Rules of behaviour for emergent experimentation

IDEO CEO Tim Brown discusses six lessons learned from decades of innovation that help foster collaboration, experimentation, and change

Brown’s six rules for emergent experimentation can be found here. Among the best are

  1. Assume the best ideas emerge from the organizational ecosystem, including all stake-holders not just employees.
  2. Set conditions so that those in the ecosystem who are most likely to be stimulated by changing external factors (technology, business factors, consumer needs, strategic threats or opportunities) are the ones who are best situated and motivated to have new ideas.
  3. Articulate an over-arching purpose so that the ecosystem has a context in which to innovate without top down control.

HFP consultants Sean Lowrie and Noah Raford have been having similar conversations about effective management strategy in turbulent environments (such as those faced by forward looking humanitarian entities in the coming decade).  When uncertainty and change are so great that long term planning is impossible, how can one plan for organizational commitment and change? One possibility is structured improvisation, with lessons taken from jazz, theatre, and the creative arts. Such rules include

  1. Observe what went before, find the pattern, and then match it.
  2. Vary the pattern incrementally and experimentally over time.
  3. See how others respond.
  4. Change everything now and then.
  5. Repeat.

Are there any parallels in planning for humanitarian change? What might this look like when collaborating with multiple and different stakeholders? What if only some, but not all, stakeholders agree to “play the game”? How can one create conditions of listening where these rules might succeed?

Referring back to Tim’s post, we love the idea of favouring ideas which create organizational resonance, which also articulate over-arching purpose for both the organization and its stakeholders and clients. The catch? These ideas don’t usually come from the top! In this case, the “consumer” of humanitarian services might be the one with the best ideas and strategies for adaptation in the face of change.

You can read the full post from Tim here. By way of background, IDEO has been a leader in innovation, collaboration and design for over a decade. They are recognized as one of the world’s leaders in innovation and collaboration and are increasingly turning their attention towards humanitarian and social issues. They recently published a toolkit for the Gates Foundation on providing Human Centered Design for humanitarian services and are also active in a variety of management and social change decision-making sectors.

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One Response to Rules of behaviour for emergent experimentation

  1. […] – See my similar post on “Rules for Emergent Experimentation“, which reaches similar conclusions and proposes guidelines for play in the context of […]

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