Using a Systems Thinking Approach to Innovation

How a conversation with Flik reminded me that innovation and systems thinking aren’t mutually exclusive.

AK-Flick1

If you’ve never seen A Bug’s Life, it was the 2nd Pixar film released following the amazing debut of Toy Story. If you haven’t seen it at all, or recently, I recommend you watch it for pure enjoyment and the lessons it contains.

Flik is a entrepreneurial ant (that paradox is a leadership book in itself!) whose latest invention is a machine that allows ants to do more faster, thus satisfying the demands of their grasshopper overlords. It works for a while, but then disaster strikes and Flik has to scramble to come up with new solutions to save the colony.

That’s all the storyline I’m going to give you; I hope it whets your appetite to view the movie.

A recent encounter with a life-sized Flik at Disney’s Animal Kingdom brought to mind this fact:

When you’re working on a project, things always go smoother when you have the right tools at hand.

If your mind is working on something innovative, the same is true. The mind is full of ideas from past experiences and from observations gained through conversations, movies, television, etc. While you may chose to rely on your subconscious mind to access these ideas, why not take a more structured approach, using specific tools and techniques?

In her book “The Seeds of Innovation”, Elaine Dundon has created a systems thinking approach to innovation. At first those two thoughts seem contradictory, but in reality it can become a very powerful synergy. For example, here’s a “toolkit” you can dive into when you are faced with a challenge in your ministry.

Rummaging in the Attic – elements of previous solutions or ideas can prove to be very valuable fuel for jump-starting your idea engine. Find old ideas, dust them off, and reconnect them in new ways to your current problem or opportunity.

Cultivating Obsession – a great way to find new ideas it to become obsessed with the challenge that confronts you. It means you have to immerse yourself in the challenge, to seek out all the information you possibly can. Obsession will lead to better insights.

Analyzing Frustrations – one of the most fertile areas for identifying new ideas is discovering what frustrates others about the current problem. Focusing on what is not working will sometimes be the origin of a new breakthrough idea.

Identifying the Gold Standard – no matter what the challenge you are facing, someone else has already been down that road. Seek out these people or organizations that have solved a similar challenge in an outstanding way. Make a list of the elements of the process or program that made it work for them, and relate this list to your situation.

Adopting and Adapting – great ideas already exist all around you. Find them out and adopt them as your own. Look within the category of your opportunity, but also look outside the box. Innovators look beyond the borders of their own situation to find new ideas to adopt and adapt.

Combining Ideas – innovative thinking is a little like a cake you bake: take a little of this, a little of that, put them together and you have a delicious dessert. Creative thinkers are aware of the objects and ideas around them and look for new connections by combining diverse ideas and objects.

Finding Similarities – think of other challenges that might be similar. Draw analogies to similar situations, let your mind wander, and you will most likely discover a new connection from an unlikely source.

Breaking Down the DNA – what if your problem is overwhelming? Break it down into its component parts and focus on it bit by bit. Analyzing every step in the process will allow you to discover new answers.

Listing and Twisting – this is actually a follow-on step from the previous one. Once you have listed the steps in the process, you can “twist” them around to find new ideas.

Become a Visual Thinker – something happens when we move away from a linear process of thinking and start to doodle or draw. I’m a big fan of this method; I have a 4’ x 8’ whiteboard on my office wall that I’m constantly stepping up to and sketching out an idea. It seems that your subconscious mind takes over and new connections begin to appear.

Whether you use a process like the ones above, or just pull up a chair with a cup of coffee in hand to think, the point is that innovation is a process. You know where you are; hopefully you know where you want to be. Let your imagination run wild in the space between, and before long you and your team will have a plan to move forward.

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At Chick-fil-A, HATCH Comes First – Even Before the Chicken or the Egg

At some point in the future, you will be going to a Chick-fil-A restaurant that looks and works a lot different from the one you are familiar with today. It might even have different menu items, or the food might taste a little different.

