Wide Open Space

What does an ‘innovation space’ look like?

As with so very many things my thoughts started to whir after passively being involved in a Twitter discussion (predominently) between Phil Rumens, Sarah Jennings and Carl Haggerty.

What started as a back and forth about the possibility of an outdoor govcamp, considered a govcamp tour and simultenous camps in various locations (using Govstock for rural camps and the citycamp type badge for urban happenings) and sort of wound up being about innovation spaces (well, wound up in so much as the conversation has slowed for now).

It’s all interesting stuff in itself – I’d certainly be interested in Govstock or the CampCamp which has been talked about before (an unconference outdoors in actually tents and the like). But what really caught my eye was the talk about innovation spaces.

At the Digital Summit event last week (and I will blog about that soon) Carl was part of the panel and one of the first things he mentioned was the room we were in. The facilities at Local Government House are nothing to sniff about, interesting enough and suited to conferences and workshops but, Carl asked, is it inspiring?

He compared the white walls of the room we were in that day to the colourful, quirky, offices of Google. He pondered whether we need to rethink the environment that surrounds us, as well as change culture, if we’re to really support and encourage digital innovation in local government.

That question was still going around somewhere in the back of my mind as I watched the Twitter conversation happen today – and it started flashing brighter as the words ‘innovation space’ were tweeted.

What does an ‘innovation space’ look like, I wondered? Is it the great outdoors as suggested by Govstock, is it the bright colours and playfulness of an internet empires urban office, or is it the removal of outside stimulus to let thoughts flow (think floatation tank or the dimly lit reflective practice room at UKGC12).

Is it less about the physical environment and more about the removal of the expected cultural norm. The flattening of hierarchies, trusting and listening to people, allowing choice and passion to be the order of the day.

Is it that an innovation spaces would be different to each person? That one person would find inspiration in the bright colours while the next would find them a distraction? That dim quiet room would be oppressive boredom for some.

So what’s the answer? As usual I’m not sure I know. I don’t think there is a wrong one though other than doing nothing at all. Try different ways to nurture creativity, to inspire and support innovation. It might be getting outside, it might be changing the space you work in, it might be chatting to likeminds and constructive challengers online, or it might be going off grid. I guess it might even be a combination.

So, what does an innovation space look like?

This post is titled after Wide Open Space by Mansun.

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