How can you fuel innovation by improving the discovery process?

How can you fuel innovation by improving the discovery process?

That’s the focus of this great article by Dan Ramsden, Creative Director at the BBC.

It’s an important topic. One common problem I see in leadership decision-making is rushing through discovery and minimising involvement. This can lead to ineffective solutions that quickly run out of steam.

💡 “Too often, discovery is framed as a linear process to validate a hunch or find a problem for a solution that someone has already fallen in love with.”

🔑 “Discovery is [more] like the back and forth of a good conversation. There’s a repetitive echo as we make progress from problems towards solutions.”

In his 3D-Pyramid model, he identifies four broad activities:
1️⃣ Identify
2️⃣ Create
3️⃣ Experiment
4️⃣ Evaluate.

👉 It’s a 3-dimensional model, so you can understand relationships between activities: “Moving between the modes helps to “balance” activities and provide momentum.”

He highlights two forms of “making” that the model helps with:
1️⃣ Sense-making. This is about observation, measurement and synthesis – producing an understanding of the situation.
2️⃣ Difference-making: This identifies and invents alternatives in order to answer “how could things be?”

It’s a great cut-out-and-build model.

Here’s the link to the article: “How to Lead Discovery”

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How can you combine systems thinking and design thinking?

How can you combine systems thinking and design thinking?

That’s the question explored in this fab article by Ketut Sulistyawati.

💡 “We attempt to combine the best of both worlds — uniting the analytical tools of systems thinking with the creative methods of design thinking.”

🗝 Begin by mapping the current state:
1️⃣ Define the problem & map the system
2️⃣ Research & listen to the system
3️⃣ Synthesize & remap the system
4️⃣ Reframe the problem & identify leverage points.

🔑Then envision the future:
5️⃣ Brainstorm ideas and design levers
6️⃣ Prototype & test solutions
7️⃣ Implement the transition
8️⃣ Measure & get feedback.

✔ Plus keep a watch out for unintended consequences.

Love this.

Read the article here: “A Framework to Embed Systems Thinking into Design Thinking Process”

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How can you involve people when designing changes?

The Systemic Design Practice Wheel guides practitioners taking creative and participatory approaches to complex problems. Designed by Emma Blomkamp, it distils experience and knowledge from research, evaluation, education and practice in design for public and social innovation.

The five core domains (5 Ps) of the wheel are:
=> Principles: Why and how does this work need to happen? What matters most?
=> Place: Where does this work fit? When is it happening? Which level are we working at?
=> Process: How will we organise our approach? What are the key moments?
=> People: Who needs to be involved? What do they bring? What do they need?
=> Practice: What specific methods, techniques and tools will we use?

The focus is on “systemic co-design”. Although it was developed for public and social policy, it has far broader application, e.g., for building design thinking into employee experience and for managing many other projects.

I love “collecting” ideas and tools like this.

This canvas is available on Emma Blomkamp’s website, which is full of great materials and you can find it here:

You can read more about the approach here as well: Emma Blomkamp (2022) “Systemic design practice for participatory policymaking,” Policy Design and Practice, 5:1, 12-31

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How can you improve decision making?

In their book “Decisive” Chip and Dan Heath came up with the WRAP framework (shown here) in order to tackle four key “villains” of decision-making, i.e., ”common traps and biases”.

What are the steps?

=> Widen the frame:
– e.g., Ask great questions and experiment
– e.g., Consider the opportunity cost of a choice that isn’t taken

=> Reality-test your assumptions:
– e.g., Seek out different perspectives and counter-evidence
– e.g., Prototyping and testing

=> Attain distance before deciding:
– e.g., View the situation as if it was happening to someone else
– e.g., Remember what’s important in the long term

=> Prepare to be wrong:
– e.g., Adopt probabilistic thinking
– e.g., Consider and plan how to learn from negative outcomes

Some useful advice and what I like are the links to things such as active listening, design thinking, and learner- / psychological safety. All important stuff.

You can learn more here:

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How can you approach a topic like wellbeing holistically?

How can you approach a topic like wellbeing holistically?

This is our framework.

=> Employee wellbeing is more than programmes or initiatives.

=> It’s a shared mindset with aligned behaviours, enabled through leaders and managers.

