NSL Blog

Is it solutions or transformation that we seek?

July 10, 2013

Reading a post from John Naughton, I picked up on his thoughts on what he calls Solutionism, he writes,

If a ‘solution’ is “a means of solving a problem”, then often it isn’t really a big deal. Many years ago, Donald Schön, in a wonderful book entitled The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action (Arena), pointed out that, in the grand scheme of things, problems are not the biggest difficulties that confront us. That’s because, in essence, a ‘problem’ is a pretty straightforward thing: a perceived discrepancy between a known present state and a known desired state. It may be difficult to find a ‘solution’ but at least in principle it’s clear what needs to be done.

Most of the really difficult, intractable things in organizational, political and ordinary life, however, do not fit that description, because we usually are unsure or in disagreement about where we are, and even more so about where we want to go. They are not ‘problems’ but something else: messy, unclear, contentious. And what professionals do, Schön argued, is to take these messy difficulties and do some work on them to extract some of their constituent ‘problems’ for which known solutions exist.

This where I think organisations need a more nuanced approach to Transformation – being able to describe a new destination, with if necessary new organisational capability. They need innovation to be interwoven into the organisation to deliver business model innovation – The story of containerization, LEGO, Local Motors, Crowdcube, Patients Know Best for example. And empowerment of an organisation – to realise, create and own their best possible future.

Easily said, harder to do – but the results speak for themselves.

No Straight Lines has a six point navigational guide framing the philosophy and practice of how to design organisations and economic models for a non-linear world.

  1. Ambiguity – how to develop a deeper diagnostic understanding of a complex world.
  2. Adaptiveness – how to become agile in a world that is rapidly evolving.
  3. Openness – openness as a principle and practice offers new capabilities, higher organisational performance, trading models, amongst other benefits.
  4. Participatory cultures & tools – accelerate innovation, create breakthrough systemic change, re-define business models, offering a more empowering and legitimate form of leadership.
  5.  Craftsmanship – how the concept and practice of craftsmanship is a more finely tuned creative approach to learning the craft of innovation.
  6. Epic – how to design for transformation converting deep insight and the intangibly novel into tangible reality.

Journey further

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