Liminal Spaces

Exploring Thresholds

This year has been a masterclass in liminal spaces. I set out to explore boundaries in 2020. Instead I have spent most of the year in several – physical, emotional, personal and organisational. The test of these thresholds will be the transformation to come. That change will require personal effort.

Liminal spaces are thresholds between worlds. Normally we pass through them without much thought. In a normal year, we are in constant transit through foyers, elevators, doorways, airports, staircases, corridors, and quiet empty spaces in the early hours of the morning. We don’t give these moment much attention but they are places of transformation and change. We enter as one life and leave as a part of another.

In 2020, lockdowns, algorithmic bubbles, virtual communities and the general disruption and hiatus of a pandemic has trapped us in the liminal zones – physically, emotionally and in our personal and organisational relationships. We have been given time to experience the uncertain and transforming spaces that sit in between. For many, this has been a source of frustration and fatigue. For others liminality is an opportunity for transformation, whether by choice or the demands of a fast changing world.

For those who understand that the difference between risk and opportunity is execution, 2020 has proven to be an extraordinary year of change. I have seen organisations take dramatic steps in thinking about the future of work, their digital processes and how they can deliver for and engage their customers. Many of these organisations are now rethinking strategy in light of a new appreciation of what can be done when the liminal phase is over. The butterflies that blossom from 2020’s hibernation will be extraordinary. Time in a liminal space can be productive and transformative.

However, nothing changes if we do not do the work to translate our risks and opportunities into change and better ways of doing things. Almost my first post of the pandemic was about the power of personal agency. That agency still offers us the promise of new worlds the other side of our current liminality. We will be dealing with the consequences of 2020 for years to come. The best way to manage those changes is to lead them.

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