May 2014

Free space

What is the value of free space, the space to experiment and pursue curiosity? And what is it worth?

Free space is costly.
A square metre in the heart of London easily sets you back 15k. One hour of brainstorming with your team probably somewhere around 500 euros (or much, much more). A company like Intel spends over 10 billion dollars per year on R&D, which is comparable with the GDP of a country like Nicaragua. (And I wonder which of these two has more free space.)

Free space is valuable.
Imagine you’d have unlimited of physical free space, to grow your own vegetables in the heart of a city. Or financial free space, to spend weeks on getting a proposal just right. Intellectual free space, to read a book or do a MOOC entirely unrelated to your day-to-day. And free space in your schedule, to pursue a project or experiment into the unknown.

Last year, Jim and I used some free space (summer) to write a book. Free space well spent! This weekend, however, I lost 245 minutes of free space playing A Dark Room (don’t click the link!). It’s easy to waste free space, or use it to make ends meet rather than make an impact.

Many of the best projects I’ve worked on happened in the free space between meetings, tight budgets and strict regulations. The book, but also the National Vending Machine, Van Gogh in 3D, last year’s workshops in the Balkans. De gulle ekster – the art and design subscription startup I’m involved in – too. They wouldn’t have happened, well… without the space to experiment and pursue curiosity.

Bottom-line: When spent well, the value of free space is significant, and it’s worth everything. Work on creating free space, and if you have it, grasp it.