You have no doubt heard the term ‘makerspace’ quite a bit in recent years. The movement has been steadily growing and the value for both education and business is becoming clear.
So, what is a makerspace? According to Luc Lalande, a respected innovator, a leader of the makerspace movement in Ontario, and now the founding director of the Aletheia Guild – a phenomenal bridge between projects and artists based in Ottawa: ‘A makerspace is just a space dedicated to hands-on creativity. While it is often associated with digital creativity – 3D printers and the like – it doesn’t have to be. I think the true definition is simply a place that allows for hands-on idea generation and problem-solving.’
According to this definition, a makerspace can be a pretty simple thing to achieve. Find an area that can be dedicated to creativity and then build in whatever features you can fit and afford – adding as you go and as the interests of the participants become clear. It can be as simple as some tables and some carts of materials such as craft supplies, plasticine, and Lego or as substantial as workbenches, 3D printers, CNC machines, carpentry and metal-working tools and more.
So why should you bother?
There is quite a bit of research to support opportunities for hands-on activities and creativity in an educational setting. Most of it centers around problem-solving, idea generation, stretching beyond the limitations of conventional thinking, and so on. As our world continues to change, our need for creative problem-solvers will be more important than ever. Creating a space where young people can practice these skills and – more importantly – value them, is a good thing for all of us.
But what about the work environment?
Some independent makerspaces that have popped up have become idea incubators. One such example is Makerspace North in Ottawa, Canada. Providing lots of open space and a welcoming atmosphere, individuals can find room and support to create and explore. The phenomenal ideas that have come from creating and collaboration have led to successful businesses – some of which continue to operate on the premises, sharing their experience and mentoring, supporting, and engaging with others in the space.
And in more traditional business settings?
Many of the big tech companies spend a lot of money creating work environments that are pretty funky and cool and include open spaces, collaborative areas, and games rooms. They don’t always, however, have space dedicated to creative play and hands-on creativity, and most traditional business environments certainly don’t. But they should. Think about the times when you have had your most striking insights. In all likelihood, the best flashes of brilliance happened when you were away from your desk, removed from the problem that was worrying you. This is the place where makerspaces really do their magic. Stimulating your brain with a creative, hands-on task generally allows for all kinds of tangential thinking. And, of course, all of the benefits that come from makerspaces in an educational setting – problem-solving, idea generation, stretching beyond the limitations of conventional thinking, and so on – certainly benefit most business settings as well. Encouraging your team to take a brain break to spend a half hour in a creative endeavor will pay dividends. Investing in a makerspace and encouraging it’s use, is investing in your business and the people who are going to make it successful. Create your space today.