Making sense of complexity – why we all need to be T-shaped

by Dan Gray–Commscrum London

An alternative title for this post might’ve been “Why IABC is destined to die on its arse.” As markers go, that’s a suitably provocative one to lay down, and it’s probably why I’ve been elected to bat lead-off for this new joint blogging venture (along with Kevin Keohane, Mike Klein and Lindsay Uittenbogaard.)

Why did I allow my IABC membership to lapse this year? For the simple reason that they – and many organisations like them – continue to adhere to the credo that it pays to be a specialist, seemingly oblivious to the fact that every other creative profession is swimming merrily in the opposite direction.

Take the gathering momentum of Design Thinking, for example, which is transforming notions of design from the beautification of posters and toasters to a distinctive creative thought process – a whole new way of approaching strategy, innovation and the solving of wicked problems, such as climate change.

It’s gaining massive traction because it’s tapping into the growing realisation that an increasingly complex, diverse and unstable world poses brand, design and leadership challenges that deep functional specialism alone is ill-equipped to deal with. As Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, writes in his brilliant new book, Change by Design, they demand skills in two dimensions – not only sufficient depth of expertise to make tangible contributions from one perspective but, more importantly, the capacity and disposition to integrate thinking from across multiple disciplines.

The world of business communications has a lot to learn from psychologists like George A Miller, for example, with his insight that the maximum number of things anyone can hold simultaneously front-of-mind is seven (plus or minus two). When you think about the barrage of communications the average employee is subjected to, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why information fatigue syndrome is a very real phenomenon in many organisations.

Rapid change, audience overlap and media fragmentation have changed the rules of the game. Getting incrementally better at what you already do is becoming an irrelevance. The true value of communication lies in taking all of that complexity and making sense of it at a human level – a creative, synthetic process that distils a compelling core idea and relatively small number of supporting messages that people can actually relate to, and which actually adds value to the business.

For that, you need to be able to see beyond functional fiefdoms and start joining thing up. Failure to cross the “T” will forever condemn communicators to a life of downstream tactical execution.

Mike Klein–Commscrum Brussels

Like your style Dan–but I question your substance just a bit.

First, what you are describing is really a trans-disciplinary future, one where all of the traditional disciplines and toolkits available to the communicators will rapidly fuse, leaving only the truly transdisciplinary to thrive in the new environment. I think we’re in for a longer transition, Dan.

From where I sit in Brussels, where most of the current comms disciplines (Public Relations, Investor Relations, Public Affairs/Political Communication, Sustainability and Social Media) are well represented, there is starting to be some convergence and cross-fertilization.

The big blockage–until corporations and those who represent them start realizing that they need to communicate much more assertively and much less defensively, there isn’t going to be the money available to fully unleash this revolution.

The aftermath of Copenhagen will shift things somewhat–particularly in industries facing legislative or reputational doom. But those out of the immediate fire will try to hunker down as long as possible.

As for IABC–I wouldn’t count the ol’ International out. IABC’s priorities may need to be rearranged, with reduced emphasis on sustaining the HQ and Chapter infrastructure.

IABC needs instead to start moving towards a much leaner advocacy mission making better use of public networks and to giving newer (and more T-shaped) voices access to their more hoary channels like CW and Conference platforms. I’m going to be sending in my membership dues in February–but I know twisting your arm makes no sense until there’s some real progress.

Kevin Keohane — Commscrum Paris (thanks Eurostar)

Like Mike, I wouldn’t rule out IABC by virtue of sheer equity (or inertia, perhaps more appropriately).  Having said that, at least in Europe, I can say with statistical confidence that very few people who really matter in the communication industry have ever heard of IABC.

I do, however, wholeheartedly agree about the T-shaped issue with today’s communicators.  Indeed, IABC published an article in Communication World I wrote on the matter, to what can be described as tumbleweed-cueing silence.  Which is precisely the issue: the article was probably published in the wrong channel.  The kind of people who are members of IABC and read CW are not the audience who will easily adhere to a more holistic view.  I have nothing against IABC; I just think the organisation is very North American and navel-gazing, and a bit intellectually incestuous.  This results in its output being increasingly weak due to generations of inbreeding.  It never looks outside its front door.  It seldom invites people from ‘outside the family’ to generate thought leadership or to be provocative.  Instead you get yet another presentation about measuring the effectiveness of your employee engagement effort, or How To Use Twitter.  At one end, The Establishment and at the other, Me Too Fad Followers.  It’s about incremental improvements of approaches that already exist. As a result, it often feels a bit like a “member’s club” rather than a professional association, to me.

