Last month while visiting the BOLD Academy out in Boulder, Colorado, I participated in a group activity of Open Space, in which people signed up for sessions of learning, sharing, and discussion. But what I found most intriguing wasn’t the content itself, but the design of the exercise.
The guidelines are as follows:
Whoever shows up are the right people.
Whenever it starts is the right time.
Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened.
Whenever it’s over it’s over.
And the only rule is the Law of two feet: whenever you feel it is right, you are free to get up, move around, choose wherever it is that you want to be. If you’re not getting or giving, move yourself!
This is just one exercise that embodies many of the concepts that I have seen in designed spaces over the past few months. Organizations specializing in this area are growing in number: Bold Academy, StartingBloc, Summit Series, Sandbox, The New American Tavern, The Village, Memento’s Factory 0 , and so many more.
Groups that exist with the intention of creating a space. A space for connection, for open collaboration, for self-discovery through connection to others, and for personal and business growth based on life-long relationships.
They all have different words for it, they design, curate, facilitate; but in the end they’re all talking about the same thing:
By developing expertise in creating an intentional space, these organizations provide an experience that allows people to be 100% present in the moment, 100% authentic to their core, and to connect with a community of other people looking for the same thing. From the Summit team’s ability to connect high-profile individuals making very visible waves in the world, to StartingBloc’s approach of incubating future innovators just beginning to bring their ideas to action, each organization creates an insanely powerful “wow” experience for members of their community.
How do they do this? How do they create such powerful intentional spaces?
1. They set intention through values.
What I’ve noticed is that these organizations spend a lot of time curating/designing their own foundation. They don’t just put up company values for the sake of having them, they spend unheard of amounts of time on the minute details of their core values and mission statement.
2. They ACTUALLY live their values. They make themselves participants in the space.
These organizations and the people who run them put actions behind their words, both in their business actions and in their individual life choices. They create a degree of openness and consciousness where every employee, every volunteer, every staff member becomes an integral part of the community, a necessary component to the space.
For example, in calling itself a “people incubator,” StartingBloc organizers treat each other and all volunteers with the same degree of respect and consideration that they do each candidate and fellow. Volunteers and mentors are going through a process of learning just as valuable and life-changing as candidates themselves. The leaders of the organization understand that if you are going to create a space for others to connect authentically, you have to set the tone through your own actions first.
3. They’re in it for the long haul. They follow up, turn interactions to relationships.
These organizations all have an incredible talent for emphasizing the need for accountability and the supportive nature of relationships as opposed to surface level, routine interactions that provide little value and large amounts of stress.
Instead of feeling like you “have to keep in touch,” as a member of these communities you follow up with other members through shared experience that can be either social or business.
You start ventures together, become partners, go out for coffee or drinks, meetup in cities across the world. You create lasting, learning relationships that help you grow upwards instead of tying you down with obligation.
Perhaps the most powerful benefit of all, these groups design circumstances that facilitate taking the intention of the event into relationships and interactions far beyond.
It is because of these intentional spaces (and the wonderful organizations that created them) that I have learned the value of adding a higher degree of intention and mindful design to my own life, and I look forward to learning more and more about these communities as they grow and develop.
Please post a comment or message me about any other examples of intentional spaces that you know and love!
Until next time,