Masterclass Reframing – embracing Complexity

Last week Let’s Play Innovation organized the last Masterclass of 2013 on Reframing, by Bruna Setola. He has the the great job title “Gameful Experience Designer”, and is an inspiring guy on new ways of thinking (which says much more;)). Reframing means looking from a different perspective at the same situation. Indeed, that doesn’t sound very new…, but it’s getting interesting with the aspect of embracing the complexity of your environment to the max. Emerge yourself in complexity, and find what’s really going on.

Don’t try to contain what is open.
Don’t make simple what is complex.
Don’t isolate what is a network.
And don’t make static what is dynamic.


Wicked problems on the roll
So, Reframing embraces the fact that our environment has changed and we’re confronted with wicked problems. Issues that aren’t going to be solved on a simple level, because they are part of our complex experience driven economy. No more honest coffee beans, but a Starbucks experience with wifi, couches and at least cappuccino with latte’art. No more offices but moving creators in blended environments. So how can we work with this complexity? Put the next elements in your DNA:

1)    postpone your judgement
2)    Embrace the complexity of your domain
3)    Find the patterns (in stead of problems)
4)    Translate the patterns into new frames (reframing)
5)    Test the relevance of your new frame for your stakeholders
6)    Find the seemingly easy solutions that the frame brings
7)    Translate and test them into reality (Design Thinking can be your vehicle)

Give me an example!
Nothing works better than an example. Let’s take the Railways, with their question “How can we improve our service to get more satisfied customers?”

Current Frame: Transport. We move people from A to B.
Current solution: more trains, faster change of trains, high speed trains

Possible Reframe: Waiting room. We let people wait in trains and on stations.
Possible solutions: WIFI, nice coaches, shops, food & beverages, etc.

station Leiden

station Leiden

You can think of hundreds of reframes, but the best ones are simple, accepted by the majority of the stakeholders, and generate by itself many possible solutions for your challenge. When you hear about a successful Reframe it is always like “Why didn’t they think of that before?”. But make no mistake: it is hard work to find the underlying patterns and to come up with a good reframe.

 

Reframing and Playfulness
Reframing has, just like all playful methods, a user centered approach. That means that we follow the needs and dreams of a person, instead the possibilities of e.g. your iPhone. Technique empowers our dreams, and everything is possible. For many, including myself, this is sometimes a scary thought. We want simplicity back in our life because it is so… simple, clear and honest. And at the same time the current possibilities are very hopeful, because they create an opening for a more sustainable environment. I love final thoughts;)

Possible program to follow: Daring Innovation

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You must learn to recognize a diamond in the rough

Last week I had a great meetup with the intreging Suzanne Merritt. Before she started her own business Suzanne was Senior Creatologist (great title) and Founder of the Creativity Laboratory at Polaroid Corporation, which was also located in Boston. She designed innovation programs which generated ideas valued at 60 million dollars. And now… she is in the search of Beauty and learns executives how to draw and take pictures. What is going on with her?

Bono’s hats and Art
“As founder of the Lab, I was certified in nine excellent innovation methodologies ranging from de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats to Creative Problem Solving. But something was lacking from these methodologies… Through the arts, we had discovered how to tap into an authentic source of creative energy in individuals and teams by connecting them to their work in more meaningful ways. The quality of ideas generated by the participants improved, and their behavior shifted.”
(Journal of Business Strategy Fall 2010 Vol.31 No.4, What Does Beauty Have to Do with Business?)

There are millions of ways to get to a new idea, and every human being has the capability to be creative. So what separates the ‘post-its professionals’ from the ones which bring something special? The main challenge is to recognize and appreciate new insights when they present themselves to you, or it will remain just post-its. For example: Some people see just a tree, while others recognize the solution for their business challenge. Another example is the question that many managers have “How can I choose between really new proposals of a business nobody knows yet? How do I know which one to pick that will become succesfull?”. Some call this ability a gift which makes it too special and mystical. It is something you can practice by doing daily exercises, going to places that give you new impulses, and keeping a creativity log, etc.. Suzanne uses the process that is useful as an outline.

–       Collect: see what is there

–       Connect: interpret

–       Create: determines appropriate action

As an experiment I went with her (and a meetup group) to the Charles River in Boston to take pictures of the sunset. The goal was to investigate the difference between taking a snapshot and letting a picture come to you. We used the same process of really being in the moment and seeing what was there (collect), noticing what is appealing to you (connect) and taking the best picture of that moment / story (create). What I noticed, as the ultimate amateur, is that I had to find the game in this exercise, in stead of just following the instructions. At that moment I forgot for a moment about time (flow) and was aware of what had to be photographed. I enjoyed the results, and was also aware that I had to practice much more… Suzanne helped us to see the beauty that is all around us, and to go a step further then just another picture of sunset.

