‘Holding open spaces’ is a phrase that keeps slipping into my mind: hold open spaces to learn, spaces to change, spaces to rehearse, to explore. In the Social Age, the role of leaders not to lead with their own knowledge and expertise, but rather to hold open spaces for co-creation and collaboration. We hold open spaces with technology, but we do it for communities to thrive. Today, i want to explore four aspects of how we use these spaces: to ‘explore’, to ‘rehearse’, to ‘share’, and to ‘innovate’.
Within an open space, we can explore difference: differences of opinion, of knowledge, of experience. And by being exposed to inputs beyond our known space, we conduct ‘sense making’, figuring out new ways of doing things, new ways of knowing. Otherwise known as ‘learning’. We can share different perspectives, different ideas. Exploration is an active process: taking ourselves out of our known space, to chart a way through new waters.
Within open spaces, we can rehearse: we can rehearse new conversations, new behaviours, new skills. Rehearsal is often neglected in organisational learning: we create ‘learning spaces’, we operate ‘performance spaces’, but we lack safe spaces to rehearse. Again, technology can be used to hold these spaces open, but it’s social forces that act upon a community that make it a ‘rehearsal’ space, or just a ‘performance’ one.
In open spaces, we can share: we can share ideas, ill formed, or part formed ideas (especially into rehearsal spaces). But we can go further: within Social Leadership, i explore the idea of sharing uncertainty: a humble leader will be comfortable to share not simply their knowledge, but also their uncertainty. And a Socially Dynamic Organisation will recognise that leaders who hold uncertainty, are, in reality, holding the potential to change. And we can share surplus, something that is particularly interesting for organisations to explore: connecting up surplus can leverage extra value, create new knowledge, generate momentum.
Finally, we can hold open spaces to innovate: we can innovate workflow, deconstructing existing process, to explore new ways of doing things. The ability to deconstruct process is as important to an organisation as it’s ability to generate new process: often we just create new, and leave the old to stagnate. In open spaces, we can consider how to innovate structure, moving beyond existing hierarchical structure, doing the unthinkable and considering what we can do without.
Whilst we focus on technology, it’s what we can achieve with technology that really counts, and one core thing we can do is to hold open spaces: spaces for community.