Podcast Episode 9: The Power Of White Space

Episode 9 – The Power Of White Space

The power of White Space. The space to think and create something new, a space of new possibilities. True innovation happens ONLY in white spaces. Creating White Space by leveraging the power of To-Think Lists, just like you would have a ‘To Do List’.


Podcast Transcription

Ravi: Hello there, welcome to episode number 9. This is Ravi Gundlapalli, founder, CEO of MentorCloud.

Rajesh: This is Rajesh Setty, I’m a serial entrepreneur.

Ravi: Excellent Rajesh. So the topic we picked before we hit the record button is the power of white space. So Rajesh what does white space mean to you?

Rajesh: White space for me is space that is available to you where you are not planned anything in particular. That you have the space to think and create something.

Ravi: Ok so it’s a space in your day. Like between meetings, weekends.

Rajesh: Yeah, because for me, white space is space where whatever you want to do, you can do, but you decide what that is and that is where for me, I think it’s a space of new possibilities. There’s something that I have not thought about. And there are whole day [inaudible 00:57] very busy. Ten to 10:30, I’m going to do this, 10:30 to 11, I’m going to do this, then I will do this, then I will do this. Whole day is booked. Where is the space for new possibilities?

Ravi: You know it’s very interesting thing because true innovation happens only in white space. Because when you are doing, you already thought about it and now you’re in the act of doing this thinking in a way, right? So, only when you take that silent walk in the park; only when you are waking up in the middle of the night or some solo car ride, your brain is now kind of blossoming because it is not tasked with a task. So the hidden jewels suddenly see light and say… beautiful ideas come out. I solved some very tough problems during my PhD because of the white space and I think it’s a very very important to strategically make sure your life has white space in it.

Rajesh: Correct, correct. And the interesting thing, Ravi, that I have found is people say I’m extremely busy, I’m extremely busy and then I ask them do you use Facebook by any chance? Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m always on Facebook. And then they just told me that they are extremely busy and immediately say I’m on it, It’s on my cell phone, my tab is always open. So basically, they can’t handle white space very often because if something is really empty people think why is there white space in my life? Let me fill it. And Facebook or anything that is easy to be tempted, it’s always there.

Ravi: You know, that’s… you make a very important point in the vain of social media as an autofill for any white space that we used to have in the past. If we were not interrupted with notifications as horribly as today, you know, 20 years ago, if you finish your task, you would just walk or read a book or just sit silently, have a cup of coffee. But today you are naturally drawn to a phone and seeing who emailed me, who shared a photo, who liked it. So this external impulses coming in have really leave zero room for any white space.

Rajesh: Exactly and the power is within them only. Because nobody is… Facebook is not, they have not signed a contract with Facebook or any social media or anything where they have said 22 hours in a week, I have to work on social media and engage or anything. Nobody has said it. It’s by volition. They have chosen to spend it. Which means they can choose not to spend that time. Create more white space.

Ravi: I mean absolutely and I was recently listening to Nir Eyal, the author of the book Hooked. He talked about habit forming products. And I think one of the points he makes is the social network technologies are kind of designed to kind of draw us into kind of using them all the time. So, you have to kind of lay the rules and the habits to say I’m going to do Facebook between nine and 10 a.m. or nine and 10 p.m. and then I’m going to do certain things. Because that’s when you can really do something that you didn’t even know you were capable of.

Rajesh: Correct. Just for the record Nir is a close friend of ours so we can’t say anything negative about him. [crosstalk 04:28]

Ravi: Oh I said very positive things [crosstalk 04:30 inaudible]

Rajesh: No, no, no what I was going to say may look like negative, that’s why I was prephasing it. Basically, Nir is brilliant, right? So he’s helping companies create habit forming products. Which means we have to have a mental power to resist somebody like Nir’s brilliance and still not get tempted and say I will have some white space. I know Nir and genius people like that are creating products that will make me get hooked but I choose weather I want to get hooked and how much I want to get hooked.

