How to be a Corporate Explorer

The world is changing. Disruption is rife, exponential trends are confusing, technology is creating needs we didn’t even know we had, and we’re coming up with new ways every day to work together.

With so much changing around you, it’s hard to stay on top of things. You know you need to think about the world in new ways, you know you need to learn more about change, and embrace the future, but you don’t really know how. In my opinion, the only way to go is to flip your mindset and become a ‘Corporate Explorer’.

So what does it take to become a Corporate Explorer? Can anyone do it? Do I need permission? Shouldn’t I just sit back and relax and see where the world takes me? Can’t I just stay where I am? Why do I need to change? I’m happy where I am. I’m afraid of what’s out there.

Don’t worry; the future isn’t that scary, lean in and follow these nine easy steps…

1. Be Curious

First and foremost, like a designer, be curious. Ask why, question why things are the way they are, how they came to be. Find out why your organisation does things in certain ways, why the culture is the way it is, how you got to where you are today.

Be curious about your customers, ask a lot of questions, interview everyone you know inside and outside the organisation, buy all the coffees, talk to all the people, people love talking to people, and they also love coffee.

2. Be Furious

Taking what you’ve just heard, get furious about it. There’s a lot of things that don’t sound right; your organisation is excellent, but it’s still got a few issues, pick the one that makes you the most furious. Be angry at the current state of the customer experience, and the employee experience, about the bad parts of your culture, about the processes and technology that slow you down or get in the way.

This fury will help guide you to solve the greatest issues. You need to be passionate. Pain and anger create passion. Find your passion!

3. Be a Storyteller

There’s no point going on a journey without being able to tell an engaging story about it, and using that engagement to recruit people to help you. Figure out what it is about your problem that gets people interested. Is it something about your organisation’s history that excites people, is it a vision of the future, are you the underdog, is it the frustration that the problem causes.

Get better at storytelling so you can capture the hearts and minds of your audience and get them fired up about your ideas. Tell the right story in the right way and they’ll want to join you on the journey.

4. Just do it

Don’t ask for permission. In most organisations, if you ask to pop open the hood, you’ll get turned away. If you go on a personal vendetta to solve a serious problem inside your organisation, you shouldn’t have to ask for permission, just don’t go too crazy, be diplomatic.

You’ll need a lot of help so ask a lot of questions and talk to the right people, but be mindful that the people you’re talking to might be responsible for that problem, either through their role, or their KPI’s. Reframe the way you ask questions so it’s less about pointing the finger, and more about seeking to help the customer, or employees.

Remember to be diplomatic. People love being involved, if you’re trying to change someones world, be diplomatic, inspire them, and get them involved.

5. Be Ready to Get Burnt

Being an explorer in the wild is risky, you face off with mountain lions, flooded rivers, starvation, mother nature, and all sorts of things ready to stop you in your tracks. It’s the same issue within a corporate, you might suffer a few setbacks, you’ll hit a few brick walls. Be resilient and don’t give up, you’re doing this for a significant reason, use that purpose and passion to drive you forward on your journey.

Exploring in the wild is thrilling, exploring within a corporate can be too.

6. Challenge the Status Quo

But respect how you got there. Organisations codify to become more efficiency, it’s just how they work, the more codification, the easier it is to operate. Yet, too much focus on the status quo is a predicament, we don’t think about what’s changing in the world, we don’t adapt to it, we don’t emerge as things change. You need to hold a view of codification, and innovation in your mind at the same time, cognitive dissonance.

The most harmful side-effect is that we don’t innovate. We rely on the codification from yesterday to run our business tomorrow.

A corporate explorer looks to the future but doesn’t forget how they got to where they are today, the path you took five years ago may no longer exist, but it still taught you how to traverse that terrain.

7. Seek out Other Explorers

Learn from them and introduce them to other explorers, build a network of people that want to change the world. Even if they’re outside of your organisation, and I know this next bit is controversial, but especially if they work for the competition. You’re more likely to come up with unusual solutions if you draw knowledge from everyone in your field of expertise.

8. Live in the Future

There’s no point exploring within an organisation, or in industry, without knowing what might change in the future, you need to understand what could be on the horizon and prepare yourself for it. Just like real explorers prepare themselves for all life or death situations, so should corporate explorers.

Read about the future, think about the future, immerse yourself in new technology, new ways of working, new ways of thinking, new modes of living, new problems, and new needs.

9. And Finally, be Creative

You can’t just use the same solutions as yesterday, you need to invent new ones, today’s problems can’t be solved in yesterday’s context. Become a real explorer and discover what’s out there, look around, let your mind run wild with possibilities, build on your ideas with other people, and then be creative about the solution you choose.

Now go forth and explore!

Follow our Design for Business publication for more stories on using design to improve businesses. As always reach out to me if you’d like to know more.

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