On The Road To Systemic Innovation: What NOT to do.

On The Road To Systemic Innovation: What NOT to do.

On The Road To Systemic Innovation: What NOT to do. 2448 3264 Diana Sonis

This is Part 3 in the On The Road To Systemic Innovation series. Part 1 discussed whether your organization is set up for innovation in the first place, and Part 2 gave you Practical Steps to get started.


You won’t be able to avoid all mistakes because – let’s face it – life happens. It’s part of learning. Don’t be afraid to make them. However, with extensive practice in the field, we can unpack a few common missteps we’ve seen organizations make on the road to becoming a more human-centered organization.

1. Jumping into it too quickly. One client we worked with – let’s name him Joe – had a clear vision for the next 5 years. Joe wanted his Fortune 100 consumer goods company to tap into their customers’ real-time needs on an ongoing basis. To do that, Joe knew he had to empower all his employees to connect with customers. He gathered everyone for a company-wide meeting and simply told them, here’s the new normal. People were excited, because – let’s face it – it sounds exciting to be on a mission. And then….everyone mostly went back to work, promptly abandoning their newly found powers as day-to-day tasks piled up. As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “a goal without a plan is only a wish.

2. Assuming everyone is on board. One of our favorite sayings is, “assumption is the mother of all f-ckups.” When something is self-evident to you, give yourself some credit. You may be the ONLY person who sees it as obvious. What’s great about this is that you can show your leadership chops; the downfall is that you may have a lot of cajoling ahead of you. If you can’t fathom spending the time to convince your “half-wit” colleague of your vision, abandon your plan now. There is no certainty that you will get your organization closer to human-centricity, but there is a guarantee that not everyone will be on board. Prepare.

3. Ad-hoc attempts at becoming human-centric. One of the most common ways things go wrong when using human-centric methods (like Design Thinking) to solve business problems is doing it in piecemeal, one-off workshop way. Here is a scenario: Some executive hears or reads about Design Thinking or some related method. S/he gets very excited because it sounds like a hot fix for all their problems. An expert team/consultant is hired to facilitate a day or two of workshops. Everyone laughs a lot because it’s fun and you’re playing hooky from your day-to-day job. The expert team/consultant wraps it up and goes home. And then what? What have you learned? How will you apply it long-term?

The point of human-centric processes is to promote systemic change, which takes time and a lot of repetition.

Workshops and trainings are just the beginning; merely an intro into methods and tools. These exercises won’t establish long-term, structural changes. To become a human-centric business you’ll need to rinse, repeat with a lot of patience and a crystal clear vision of your goal.

Tell us in the comments below, what mistakes you’ve made on this road? Part of learning is sharing your stories!

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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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