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A Dream by Design Published: Monday, January 28, 2013 11:50 am By: Rafael Ríos, Executive Vice President

For the past month in a half a good friend of mine has had this recurring dream. It is the same story, same characters, people he has never seen before he says it is really frightening. In the dream he is a CEO of a service DELIVERY COMPANY. His company is in a dire need of transformation. Seismic changes that are occurring in his company’s industry are challenging the way they do things it seems that his business model is out of sync with the realities they are facing. This company’s product and services are losing touch with their customer base.

His firm is trying many things, they have made major investments in technology, but up to now, they have yet to reverse their downward spiral. They tried Six Sigma Quality-management programs. These programs helped them in many ways but they did not give them the kind of empathetic connection to consumers that was necessary to open new business opportunities. They looked outside the organization to find innovative ideas to revitalize their brands, but these did not pan out. They went out and recruited the best B-school-educated managers in the east coast, but they could not generate the outside-the-box thinking that was needed to build new brands or create new experiences

Each time he had this dream he would wake up at this point. Each time with a cold sweat.  After a while he would fall asleep again, and the dream would continue. In this part he was still the CEO, but this time he would find himself in the middle of a profound discussion about the future of the market and the industry. They were explaining how the market was moving from a knowledge economy that has been dominated by technology, into an experience economy controlled by consumers and the corporations who empathize with them. He was speaking to a group of reporters about the turnaround his company had experienced. They had learned the art and science of continuously redesigning themselves.  They had mastered the ability to focus, in a bifocal way, by designing a culture that created advances both through innovation and by achieving best in class efficiency. This combination had created a powerful competitive edge. They had created  a discipline based on design thinking that used the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.

He continuous by explaining that before, they had done a lot of different one shot activities, but they had not worked to focus the organization’s culture on innovation. So they designed a systematic approach to innovation. They developed an education program for all there people that exposed them to design thinking as a new approach to solving problems, strategy formulation, organizational design, brand rejuvenation,  just to name a few. They launched pilot programs that served as mechanisms to refine and apply the new methodology.  His group set up engagement activities throughout the organization to motivate and inspire people to change their mental channels. The leadership team became the champions of this change process. They set up a recognition program that served as a mechanism that rewarded the application of design thinking techniques from the shop floor to the sales and marketing group, to the strategy formulation war room. In other words he gave his people the permission to learn, to experiment and to apply.

He goes on to say that going through such a major transformation is not easy, it is complex, it is very painful, but the benefits make it worth it. During the transformation process they learned that when creating change leaders must take into consideration the complex organizational dynamics that exist: the rational, emotional and political.

He also learned that in economic downturns it is very easy to abandon, dilute or even forget your long term strategic objectives that motivated a company to change. The events that cause them to lose focus on innovation and only focus on efficiency, cost cutting and employee reduction confuse the organization. Was this the flavor of the month? Innovation cannot be turned on and off like a light switch. While the efficiency and technology part of the design thinking equation may become the priority, the innovation part must live on. The transformation continues, even if it means we have to work the projects with fewer resources in the near term.

As we have stated before the incubation of innovative ideas is what positions the organization to meet economic challenges in innovative ways, it also positions the organization in a strategic vantage point, once the economy begins its upturn.

All of a sudden I woke up from my dream. You see; this book I read Sunday put my imagination to work, to dream, to design, and to think.

Copyright 2013, QBS 
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