Culture & Competency

Creating Space for Collaboration

Clear space creates the opportunity for something to be added.

A vacant lot in a subdivision invites a new home. A current house including the picture-perfect family with two cars and a boat may invite new owners, but without major renovations, what’s built is built.

An empty shelf on your bookcase invites a new collection of books on a new topic, or a vase, or a picture, or a collection of Lego models your kids built. A jam-packed-and-overflowing shelf rejects more, relegating more as clutterring piles on the ground or assemblages of all things weird protruding in precarious shapes and sizes.

An empty market segment invites an innovator and risk-taker to try to create something new and appealing. A heavily contested market segment invites the me-too ideas, a continuation of the orthodoxy, and more of the same and non-differentiated. Inertia in buying patterns means a settled set of expectations and a saturation of approach; it’s not impossible to dislodge and re-cast the segment, but it takes resources that are orders of magnitude greater than the empty segment or new opportunity.

Subdivisions, bookshelves and markets segments benefit from space to create something new. Ditto for collaboration.

Where there is space for discussion without a foregone conclusion, ideation without rigid boundaries, and exploration without the demand for alignment with the firm’s ossified methodology, people can flourish in their collaborations. Answers to the simple questions – “what do you think?” or “how do you imagine this in your head?” or “what feelings should this best create in our target market?” – when asked in an intentionally collaborative space invites responses unencumbered by prior judgment or conditional approbation. “Can you read my report and give me your feedback?” when accompanied by a full-colour, perfectly-bound and printed report leaves no space for collaboration on the behalf of the pursued. There’s no space created for collaboration; if you really want collaboration and shared ideation (before the more structured “feedback”), start with mindmaps over coffee, Post-It Notes on some random wall, and hasty scribbles on the back of the proverbial (but very real) napkin. Most eating places have them; funny that.

Clear space benefits from space in time too. Yes, the world is rushing ever faster. Yes, everything happens at the speed of the click. Yes, markets are changing constantly. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. But enough of the yeses, unless the only aspiration is to do more of the same. A breakthrough idea, a revolutionary concept, an orthodoxy-demolishing breakthrough requires space in time. Perhaps next week is about 51 weeks too early. Or even 387.5 weeks too early. But if the pressure is always for next week / tomorrow / next hour, we all slide inexorably towards the mundane, the plain, the more of the same. To create space – in time – for something different is the only way to tilt the plane and escape to the next level.

Categories: Culture & Competency