Guess what? 

The Chick-fil-A restaurant of the next decade already exists, but you will only find it inside HATCH, Chick-fil-A’s Innovation and Learning Center located on their Atlanta campus.

HATCHWelcome

I have been fortunate to be part of a group learning session at the Innovation Center. This 80,000 square foot facility located near the company’s headquarters is dedicated to helping the company invent its way forward. Inside Nest, the Pen, and other cleverly named spaces, CFA is building the next generation of customer experiences and the capabilities that make it possible.

The session gave me a front-row seat where corporate innovation is headed and allowed interaction with CFA leaders on how innovation and creativity are solidly in the center of their company culture.

Launched in late 2012, HATCH is aimed at strengthening the customer experience, the brand, and enriching the company’s culture.

HATCHLobby

In a converted warehouse, restaurant operators, researchers, designers, and staff gather to collaborate and develop whatever the Chick-fil-A brand and its customers need next. Space is divided into cleverly named work areas:

  • Feeder – cafeteria
  • Nest – learning spaces
  • Coop – working prototype restaurants
  • Incubator – collaboration area
  • Pen –  work spaces for architects and designers

This award-winning space has been purposely designed to foster the interchange of ideas and new opportunities for people who work in different areas of the company to get to know each other.

HATCH even includes a virtual simulator, which is used to very inexpensively prototype new restaurant concepts, technologies, and even kitchen operations. During my session, one of our team donned a headset and experienced the 3D world of a new store concept while the rest of us were able to observe what he was viewing on a 2D screen in the room.

VirtualReality2

 What can ChurchWorld leaders learn from Chick-fil-A and their HATCH Innovation Center?

It’s unlikely that any church would invest a fraction of the resources that Chick-fil-A has on innovation, but that doesn’t mean innovation is beyond the reach of churches.

Larry Osborne is Senior Pastor at North Coast Church near San Diego, CA. North Coast is widely recognized as one of the most influential and innovative churches in America, and Osborne’s book Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret provides a wealth of information that church leaders who want to be innovative in ministry can easily access.

Early in the book, Osborne states that many churches have a natural tendency to protect the past at the cost of the future. His solution: Find ways to identify and release the gifted innovators in your midst.

It’s like creating a mini-HATCH environment in your church.

Osborne thinks that in order to identify these types of innovators in your midst, you must first understand how they think and see the world. He has identified 3 telltale traits that set them apart from others:

  1. A special kind of insight – an uncanny knack for predicting what will work and what won’t work and how large groups of people will respond to new ideas.
  2. A unique form of courage – the ability to take carefully calculated risks by trusting their carefully crafted mental models of what could be.
  3. Extraordinary flexibility – the ability to quickly turn on a dime; a master of mid-course correction.

If you’re going to innovate in ministry, you will have to find ways to identify the fledgling innovators in your church and then find ways to support some of their seemingly crazy ideas.

Like the chicken sandwich…


 

A quick note: I will be returning to the HATCH Innovation Center in a few days as a part of a networking group learning experience. Look for an update soon!

If you liked this post, you might also like:

Too Much Brainstorming Will Only Leave You All Wet

The conventional wisdom that innovation can be institutionalized or done in a formal group is simply wrong. – Debra Kaye, Red Thread Thinking

According to author Debra Kaye in Red Thread Thinking, recent studies of the brain make it clear why the best new ideas don’t emerge from formal brainstorming.

The brain doesn’t make connections in a rigid atmosphere – there’s too much pressure and too much influence from others in the group. The “free association” most often given as a benefit of brainstorming is often shackled by peer pressure, delivering obvious, predictable responses.

What’s the answer? Try getting away from it all.

Fresh ideas come when your brain is relaxed and engaged in something other than the particular problem you are embroiled in. To harness strategic intuition, you have to leave the subject and the facts and stop thinking so hard about them.

