Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

May 2019

Innovation by Enterprise’s Need

Deftly turning a large ship with a whisper

With some clients, the topic of organizational change comes up very often. This is usually because the work with this client involves taking multiple teams and putting them on the same level as it relates to utilizing a specific software platform. This vantage point offers an ability to see what innovation will look like for an enterprise, but also how hard it is to move in enterprise in a new direction after they have done something for so long.

With several of the teams, they are merely looking at ways of doing their job more efficiently. Shortcuts, automations, and even “features I didn’t know were there” tends to be the context. As such, innovation for these teams looks less like doing something brand new, and more like “how to simplify the most complex happenings.“ For these teams, simply taking a common-to-them analogy and then relating the benefit of the system, offers the best opportunities for what becomes innovative practices.

For a few other teams, there’s a bit more needed. The jobs-to-be-done had been conflicted. Instead of monitoring and elevating meaning, roles are calculating and constraining meaning. Instead of searching datastores quickly, they are locked file cabinets — whose taxonomy is only known by the owner, but often forgotten over time, or triggered by a changing organizational system due to their maturity in the organization. For these persons, enterprise innovation is also simplifying complexity, but first under the guise of “what does your job need for you to execute.”

It is these innovation projects which are the most fun, and the most challenging. Being an external operator means that some of the data day elements of what it means for that enterprise to function are going to always be hidden from view. However, some of those day-to-day elements are pieces that I actually need to be hand is innovative practices are going to have a new footing. In a sense, both of the after mentioned context need to be repotted into new soil. But all of the old cannot be thrown away. The core remains, but the space is envisioned anew (a fun question here: “have you used this tool you already have available to do this”).

Overtime, our role becomes more of a lighthouse. We are not the evangelist, we train the evangelist. We train those people who will be the bell-toll for what it means for that organization to have a better direction. That doesn’t mean a sense of being disconnected from the final outcome. But in our case, we are at governors of the outcome. We are governors of facilitating a path forward. For many enterprises that is simply a whisper in the ear of a highly influential person or group. And then win that whisper is heard just long enough, it becomes an activity that transforms the behavior of the entire organization. But does so in a way they accept, a way they want, and a way they understand better the winds of opportunity are now flowing.