, not just the elite... Everyone’s minds are working in sync! The leader’s duties are to maintain company values and inspire confidence.  At Silversquare, we have observed that when employees are happy and free, they find meaning and pleasure in what they do. The more trust is placed in them, the more they engage and see the project through to fruition. Self-management and finding meaning in their work are clearly both drivers for this increased engagement. 

How does one switch to a collaborative approach?

We spent two days with our staff and answered the following questions together: What are our values? What is our mission? What is our vision? By taking two days to lay down the foundations, the company’s strategy emerges organically.  

Today, all our employees are builders of the business, all cooperating with the view of moving the organisation forward. This, for example, is reflected in our recruitment process. The team will task Florence with searching the market for a particular profile. Once found, this is then submitted back to the team for consideration. The preferred candidate is presented to all our employees, and their employment is subject to everyone’s approval. Of course, we recruit all our employees based on their values. 

Did you hit any stumbling blocks?

No, but Axel has learnt a key lesson over the last six years: there is no point in trying to copy an already existing model. A collaborative organisation's success relies on its own system: its foundations and its unique project. Each organisation is different and has its own DNA. I travelled across the globe to spend an evening with Frédéric Laloux, a Belgian researcher and a great specialist in collaborative organisations. It was really inspiring. I understood that, although he could give me certain concepts to incorporate at Silversquare, there is no set recipe or business model that works for everyone. 

What do you think are the secrets to success?

Above all, trust is at the heart of this approach. A leader has to trust his teams and vice versa. The same applies among the leaders. I have spoken a lot with Axel to ensure that we share the same vision. Finally, I found it useful to be accompanied by other professionals throughout this journey, which itself runs counter to the hierarchical model that we have been taught. 

Your dream?

Once you embark on the collaborative path, your horizons widen, leading you to other paths traversing all areas of life. We are all responsible for one another’s well-being. Every time someone finds their place, the entire world benefits slightly.  

It is a new way of co-constructing on every level, bringing about a sense of meaning. My dream is to move from collaborative working within business to collaborative working on a global scale. 

Lessons learned

#1 Lay the foundations together: Co-create mission, vision and values. 

#2 Start only with leaders’ consensus. 

#3 Create your own unique model corresponding to your DNA and values. 

#4 Privilege freedom, trust and pleasure: they generate commitment. 

My sources of inspiration
Reinventing organizations, by Frederic Laloux
Bretagne Ateliers, by Jean-Michel Quéguiner 


Article written by Muriel Van Severen, member SQ Louise 
Translated by Plume Rouge, member SQ Stéphanie 

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