Systematic Innovation @ Concurrent Development — 7/19/2018

scaling the creative enterprise

Scaling the Creative Enterprise with Systematic Innovation

Systematic innovation explores / optimizes multiple attributes for an ideal or un-discovered product / service configuration. Systematic innovation is an art and a science. The “science” is generation of various combinations of attributes and identification of feasible / relevant configurations. The “art” is identification of relevant attributes as the basis for combinations. Every solution space is unique. A more robust approach can integrate product attributes and market / customer / environmental attributes.

The natural intersection between systematic innovation and product / service design is a relatively un-exploited opportunity. In this session, we’ll gain a basic understanding of systematic innovation and its application in several historical contexts. We’ll also contemplate the further application of systematic innovation in our individual design practices and the design community at large.

The expected outcome is a more robust and repeatable approach to product / service innovation and an innovation practice that scales more broadly across the organization. This session is relevant for product managers and product developers who are “directly” responsible for product / service innovation; it is also relevant for team members who are “indirectly” involved in promoting innovation (isn’t that the whole team?) and / or team members who aspire to become more directly involved in the practice of innovation.

Society of Concurrent Product Development (SCPD)

post @ LinkedIn

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Thanks to SCPD for this opportunity; Bill Farmer @ SCPD for curating / producing / moderating this session; numerous colleagues for their editorial and promotional support; and Simulation-Powered Learning for hosting the webinar environment!

An audio recording of the session will be available soon.

I will be presenting on systematic innovation in UX at DevJam / Product Agility on 8/14/18.

Customer Experience / Employee Experience

normandale partnership center

Customer Focus @ Normandale Partnership Center (7/17/18)

CX and EX — never the twain shall meet. Enter Customer Focus North on 7/17/18 at Normandale Partnership Center on the campus of Normandale Community College. The two disciplines converged with high energy in the region’s inaugural edition of this behaviorally-oriented event.

As Lee Schafer chronicled recently, MSP has long been a hub of customer experience and employee experience. As Dan Wallace explained to Lee, Joe Pine (author of The Experience Economy), Lou Carbone (founder of Experience Engineering), and Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) all originated here. So the absence of a comprehensive annual event has seemed like a bit of an anomaly. In producing CFN and aggregating the local thought leaders in this field, Dave Mathias filled the gap with a flair.

Lots of thoughtful content and interaction — too much to cover in detail. Some of the highlights from my perspective:

nancy o'brien

The workshops were the main event. A wide range of practical topics — I felt like a kid in a candy store trying to make my choice. I followed the rules and attended only one workshop — some of my colleagues (who will go un-named) attended as many as three of the practical sessions. In retrospect, I wish that I had been less compliant. I attended “experience happiness” with Nancy O’Brien and Linda Saggau. Maybe sounds a bit funky, but Nancy and Linda are well-established in the serious EX realm and their approach (The Happiness Practice / THP) is both practical and relevant to the challenges of the modern workplace. It was the topic that was least familiar to me, so I decided to venture into foreign territory. It was a worthwhile addition to my portfolio.

An under-current of the event was the potential tension and synergy between CX and EX. I would assert that EX is the basis of CX; happy employees = happy customers. I think that Nancy O’Brien would agree, although there was a diversity of opinion around the event. I would also assert that all of the UX capabilities that we apply in the CX domain are equally relevant in the EX domain.

Other workshops included Sprocket CX on the intersection of customer experience and data science; Rêve Consulting on change management in the context of service design and managing the human side of change; and Kurt Schmidt / Emily Schmidt on experience prototyping. BTW: “Rêve” means “dream” in French. Pretty cool identity.

elizabeth yang

Elizabeth Yang of Optum Technology came from Boston to share her perspectives on the convergence / integration of service design and agile development. Another case of never the twain shall meet; analogous to the integration of development and operations in the DevOps movement, although a more complex interface. Very thought-provoking and relevant to my current pursuits. I also enjoyed a lively conversation with Elizabeth after her presentation.

dan hill

Lou Carbone headlined the show with an historical and evolutionary perspective on CX / EX; I resonated with his perspective on CX as a fusion of art and science. Dan Hill, author of Emotionomics, covered guest recovery.