I’ve argued this for years: it is far better and more rewarding for communicators to go, for example, to conferences across disciplines than to communication conferences where they will hear what they already have heard before (probably from the same 5 IABC luminaries).

In the final analysis, I think communicators should look at their priority list.  If their priority list reads “1. Complete online benefits enrolment newsletter 2. Update intranet news feed with new press release  3. Check employee survey results” then they should worry.  If instead it reads “1.  Consider how to better align divisional business strategies with HR processes   2.  Track financial performance to management core brief delivery  3.  Engage with change management consultants around employee and manager involvement” then it’s probably a better picture.  Mike’s ultimately correct that the dysfunctions are as much the communicators’ faults as the businesses in which we ply our difficult trade.

Part of the solution isn’t to turn over the keys to unskilled communicators though: I am passionate about people communications as a strategic business management discipline.  Part of the solution is to become more broadly focussed, as Dan says.  This isn’t about diluting core content; it’s about broadening the scope in a disciplined, considered manner.

Lindsay Uittenbogaard–Commscrum Delft

Love the thinking, Dan.  Like the counter, Mike.  Get the bridge, Kevin.

But let’s be clear.  There’s a difference between making the IABC as a platform more cross-disciplinarian and bringing information from other disciplines into the hard core content of the IABC.

Professionals are definitely getting more out of connecting information from different fields together these days and the access we have to linked online information is obviously behind that.

It’s a hugely exciting development and those who are better at information filtering than at simply learning are laughing out loud.   People are picking and choosing what they want to learn about, but they still need solid sources from which to pick and choose.

The IABC could well integrate more information from wider fields into its topics, but it has to balance that up with keeping a focus on communication as opposed to Communication AND philosophy AND / OR sociology AND / OR psychology etc., otherwise it becomes too diluted.

People join things up, not platforms.  Unfortunately the IABC content is obviously not as up to date as we might like it to be, otherwise this blog would not exist.  A T-Shaped IABC (T meaning ‘two  – or more dimensions?) – in so far as it can be – is just a matter of time.

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33 thoughts on “Making sense of complexity – why we all need to be T-shaped

  1. Cheryl says:

    Congratulations to all of you on starting a whole new conversation on the future of corporate communications. Love how you have articulated the various arguments. I look forward to reading more and seeing how this all unfolds…

  2. Beth Kathan says:

    Congratulations to all of you on beginning a wonderful debate. Dan, you have said what I have been thinking about IABC for five years. And Mike, I agree with your counterpoint that IABC can change and become relevant again. That’s why I still send in my dues every year. And, Mike … in your list of Public Affairs practices, it does break my heart that internal comms isnt listed as it’s own area of exertise. Do you include it with Public Relations?

    Kevin, I wholeheartedly agree with you point of tactical work being our future unless we take control and act/present ourselves more strategically. I think communicators have a tendency to say “but I want to be at the table with the leaders” … but once we get there, we sit quietly and take orders.

    Lindsay, a wonderful example of the type of learning organization that you describe in here in Minneapolis, MN, USA. Local internal communicators banded together to build an adhoc group that is free, casual, flexible and timely. What that means is that there are no officers, the group communicates through a LinkedIn group, different members host the 90 minute meetings at their work location in a free conference room, and the topics are presented by other members, their companies or people from other disciplines as invited. So, if I need to learn more about a topic, (let’s say it is “Using Twitter for employee comms”) then I send out a notice, ask if people are interested and ask for a speaker. Once people show interest, I schedule the meeting at my workplace and invite the group. Generally we have 15-20 people per session and they happen 4 times per year.

    Mike, Brad Belaver is an instigator here if you would like more info.