Maybe you should waste a little time…

Here are 7 ways to use the power of wasting time to jump-start your thinking:

  • Meditation – meditation increases your power of concentration and allows your mind to become free enough to let ideas flow
  • Sleep on it – sometimes, you just need to put your project aside overnight. When the pressure is off, it’s amazing what possibilities develop
  • Sleep tight – research has shown that when you learn something and then sleep on it, your knowledge of what you’ve learned becomes deeper
  • Exercise – getting on a bike, taking a walk, lifting weights – some form of exercise – is good not only for your gut, but for your gut instinct, too
  • Act metaphorically – researchers wondered if acting out the ideas in common metaphors like “thinking outside the box” and “putting two and two together” would make people more creative. They were right – so consider getting out of your box (office) to free up your mind?
  • Read about how smart you are – nerve cells in our brains make stronger connections after we learn something new. Think and learn about your capacity to be smarter – and you just may be
  • “Me” time – spending time engaged in activities you really like enhances innovative thinking

The literal presence of mind that comes when you clear your brain of all expectations is what usually precedes a flash of insight. That flash gives you the power to come up with and act on an idea.

Go ahead – take a walk…

courtesy manhattanportage.com

courtesy manhattanportage.com

…your boss can thank you later!

 

inspired by Red Thread Thinking, by Debra Kaye

Red Thread Thinking

Is It True Collaboration… or Is It a Team?

At Auxano, we practice what we preach.

Editing

Our primary tool for working with organizations is the Vision Frame, consisting of Mission, Values, Strategy, Measures, and Vision Proper. Before we led the first client through the process over 11 years ago, the original team of Will Mancini, Jim Randall, and Cheryl Marting worked out Auxano’s Vision Frame – which we still follow today.

One of our Values is Collaborative Genius, which is accomplished partly by the fact that we are a virtual company of over 20 team members living in 15 cities across 4 time zones.

I only thought I knew what collaboration meant!

In my adult work career, I have served as the accountant in an office setting for a food services company, an audiovisual technician as part of a team of 7 for a seminary, various roles on 3 church staff teams, a church consultant for a design-build company, and as the Vision Room Curator for Auxano.

That’s 36+ years in an environment of multiple team members, ostensibly working together for the good of the organization.

Was I collaborating with others, or merely part of a team?

Collaboration is not the same thing as teamwork. Teamwork is simply doing your part. Collaboration involves leveraging the power of every individual to bring out each other’s strengths and differences.  – Greg Cox, COO, Dale Carnegie, Chicago

At Auxano, we don’t just do our part, we collaborate to deliver excellence in all we do. Here’s a great example: our book summaries for leaders, called SUMS Remix.

The original concept of SUMS was dreamed up by our founder, Will Mancini. When I joined Auxano as Vision Room Curator, it was natural that the SUMS project fall under my guidance. Working from a curated list of books with a focus on the Vision Frame, I read the designated book and wrote the draft summary with recommended resources. I then oversaw the following process:

  • Proofing by Mike Gammill, a scholar and grammatical genius
  • Navigator Applications written by 4 of our full-time Navigators, applying the concepts to the local church leadership context thru their unique lenspowered by auxano
  • Editing by Cheryl Marting, who has eagle eyes
  • Review editing by Angela Reed, a production editor at our parent company, LifeWay
  • Design by James Bethany and our Creative Team, who produce a visual masterpiece every time
  • Final review and approval by Will

Beginning in the fall of 2012, every two weeks, a SUMS was distributed to the SUMS subscriber list. Practically every day of that two weeks, some of the actions above were taking place within our team as we work on multiple books at the same time.

That’s collaboration.

As we neared the end of our second year of SUMS, Will and I refined a concept that came to be called SUMS Remix. Instead of a single summary of one book, SUMS Remix consists of brief excerpts from three books, focused on providing simple solutions to a common problem statement that ministry leaders are facing every week in their churches.

