On The Road To Systemic Innovation: Practical Steps.

On The Road To Systemic Innovation: Practical Steps.

On The Road To Systemic Innovation: Practical Steps. 4021 2764 Diana Sonis

This is Part 2 in the On The Road To Systemic Innovation series. Part 1 discussed discussed whether your organization is set up for innovation in the first place, and Part 3 touches on What Not To Do.


Let’s get real here. People don’t like change. Our brain is naturally resistant to the unknown. Given a choice between status quo where things are relatively OK and some unknown future, most people will say things are A-OK as is. If you’re the one leading the initiative, people who are afraid of the unknown in your organization may initially see this as frivolous or silly. Things are good enough.

But, as Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” As the one leading the innovation charge, you can see the big picture. How can this be “good enough” if things are quickly changing? Even a dominant position in the market may not be dominant for long. Trying new things is not a waste of time; it’s value creation for the brand.

Let’s say that, in assessing your organization’s environment, you’ve concluded that your organizational structure is primed for systemic innovation and your management is on board, so how do you get started?

In prior posts we talked about the need to have an overarching, human-centered strategy that draws on several mainstream schools of thought. Conceptualizing the end goal of, then formulating your business’s journey to, human centeredness, will give you a view of the system for which you want to innovate.

So, first, start with a simple exercise of visualizing what your organization might look like 3-5 years down the line if everything goes well. What does the structure look like? What processes are implemented to consistently innovate? How does work culture shift when innovation is encouraged and rewarded, irrespective of success/failure? Really get into it. Dream without thinking of constraints or all the things that could go wrong. You’ll have time for that later. For now, paint a clear picture in detail of what your organization might look like so that you can work backwards from your vision to make it happen.

Next, turn to the reason why you exist in the first place, your customers (or whoever you’re serving). Do you have a good grasp as to why people buy/use your product/service? Go beyond market research with vague demographics. Look for stories, triggers, and context that will help you understand why your service/product intrinsically resonates with your customers. This will help you get back to basics and understand the key reasons your organization is in operation today.

Understanding the key reasons you exist today from the customer’s point of view is a vital step for two reasons. First, it will move your organization closer to becoming a human-centered operation both externally (customers, partners), and internally (employees, management). Second, it will help you reorient internal structure/processes to ensure people’s work tasks and rewards coalesce around key reasons customers use/buy your product/service to begin with.

There are many more steps and a lot more details in between, but these first steps are enough to get you on the path.

Changing people’s mindsets is hard. Have patience. Small steps. Give it a try, and if you have any questions, please reach out. We are here to help.

Would love to hear how you’ve been leading the innovation charge at your organization. Tell us what worked (or didn’t) in the comments below.


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Diana Sonis

Diana is a passionate believer in holistic, 360 strategy and design, with extensive expertise in UX Design, CX Design, Service Design, and the Design Thinking methodology.

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