=> Employee wellbeing becomes part of the culture when it is:

** Embedded in the employee experience

** Reflects organizational values

We think about 4 dimensions of wellbeing:

– Physical

– Emotional

– Financial

– Social

Our research reveals that organizations with higher levels of wellbeing achieve:

– Better business outcomes

– Higher levels of employee engagement

– Improved revenue

– Greater customer satisfaction

– Fewer safety incidents

Where can you start when you want to improve wellbeing?:

1. The first step is to really understand your current state by seeking insights from leaders, managers and employees. [I do lots of work here, including surveys and analytics]

2. The second step is to develop and design a strategy that is “fit for purpose” for your organization through analysis of gaps, priorities and opportunities.

#Leadership #WellBeing #EmployeeExperience #OrganizationalCulture #EmployeeEngagement #TotalRewards #Benefits #HR #FutureOfWork

How can leaders design for purposeful change?

This is a question that really interests me and it’s a topic where there’s a lot of energy, considering the impact of technology, health, and climate on people now and in the future.

The “Systemic Design Framework” was launched by the Design Council in April 2021.

It’s based on an evolution in thinking about design over time:

1.0 Was about visual communication and assets

2.0 Was about human-centred design to create value-add

3.0 Was about organisational and social innovation

4.0 Now design needs to tackle “wicked problems” and complex systems.

What does it take for leaders to do this?:

=> SYSTEM THINKER: The ability to see how things are interconnected and to zoom between the micro and the macro and across silos.

=> STORYTELLER: To use the power of storytelling to create energy at all levels and to maximise involvement.

=> DESIGNER AND MAKER: To use technical and creative skills to make things happen through prototyping, testing and iteration.

=> CONNECTOR AND CONVENER: To create spaces where people from different backgrounds come together to drive action.

At the heart of all this is sense making, empathy, involvement and co-creation.

My clients are thinking about this, along the lines of “How are we building systemic change into our leadership frameworks as we plan for the future of work?”

If you want to learn more about this framework and approach, this is a great summary article: “Ways of designing: A reflection on strategic and systemic design”.

#Leadership #DesignThinking #EmployeeExperience #Inclusion #CimateAction

#FutureOfWork #BehaviorChange #SystemsThinking #SystemicDesign #HR

The EX Cycle

What steps are required in shaping and delivering experiences?

This model of the “experience cycle” was first developed for Xerox. The simplified version shown here comes from an article by Hugh Dubberly and Shelley Evenson in Interactions Magazine:

Originally for CX/UX, you can apply these steps to employee experience (EX) too:

– Connecting (first impressions, day one)

– Orientating / understanding what’s possible (onboarding, first 90 days)

– Interacting (doing the work, feedback, performance management)

– Extending (learning, project successes, advancement)

– Telling others (developing others, advocacy)

I’m enjoying looking at new and old experience models at the moment, as EX is top of mind for lots of business and HR leaders. I’m always interested in learning about what’s worked before.

#EmployeeExperience #EX #EmployeeEngagement

#FutureOfWork #BehavioralScience #Design #CX

EX Leadership Newsletter – July 2023

Design thinking – Leadership love – Belonging – Get Stuff Done

It’s hot out there.** So I recommend grabbing a cool drink and reading these articles while you sit in the shade; they’re the ones I’ve enjoyed the most over the last few months and that have got me thinking. I hope you find them useful too.

** With apologies to friends in the UK where the weather is actually pretty rubbish.

First up is this great piece on design thinking by Hal Wuertz. I really like the way she combines design thinking with scientific approaches to solving problems.

“It’s Time to Re-Design How We Think”:

Then there’s this interview with Gianpiero Petriglieri on humanising leadership. He talks about leadership as a love story – one that moves you and that moves others too.

“The Need To Humanise Leadership & Work”:

Belonging is a topic I’m hearing more and more about (and I’m enjoying reading Geoff Cohen’s book on the science of belonging). I missed this article by Marissa Afton when it first came out, but I really like its focus on “the four pillars of belonging” all of which resonate with me.

“How to Cultivate Belonging at Work”:

Kim Scott is one of my favourite writers and as is her style this piece is direct and to-the-point as she discusses her “Get Stuff Done (GSD) Wheel”.

