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Creating Space

Fitting new things into life isn’t always easy. Last week my eldest son had a birthday, and like many holidays at our home: after the dust settles, the cake consumed, and the balloons drift from their high perch to the floor, it was time to try to find room for the new exciting fun gifts that had found their way into his life.

For him that means making time to use his new gifts (and by default not playing with some of his old things). For mom and dad, this means we need to consolidate, rearrange, and purge some of the old. This is at times an art more than a science, trying to think what are considered staples vs. not needed.

This simple lesson in creating space seems so simple when standing in the basement, looking at a sea of plastic (when did bright yellow and red move from potato chip bags to children’s toys anyway?). It is often more challenging when standing in your office trying to figure how to create space inside of your company. Space for new ideas. Room in the budget for tomorrow’s innovation while standing amongst today’s cash cow products and services. Space in your day (time) to even consider things beyond “running” the business for which you are already responsible.

Presidents, COO, VPs of X are all senior leaders in a company that have learned many career lessons on their way to the top. They have earned their leadership stripes and bring with them experience of industry, job function, and hopefully how to manage people. Many of you reading this are in these position because of the chances you took early in your career, the fresh way you approached the common, or the excellence you drove into a standard job function. When did you decide to stop? (if you did…)

“The only thing that is constant, is change” I am sure you have heard this old adage many times in your career. Every MBA program in the world has some sort of course stressing the importance of managing change, how to balance portfolios, and how to govern such change. They also have interesting courses on entrepreneurship capturing thoughts on how to survive in the market. So often the combination of these two are missed though: Innovation inside of established corporations….Enterprise Innovation.

It is strange, how hard it is for our corporate leaders to manage the repeatability of significant change (Innovation). It is true that the most earth shattering ideas come from moments of unscripted creative experience, but that should not give the license to leaders to just hope that good ideas will come to. As dedicated leaders beholden to our shareholders, it is our duty to ensure survival of our corporations, and innovating beyond today’s normal has to be treated as a part of the fabric of our environment.

If your firm, department, or team does not have a dedicated approach to innovation, then I believe it is your duty to Create Space for it. Derive an approach to manage down the “current” in order to find a place for the future. A good place to start would be to assess your current portfolio (of products, of projects, of “things”) and determine which ones can be purged, leaving room for innovation.

If it seems daunting, go into your office, close the door and imagine each of the items on your portfolio as a big red/yellow plastic child’s toy. I bet you will be able to find at least 5% of them to “donate” in hopes of some shiny innovation.

Happy cleaning!

No regrets,