Ideation Blog Series (Part 2): Spatial Ideation
Where do great ideas come from?
Without getting into debate about what constitutes a “great idea”, I’d like to share my thoughts on the importance of physical space and proximity/distance. Although ideas can come at anytime from anywhere, there’s something we can do with physical space and proximity/distance that helps to foster an environment in which great ideas are birthed.
I think many undermine, to their loss, the importance of where an idea is formed. Physical environment and space is significant to the idea-making process. The environment that surrounds us fuels our creativity and ability to see and feel what it is we are trying to form. This doesn’t mean that we have to be in the “coolest” space to create, but rather that we must be mindful of pursuing the kind of space that could posture our physical bodies towards receiving the most relevant experience related to our passions.
For example, if your passion is to serve the economically poor of your city. Developing ideas in a strategic boardroom is probably not the best option. Being and living in the environment of those you want to serve must be the first step of developing an idea. The most creative concepts reside in the environment in which it will benefit. Who are the stakeholders and main beneficiaries of your passion? Go to them, listen, learn, love, and take notes.
Most great ideas are rooted in people and not idealistic theories.
The closer you can get to moving the pendulum of language from “them” to “us” through spatial presence and proximity, the better chance you’ll have in actually coming up with ideas that work.
Are there times to move away to reflect upon the environment you hope to serve? Absolutely! Spatial distance away can actually bring clarity to concepts and produce a lot of good. I’m simply making the case that you should, if at all possible, start in the space with the people you hope to benefit with your concepts. I’ve found this to be true for businesses, organizations, and/or movements.
The spatial interaction is cyclical. We all need regular time within as well as outside. Proximity and distance are both your greatest assets and hindrances to idea-formation. Recent TV shows like Undercover Boss have validated this principle even within the context of one’s own company or organization, especially as it relates to employee/employer relationships and its future development. I read a book a few years back called Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy that follows the story of several CEO’s of major Fortune 500 companies that were getting laid off because of their inability to execute on ideas because they were disconnected from their employees.
If you want to create or develop ideas, stay close to the people it will benefit and live in the environment in which the innovation will take place.