The power of adjacency

d.school fellows alum and Matter CEO & Partner Corey Ford speaks with the 2013-2014 d.school fellows cohort at Matter in San Francisco. (Fred Leichter) We took a trip to visit Matter in San Francisco during the first week of orientation. Matter is a start-up incubator for journalism companies founded by d.school fellows alum Corey Ford.

Here's my take on the Matter way: Six teams are carefully selected and recruited to build a company in the Matter space. They have 100 days to do it. All of the teams operate on the same schedule and participate in collective design reviews facilitated by the Matter staff. The process has a strong design-thinking undercurrent complete with a bias towards action.

A pace considered too fast by yourself may be just right if others in your peripheral vision are going at the same speed and appear to be succeeding. The magic generated during Matter's process is similar to that of a design-thinking bootcamp when everyone is in one room building prototypes at breakneck speed.  The environment further grants permission to break the norm because the new norm is what is around you.

Learning about Matter's process got me thinking: could this be done for a corporate incubator? In the corporate world, the existing norms and visible evidence all influence a team to go slow and be careful. At Fidelity, we have accelerated project teams' performance by placing them into collaborative workspaces. Each team gets its own space. But our progress and potential to change behavior may be capped when we isolate a high performing team. I was left with this question after visiting Matter: what if we crammed six teams into a common, collaborative environment and put them all on the same schedule?

Have you tried it? Let me know in the comments.