It had been quite a while since last I had been to this part of the building. Nestled into a forgotten corner by the health center, the unlabeled door in the short hallway sought no attention from me or any other. I might otherwise have passed by, thinking it no consequence, had this door – and the room behind it – not been my intended and requested destination. Inside that room, I knew, a group of distinctive people waited.
I’d heard of them before, of course; a rumored cadre of exceptionally Innovative individuals. Not the “core” team, per se – with them, I was well acquainted – but those persons who were the true heart of Innovation. My thrill at meeting them, though, was tempered by a feeling of unease; a sense of something not right. I dismissed the notion, though, as simple anxiety over the lost time; I would have preferred to be working on my own Innovation projects, all long overdue for continued work, rather than ranging out on what was likely an unneeded fact-finding tour.
Reaching the closed door, I knocked. A pattern of lights – bars of color, with symbols of unknown import embedded – was projected upon the door. “You’re expected. The Mediator welcomes you,” a female voice spoke from mid-air, in the area of the pattern. Within the wall, an unseen mechanism recalled the latch; the door withdrew and allowed me to enter. As I did so, the projection traversed the wall beside me, and then appeared to float through the air, guiding me as I stepped into the room.
I saw four persons, seated at a wooden table. Dressed in non-descript garb – typical of their positions, and signifying their status as knowledge workers – they nonetheless carried themselves with dignity, their eyes narrowed with intensity, focused with intellect. But their presence was somehow vague, uncertain; it was almost as if they were both here and elsewhere, at the same time. That dichotomy visibly strained them; but their need to be heard, at this moment, was clear as well.
“Be welcome here,” continued the disembodied voice from the pattern, sparkling lightly. “As Mediator, I speak for all those who cannot, or will not. The ideas and thoughts of those Unpresent remain, for consideration by all. Those who are here, however, first would speak with you.”
At the table, a woman rose. “My name is Two,” she began, “and I am an Innovator.”
“Welcome, Two” chorused the others.
“I have been an Innovator for two years. In that time, I have created many ideas. But I am incomplete. My ideas languish, for though they have value, none will adopt them, and I cannot.” She paused, then reseated herself.
A man was next. “My name is Four,” he spoke. “I am an Innovator as well.”
“Welcome, Four” came the intonation.
“I have been an Innovator for several months now. In that time, I have created many ideas. But I am incomplete. My ideas have value, but are unfocused, having no end state, and thus will never be completed. No one will know…” His speech trailed off, fading.
Another man followed, quickly standing as his predecessor sat. “Three. My name is Three – and I am an Innovator.” Cutting off the group’s welcome, he continued. “And I am incomplete as well. My ideas are many – too many by some accounts – but they bear the echoes of previous ideas; some complete, some not. It is difficult to know when my ideas have value.” He gathered himself, and then slowly returned to his chair, gesturing to the next.
The last, again a woman, rose and continued without delay. “I am One, and I am an Innovator.”
“Welcome, One,” I found myself answering, as the rest of the group concurred.
“I have been an Innovator since the Beginning. My ideas are true, and complete. But I find they are neglected; they must grow, and be cared for, so that they may continue their purpose.” She glanced down the table, finding quiet nods of agreement from her colleagues, but remained standing. Slowly, she turned her gaze back to the image of the Mediator, now projected upon the surface of the table. “It is done, then?” she ventured.
“Yes,” confirmed the Mediator. “We shall continue, and prevail. Innovation is life.”
“So what happens now?” I interrupted. “You have some problems with Innovation, I can tell. I’ve encountered many of them myself. Do you think I can help you solve them?”
“You don’t understand,” the Mediator voiced softly, almost regretfully. “Perhaps you can. However, we did not ask you here to provide aid, but to receive it; for you belong here, with us.” At the end of the table, an empty chair now waited, where none had been before.
At that moment, I realized my error – and that they were right. Casting a brief glance behind, I saw the door – still there, still open, but holding no real hope for escape. The calling of Innovation was my own, personal success – and personal failing. In the crush of Time, I might lose my way toward Innovation as my own projects languished, unsustained. Together, these people would help restore that focus, even as I might help them on their own paths. Already, the first four again drew together to confer, weighing the fruits of Innovation, and anticipating the next who would step through the door.
I sat down in the last chair.