Ravi: Exactly, in fact, you know he made a very powerful statement. He said I support habit forming products as long as that habit is not part of a business model. Which is so powerful because it is not how much you use your platform that makes you more money. It’s like I would never encourage such companies like Zynga making you play 24 hours games, it’s like I don’t want that. So, any habits that are not tied to the company’s business model but are more tied to the value creation of the user, if the business model is tied to that, then I think he said that’s a good habit. That‘s a company that he supports so I think we kind of write off into the habit forming from white space. The power of white space again is to be able to kind of reflect on what happened? What is going to happen? Where am I going? And I think it’s that reflective time. Do you agree?

Rajesh: Yeah, yeah. See, one of the things that’s helped me a lot is… I have what I call to think lists. So basically just like everybody has to-do lists, I use Trello and I have a board called To Think Lists. So, if you say something for example, you tell — with the end of this conversation or after this conversation – you’ll say Rajesh, have you thought about this concept? And then I say I have thought about it but if I promise you I’ll think about it and you ask me, when will you think about… don’t know but white space, I know for sure I create white space. If I worry … what will I do? Because blank is something that people are not used to. I just open my Trello and say what did I want to think about that I didn ‘t have the time to think about. I start going and thinking a piece of paper so whatever comes to my mind, I’ll start writing and that is the time to reflect. Sometimes the to think list is empty, which is scary. That I should have something to think about. If it is empty, then I use the time to add things to the to think list.

Ravi: In fact that’s an interesting point. I think everybody should have those lists, first of all. Because it’s not only to think, also, there are certain things that we love to do. We should have those lists also because sometimes what we love to do get really sidetracked because of all the things that you’re doing. Because you’re so busy, you’re getting notified all the time and we forget to hear the artists that we love of musicians. So we kind of sacrifice on the things that we love so it’s almost that the white space is required so that we can back and really do that because when we do what we love, naturally our whole human emotions. Our own stress levels greatly go down.

Rajesh:  I totally agree with you. Totally agree with you. The other thing that has worked for me to maintain the white space Ravi and it’s not something that I’m telling all the people to do it, I don’t have anything in my life where people can easily interrupt. I’m not on chat, I’m not on Skype, if somebody texts me, I say I’m very clumsy so I’m not going to be respond very quickly. Unless it’s really, really urgent, don’t text me so that I’m not at the mercy of some interruptions.

Ravi: I think it’s more [inaudible 08:44] So your white space, you’re kind of connecting to being very highly productive. You want to be interrupted.

Rajesh: Yeah, in general because – especially if you’re doing the right [inaudible 09:01] interruption is a roadkill because you’re thinking about it and then is enough resource, you and I know that there is enough resource that you get interrupted to get back to the same rhythm, mindset and attitude, it takes time.

Ravi:  So coming back, you, we wanted to talk about this power of white space. Now, because we both agree that white space is where creativity happens, white space is where we feel comfortable with ourselves, not with the task but then there are challenges in today’s world where creating a white space in a day is not that easy. So what are some tips Rajesh that people should… can have white spaces in their day and in their week.

Rajesh: Yeah. Especially, there is one that does work for me because I’ve been an entrepreneur for a long time, so before I was an entrepreneur I used to work for a couple of large companies and there the calendar is always shared. That means they think if you’re not booked anything then you’re available to be booked. That means oh, Ravi is free then, you may be working on a report, [inaudible 10:17- 10:22] So the calendar availability. Right? So it means if you’re not meeting with someone, you’re available to meet.

Ravi: Oh because at the time people don’t know that you’re actually working on something.

Rajesh: Exactly. Exactly. So one thing that does work for me is I used to have meetings for mwm, meeting with me and then this mwm will stay there. It will close it. They know that I’m busy, they don’t know that I’m busy creating white space to keep myself busy.

Ravi:  Yeah, you know that’s so funny you said meeting with me because I was actually thinking about this creating a personal appointment with yourself. Because that I think I find it extremely, extremely valuable because why should everything be with somebody else? You know, I have so much to discover about myself, about what is it that I really like to do, what is it that excites me, that inspires me. So I think people should create those appointments with themselves. And of course the next best thing to white space is an appointment with family,

