Make Space: A book review by Bob Morris

Make SpaceMake Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration
Scott Doorley and Scott Witthoft
John Wiley & Sons (2013)

How to use space to create a culture of collaboration within which personal growth and professional development thrive

As I began to read Scott Doorley and Scott Witthoft’s book, I thought about different reasons why creating space is a good idea. For example, creating space for

o Silence
o Dreaming/daydreaming
o Designing
o Listening
o Communicating
o Meditating
o Cooperating
o Collaborating
o Focusing
o Celebrating
o Awaiting developments
o Saying or doing nothing

Space can be created that is most conducive to these and other activities. It is also true that certain forms of “space” can discourage, limit, or even preclude most (if not all) of these activities. Perhaps you have visited one or more medical or dental facilities in recent years and noticed how strategic use of light and color as well as artwork has made them visually (aesthetically) much more pleasing.

As you may already know, energy renewal initiatives are becoming increasingly more common in the business world and one of them is the “nap room.” People reserve time (usually for 15-45 minutes) and lie down to rest or sleep. That said, keep in mind that “space” can be but is not necessarily a physical location. It could also be a mental or emotion state. Spending time there fills one or more needs.

Long ago, while completing my graduate work in comparative literature at Yale, I came upon an anecdote about an incident when a French Romantic poet (perhaps Baudelaire) was asked how to write a poem. Long pause….then the response. “Draw a birdcage and leave the door open, then you wait and wait and wait. After what may be a very long time, maybe a bird flies through the door. Erase the cage.”

Doorley and Witthoft present and explain a process by which to create space to set the stage for creative collaboration. More specifically, they explain HOW to

o Build a space on the cheap
o Set up a personal studio space
o Jump-start an existing space
o Find other ways to find stuff
o Make a space for new ideas
o Make a space to stay focused
o Make a flexible space
o Build a workshop
o Shape behavior with space
o Created a shared team-space

To repeat, Doorley and Witthoft explain HOW to achieve each of these objectives.

They also achieve their own objectives as co-authors. More specifically, objectives suggested in these comments by George Kembel, global director and co-founder of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford: “This book is an attempt to capture what the adventure has taught us along the way and is a tool to help you to use space to develop your unique culture. I hope our story is an encouragement to you, suggesting that big things often have small beginnings, that radical change usually starts with brave but little steps, and that when people feel safe to try something new, spectacular things can happen. Good luck as you make space in your life, your teams, and your organization to innovate!”

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Scott Doorley is co-director of the Environments Collaborative & Creative Director at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford. Broadly, Scott’s work focuses on how physical context and digital media can enhance human experience. He teaches several classes in subjects at the intersection of design and media arts: storytelling & visual communication, improv, and digital media design. Scott has degrees in Film from the University of California, Los Angeles (BA ’96), and Learning, Design, & Technology from Stanford University (MA ’06).

Scott Witthoft is co-director of the Environments Collaborative at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford — the His professional work as an engineer and a designer has focused on understanding and manipulating interactions among systems. As a Lecturer at Stanford University, he teaches classes in human-centered design and storytelling & visual communication. Scott has degrees in Civil Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis (BS, ’99) and The University of Texas at Austin (MS, ’00), and Product Design from Stanford University (MSE ’08).

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