What follows is a highly self-indulgent post. You have been warned.
Since the beginning of the year, I have spent most of my waking hours thinking about the future of organisations, and how to better integrate innovation and adaptiveness into their fabric of being. This interest stems from two sources: Firstly, I have been consulting and coaching organisations especially in the area of Experimentation-Driven Innovation for the past two years. Secondly, when I was doing research on how to manage uncertainty in innovative projects, I stumbled on the concept of complex adaptive systems, which fundamentally changed the way I see organisations.
This different way of seeing and thinking about organisations presents a huge opportunity. The 20th century management practice effectively treats organisations as mechanistic systems–an approach that is both outdated and ill-suited to today’s fast-changing business environments. Just consider how much waste can be found in information flows and organisational practices, such as meetings, decision-making, budgeting, talent management, etc.
Complexity (not complicatedness) is not that easy concept to grasp, especially if your belief system is firmly rooted in the mechanistic Newtonian/Cartesian worldview. Yet it is an essential principle for successfully integrating the exploitation of existing business opportunities to the exploration of new ones–a characteristic that long-lasting organisations have in common, and one that seems notoriously difficult to reach.
As I am currently on the lookout for a new job opportunity (while also to developing my own consultancy and expertise in these areas), it occurred to me that I should try to communicate better what I mean by organisation design and innovation management. Although I treat these as separate topics, there is significant overlap because an organisation that is not designed to innovate is also not likely to survive in the long-term.
What started from an attempt to visualise these two focus areas and the topics that fall under them (and in which I have expertise), turned into a deeper exercise in self-reflection and how I see myself. Because of this I decided to write this blog post, and perhaps encourage you to try it as well.
What follows is the mind map of me.
These are the things I talked about above. This is how I see myself creating value. There are the two main focus areas (Innovation Management, Organisation Design), and more specific concepts, topics and practical approaches that guide my thinking and doing. The hands-on work in both areas comes down mostly to consulting, facilitating, coaching, training, speaking and writing.
These are the things that work beneath the surface and enable me to create value in the world. You can think of the Front-End stuff being about creating outcomes, and Back-End stuff about the sustained ability to do so.
At first I wanted to divide this section into two areas: physical performance and mental performance, but that would have been somewhat contrived. There is no clear dividing barrier between the two. Take sleep for example. It is a physical activity with significant impact on both physical and mental performance. Same goes with exercise and nutrition, although to a somewhat lesser degree.
This is why I ended up calling these three things the essentials. If one of them is not in order, everything else will suffer as a result. This is also about more than just recognising their importance. I have spent hundreds of hours studying the three and their relation to overall health, and as a result profoundly changed my life.
Thinking habits are activities that help especially in the mental performance -side of things. You can consider them as exercise for the mind. Reading nonfiction is something I have been doing for years. If you are what you eat, then your thinking would be what you read. Books are tremendously valuable in challenging and expanding your mental models of the world.
The two other practices in this category are meditation and journaling (a form of reflection). My main inspiration for both has been Josh Waitzkin, who is a top-end performance coach, and vouches for their importance. Granted, these are somewhat new parts in my daily routine, but they have become sticky enough during the past few months that I dare to present them here.
Lastly, there are certain principles I try to adhere to, and given my knowledge of them warrant mentioning. I am definitely an advocate of the human performance aspects that stem from positive psychology. To me philosophy is largely about morality, ethics, contentment and living a good life. In this area I am particularly drawn to the practical aspects of Stoic writings.
Balance and effortless productivity are somewhat unspecific, but nonetheless important things that I want to try to keep in mind. The former is more about life in general and being wary of single-mindedness, whereas the latter is about trying to be more aware of my energy levels and clarity of thinking. Getting more things done without inner resistance.
There are things that have a meaningful role in my life, but which are not really related to the created value or outcomes, nor to the internal processes. When it comes to relaxing, I enjoy watching quality movies and tv shows with my wife, playing games–not just for fun, but also tactically to improve productivity–seeing friends, reading fiction and listening to music. One big thing that usually results in peak life experiences is traveling (which I forgot to put to the mind map). Photography is another one.
Then there are the networks that I am actively in touch with. I was prompted to open them up in the picture, because frankly put they play a huge multi-faceted role in life, and are increasing in importance as the boundaries between traditional groups and segregation of activities are disappearing.
I was wondering if I should also have a section here called IT, considering that I’m pretty handy with anything related to computers. On top of that, there are more specific knowledge areas such as my expertise in SAP User Rights Management, image manipulation, WordPress, and HTML, CSS and Swift programming languages. But then again, I cannot really see how these would play a large role in the areas where I feel I can create the most value.
What do you think? Do you feel like you understand who I am a little better now? Or was this, as I warned in the beginning, nothing but self-indulgent mumbo-jumbo? For me the greatest value was not in listing the individual items, but in categorising them. This is where insights were born. Especially when it comes to balancing the Back-End and Front-End activities.
How would your “me map” look like if you made one? Please let me know in the comments.