Making A Difference
Living In A World Full Of Questions
Questions Demand Answers.
I’m fairly sure it’s possible to classify most questions as opportunities or challenges. The route to success in either is through conversation and calculation. Let’s take strategy for example — you can boil it down to three questions:
Where do we want to go? What’s going to stop us getting there? What do we have to do to get there?
They are simple questions. The hard part is getting behind the implications and dynamics that swirl around each one. Every answer to these three questions is beset with the devil of definition.
That demands careful conversation with the right people — the people that are in control of all the moving parts. Having the right conversation isn’t straightforward and an accurate calculation is forever at the mercy of bias, shortage of data and subjectivity.
Living Inside The Context
It’s essential to know what’s going on if we are to achieve the right result in an opportunity or a challenge. To do that we have to understand the whole context.
Once we have the context it’s possible to pick apart the current situation from a range of angles.
For 20 years now we’ve been applying all these ideas — using critical thinking, careful conversations and visual structures to solve important challenges and create value.
Think of these visual structures as frameworks designed to provoke our minds, create order and apply reason. The thinking that goes into designing them is always designed to force the right types of conversations.
These discussions encourage teams to look deeper inside themselves — to look at the challenge creatively and as a result unlock what really matters.
Before any major involvement we challenge the aim of the work.
We need to avoid superficial processes — testing for genuine appetite. We have to resist simplistic approaches where managers believe that meetings, and one-off workshops are used as silver bullets for a quick result.
There’s no substitute for creativity and doing the right work in getting to the correct strategy. It can still be achieved at pace.
Ours is a systematic way of looking at everything. Determining what’s actually going on and why. It’s a complete way of figuring out what needs to be done differently.
It allows the ‘enterprise’ to avoid solving the wrong things really well.
Achieving the right result always involves dialogue.
Searching, listening, asking questions, forming a picture of what is happening and determining what needs to happen. Whether its the natural world, in society or in the enterprise.
As learning emerges we can then create a variety of specific mechanisms to equip teams with sustainable tools.
A Team Sport
Once these foundations are in place we can start to work on the information. There are no right or wrong ways for us to get to the content. Working through waves of discussion — whether directly or indirectly — the frameworks start to emerge. The logic in the framework ensures only the correct data makes it.
We like to think of the process similarly to how photographs are developed in the traditional way.
As the picture becomes clearer it is often important to physically get together. Engaging the right people to create direct ownership. Helping teams to develop their story this way, gaping voids and all is the best way to get results.
People relate to the results directly when they were responsible for developing them.
Accountability and responsibility are the two most important pillars of successful execution. Searching for the insights throughout the dialogue allows people to reflect on how they resolve their own puzzles.
This approach is the antithesis of the traditional consulting approach where external resources solves the problem and delivers a plan.
It’s an intelligent alternative to the dogma induced by meaningless processes that dull the minds of many an enterprise.
Structured Visual Thinking
Working with the people who are accountable is both a creative act and the only way to achieve a sustainable result. The team literally gets to see what they mean translated into a visual storyboard together with the support to execute and sustain.
The teams naturally gravitate to processes they can trust. This way they are part of co-creative ‘mechanisms’ — tools and techniques that allow them to prove or disprove their own perspectives in a graceful and respectful fashion.