In Thinkertoys: A handbook of creative-thinking techniques, author Michael Michalko spends a fair bit of time making the case for looking at the white spaces in your projects and activities — the parts of our lives and work that we often overlook — to stimulate creative thinking. It’s almost as though the coloured sections are providing misdirection and we miss out on opportunities and insight as a result.
Investigators will tell you the white space is where the most important information can hide. In my former life as an information security specialist, we often looked at the impact of steganography (technology that allows individuals to hide information such as sensitive financial data or trade secrets in the “white spaces” of JPG images or MP3 files) to corporate security and competitive advantage. Of course, communicators will tell you that the spoken and written word present only part of the message, that there’s more important information to be received in the facial expressions, hand gestures and tone.
I was reminded of this when I stumbled on an old notebook and randomly opened it to a page dated July 17, 2007. At the time of the entry, our daughters were 5 (Bayla) and 7 (Lucy).
I picked up Lucy and Bayla from camp today. I looked at them and pointed out that they were covered in dirt.
Lucy laughed and said “No, Dad. We’re covered in fun”.
Communication is filled with content-rich white spaces. They’re in broadcast and print news reports and the comments posted on online news sites, in blog posts and their comments, videos, podcasts, meetings, speeches and political strategy and tactics.
New channels create new white spaces. For those of us in digital, this means opportunities to identify white spaces and understand how they’re being used — knowingly and unwittingly. One of my favourite spaces to look at is comments because there’s a goldmine of public awareness and opinion to be discovered there.
Where are the content-rich white spaces in your field?