It may seem like Catalyst has been stuck in Groundhog Day. You know this already, but in 1993’s classic “Groundhog Day,” Bill Murray’s character, obnoxious weatherman Phil Connors, finds himself stuck in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, in a never-ending loop and condemned to repeat February 2 over and over and over until he is transforms into, well, a mensch. So it happened with Catalyst. For the last several months, every day we woke up to find that, once again, we were two weeks away from opening day.
When we first met Phil Connor, he was the worst kind of misanthrope, for whom everyone else was an irritant. His ego needed constant affirmation, but he didn’t trust the opinions or intellect of anyone he met. He was surrounded by regular people, unsophisticated bumpkins, clearly not like him and unworthy of his respect. He was convinced that they had nothing to offer.
Phil clearly needed to change. Change, however, took a back seat to manipulation and pettiness, to Phil using his knowledge of the day – the one day – to sucker people.
What finally transformed Phil wasn’t knowledge of the future and other people or using that knowledge to con others. Instead, the real catalyst for change is that he finally allows himself to become part of a community. Phil’s interactions with his coworkers and the town residents develop into something more than self-destructive confrontation. They become serendipitous collisions. Instead of continuing to live in a cocoon, Phil starts to learn about others, what makes them tick, what they want and what they need. He opens his mind, removes his filter, and learns the fact that the people who surround him and who are so different from him aren’t burdens, they’re opportunities. They make him a better person.
When Jeff Hoffman visited Catalyst last month, he spoke about how the most innovative people find ways to remove their personal filters and open up their minds. They approach the world like children, curious and open to wonder and knowledge, looking at things outside their every-day domain. They’re willing to see things from another point of view and question their own assumptions. Hoffman called the process “information sponging” – taking time every day to soak up information from a world bigger than your own. Sam Walton did it by hanging out in Arkansas diners, talking to customers about their own needs. And when creating Priceline.com, Hoffman followed that model and went directly to the “regular people” that were the target market of discount airline seats to validate the business model – and didn’t get dissuaded by the Wall Street Journal writers who couldn’t understand a consumer interest in Priceline.com’s “name your own price” model. Better solutions come from exposure to what makes other people tick, to what matters to them, and to what problems need to be solved.
In a way, the idea behind Catalyst is to give our members a path out of Groundhog Day. Our goal is to create a coworking environment that provides ongoing opportunities to absorb differing viewpoints through a diverse community of members. We believe that growth and innovation derive not simply from place and tools, but from human capital. The effect compounds when a tapestry of people come together and engage with open minds. Free trade in ideas has the potential to result in creative sparks and, like with Phil Connors, growth and transformation.Whether or not Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow in the morning, our long winter of waiting for Catalyst to open appears to be coming to a close. The lights are on. We’re looking forward to helping transform the way you work and succeed.