    • commscrum says:

      Hi Beth…

      Thanks for the inspired and substantive response–appreciate your willingness to engage with those of us across the pond…

      With regard to my list of comms disciplines–I was referring particularly to the local scene here in Brussels–the disciplines I mentioned here are those well represented in Brussels, and one of my current emphases is to help drive some integration between these disciplines and internal/employee communication, a discipline which is largely unknown here.

      I’m not trying to break your heart–just breaking some new ground.

      Mike

  3. Aki says:

    Your blog is a breeze of fresh air! I couldn’t agree more with you on the need for Internal Communicators to broaden their horizon and work across disciplines and functions. This is one important aspect we need to take to heart to ensure our profession remains relevant and a prerequisite of us acting as consultants to Management. Looking forward to your next post!

  4. kevinkeohane says:

    And probably breaking new wind, if history is anything to go by

  5. From Montréal, Québec
    -5C, snow piled high

    I was inspired by your post to Google “Design Thinking” and ended up watching an hour video of Tim Brown from 2006 at MIT [http://mitworld.mit.edu/video/357]. Thanks Dan for the inspiration. Definitely makes the case for learning outside our profession. There’s a lot there, but one thing he talks about that I think is especially pertinent to the discussion is the notion of “design thinkers” – people who are able to contribute to design innovation because they have both empathy and a craft. IABC is designed to support and maintain craft. Given our craft is still evolving, there’s definitely room for improvement, but that’s basically where they focus. But, we are a ‘human-centric’ profession. So, what about empathy. How are we building our capacity to understand the people we are trying to reach, touch and engage from their point of view? Certainly not through the IABC. As a communicator who specializes in internal communications, I’ve always thought of it as being a ‘voice for employees’and key to participating in the strategic discussion, but Tim’s use of the word empathy really captures it. And, ‘it’ is rare. Why? Can you learn to be empathetic? Should IABC be putting more focus here?

  6. commscrum says:

    Hell yes, you can learn to be empathetic, particularly if you focus on culture, content, and context.

    Some examples: If you work with the Dutch, understand the difference between Ajax and Feyenoord. With the Quebecois, learn about Rene Levesque. With IT guys,learn about why some prefer Linux and some Windows, and perhaps just enough about how they work to be able to communicate credibly.

    If IABC is to be faulted, it’s in the culture area–nurturing a polite, establishment-oriented culture internally with limited depth on delivering good diagnostic tools to help practitioners quickly get underneath new cultures…

    Mike Klein
    The Intersection-Brussels
    http://intersectionblog.wordpress.com

    • Hi again Mike. I think that you’d definitely get closer to ‘understanding your audience’ using your culture, content, culture approach. And that’s clearly a good thing. But, I’m not sure after all that analysis you’d necessarily get to empathy. Really putting yourself in the receivers shoes. Understanding the world from their point of view takes more than mechanics [see Kevin’s comments below]. What is that other thing it takes? Can you learn it? I think it’s an interesting question and that I will definitely keep noodling. [It’s making me think … I’m on the Board of Equitas – International Human Rights Education [equitas.org]. They have a program for children, a series of games designed to expose kids to the underlying values of human rights. Think there may be something there…]

      Thanks to you all – Mike, Kevin, Dan and Lindsay for provoking this thinking.

      • Dan Gray says:

        Hi again, Debbie. Check out any one of Daniel Goleman’s excellent books on Emotional Intellegence to find out more. It’s actually the really fascinating part about much of his research that, unlike IQ which is pretty much fixed at birth, your EQ is something that you can absolutely grow and develop.

  7. […] as tool and audience – thinking about T-shaped communicators January 6, 2010 The Comscrum blog post on the need to move towards T-shaped communication really got me thinking about the role of internal communication within the broader strategic […]

  8. kevinkeohane says:

    Particularly when a lot of the “culture” related content is either wildly out of date, or wildy generic and superficial. In my experience, lot of business culture is about establishing ground rules of how far you go to accommodate the way “they” do it versus how “I” do it – beyond social niceties. Working recently in China was a real education in this; I’m glad I read a couple of books on business etiquette and so on, but also found out from expats that often the Chinese will use Westerners’ well-intentioned desire to accommodate the Chinese culture as a way to leverage extra business advantage. So it’s a very complex picture, and if I read one more article on “international culture” by a 25 year old from Dallas who spent 2 weeks in London quoting ripe examples like why the Chevy Nova failed in Mexico in the 70s I’ll vomit into my bowler (which we all wear here in the City of London).