Patterns of Beauty
Luckely we don’t have to invent the wheel for ourselves about beauty. At the Polaroid Creative Lab Suzanne investigated how you can find the elements which have this A factor. She identified eight patterns of beauty: vitality, luminosity, unity in variety, complexity, utility, simplicity, synchronicity, and sublimity. I won’t explain them in this blog, so have a look at this short video and read her beautiful iBook.

In General
I think it’s applicable for any creative process, but that one of the difficulties is to give yourself enough time to really collect and connect. Even with my background in Improvisation, which is most of the time played at high speed, you have to ground before you can add something that is worthwhile. This is not so easy, so be average and give yourself time to enjoy!

Organizational Jazz – Extraordinary Performance through Extraordinary Leadership

Last week I finished reading the really interesting book ‘Organizational Jazz – Extraordinary Performance through Extraordinary Leadership’ (David NapoliAlma WhiteleyKathrine Johansen) which I borrowed from Steve Leybourne from Boston University. It describes in a passioned way how most managers try to hang on to the myth of a certain and predictable world, but that we have to transform our way of working to create sustainable organizations. What do we do when our environment is close to chaos? We dance.

‘Constant, rapid and unpredictable changes, both internal and external, are challenging the time-honoured business models we are taught to follow – as we strive to manage our complex, evolving organizations.Drawing on the science of complex adaptive systems, this book offers a lens through which we search for new ways of thinking about, and working with, the unpredictability of our dynamic complex world.Organizations of today need ‘Extraordinary Leaders’ who can ‘dance’ with change by embracing the principles of complexity science to create highly adaptable and innovative organizations that recognise the value of intangible assets.The success of an organization usually depends on those working closest to the value-adding end of the business. It is those employees and their immediate leaders, who seem to have the greatest impact on the success of an organization. Managers-as-leaders can ease the way for those who depend on them for support and encouragement.’

Interesting issues mentioned are:

  • Mechanistic Leadership (certain environment) vs Extraordinary Leadership (uncertain environment).
  • Value Driven Organizations (opportunity and empowerment), in stead of depending on rules that limit people. Which is really strange if you think of it…
  • The movement from Ego to Eco (picture from earlier post) to cope with complexity. There is sometimes a narcissistic tendency in our Western culture to love great leaders, and to underestimate great teams.  So try to create Teams which act as a magnet, in stead of  a classroom with a teacher with students who wait for the lunch break.
  • Embracing complexity, in stead of trying to control it with strategic planning and control. People can cope with complexity as long as they dance with it and not try to make it what they expected it to be (older post on improvisation). Readers who have children will probably recognize this.
  • Being highly adaptive and innovative to become a sustainable organization.

I found it is really worthwhile to read this book, and can advise it to anybody whose interested in dealing with complexity, innovation, value driven organizations, and improvisation. You can read the first 128 pages (which were the most interesting…) on this google books site.

David Napoli, Alma M. Whiteley and Kathrine S. Johansen
ISBN 978-0-9757710-6-8

The House always wins! Gamification principles at work.

We all like to play games with friends or relatives, but do we even play games at work? We have heard about war games, or political games, but even the small talk at the water cooler is a small game. Some rules of this game are described in the new buzz word Gamification. Maybe this is all about social media, but I think we can learn from their funny principles. 

Gamification means ‘Integrating game dynamics into your site, service, community, content or campaign, in order to drive participation.’. Gabe Zicherman wrote a book about it called Game Based Marketing. How can you drive customer participation and engagement by gaming principles?  So for instance, using a game environment like Farmville to sell more books. People gain status by virtual rewards, and engaging with their friends.

 

What I liked most in this video in my search for the game of Innovation was:

The game always favours its creator.
The house always wins.
So… be the house, or be played.

I recognize this as an executive trainer in the games that people play at work like ‘Negotiating’ or ‘Being a Manager’. The person who understands best what game is played has the biggest chance of winning. Personally I don’t like to call this winning, because this suggests that the other person will lose, but you could say that the goal of this person is best served.

I believe that you could interpret most interpersonal situations as a game. There is a goal, rules, players, framework, etc. But most people don’t know their goal (or thye think they know, but is really vague), and understand the game played even less. I had for example a practitioner who wanted to give an employee a warning. I suggested that he could try it on me. He knew that he wanted something to change but didn’t know exactly what, and that he gave me a lot of space to make the situation even worse. The house always wins… I won. He could have been the house if he knew what he wanted, and that the game was called ‘who manages this department’.

Find out what kind of player you are by the Bartle’s Player typology, and know that 80% ends up as a socializer. I don’t know if that is helpful I must admit.