When encountering new territories in design and business, it is necessary to radically rethink what we have been taught about problem-solving. As leaders and practitioners of design (be it design research, strategy, etc.), we have the inherent duty to advance human-centered approaches within the organizations we work with and for. But we can often encounter problems when we reach the gap between our human-centered lens and how the organization itself works. We might have the best intentions, best-laid plan, and extensive research in hand, but if our teams aren't collaborating as effectively as possible, what happens at this point?
We've found that these challenges often begin with misalignment across organizational culture and behaviors. Sometimes the most significant disruptions come from within our own organizations, and as leaders of and advocates for purpose-driven approaches, there's no shortage of internal challenges we encounter. Detailed roadmaps and five-year strategic plans won't help us navigate the uncertainty around us with so much ambiguity about the future.
To improve the way we do things, and our effectiveness as shepherds for human-centered design approaches, consider these shifts:
- Organizational culture: Rather than focus on process, roles, and structures, take a step back to consider organizational culture and its role in any change efforts we might want to undertake.
- Behavior and leverage points: Connecting organizational beliefs to behaviors will determine what changes would have the most impact and how best to frame those suggestions for those resistant to change.
- Change as a continuous experiment: Let's reframe how we think about change as a process. Change should be embraced as a continual state versus viewed as an abrupt disruption.
When advocating for more human-centered approaches, we must remember to zoom out from the tools and techniques and focus on the impact of the root behavior. We can only paint a complete picture of the requirements to make lasting change versus momentary relief by unpacking the why.
For any behavior to occur, an individual needs the capability to do it – both physically and psychologically, the opportunity – does the physical environment or social environment support them to perform the behavior and the motivation – what they would do instinctively and reflectively. While we can't force behavior to occur, we can "pull on the levers" to shift our organizations and ourselves to drive the behaviors we seek to change. In turn, they shape our organizational culture.
The COM-B framework provides evidence-based methods for breaking down problems to readily identify the barriers and drivers of behaviors. In other words, you can use this tool to unpack and analyze why a behavior is or isn't happening. For example: Do we implement confusing terminology, so it's challenging to comprehend what we are saying? Are our performance structures out of alignment with what we are trying to achieve?
By developing solutions with this framework in mind, you can be more thoughtful about change efforts and thereby increase the chance that the recommendations will be accepted and adopted. To be effective, we must respond and lead with a shifted set of principles during trying times - and, one might argue, at any given time. In doing so, we can better prepare for the next organizational shift, global pandemic, economic downturn, or whatever else lies ahead.
The combination of Mad*Pow’s Futures Thinking and Design Transformation practices have each helped teams and companies navigate big, bold, and complex organizational changes by illuminating unexpected implications of present-day issues that empower individuals and organizations to actively design their own desirable futures.
Join us on March 24, 2022 for a 30-minute panel discussion as we share insights on marketplace trends that recently caught our attention, and we will answer audience questions and share guiding principles to help Future Proof Your Organization.