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Ready for After Wave1?

Updated: Apr 23, 2021

Innovation Capacity Building Now

Welcome Humantific readers. This week we are switching gears to share a few thoughts on how we see and make sense of the evolving innovation skill-building marketplace...where we see Humantific fitting into the big picture universe.

Since we launched our Complexity Navigation Program in 2007 we have seen many changes come and go in the marketplace. Whether we all like it or not, the big wave of workshops positioned as "Design Thinking" has probably done as much to confuse the marketplace as clarify the subject.

It’s been interesting to see where the vast majority of those Wave 1 "Design Thinking" workshops focused, coming from graduate design schools, consulting practices and late in the cycle, numerous graduate business schools jumping on the bandwagon, seeking to reposition themselves. It’s been a fascinating cycle to watch and one that seems to be reaching saturation with its basic "Design Thinking" skill-building, borrowing heavily from CPS (Creative Problem Solving) community foundational knowledge.

As participants cycle out the other side of the "Design Thinking" workshop Wave 1 era, learning lessons regarding what was described in marketing materials, what was delivered, what worked and what did not, it’s only natural that many have gained insights into numerous pros and cons of innovation capacity building, insights regarding process realities, team dynamics, skill levels, outcome expectations and culture building, or lack there-of.


For us one of the most important insights has always been to better understand the gaps between the scale and complexity of challenges facing organizations in the VUCA age and the mechanisms and assumptions built into existing conventional "Design Thinking" methods. As practitioners and methodologists we began talking/writing about this delicate subject ten+ years ago, and have published widely on this topic, including our most recent book, Rethinking Design Thinking. The good news, from our perspective, is that we can see the phenomenon of so many cycling through the "Design Thinking" workshop wave is finally bringing a tipping point, raising broad and growing awareness in this regard. More clarity is arriving, particularly around the methodologies/complex challenge gap, and is, from our perspective, long overdue.

Certainly we have seen the future of work, once a periphery subject, cycle to main stream consideration by all organizations in every industry. The arrival of Covid has accelerated the need to pay attention to skill-building, better-suited to the continuously evolving VUCA age and the emerging new normal, whatever that turns out to be. Somewhat ironically perhaps, the tried-and-true notion of adaptability and adaptive capacity (NOT "Agile") are undergoing a new level of appreciation, interest and pursuit, now becoming directly attached to the future of work.

It seems inevitable that interest in mastery of more advanced skills, better suited to rising complexity is emerging from the many lessons learned from the "Design Thinking" workshop Wave 1 era. What we see is that interest in the subjects of sensemaking, open framing and navigating complexity continue to rise in parallel to the unpredictable phenomenon of VUCA.

Increasingly understood by a rising tide is that in complex organizational and societal settings it does not make any sense to assume upfront that the nature of the challenges are known. This stark reality helped to inform our decision, some time ago to press the RESET button on conventional "Design Thinking". This we describe, among many other things, including 10 Secrets of Design Thinking and 25 Change Avenues our Rethinking Design Thinking book.

From time to time we have, published our views on future work skills as well as shared numerous frameworks designed to enable more enlightened questions when considering skill building workshops, innovation leadership programs and the nature of adaptive capacity building.

Here today in this regrouping post we are reposting a few examples clipped from other longer Humantific posts. Hope readers will find this condensed reassemblly useful.

INNOVATION WORKSHOPS / Assessment Criteria Framework

10 Enlightened HUMANTIFIC Questions to Ask:

Recognizing that philosophy is not methodology you might ask these questions to anyone pitching a “Design Thinking” workshop.:

1. How is your broadly stated design philosophy connected to your actual methodology? Are the methods being framed as “Design Thinking” assumption-boxed or assumption-free? Do the methods being taught in the workshop contain up-front assumptions that the challenges and outcome paths are always product, service, experience regardless of what the actual organizational or societal problems might be? Do the methods start with the assumption of product, service, experience?

