Love Depended On A Vacancy

By Paul Corson.

A scientific theory should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.
– Albert Einstein

One of the many paradoxes I’m forced to ruminate on each Sunday morning is which part of the Sunday New York Times to read first, Sunday Styles or the Sunday Review.  It usually comes down to how do I want to get my weekly dose of emotional wallowing – through Modern Love or Opinion?  Hmm.  The awkward relationship between stepson and stepfather?  Been there, done that.  No thank you.  Trump, Cruz, Obama, oh my!!  Been there, done that too.  Sometimes Sunday Business is the winner by default.

But one Sunday about a year ago, Modern Love author Laurel Fantauzzo wrote about her rebound from unrequited love.  One of her most poignant conclusions was that love depended on a vacancy.  If there was no room for love to grow, it wasn’t ever going to happen.  Then, over the past couple weeks, in conversation after conversation among the planning committee for this week’s Thin Air Technology Event in Park City, there it was again – the idea of space and gaps and vacancy.  As organizers, we wanted to create space for new thinking around the idea of innovations in human performance.

And that’s when it really hit home for me.  While coaching my daughter’s soccer teams, I was always talking about creating space.  When I’m talking to her about school writing projects or science fair competition ideas, I tell her to free her mind.  Why then should the realm of entrepreneurship be any different?

How many times have you been asked what the secret sauce is to entrepreneurship or innovation or technology based economic development?  How many of you are paid to generate, talk about, or achieve best practices for supporting, nurturing, or investing in startups?

No one wants to be thought the fool, so we read the latest regurgitation of secrets behind building the next Silicon Valley and obediently go all in on Lean.  Rather than have faith in Einstein’s wisdom, we take a Crabtree Bludgeon to Occam’s Razor.  The simplest solution is no longer the best when every complex situation can be made clear by adding another layer of complexity.

Maybe I’m the fool, but I like my best practices clean and quick rather than obtuse and complicated.

Love depended on a vacancy.  Knowledge fills vacuums.  Economic Development fills voids.  Entrepreneurs fill gaps.  Innovation fills holes.

Holy cow, we need more vacancies.

Think about every redeveloped warehouse district, co-working space, and university incubator you’ve ever visited.  They all capitalize on vacancies.  And why do all those vacancies generate innovative, entrepreneurial outcomes?  Because nature and experience both tell us that the key is self-organization, a spontaneous process where order or coordination arises out of random interactions.  There is no controlling agent telling people whom to talk to or what idea to turn into a company.  Often, the most important element within the chaos is a simple source of positive feedback.  Over time, that self-organization leads to emergence, whereby larger patterns and forms, relationships and startups coalesce through the interactions among smaller, simpler, somewhat different people, ideas, and dreams.

We can make it as complicated as we want, but it’s not that difficult.  Get out your razor, not your bludgeon.  Create some space, then see what fills the void.  And if you aren’t at Thin Air this week, remember to come see us next year, April 5-7, 2017.  In the meantime I’m going to look at Bill Cunningham’s On the Street pictures.