photo via parkeretc.squarespace.com

Peter Bacevice, PhD
My colleagues and I recently engaged in a happy hour conversation about the current “pop up” trend in business.  From restaurants and food trucks to art galleries and retail stores, entrepreneurs and seasoned businesses alike are tapping into consumer demand for continuously refreshed and creative experiences.  A pop up venue is an opportunity for a business owner to:

  • Test drive a new idea
  • Leverage local and seasonal resources
  • Involve the user and gauge their reactions
  • Experiment in different locations

Much like the design process, a pop up business is a great way to jumpstart innovation through rapid prototyping and then determining what worked and what didn’t work.

Yet pop up businesses reflect a larger trend where people and businesses shed old routines and limitations about work in an effort to discover new ways to deliver value.  In the old days you might have seen a rogue team laboring beneath management’s radar on a “Trojan Horse” or “skunk works” project.  But today’s pop up business broadcasts the evolving idea and invites the public to participate in its design.

The journal Organization Studies has hitchhiked this trend as a research topic and is currently reviewing papers for a forthcoming issue about what they refer to as “White Spaces of Organization” – where the lines of demarcation of work, place, people, and processes are ambiguously defined.  It is the zone where organized activity happens but is loosely coupled from formal organization.  The journal prods us to think about such patterns as:

I can’t help but think how pop up businesses fall into this continuum of organizational white space where users and creators blur the boundaries of responsibility for project success.

Small companies and individual entrepreneurs have the inherent flexibility to “pop up” a concept.  If you work in a large company, challenge yourself to find your white space.  Ask yourself – What is the idea?  How is it trending?  Who are the stakeholders?  Where should I experiment?  Now go off and create!

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