(Read Time 1 minute, 45 seconds)

Where I grew up we played on the street after school and weren’t expected home until dinner. Our neighborhood had lots of squirrels.* All the squirrels were black. When I was ten a car ran over one of the squirrels and smashed it flat. We were fascinated. Staring at the flattened rodent, and after some animated discussion, it was decided that this squirrel could -and should- be used as a puck in a game of street hockey. After all, hockey pucks were black and round. The only real difference here was that this puck was furry and had a tail.

We came up with the idea because we were bored. We had an hour before we were expected home, and by standing around, staring at a dead squirrel we figured out a new game.

(*The neighborhood where I grew up is called Squirrel Hill-no kidding)


What it boiled down to was this:

One focused group, presented with an unusual circumstance and time to create, invented something new.

Creating a place for ideas to flourish, away from the distraction of Smartphones, computers and media, allows new bonds and unlikely connections to be made. In a world where we are bombarded by 3,000-5,000 marketing messages a day, this space is especially important for us to be able to think clearly and to create.

The Beauty of White Space


Roaming Freely About the Cabin

When we explore – physically and mentally – through conversation or looking at art, or walking a new route, we incorporate past experience to create new connections. This exploration is not linear, and sometimes it can be hard. But it breaks us out of our routines and enables us to see things in a new light.

Time becomes a Friend

Using white space effectively requires time. Time allows us to talk, share ideas, accept, reject and build on suggestions. The iterative process of building requires commitment and time to be effective.

Confusion is Enjoyable

Confusion is the petri dish where curiosity grows. When we are confused our intellectual fight or flight response kicks in and we have two choices – to either explore or ignore. Although it can be a challenge, try choosing the explore option.

Confusion (what to do with a dead squirrel)
allows us to pull our past experience (playing on the street)
through a set of circumstances (dead squirrel)
and create new ideas and connections (squirrel=puck).

Confusion, when explored, has the added benefit of opening new pathways in our brain, supporting whole brain thinking.

Three Ways to Create White Space for Your Team
(or for Yourself)

Phone free Mornings

All phones/email/internet turned off for one hour. Pose one question to staff (or yourself) and ask them to write down his or her thoughts.

Walking Meetings

Much has been written about the value of the walking meeting. It’s all true. Even if you are alone, taking a walk changes your environment and input. These factors open up new neural pathways and free ideas.

Free food and a Flipchart

There is nothing quite like the magnetic pull of free food to get folks to engage in a conversation. Offer one topic for discussion, have a flip chart or Post-It notes to record ideas. Keep the session short (15-20 minutes) by taking the chairs out of the room. This leads to more focused conversation and thinking.

Thinking and talking as a group builds trust and teams.
It sparks creativity and new connections.
Great ideas and new solutions are everywhere.
White space creates the opportunity to find them.

 What will you do with your squirrel?




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Until next month…