SUMS Remix launched in November of 2014, and we release an issue every two weeks. And a similar collaboration process described above is still taking place.

The collaboration process for SUMS Remix is very similar to the one above, but on steroids! Because SUMS Remix involves 3 books for every issue, and we have a 5 week production cycle, and we release an issue every two weeks – well, without collaboration, it just wouldn’t – no, couldn’t – happen.

At any given time during that 5-week cycle, books are being read, notes are being taken, drafts are being written, drafts are being revised, additional research is being conducted, finished drafts are being designed, proofs are being reviewed, and the final SUMS Remix issue is being delivered.

That’s collaboration!

Want to see the end product of that collaboration? You can learn more about SUMS Remix here.

Midnight LunchI’m indebted to Sara Miller Caldicott, great grandniece of Thomas Edison and author of the book Midnight Lunch, for translating Edison’s world-changing innovation methods for use in the 21st century. Here are some of her thoughts on collaboration:

True collaboration embraces:

  • A discovery learning mindset versus a pure task orientation
  • A belief in anticipating and creating rather than merely reacting and responding
  • Presence of inspiration across multiple facets of both individual and team endeavors
  • Coherence of purpose
  • A dedication to elevating the performance of every team member
  • Connections to human and social networks of influence

Do these qualities sound different from the ones valued by your team? Do they draw upon ideas that feel new or seem broader than your current concept of what teamwork embraces?

Based on my experience, the answer would be yes.

So what are you going to do about it?

 

 

Improvise Your Way to Clarity

The major reason why improvisation works is that the musicians say an implicit yes to each other  – Frank J. Barrett

As with jazz soloists, so it is with organizational leaders. The competent ones hit the right notes, but the great ones are distinguished by how far ahead they are imagining and how they strategize possibilities, shape the contour of ideas, adapt and adjust in the midst of action, and resolve organizational tension.

What we need to add to our list of leadership skills is improvisation — the art of adjusting, flexibly adapting, learning through trial-and-error initiatives, inventing ad hoc responses, and discovering as you go.

Curious about the origin of “improvising,” I found the following in the dictionary:

French improviser, from Italian improvvisare, from improvviso sudden, from Latin improvisus, literally, unforeseen, from in- + provisus, past participle of providēre to see ahead

Sometimes you just have to improvise your way to clarity.

The major reason why improvisation works is that the musicians say an implicit yes to each other.

Because jazz improvisation borders on chaos and incoherence, it begs the question of how order emerges. Unlike other art forms and other forms of organized activity that attempt to rely on a pre-developed plan, improvisation is widely open to transformation, redirection, and unprecedented turns.

So it is with many jobs in organizations. They require fumbling around, experimenting, and patching together an understanding of problems from bits and pieces of experience, improvising with the materials at hand. Few problems provide their own definitive solutions.

Jazz improvisers focus on discovery in times of stress.

This is what improvisational leaders do. They come at challenges from different angles, ask more searching questions, and are born communitarians. They’re not going for easy answers or living off of old routines and stale phrases. Instead of focusing on obstacles (a form of negative self-monitoring), they create openings by asking questions that entertain possibilities.

Critically, too, improvisational leaders assume that the improv will work: that the mess is only a way station on the path to a worthwhile destination.

The message here is powerful: start by asking positive questions; foster dialogues, not monologues; and you can change the whole situation, maybe even your life.

 

Adapted from Say Yes to the Mess, by Frank J. Barrett

Say Yes to the Mess

Designing the DNA of the Ultimate Guest Experience for Churches

What happens when 18 of the best church Guest Experience minds in the country get together to design the DNA of the Ultimate Guest Experience for churches?

 

DNA1

I don’t know…

…but it’s happening over the next 4 days, so I’ll let you know next week!

