Explore Negative Spaces

for organizations


c.os.org.observe.08

This Domain-Level Guide is designed to be used based on the Core Model. Please refer to the Explore Negative Spaces Core Practice before exploring this guide.

overview

When you operate under deadline with predefined goals, it is easy to focus on the things you have in front of you. Seeing beyond these things and Exploring Negating Spaces requires intention and bandwidth.

In the organizational context, there are numerous opportunities for Observing the less apparent things hidden in these Negative Spaces. The typical operation mode implies you and your team have a concrete role and concrete plans. You are also likely to use predefined types of data as a source for insights and ideas. All these defaults create by definition the Negative Spaces waiting to be explored. The outcome of this exploration could be useful in the context of your current activities and goals, but even more so, it is an excellent raw material for future creative ideas.

guide

Explore the Areas Beyond Your Scope

In most organizations, each team has a set of goals and responsibilities. Each member of the team has a role that encapsulates the things they are expected to do. Exploring the periphery of what you are responsible for — the things beyond your scope — is a source for Fusions and creative insights.

Exploring areas beyond your scope does not mean you invade someone else’s territory. You are not aiming to do their work for them or replace their professional judgment. You are Observing these territories to gain ideas, insights, and inspiration for your work.

  • Pick areas beyond the domain you are responsible for and explore them.
  • Observe each such area at first as if it is a standalone domain, not affecting the things you are responsible for. Then, consider also the impact of what you see on your own work.
Explore the Things That Are Not Part of Your Design and Plan

Many of the things you do in the organizational context are part of pre-existing design or plan. Designing and planning are essential for alignment and predictability. They provide a needed sense of control, and often they are can prevent future problems.

The things that are not part of the design or plan were either left out intentionally or accidentally. Some things are not articulated in the design or the plan because they are really implicit assumptions. In either case, exploring these “missing” details can be the source of surprising insights and new creative ideas.

  • List activities, assumptions, affecting parties, and anything else not mentioned explicitly in the design or the plan.
  • Don’t list only things you know for sure to affect your goals. Experiment with different levels of Negative Space.
  • Focus on activities you are not doing and activities you are doing implicitly (without them being part of the plan).
  • Observe and explore the things you have listed. Consider their potential impact on what you do. Explore them also in a broader context beyond your immediate goals.
Explore What is Not Being Said

Organizations are built on communication. Whether it is formal communication or informal discussions, the things being discussed explicitly are naturally getting the attention and are more likely to affect your activities.

Being mindful of what is not being said (absentmindedly or intentionally) embeds the potential for meaningful insights. Whether you feel comfortable bringing these issues to the front of the discussion, or just explore them yourself, being aware of them and taking the time to Observe them is likely to enrich your view on upcoming goals and beyond.

  • Be mindful of what is not said when communicating with different stakeholders.
  • Explore the things not being said. Consider their impact on your goals and beyond.
  • Consider raising these issues for discussion, but even if you don’t, capture insights derived from them or from the fact they were not explicitly discussed.
Explore Data and Information You Don’t Use Regularly

Organizational decisions are often based on different types and levels of data. Some data is formal and collected to support decisions. Other information might be softer and based on experience and intuition.

You cannot process infinite amounts of data, which implies that you decide which information is helpful at any point in time. Whether this is an implicit decision or an explicit one, revisiting the data which was left out every now and then can shed new light on your next steps.

  • Pick some types of data and information you do not use regularly.
  • Explore the data even if you think it does not affect your decisions and goals.
  • Capture insights based on the new data even if they are not applicable at the moment. These insights might become essential ingredients in future activities and challenges.

examples

Example 1

If you have dashboards to visualize certain aspects of your projects, products, or activities, make it a habit to explore every now and then data not reflected in the dashboard. This data is probably hidden in plain sight, masked out by the visible data set. Whether it will have an immediate short-term value or not, Observing this data and even playing with it can result in insights that might be used for future creative ideas.

Example 2

Any activity you and your team are engaged with interfaces with some internal or external stakeholders. It is likely that these stakeholders, who are usually identified in advance, are an integral part of various discussions and decisions throughout the project.

Looking beyond the first circle of stakeholders — actively looking for people who are not directly invested in the project — and including them in some discussions and decision points is likely to add new perspectives and result in fresh ideas.

related practices

further exploration


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