Rajesh: Beautifully said. So in fact, I’m reading a new book which you have a copy too. It’s called Cartography of Negotiation. It’s almost like a philosophy book. [inaudible 11:35] called Scott Wayne and then in the first chapter about negotiation. The first chapter is called you. Y O U, you and he clearly takes us to a journey of self-discovery. because when you’re negotiating something, you should know why you have negotiating and if you want to know why you at negotiating, you should know who you are, what is your calling? What is your legacy and all. Sometimes you get caught up in negotiation, then you forget who you are and then you are negotiating for something that isn’t even important for you. So the white space kind of thing provides an opportunity for those kinds of self discovery. And the earlier question was how do we create white space? One there’s booking and meeting with yourself, booking a meeting with family and all this, that way people are used to seeing schedules and in this schedule a meeting with you. That’s one and the second thing, again, I can’t ask you everybody to do be do what I am doing, but somehow reduce interruptions so it’s look hard, but if you reduce interruptions, you have an opportunity to actually maintain the white space. That is the second one, third one, for people that matter most to you, you can tell them that you’re trying to create white space. It’s not like 50 hours a month, but three, four hours a month, like one hour a week or anything and this is the time you’re thinking to self-reflect, grow and all those things. People actually appreciate this white space so I need to respect it.

Ravi: So you’re telling people, in fact I’m just thinking the power of white space is not the same for everybody. Right? Supposed you are a very busy executive, the white space is for you to kind of distress or it’d be like if you’re an entrepreneur, the white space may be the time for coming up with new solutions, coming up with something creative. So, it is, you have to make their space and kind of make it work for you depending on where you are in your journey.

Rajesh: I totally agree with you. So when I was discussing the same topic a few years ago, one of my friends said, Oh, white space is your escape from the eco chamber that you’re caught in and that I always remember that am I in an eco chamber that I’m always regurgitating what I am talking to all my friends are always telling exactly, agreeing to what I’m saying or am I agreeing to what everybody is telling. This is the time for escape from the white space. Eco-chamber, sorry.

Ravi: Yeah, The eco-chamber, yeah. I think it is not to escape, but it is essentially to find yourself not from escaping from the outside, but find you will find yourself. And again, I think I highly encourage, because unlike the yesterday years when there were no smartphones, when there are no so many interruptions, 15, 20 years ago, I space was just a natural thing and people did not, uh, people that are against going to a park or just taking a walk or listening to some music. But today those opportunities are very, very minimal. So you have to be a lot more conscious about this, which is, I think one of the reasons why you picked this topic today is because having that white space and using it to be valuable to something that you cared about has to be done consciously.

Rajesh:  Totally agreed. We are getting to the close of it. So maybe we should say one or two concluding remarks and go on to the next topic.

Ravi:  Yeah. So I think, uh, it’s a, it’s an excellent topic. You know, white spaces is where creativity happens. White spaces is where, you know, new solutions emerge and new discoveries happen as to what you, who you really are and what you really know. And a highly encourage people to scheduling meetings on their calendars in you know, and just call it, you know, my space.

Rajesh: My last topic is, but if you’re never heard white space in your life, the first time you have the white space, it will be very uncomfortable because you are not used to it because man is a social animal and what also is a social animal, but you have to somehow, but the temptation to go back to the normal routine and say if you, and if nothing happens in the first time somebody says, this is my white space and they don’t know what to do, that should not be the reason to select with check my emails.

Ravi:  Exactly. In fact, maybe, um, we can give a small homework for the, for the listeners. So why don’t they make the white space list? Uh, I want to listen to these songs. I want to take my responsible for dinner. I want to think about this particular problem that have always been excited about it. Never had a chance. So it can be a combination of things that you love, things that you, that you will say, do you want to think? And, uh, I think I would encourage everybody to have that list so that when the right space happens, you’re not scrambling what to do.

Rajesh: Yeah, let’s say specific, let’s say at least come up with three things that you do in a white space so that way we think about the explore, but it cannot be. Well, let me complete my report activity staying nice and it’s sort of an inactive with detail.

Ravi: Exactly. And um, maybe, uh, we can retouch this topic in one of the episodes.

Ravi: Yeah. How do we, how does the white space lead to clean space? Yeah, that’s exactly what happens. Some brilliant idea comes, you’ll, you’ll go to your team member or you want to write a book, who knows white leads to green?

Ravi: Thank you for listening and see you again in the next episode. Find more about me at mentorcloud.com.

Rajesh:  This is Rajesh Setty signing off. More about me on my blog rajeshsetty.com/blog.

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