Yesterday I alluded to the fact that people in structural holes, according to Dr. Bert, are the people most likely to have ideas. Instead of hole, I like to use the term Edge, which is widely used to describe a place in nature where two different ecosystems meet. For instance the boundary between a forest and a field or anywhere water meets land. In and near that boundary area, there will be a huge diversity of species and a riot of growth. There will be small trees, shrubs, ferns, tall grass, and a disproportionate amount of animal life. Food, cover, and nesting materials are all very close by. Animals have access to the resources of the field and forest right nearby.
This edgy area between the forest infield is analogous to and edge between departments. All of those small trees, shrubs, grass, vines, birds, animals, those can all be considered a new ideas. And that is a very fertile place for them to grow.
You can create these edges on your project team or in your business very simply.
Find ways for people to interact and share ideas. Obviously, meetings are one way to do this, but make sure that meetings are set up to discuss ideas and encourage the free exchange of thoughts and experiences. If you do that correctly, you’ll have amazing ideas and solutions to problems.
Try to create as many edges as you can. If people and departments don’t normally interact, give them a reason to work together. Often, it is helpful to include someone on a project that is not impacted that project. This person creates a value by contributing from a point of view completely different from anyone else involved. In terms of edges, just including this outside person will create a significant number, because of the new, unexpected interactions with the other members of the team.
Edges are not just important, edges are critical. This is where most ideas and all of your solutions will come from. And how people work together at the edges is where you find out if you have a team or a bunch of individuals.
So cultivate the fact is create more edges and be ready. The hardest part will be trying to figure out which things to do first.