Walls

bldg-constructionLast week I paid a visit to our new company headquarters, which is starting to look ready for our planned mid-summer inhabitation. Because of my involvement with the project, I’ve actually had a pretty good handle on the building’s progress all along. Even so, something about this visit really grabbed me. The building just seemed so much bigger.

With walls finished and furniture installed, somehow the building seemed more impressive than when the ground was staked. Or when the frame went up. Or when interior walls were nothing but studs. How does that work?

It seems counterintuitive to think that filling a space will make it feel bigger. Shouldn’t adding boundaries make it feel smaller, more confining? Apparently not always.

As I thought about it, I got a bead on deconstructing the phenomenon. When the project was an empty field, and later when the footer was poured and the frame erected, so much of the building was left to my imagination. How could that footprint house more than 200 people? How could that many workspaces fit inside that very finite shell? My mind was left to fill in the gaps, to paint the rest of the picture.

The more of the building that went up, the less my mind had to fill in. On last week’s visit, I could clearly see where all those people would fit. I could imagine my colleagues and me bustling about. I knew exactly where our equipment would be tested. And with the structure nearly finished, I could easily compare it to our current digs.

Compare.

I think that’s the key. Most of us need a point of reference before we can really make sense of our surroundings. Even if the new thing is wildly different than anything we’ve experienced before, we still need that what-we’ve-experienced-before baseline to understand that it IS wildly different. We need a way to put it into context.

If you’ve got the time (about 17 minutes), take a gander at this video clip, Thinking inside the box. Dan Heath explains better than I ever could that sometimes it takes knowing the boundaries to really unlock our potential. Instead of closing us in, sometimes the walls actually open us up.

I need to chew on that for a while.