It’s been my pleasure to have co-founded and assisted in the birth of Grassroots Innovation spaces* in Berlin and Egypt.
I have learned much from these experiences, which I’m happy to share. The most critical insight however is this:
Community and Content come before the Space.
Whilst the physical space, tools and materials available are one critical part of an innovation space, other factors are more critical to the success of the space. Sadly these factors are often noted, but in amongst all the details about tools, space design, and resources. Companies and consultants often see the product of a community – the space. Since the Material world is more visible, they copy that and expect the rest to follow.
Successful spaces are built with the community and by the community around shared interests (content).
An innovation space needn’t have a permanent physical space at all – as events are the points where the magic happens – people converging at specific moments in Space and Time.
What we create is shaped by how we feel about ourselves and each other. Innovations are shaped by our emotions.
Communities are built from collectives of individuals.
Each with their own passions, desires, objectives. Each with their own biases, flaws, ego’s and behaviors. Some behaviors bind a community together, others are toxic. Understanding the Emotional needs of the community, and creating a positive emotional space for collaboration and innovation are critical to a spaces success.
Our imagination is limited to what we know. Without Birds to inspire him, would Humans have imagined winged flight? The content and experiences a space provides to it’s community add new information from which innovation can be born. Diversity of knowledge allows for different viewpoints to be taken and for innovation to emerge at the borders of what exists. New information can also be generated by exploring the unknown, often accidental discovery advances us further than intentional exploration.
Our ability to bring ideas into the world is greatly affected by the resources, tools and space available to us. What is most readily available is more likely to be used regardless of whether it is the best tool for the job – how many times have you tried to use cutlery as a screwdriver? But just as we often use substandard equipment to achieve a goal, we will also attempt to solve simple problems with complex tools.
Each of the above considerations, affects the other. Each is dynamic and constantly changing. I can help you understand how to engage with these systems, and provide you with tools, processes and questions to help you create spaces where innovation flourishes.
*I use this term as it appears to be the most popular right now in the corporate sphere, different groups use other terms, depending on community vocabulary and ideological preference – FabLabs, Makerspaces, Hackerspaces, Coworking Spaces, Hubs, etc.