As usual, the spontaneous conversations were often the most enriching. I enjoyed thoughtful conversations with Justin Royer of Sprocket CX at the CXPA pre-event; Brenda Dickinson and Sunny Ainley of Normandale’s continuing education program in the sponsorship area; and Dan Wallace at happy hour.

My current focus is systematic innovation and all roads lead to SI. This brief, yet intense, immersion in the CX world illuminated the potential application of systematic innovation in CX; also the unique potential of systematic innovation to integrate CX / user research with product design and technology development.

It’s a thing. Congratulations and thanks to Dave Mathias and his team for getting this thing launched and I’m looking forward to next year… presuming that Dave Mathias returns from darkest Africa.

I recently presented on systematic innovation in concurrent development at the SCPD webinar series; an audio recording of the session will be available soon.

I will be presenting on systematic innovation in UX at DevJam / Product Agility on 8/14/18.

post @ LinkedIn: “Adventures in Customer Experience / Employee Experience

Strategy / Culture Alignment

work effects

Strategy / Culture Alignment workshop @ Work Effects (7/11/18 – 7/12/18)

I enjoyed a high-octane dose of Michael Stewart’s methodology around strategy / culture alignment in the luxurious and trendy Work Effects space at Baker Center.

My context: I’m currently focused on systematic innovation (“all roads lead to SI”) and, related to that focus, “culture of innovation”. I’m also interested in integration of strategy / execution and — as Michael confirmed — culture is a key element of execution. Strategy can’t activate in a vacuum — it needs to activate through culture. Culture will either accelerate or decelerate the execution of strategy.

A particular culture may need to adapt to systematic innovation; systematic innovation may need to adapt to a particular culture.

baker center


Some key elements of the WE model:

culture is not health (organizational health)

culture has specific dimensions; the WE SCA model has 10 dimensions

each dimension can be evaluated (qualitatively) on a spectrum of 10 positions

the spectrum for culture (unlike health, which is good to bad) is “good to good”

we are identifying relative / qualitative differences that aren’t inherently good or bad; they are just attributes of a particular culture

the key is how well the elements of culture are aligned with a particular strategy

we can actually measure (quantitatively) the alignment between strategy and culture

strategy is “what”; culture is “how”

in most cases, culture should adjust to strategy; in some cases, strategy may need to adjust to culture

in any case, strategy and culture should be moving toward alignment

their movement toward alignment can be measured over time

michael stewart

After covering the basic principles of the WE model, Michael “extracted” two case studies from workshop participants, so the case studies were rich and robust, not fabricated. The principles became concrete and the model came to life as we applied it to each case study. We identified areas of alignment and mis-alignment and prioritized potential opportunities for improvement. The shared experience of the whole group working on the same case studies produced a social learning effect. Developing each case study interactively with the sharp intellect of my colleagues was energizing and productive.


This immersion into the tension between strategy and culture (as “what” and “how”) has sharpened my perspective on systematic innovation and “culture of innovation” in the organizational and strategic context. I’m reminded that innovation is part of the “how” and I need to be ever so vigilant about identifying the “what” that lies on the other side of that “how”… and finding ways to align with it.

I also observed that the WE SCA model is an integrated design / implementation approach. Most current approaches to change management are dis-integrated — they adopt a change that has been determined by an external process and manage “the human side of change” with static training and communication. Change can’t possibly be human-centric if design and implementation are not integrated. Change management, if it is to be responsive to a VUCA world, must evolve toward a more dynamic and integrated design / implementation approach. Change practitioners, likewise, must evolve toward leading a design process that is both distributed and iterative.


I recently presented on systematic innovation in concurrent development at the SCPD webinar series.

I will be presenting on systematic innovation in UX at DevJam / Product Agility on 8/14/18.


post @ LinkedIn: “Adventures in Strategy / Culture Alignment