“Creating a Culture of Listening”:

That’s it. The promise I made when I started this newsletter was that I would only share 3-4 great articles each time and I’ve noticed myself struggling to keep to that limit recently. Not this time though!



Co-creating your employee experience strategy


Employee Experience (EX) leadership requires a shift in perspective. In essence, it means moving from a top-down view of managing human resources to a focus on enabling people to excel in their jobs and to thrive at work.

This is one reason why EX marks a break from the previous employee engagement era. Employee engagement fits neatly into hierarchical people management. EX, by contrast, is messy, personal, and conversational.

An employee engagement strategy might look like a project plan. It would identify changes at different organisational levels in order to improve the way tools, information, and resources are deployed. 

An EX strategy is a different animal. The focus is on understanding how you can simplify the way people work and remove obstacles. The point is to enable and empower individuals and teams so they can do their best work.

One of my clients describes their EX strategy as “Making it easier for employees to do meaningful work and be customer focused. We’re always looking for ways to help people remove barriers and fix problems so we can achieve these goals.”

Another client talks about “Creating a workplace where people love to collaborate and where innovation flourishes. We look at what we can get out of people’s way. We do all that we can to help simplify things.”

Making organisations more people-centred in this way is critical, because it’s human capabilities (service, creativity, collaboration, etc.) that provide a competitive advantage in an experience economy. 

The best way to think about strategy in the EX context is to follow Henry Mintzberg’s description of it as “a pattern in a stream of decisions”. As choices are made, to what extent is the experience of your people at the heart of your thinking? How are you ensuring consistency of purpose across all the key decisions you’re taking? 

“To what extent is the experience of your people at the heart of your thinking? How are you ensuring consistency of purpose across all the key decisions you’re taking?”

Your business strategy, your values and your employee value proposition should provide three anchor points for this process of decision-making. They can help to ensure consistency and cohesion. They provide a framework for prioritising options and making choices.

An additional and necessary step is a commitment to involving people and to co-creating solutions. It may be stating the obvious, but EX activation requires direct engagement with the front-line. It’s not a desk-based topic.

Very briefly, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure EX is owned by the business rather than HR. We spend a lot of time helping our clients run workshops with business leaders at all levels, effectively taking EX outside of the HR function, where it can sometimes sit by default. 
  • Focus on the customer interface. Prioritise the areas where EX impacts CX directly. Think about your contact centre and your field force, for example. This might not be where you get the biggest return on your investment in EX in the end, but it is somewhere you can make gains quickly.
  • Listen and engage creatively. Listening to employees is at the heart of EX leadership. Agile surveys, open feedback and text analysis provide rich insights. We also use approaches like virtual focus groups (with large numbers or people) and interactive whiteboards (with small groups). 
  • Personalise involvement. We have an innovative tool for involving employees directly in shaping their experience at work, which we call Real-Time Advice. In those key moments that matter when we ask for feedback, we provide nudges and tips for individual employees that are based on their input, so they can get directly involved.
  • Design-thinking is a useful framework for EX activation, in terms of generating ideas and quickly prototyping and testing solutions. We often embed design thinking into our EX projects. EX is about understanding the employee’s perspective and design thinking begins with empathising. In addition, an apparently small idea can snowball over time into a much bigger positive change.
  • Empower existing communities. EX is not a stand-alone topic; it should integrate with your other priorities, such as diversity and inclusion, sustainability, and well-being. EX activation means engaging with communities (champion networks, employee groups) that probably already exist within your organisation and empowering them to deliver.

I have written about EX leadership in more detail elsewhere, but one thing I emphasise is the importance of learning by involving. Employee experience is personal and conversational and in order to activate EX — to simplify the way people work and free them up to do their best — you need to listen and learn directly.

In this context, I really like the phrase used recently by Rebecca Zucker and Darin Rowell, which seems to sum things up nicely: “Leaders must shift from a “know it all” to a “learn it all” mindset.” 

For some organisations and for some leaders this is more than a shift, it’s a step change, but it is key for moving on from employee engagement towards employee experience leadership.

Please contact me if you find this useful or if you would like to learn more about our work.

First published on Medium on 28 April 2021.

Tags: #EmployeeExperience #DesignThinking