Every company has an organizational chart. This chart shows the various roles in an organization and who reports to whom.

This chart typically shows a bunch of boxes representing the people in the organization. The boxes (a.k.a. people) are connected to other boxes via lines. These represent the reporting relationships.

While nearly everyone focuses on the boxes and lines on the page, I focus on the white space of the page — the areas where there are no boxes and no lines.

In companies small and large, all the big problems and the big opportunities are in the white space.

It’s the problems that nobody is responsible for solving that I find interesting. It’s the opportunities that nobody in the organizational chart is focused on that I find intriguing. In fact, I’ve spent my whole career operating in the white space.

It is far easier to get promotions and move up quickly when you solve problems and pursue opportunities that nobody else is focused on. There’s no competition.

This approach works best when you’re already inside of a company as an employee (or consultant) and have visibility into the problems and opportunities overlooked by others.

One of the best ways to grow professionally is to engage in a stretch project. This is a project you’re perhaps only 70% to 80% qualified to do based on historical experience. The idea is that you engage in the project and are capable enough to “figure out the rest” as you go — stretching your skills in the process.

The easiest way to find a stretch project is to create and propose your own. The easiest way to do that is to look in the white spaces of your organization. When you’re looking in the white spaces, the easiest way to find a problem to solve is to listen to what people in your company complain the most about.

One option for a stretch project is to make that problem — the one that irritates everyone — go away by solving it.

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