  9. Wedge says:

    I haven’t thought about this, and I don’t know how I feel.

    I consider myself a ‘communications specialist’ with interests / experience in crafting meaningful written work, designing layout and information architecture / web design.

    I’m now thinking about the kind of business person I should be. I don’t know yet; thanks for making me think today.

    So far, I’m unsure if being a specialist is wrong, but then I do have a couple of talents that help me stand out in my company (I’m good with words *and* computers – almost unheard of!).

    • commscrum says:

      Hi Wedge…

      You raise a different question than Deborah–but the answer is actually very much the same.

      You’re a writer, and one focused on internal/employee comms. In that role, you can raise your game by remembering to focus on culture, context and content.

      Content’s the easiest–you have to know enough about what you are writing about to write intelligently. Context–understand why you are writing something in the first place, why it’s important, and who it’s important to. Culture–what binds together the audience, how do people see themselves, their peers and their profession.

      You don’t need an MBA to think like a business person–you just need to pay attention to what’s going on around you. And from what I’ve seen here and on twitter–you already are.

      All the best,

      Mike Klein
      The Intersection, Brussels
      http://intersectionblog.wordpress.com
      Twitter: mklein818

    • kevinkeohane says:

      Thanks for the comment. I don’t think being a specialist is at all “wrong” – it is part and parcel of getting good and creating value. On the other hand, at a practitioner level / discipline level, I think we need to be careful to balance the pendulum back the other way. We seem hooked on “gurus” a mile deep and an inch wide; we worship “the expert” and specialisation to the extent we risk not broadening our own capabilities and the value we can add across areas…

  10. Mark Schumann says:

    Hey Dan, Kevin, Mike and Lindsay: Congratulations on the launch of the new blog! And, Dan, I really enjoyed your thought provoking post on how the profession is changing and how, to remain relevant, professional associations must change as well.

    I couldn’t agree more. The communication world we work in today bears little resemblance to the one I entered and, as you say, all the “rapid change” poses real challenge to practitioners once trained to be specialists.

    The reality of this change, in fact, is the key reason why IABC is conducting – through January 15 – the first phase of an extensive market research effort – so we learn, firsthand, what it takes for a professional association to be relevant, and to deliver value that professionals consider essential.

    So please join the conversation by completing the initial online survey at http://research.zarca.com/k/SsSSWSsQPQsPsPsP. Or go to iabc.com. Thanks for taking a few minutes to let us know.

    Again, congratulations on the blog, the post, and for advancing the discussion. I look forward to reading you often. And have a good weekend.

    Mark

  11. Dan Gray says:

    Wow! Great to see so much excellent feedback.

    @Beth, Mike and Mark
    It’s heartening to know that I’m not alone in thinking this stuff and, too, that IABC is already on the case. I should say that I don’t for a second believe that IABC will disappear (I was being deliberately mischievous and provocative with my opening salvo); I do however feel very strongly that IABC needs to fundamentally rethink what it is, what it does and why it matters if it’s going to remain relevant in this ‘brave new world’.

    @Debbie
    I’m delighted to have inspired you to check out more about Design Thinking. If you enjoyed Tim Brown’s MIT talk, then I can also heartily recommend visiting TED (http://www.ted.com), where you’ll find more from Tim and many others besides. It’s an amazing resource, and one that I find myself going back to for inspiration time and time again.

    @Wedge
    What Kevin says is absolutely spot on, and I wouldn’t want you to think I’m painting some sort of binary choice between “specialism” and “generalism”. It’s not about EITHER/OR. You’re actually bang on yourself with your use of the word AND!

    • Hi Dan. Completely agree about Ted.com. One of my favourite sources of inspiration too. And now I know Tim is there too, you know what I’ll be doing this weekend.

      • Dan Gray says:

        Cool. It’s especially worthwhile checking out his talk on the creative power of play (something innate to us as kids, but which seems to be systematically drummed out of us as we grow older!). Funny, light-hearted, but actually quite profound as an illustration of how a human-centred approach can realise fantastic innovations – not just in terms of products/services, but at the level of whole systems.

