Enough space for innovating

It takes lots of space for innovating. Anyone of us who's tried to get creative under excessive pressure can testify to the need for space. Two of the last few books I've read had great opening chapters, but quickly faded into boring, repetitive, wordy passages. I can easily imagine the authors became very constrained by publication deadlines which cramped their style severely.

We can also suffer from too much space. We need constraints to bring out our best ideas. With too much freedom, our thoughts are scattered and fretful. We become like the cowboy that jumped on all four horses and rode off in every direction.

These extremes give us criteria for design of infrastructures for innovating: the amount of space has to be just right. Not too much and not too little space. The Goldilocks Principle applies here. It's difficult to find this middle bowl of porridge. It's easier to neglect those assigned with creative endeavors in hopes they will do better free of interference and micromanaging. When I'm being innovative, I know that I strongly prefer neglect to interference. It's equally easy to provide too much structure with policies, conflicting assignments, restrictive budgets or oppressive schedules. That can be a real innovation killer in my experience.

The space of innovating is not only in the world, it's in our minds. We see more play space when we're in a creative mood, open minded or hanging out in our right brains. We're seeing questions to ask, assumptions to challenge and possibilities to explore. We're not defeated by obstacles, overly impressed by past practices or submissive to authorities. Our minds are inclined to investigate and deviate rather than comply and conform.

So a well designed infrastructure for innovating will help us get into that frame of mind. Rather than start cold, it might help us get into the proper frame of mind. Rather than merely give us space, it could give us challenges, obstacles and mysteries. It could invite into metaphors where meanings change and connections get made, like a blog post that visualizes cowboys on horses, bowls of porridge and spaces for innovating.

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