The Necessity of Empty Spaces

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Just a few weeks ago as the New Year was upon me, I found myself rummaging through piles, boxes, folders, and computer files, wanting to pause long enough to review some of the rapidly accumulating evidence of past work.

I came across my “facilitator’s guide” for an event I designed and led for business leaders in the Mojave Desert some 15 years ago . We called it “The Necessity of Empty Spaces”. For three days we intentionally used the desert environment to escape from the demands of the workplace just to think, reflect, yes, even meditate. Among other tools, we used the Disciplined Inquiry™ methodology (which I still use with clients today) to work a real business dilemma.

Many creative and talented people today seemingly have no “pause button” which they can hit to escape the relentless demands of doing more with less. It is taking an enormous toll in the workplace as managers attempt to achieve greater and greater efficiencies.

Pacing productivity does not mean simply seeking ways to go further faster. It is essential that we recognize the value, indeed the necessity, of stopping from time to time, of finding and claiming some “space”. When is the last time you were caught in the act of thinking on the job? What is required for you to claim that kind of space for yourself?

The Chief Strategy Officer of a Fortune 50 company, one of my current clients, as part of a recent conversation on this very subject, directed my attention to a speech on Solitude and Leadership that was delivered to the plebe class at West Point last year. I encourage you to find a few moments to read it and then take a walk. Define some space that is intentionally empty. See what happens!

  • Steve, quite interested that you mentioned the Solitude and Leadership speech. A friend sent it to me several months ago, and I've been attempting to integrate it into the leadership curriculum. Segun and I have taken a look, but can't quite seem to find a related topic upon which to annex it. Still "finding space" for it I guess you could say.

    Best,

    Ngozi

  • Mark Solien

    Aloha Steve,
    So very nice to have you back on line! I did take a walk after reading your note and the included piece on solitude and leadership. A wonderful experience.

    Mark