Make the Most of Your White Space
By Vince Thompson
manager has white space in his or her day. Successful managers take
advantage of their white space and use it as a time to brainstorm
new ideas or work on things outside their normal job scope.
exactly is “white space”? White space are those gaps in your
calendar in between meetings and other planned activities. Many
managers fill that time by replying to e-mail or making phone calls.
And while keeping in communication with people is certainly
important, it’s not always the best use of white space. In fact,
those managers who are truly successful and fulfilled use their
white space to connect their personal passions with their
example, consider the story of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple
Computers. When Jobs was in college, he took a class in calligraphy
and developed a passion for the artistic style of writing. Years
later, when he was helping to design the first Apple computer, he
questioned why users had only one font choice, especially
considering that calligraphy and other font styles were so powerful
for expressing ideas. As a result, Apple computers were the first to
have multiple font choices, which in turn accelerated font
availability in DOS based computers. That’s just one example of how
someone was able to connect their personal passion with something
all white space activity has to connect to your passions or hobbies.
Sometimes simply using your white space to think about things
differently is enough to give your company the competitive edge it
needs. In order to use your white space to create new opportunities
for your company, consider the following suggestions.
Study the business of your passion: No matter what your hobby or
passion, there’s an entire industry devoted to that one thing. So
study the business of your passion and look for parallels that you
can bring into your company. For example, suppose your work for a
computer company, and your passion is NASCAR. If you were to study
the business of NASCAR, you’d learn that NASCAR is able to take
category exclusive sponsorships and cut them down to a granular
level. Intrigued by that idea, you may start thinking how your
company could duplicate something like that. Perhaps you come up
with the idea to sell category exclusive sponsorships to computer
software, utilities, and peripherals companies, where they get
advertising space on your computer boxes. Not only does this idea
help your company form relationships with other vendors, but it also
helps increase the company’s revenue.
is to take aspects of your passion or hobby and see if you can apply
it to your company in any way. Use your passions to “connect the
dots” at work by uncovering new solutions to challenges and unique
opportunities for growth. If you’re going to use this white space
time to pursue some open ended projects, why not focus on projects
where you have some kind of a passion? The things you love and know
are ultimately going to give you ideas you can act upon.
Network outside of your industry: Another option is to spend
your white space time talking to your peers in other industries. Go
to their events, trade shows, and conferences to get a feel for how
the industry works and solves problems. Doing so enables you to get
a completely different perspective on how to address challenges your
company is facing.
develop relationships with people who are at a similar level as you
are or who have a similar scope of responsibility as you do, but who
work in completely different industries. So if you’re an accountant
in a software company, for example, talk to accountants in
manufacturing or professional services companies. Your standards and
practices may be very different, but your peers have likely come up
with some ideas and solutions that you can apply to your company.
your competitor for a day: Use your white space time to write
your competitor’s sales pitch. This will help you understand what
your competitors are saying about themselves and what the
opportunities are for your company. For example, if you worked at
Dell and had to write a sales pitch for Compaq, you would ask
yourself what you could say about Compaq that only applied to them.
Then you’d realize the true differences between your two companies
and could figure out how to capitalize on those differences.
variation is to use your white space time to think like your
customer. If you were looking for the products or services your
company offers, what would be important to you? Write out a list of
the top ten things you would look for in a product or service
provider. Then you can assess how well your company really meets the
needs of your ideal prospect.
the Minutes Matter: We all have parts of our job that are not
completely defined. We all also have time in our day that’s
unaccounted for—white space in our daily calendar that’s prime for
opportunity. So really look at what you’re charged to do and then
assess how much leeway for creativity and unconventional thinking
that outside of your core responsibilities there are wonderful
things you can do for your company that can capitalize on who you
are and what skills you have. In fact, many business success stories
are of people who drew on their past and/or their interests and
brought that into the business. So don’t be afraid to explore your
passions. Look at the business behind your passions. Keep an eye on
the business landscape, talk to other people in various industries,
and be open to different perspectives. When you have time to explore
non-traditional things, carve out some time to do that in the white
space of your week. You may only have a couple of hours to devote to
this, but those few hours can make a world of difference.
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