Summary of Adaptive Space

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Disruptive firms set the table where their competitors – that is, the ones that don’t get disrupted into bankruptcy – must eat. These agile companies cultivate an “adaptive space,” an unfettered creative environment that is not necessarily a physical place. They encourage the exploration and free flow of ideas through “discovery, development, diffusion and disruption.” Their openness to fresh thinking enables them to transform themselves into something newer and better. Organizational dynamics professor Michael J. Arena explains what adaptive space is, why your organization needs it to nourish agility and how you can foster it.

About the Author

Michael J. Arena, PhD, is the chief talent officer at General Motors. He teaches in the University of Pennsylvania’s organizational dynamics program and spent two years as a visiting scientist within MIT’s Media Lab.


“Adaptive Space” – The Prerequisite to Agility 

Agility is the contemporary secret to long-term business success. The strongest corporate innovators rely on adaptive space – that is, a kind of open culture – that fosters the free exchange of ideas. Adaptive space – which is a relational environment and not necessarily a physical place – breeds innovation. Adaptive-space organizations encourage the unfettered exploration and exchange of ideas. They know innovative ideas need freedom, connection and corporate energy to thrive.

Adaptive space concerns the interactive discovery and development of innovative ideas and the diffusion of these ideas throughout an organization. Adaptive space is the creative nexus between an organization’s “entrepreneurial pockets” and its “operational system.” On the surface, establishing an adaptive space environment seems straightforward, but achieving a free flow of ideas is a challenge. An unfettered flow requires liberating your employees, and many corporations are uncomfortable with the necessary degree of freedom.

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