  12. Indy says:

    Hey, a new blog by some smart people I’ve met – straight into the RSS feed for me.

    I’m all for being T-shaped, especially given that I’m something more like X-shaped but I have to admit that “Change By Design” is on my shelf but not yet cracked open, so I can’t comment on “Design Thinking” as an approach yet. I’m curious if it’s not a bit of a “turf grab” by designers who are as flawed as any other profession though…

    My background in cross-cultural stuff brought me to IABC focused on an aspect of “communication” which doesn’t seem to get a lot of play inside “Internal Comms” which is that communication isn’t just artefacts created, or even building a Twitter stream, it’s the daily interaction of teams and (maybe even more crucially) the actions and structures that come out of the organisation. This is part of the “culture stuff” Kevin mentions in the comments, but can’t be divorced from asking “is information moving around the way it needs to.” I guess I’m saying that if you want to be a “communicator” you can’t cede all the work about “business information” to IT.

    What I am doing right now is attempting (with a few collaborators) to build services that combine organisational consulting with comms consulting, (website not yet ready) because I don’t think they can really stay separate. Even now too many business initiatives fail because of communication problems (note, not just the dissemination strategies that IABC deals with, but the actual process of moving information around the organisation so that decisions are taken with insight.) At the same time, too many communications programs are just a thick gloss applied on top of whatever is going on – I think this is a large part of the information overload Dan mentions.

    I think Dan is right to point to “complexity” as the real challenge/opportunity for communicators. The traditional approach to internal comms has basically been as a handmaiden discipline – communicating the decisions of others. The reality of complexity is that those others are less and less in touch with the emergent problems inside the organisation – if communicators can be serious about their “listening” role there’s a huge opportunity for them to demonstrate more value by synthesising stories that communicate information and direction about complex situations for “audiences” at both ends of the hierarchy. Of course, to do this you need a broad appreciation of the organisation (and the components) you are listening to AND ways to make sense of complexity. Right now such individuals are not thick on the ground…

    • kevinkeohane says:

      Hi Indy,
      As we’ve discussed many times before, I am completely in agreement – communication and organisation consulting can and should be one and the same. I’m reminded of the Facebook quote – communication is not there to get information, information is there to get communication. The same concept applies to organisational structure, change and development. Good to see you in the camp!

  13. Web 2.0 makes people more important than processes. I’m still paying my dues to IABC the organisation, but my loyalty is to IABC members and fellow-travellers who group around the IABC flag. I agree the flagpole is starting to sway dangerously in the strong winds that are blowing through the industry and it may need shortening to better withstand the worst gusts. Perhaps it could be strengthened by piling up copies of CW round the base? 🙂

    Good to see Mike joining forces with you Dan, and Kevin and Lindsay who I’ve not had the chance to come across before. Why don’t the three of you join Mike on our Belgium IABC ning site (populated by mainly non-members), where we’ve been joining the dots and crossing the occasional T over the past few months?

    Looking forward to seeing you there!

    • commscrum says:

      Hugh…

      You touch on a great issue that I’m literally wrestling with this afternoon–the sustainability of soliciting people about their IABC Membership Dues when they are either gathering around the flag (but not necessarily caring about CW or Conference or Exchange), or on the other end, simply see IABC as a vehicle for getting a CW subscription. There just aren’t that many IABC members in Belgium who are interested in IABC for IABC’s sake.

      Belgium could be a great laboratory for developing an alternative IABC business model–perhaps where the chapter is on the hook for a licensing fee (equal to, say, 75% of current member dues) which provides all in the territory with an access code access to IABC’s member-only services. We’d then charge in more appropriate ways–advertising on Ning (if that’s possible), charging a bit more for events (or shorter-term memberships), etc. Something to think about…

      Mike Klein
      The Intersection–Brussels
      http://intersectionblog.wordpress.com

      • kevinkeohane says:

        You touched on it earlier, Mike. Part of the solution is slimming down HQ and shifting real resource to the local level – with careful caretaking and stewardship from the centre.