Guest Experience Networking Event

Imagine a laboratory filled with 18 of the most creative church Guest Experience practitioners from around the country…

 

…a lab with blank walls and lots of chart tablets and markers.
…a lab surrounded by the energy and vibe of creatives at work.
…a lab stocked with snacks of every kind imaginable.
…a non-scheduled framework guided by a host but driven by participant interaction.
…a lab where Guest Experience leaders share their best practices with others.
…a collaborative learning opportunity with no limits.

 

 

GENE Therapy

 

 

 

 

Have a Slice of Pi

Today is one of the few days when the nerd geek wanna-be in me surfaces…

It’s National Pi Day – the day we celebrate that wonderful irrational number.

Pi Day is celebrated on March 14th (3/14) around the world. Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159.

Pi has been calculated to over one trillion digits beyond its decimal point. As an irrational and transcendental number, it will continue infinitely without repetition or pattern. While only a handful of digits are needed for typical calculations, Pi’s infinite nature makes it a fun challenge to memorize, and to computationally calculate more and more digits.

Pi didn’t earn its name until the 18th century, when Welsh mathematician William Jones started using it symbol ( “π”, the first letter in the Greek word for perimeter). In Medieval Latin it was known as quantities, in quam cum multiplicetur diameter, proveniet circumferential, or “the quantity which, when the diameter is multiplied by it, yields the circumference.” What a mouthful. Not as easy as pi. (from Wired magazine, by Matthew Hutson).

The average sinuosity of a river (its length as the fish swims divided by its length as the crow flies) is pretty close to pi. Why? Water on the outside of the bend erodes the bank, while slow-moving water on the inside of the curve deposits silt. Eventually the shape morphs into a loop – until an overflow cuts off the detour, straightening the curve. Rinse and repeat. (from Wired magazine, by Matthew Hutson).

Finally, Albert Einstein was born on Pi day – March 14, 1879.

How much more geeky can you get than that?

Have a piece of Pi!

Pi Day

8 Lessons on Innovation, Brought to You by Philips and the LED

One of the classic (and most overused) images of innovation is a light bulb:

lightbulb

It’s only fitting, then, to look at 8 lessons in innovation by way of Philips’s 50-year exploration of LEDs – courtesy of the following excerpts from Fast Company’s March 2014 issue, from the article How Philips Altered the Future of Light.

LEDMarch2014FastCompany

photo by Kelvin Van Aelst

How did Philips take the LED to this point, and where does it go next? Which leads to another question: If the LED happens to be much more than just a better light–that is, if it happens to be an innovation, like the PC or cell phone, that alters the world in a significant way–what can it teach us about how big innovations happen, and why?

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 5.27.45 PMTo understand where the LED is going, it helps to understand where it came from. An LED is not a light bulb, really–it’s a light source, tiny and not much larger than a pencil dot, lodged deep within a larger package of plastic, metal, and glass that has been constructed to resemble a light bulb mainly because consumers still prefer a familiar, time-tested shape.

At the start, it is very difficult to predict whether a breakthrough can evolve into something that will actually change the world.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 5.27.57 PMIf the LED wasn’t quite an innovation in the early 1990s, then what made it potentially revolutionary a decade later? Early on, the challenge for the LED, as with any fledgling innovation, was straightforward: It must do something either better, or cheaper, than the existing product it is trying to displace.

To look at the future of light in the mid-1990s was to see that the LED did neither. It was expensive, hard to make, dim. Yet even then, a few people saw the early trends and predicted that the technology might be able to achieve astounding gains, given the right amount of research, funding, and time.

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 7.13.00 AMIn the early 2000s, Philips believed that the product could only achieve scale or impact–the very definition of an innovation–if its manufacturing costs could be reduced and its quality greatly improved. The only way to get there was to gain one modest step at a time. Thus, Philips had to improve manufacturing processes, experiment with new materials, and make a host of improvements to help the LED surpass existing lighting technologies. And it had to imagine all the possible applications, no matter how small, because of a strategic reality: A radical new product will need to infiltrate markets at the margins before it can claim the center.

