Ben Holliday

Spaces inbetween

I’ve been travelling more for work again this week.

Late on Monday evening I arrived in Edinburgh to daylight. It’s this time of year that can lift my soul when the nights start getting lighter and when spring brings the start of British Summertime as the clocks go forward.

After a day in Edinburgh with the Scottish Digital Academy on Tuesday I took a much longer train ride all the way to London (4 hours 40 minutes), where I then spent the night before team meetings all day on Wednesday.

This type of travel is more reminiscent of the type of life I had a consultant before the pandemic in 2020. These days I travel less. Maybe once a week, which takes me away from home for no more than a few days at a time.

Eventually I made it back home to Cumbria from London late on Wednesday night. Completing an almost round trip of the UK.

Travelling this week has reminded me how much I value the time I spend on trains, especially as part of a busy few days of work. This is even the case when it means long work days, and sometimes even with the delays and inconvenience.

I like train travel because it give me time to think. It gives me time to process, and time to reset before the next thing. It’s also partly how I process the thing I’ve just done. These are all important types of space and time for me. They are spaces inbetween.

I’ve also been leading some consultancy with a central government department over the past few months. It’s the type of project that involves working with different groups of people, researching, understanding, and slowly building a gradually clearer picture of insights, ideas, and future strategy.

This work has needed different types of spaces inbetween. The pace of the work has been effective because we’re allowing time between workshops and meetings to sit with some of the outputs. To put them away, revisit them, discuss them, and to spend as much time away from the data as we do with it. This is what you might describe as sensemaking, broken up by all the different journeys we explore in the process of learning and doing.

Everything can become clearer this way. It’s a rhythm that’s needed a lot in consultancy work. You simply can’t time box everything to deliver immediate results without the right spaces inbetween.

Edinburgh, Monday 28th March 2023. Worth the journey

This is my blog where I’ve been writing for 18 years. You can follow all of my posts by subscribing to this RSS feed. You can also find me on Bluesky, less frequently now on X (formally Twitter), and on LinkedIn.