2. Do you explain how the workshop connects to real world continuous VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity)?

3. Is Open Challenge Framing taught in the workshop?

4. Does the workshop contain a clear and actionable definition of what innovation is today?

5. Are innovation behaviors taught in the workshop or is it primarily focused on techniques?

6. Are the embedded thinking styles of your team surfaced and brought into the workshop conversation? Is the present emphasis of your existing culture discussed in the workshop?

7. Is the creation of psychological safety part of the workshop? If so how is it created? If not, why not?

8. Is the role of sensemaking in the innovation cycle explained in the workshop? Are the basic skills of visual sensemaking taught in the workshop program?

9. Is there a skills-progression ladder leading to more advanced skills beyond an initial workshop?

10. Is the workshop a stand-alone or do you explain how it connects to inclusive innovation culture building?

INNOVATION LEADERSHIP / Assessment Criteria Framework

10 Enlightened HUMANTIFIC Questions to Ask:

Recognizing that leadership downstream is not leadership upstream, assumption-boxed methods are not assumption-free methods you might ask these questions to anyone pitching “Design Leadership” skill-building.:

1. Is this product, service, experience creation leadership or organizational change leadership?

2. Is this design leadership program based on, built on product, service, experience design methods?

3. Are the broad philosophical statements in the marketing materials aligned with the actual methods being taught?

4. Is Complex CoCreation Facilitation part of the program?

5. Is Open Framing part of the program?

6. Is Navigation Compass mastery part of the program?

7. Is Visual SenseMaking part of the program?

8. Is Think Balance leadership part of the program?

9. Is Cognitive Inclusion-Making part of the program?

10. Is Innovation Coherence leadership part of the program?

HUMANTIFIC: 10 Key FutureReady Work Skills:

Identifying what individual human capabilities have sustainable, high-yield value as the uncertain future unfolds continuously:

Assumption-Free Problem/Opportunity Finding

Complex Adaptive Problem Solving

Applied Creativity Thinking

Open Challenge Framing

Empathetic Insight Creation

Deep Cognitive Flexibility

Visual SenseMaking

Inclusive Innovation Collaboration

Accelerated ChangeMaking

Innovation Enabling Leadership

HUMANTIFIC: 20 Key FutureReady Organizational Capacities:

Identifying what adaptable, sustainable, high-yield capabilities teams and organizations need today and will need tomorrow:

Navigate complex uncertainty

Proactively adapt to continuous change

Cocreate new forms of value

Make sense of complex unstructured information

Tackle complex monster challenges

Identify new arenas of opportunity for growth

Uncover unmet customer needs

Maximize data/information abundance

Envision Future Scenarios

Create new products, services & experiences

Humanize the future (in the face of constant technology change)

Maximize diverse brainpower

Build high performance change making teams

Integrate new forms of technology

Optimize existing value offerings

Build continuously adaptive capacity

Lead / drive / explain accelerated changemaking

Attract, retain and upskill a futureready workforce

Create an inclusive innovation culture

Enable continuous learning / continuous innovation

In working with organizational change driving leaders on the other side of Wave 1 for some time, we have often been asked to visually depict our perspective on the connecting dots of adaptive capacity. This below is one view we use in capacity building conversations with client organizations.

As the impact of the Covid storms gets sorted out and the way of work continues to change, necessitating adaptability on the part of all of us, all of our organizations, we believe in making a strong case for more human-centered, life-centered inclusive organizations and societies. Its often a heavy lift but worth it. We wish everyone luck in Wave 2 of the ever-evolving, change-making capacity building evolution.

Subscibe to see more on this subject.

Questions? Feel free to connect: kickitup (at) humantific (dot) com

Related Reading:

Cover Image: Humantific Cofounder Elizabeth Pastor presenting Rethinking Design Thinking on stage at the Experience Fighters Conference in Madrid, 2020.


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