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 7.13.12 AMHow to bring the cost down further? How to do it faster? With novel hardware, it often requires the resources of a large company to support a product during the long haul preceding its mass manufacture. At the same time, government policy and funding often help push a breakthrough innovation into the market.

Philips demonstrated their LED bulb could now provide light that was just about as good as an incandescent and measurably better than a typical compact fluorescent. But the “cheaper” aspect was still a problem. Even in 2010, the prices of Philips’s 60-watt LED bulbs, at about $40, were still stratospheric.

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 7.13.24 AMHuman beings have a tendency to underestimate how long it takes for a ­scientific breakthrough to become a practical innovation. The LED, with origins in the early 1960s, has progressed only slightly faster. But what likewise seems true is that adoption rates can change quickly, just as they did with smartphones. As costs plummet and quality improves, a new technology can suddenly achieve an accelerating, global popularity.

At this point, Philips estimates that LEDs are improving by 15% annually in terms of light output while decreasing about 10% annually in cost. The main question now is whether consumers will refuse such a deal: a lamp that pays for itself in a few years in energy savings and lasts 15 years beyond the payback.

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 7.13.36 AMSo efficiency and economics can explain why LEDs will soon infiltrate our homes and offices–but not how the technology might subsequently evolve. The reasons behind the initial appeal of an innovation don’t predict the range of problems it will someday solve. The “second wave” of lighting will involve harnessing the “intelligence” these devices can contain–software and sensors that can allow LEDs to “understand” where light is needed, and at what intensity and color.

On Philips’s Hue LED concept, some light recipes already offer settings so users can “relax,” “concentrate,” and “energize.” The descriptions arise from Philips’s ­research on how settings in schools can improve student concentration, and how particular wavelengths have a relaxation effect. They’re not the whim of an app designer.

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 7.13.50 AMListening to Philips executives map out the future can lead to a realization: Older digital technologies–the Internet, for instance, or smartphones–accentuate the impact of newer digital technologies, such as the LED. Internet connectivity makes the product controllable by smart phone, but also endows it with a vast capacity for improvements.

Big data, the buzziest of recent trends, plays into the LED future, too. Because LEDs are controllable and connectable, they can follow instructions from remote sources. But they can also relay data back.

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 7.13.59 AMThere is a downside to every innovation, and LEDs are no different. What if your company’s main product is something that effectively never needs replacing? And what if it will soon become a low-cost commodity? Disruptive innovations don’t just disrupt markets or change the way people live; they disrupt old business models, too.

There seems to be a consensus within Philips that the shape, color, price, and functionality will soon make the LED device as common as the incandescent bulb. Yet there also seems to be a consensus that the market for the devices will rise steadily until about 2019 or 2020 and will then level off or drop from saturation.

///   ///   ///

And what if the market isn’t quite ready for this? “You didn’t have an iPhone seven years ago,” Philips’s CEO for Global Lighting Eric Rondolat says. “You didn’t even know you needed one.” Technologies like the Hue LED strike him the same way. Soon everyone will know that a better light has been discovered, and that its benefits are there for the buying. “The world is moving fast,” he says with a shrug. It’s just a matter of time.

 
inspired by and adapted from How Philips Altered the Future of Light by Jon Gertner
 
 

What is the Foundation of Design Thinking?

It’s the willing and even enthusiastic acceptance of competing constraints.

The first stage of the design process is often about discovering which constraints are important and establishing a framework for evaluating them. Constraints can best be visualized in terms of three overlapping criteria for successful ideas:

  • Feasibility – what is functionally possible within the foreseeable future
  • Viability – what is likely to become part of a sustainable business model
  • Desirability – what makes sense to people and for people

A competent designer will resolve each of these three constraints, but a design thinker will bring them into a harmonious balance.

