Interview With Kerri Sibson, COO Knight Dragon And Board Director, Greenwich Peninsula

The popular image of a members’ club is quite dated. Can it be saved? And if so, how?

I remember, quite early on in my career, developing a pretty negative view of members’ clubs. When I was offered my first senior role, it was at a lunch in a fairly prestigious club. But the whole experience was off-putting and uncomfortable – as if it was designed to exclude.

Historically, members’ clubs have traded on a shallow notion of insiders and outsiders. And with the new wave of clubs, there’s still a strong vibe of ‘who you know, not what you know.’ We absolutely didn’t want that for Bureau. And I think a new generation of talent and businesses aren’t interested in this, either.

It’s funny. Even in the early planning stage for Bureau, there was a hesitation about calling it a ‘club’. Would we just become what we were founded as an alternative to? But the social and networking element was really important. The name is a gesture towards what we’re doing – the actual idea behind a members’ club is really, really strong. It just needs to be reimagined for the 21st century. 

How do members’ clubs stay relevant in the age of working from home?

There’s one big issue on a lot of people’s minds – collaboration is harder when teams aren’t physically together. One of Design District’s new tenants recently said that, ‘I’ve never had an idea that hasn’t been made better through collaboration.’ This is a strongly shared belief in people across the creative industries. And it’s not just the people in your own company, but whoever else you might bump into or meet during an event. Cultivating a wider ecosystem on the site is a huge focus for us. A club environment provides the opportunity to be surrounded by like-minded people working in your industry, and in the process, find new friends, future collaborators and potential clients. 

There’s other practical aspects, too. One advantage Bureau and Design District have is around facilities – creatives need access to a wide range of facilities on site, from technical resources like 3D printers, recording facilities and photography studios, and then more fundamental business needs such as rooms for client meetings and so on. It’s surprising how few workspace providers offer anything beyond fresh orange juice and a hot desk.

Bureau promises its membership scheme supports both career growth and wellbeing. What does that mean in practice?

Well, let me say firstly what it won’t be. The forced-fun of a lame group activity is not what will be on offer. The Bureau team is working really hard to know its members, so the events and workshops will be tailored to meet their needs. There will be genuinely impressive guest speakers, relaxed social events and targeted workshops aimed at professional development. The opportunity to meet like-minded people in the industry is a huge plus in my eyes. I like to imagine all the new projects and businesses that might begin in Bureau: it’s quite exciting. But it’s also a relaxed – and frankly stunning — place, the perfect location for a fun Thursday night, an opportunity to grab a drink with your neighbours. 

Flexible working is a hotly contested idea right now, especially with Covid jeopardising the future of the office. What are the key trends driving the workplace?

On the surface, the challenge seems obvious. With digital technology, we’re more connected than we’ve ever been; and creative roles, specifically, have a variety of modes of work that make that possible. And ‘working from home’ emerged almost out of nowhere to force an adoption of new working practices on a massive scale. But a macro view of the situation only achieves a surface level picture of what’s actually happening. Technology is an important tool, but that’s just the basics. Again and again, in our conversations with people, what they want is collaboration and community. That’s what drives creativity. Everything else is a distraction. 

The rest of this editiorial will be published at a later date.