The Spaces Innovators Sit Between

Photo by Andie

Photo by Andie

Between what spaces do you find yourself? What do you see to the right and left of you? And what does it feel like to wander around in the middle until you find a comfortable spot to linger?

In November of last year, I had the pleasure to attend the TEDx Women event in Washington, D.C. The theme of the 2-day conference was "The Space Between" and speaker after speaker inspired, provoked, questioned and shared their unique experiences and variations on that theme. There was Edit Schlaffer who facilitated a conversation about the space between India & Pakistan. iO Tillet Wright who talked about the space between the extremes of sexuality. And Sister Joan Chrittister who recanted the story of  her navigation between the spaces of science and religion during her career as a Catholic nun.

The Space Between: a constant state of ambiguity and uncertainty. I'm sure that all you design thinkers out there are saying, "Of course- ambiguity- is there any other way to live?  In this field we often find ourselves in a state of in-between, and somehow it seems that when we choose to come down squarely on one side or the other it signals the end of growth. Sure, there are principles we firmly believe in, like empathy and iteration, but they guide, not tether us in our journey.

Here are some spaces I often find myself in between while navigating in innovation:

Psychographic vs. Demographic. Research based in ethnographic principles elicits the hopes and goals of the person you're trying to serve, giving you insight into how they make meaning in their life - their psychographic DNA. But demographic data can't be ignored when you look at the marketplace and neither can economic trends that factor into whether your business is sustainable. Without both types of data, you're stuck  in a conundrum- will my solution even be around long enough to meet the psychographic needs identified?

Build vs. Buy. Intense research shows that customers crave the new business idea your organization is raising up. So, what's the business model that works? Do you fully build the new service in-house? Do you partner for some of it? For all of it?

Service vs. Product. Which are you designing? Is it a hybrid of both? In the modern economy you have to know which type of solution is leading the show. You also have to know if a product or service works better for your organization's current place in the innovation life cycle.

So tell me, what spaces do you navigate? In your experience as an innovator, entrepreneur, or new value creator, where does taking a firm stand actually stimulate growth? I'd love to wander into the space between my thoughts and yours!