This pursuit of peaceful coexistence does not imply that all constraints are created equal; a given project may be disproportionately by technology, budget, or a mix of human factors. Different types of organizations may push one or another of them to the forefront. Nor is it a simple linear process. Design teams will cycle back through all three considerations throughout the life of a project, but the emphasis is on fundamental human needs – as distinct from fleeting or artificially manipulated desires.

That’s what drives design thinking to depart from the status quo.

Questions for ChurchWorld leaders:

  1. What are the constraints facing you today?
  2. Can you classify them into the 3 categories listed above?
  3. How will you balance them?

inspired by and adapted from Change by Design, by Tim Brown

Change by Design

Will the DEO Become Your Organization’s New Hero?

More than rigor, management discipline, integrity, or even vision – successfully navigating an increasingly complex world will require creativity.     – IBM Global CEO Study, 2010

There is no shortage of advice and counsel on how to become “creative” – as a matter of fact, the books and online resources available to today’s eager-to-learn leader are staggering to a fault. So much so that many leaders are tempted to throw in the towel and hope that their inherent traits or some measure of luck will suffice.

Authors Maria Giudice and Christopher Ireland want leaders to take another approach – one that organizations have used many times in the past. In their recent book Rise of the DEO, Giudice and Ireland advocate that leaders identify the strategy and function best suited to these tumultuous times and use it to guide your actions.

In a time where organizations need agility and imagination in addition to analytics, they believe it’s time to turn to Design as a model of leadership.

When we think design, our first association is change: change that responds to need, embodies desire, pursues a stated direction and reflects a shared vision. Those who are designers – either through training or by nature – actively encourage and support collective change.

Enter a new model for future leaders – the Design Executive Officer, or DEO.

Design leaders usually possess characteristics, behaviors, and mindsets that enable them to excel in unpredictable, fast-moving, and value-charged conditions.

Which pretty much describes the world leaders in organizations of all sizes find themselves today.

Giudice and Ireland have developed six defining characteristics of a DEO; do any of these look familiar to you?

DEOmindmap

Change Agent

DEOs aren’t troubled by change; in fact, they openly promote and encourage it. They understand traditional approaches, but are not dominated by them. As a result, they are comfortable disrupting the status quo if it stands in the way of their dream. They try to think and act differently than others. They recognize this ability as a competitive advantage.

Risk Taker

DEOs embrace risk as an inherent part of life and a key ingredient of creativity. Rather than avoiding or mitigating it, they seek greater ease and command of it as one of the levers they can control. They recast it as experimentation and invite collaborators. A failed risk still produces learning.

Systems Thinkers

Despite their desire to disrupt and take risks, DEOs are systems thinkers who understand the interconnectedness of their world. They know that each part of their organization overlaps and influences another. They know unseen connections surround what’s visible. This helps to give their disruptions intended, rather than chaotic, impact and makes their risk taking more conscious.

Intuitive

DEOs are highly intuitive, either by nature or through experience. They have the ability to feel what’s right, by using their intense perceptual and observational skills or through deep expertise. This doesn’t mean they have a fear of numbers. They know they that intuitively enhanced decision-making doesn’t preclude rational or logical analysis. They use both – and consider each valid and powerful.

Socially Intelligent

DEOs have high social intelligence. They instinctively connect with others and integrate them into well-defined and heavily accessed networks. They prefer spending time with employees, customers, and strangers rather than equipment, plants, or spreadsheets. “Everyday people” are a source of strength, renewal, and new ideas.

GSD

DEOs can be defined by a new set of initials: GSD – euphamistically short for “gets stuff done.” They feel an urgency to get personally involved, to understand details through their own interaction, and to lead by example. DEOs make things happen.

Is it time for someone in your organization to move toward becoming a DEO, looking at every organizational challenge as a design problem solvable with the right mixture of imagination and metrics?

inspired by and adapted from Rise of the DEO, by Maria Giudice and Christopher Ireland

Rise of the DEO