  14. Ago Cluytens says:

    All,

    Excellent post, which caused me to reflect on my own experiences. All too often, I feel functional experts do too much navel staring and too little “thinking with their business hat on”. This creates unnecessary internal competition between disciplines, and contributes significantly to the fact that functional disciplines continue to have trouble getting a seat at the business table.

    I feel we have a lot to learn from looking across the fence, and begging/borrowing/stealing ideas from a wide variety of disciplines. As Deng Xiaoping once famously quoted, ““It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.”

    Your thinking inspired me to write a follow-up post, which you can find on http://bit.ly/4G2yDw

    Thanks to Mike for getting in touch, and good luck with the blog !

    Ago

  15. Sam Berrisford says:

    I can’t see why you have conflated comments about the IABC with your observations on complexity. Quite legitimate of course to criticize the IABC, but maybe more useful to offer a constructive way forward instead of taking your ball home – assuming you acknowledge that there is value in having an international body representing professional communicators.

    On complexity, we need to frame this discussion in the context of Ralph Stacey’s work in the field of organisational complexity. I disagree with the view that the way to deal with complexity is to offer a simplified view of the world. I believe that complexity, conflict, uncertainty, indecision, confusion and strategic paralysis is more or less the way things are in organisational life (and probably in most domestic lives as well). There is no simple T shaped formula that will solve this problem.

    Maybe we should stop regarding complexity as a problem and start regarding it as our preferred operating environment. A creative opportunity. Our challenge then becomes how best to evolve our approach to organisational life. Maybe there are clues in the concepts of emotional intelligence, intuition, uses of language and more practically, from a communications point of view, the notion of self-segmenting audiences which naturally seek out what is relevant and meaningful to them.

    This view sits in the post-modern, relativistic box. It flatly contradicts the process and systems view of organisations so effectively propagandised by our leading management consultancies (as it denies them the formulaic solutions they market so profitably and deliver with so little effect).

    You are right to say we are in a new world, but we must avoid allowing the old world to define our response. And we must be positive and brave about this great adventure. The successful organisations of the future will be intelligent, adaptive, creative and complex.

    Good luck with Commscrum, Dan. Great start!

    • Dan Gray says:

      Cheers, Sam. Just to be clear, my opening salvo on IABC was with tongue planted firmly in cheek! I DO believe there’s value in a professional association representing communicators. I’d just rather it was one – to use Kevin’s phrase – that looked ‘outside the family’ every now and again for relevant insights. (As things stand, a subscription to CW and seeing the same 20-30 faces at every chapter event, doesn’t really offer much in the way of personal and professional development. However, if Mark Schumann’s comment on the post is anything to go by, that may well change and I sincerely hope it does.)

      Interesting comments on complexity. I agree with you that it’s an organisational reality, and a creative opportunity too. Where our paths diverge, however, is obviously our willingness to tolerate it! For me, the creative opportunity is the challenge of finding the revealing simplicity beneath it all – for example the challenge of finding a compelling and authentic brand proposition that can be fully embraced and operationalised by all parts of a business. How can you achieve that without some process of filtering and diagnosis?

      If by a “simplified view of the world” you mean “simplistic” or “dumbed down”, then I’d agree with you, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. What we’re talking about, to borrow Oliver Wendell Holmes’ wonderful quote, is the simplicity “on the other side of complexity,” and that’s a different thing entirely. On the other side of complexity, simplicity actually amplifies meaning, it doesn’t diminish it.

      • kevinkeohane says:

        I am most interested in Sam’s point about 2self-selecting” audiences, which is bang-on. dan, you’ll recall my somewhat flawed but nonethtless interesting presentation on the fact that “audiences” are actually a rhetorical construct that don’t really exist.

        Sam’s clearly thought this through to its natural conclusion – while communications have to be audience-driven, audience segmentation is no longer a very useful way of organising it. Like Democracy, perhaps, it’s the best method we have?

        I spoke to Russell Grossman about this a couple of years ago at a conference, and we agreed that there is interesting territory where the communication itself “creates” the audience that self-selects it…

  16. Sam Berrisford says:

    Thanks Kevin – Interestingly, Russell and I worked on a ‘TeamTalk’ project when we were both at the BBC some time ago. Our aim was to provide a communication resource that employees (and leaders) could easily navigate to find information that was immediately relevant to them and their teams.

    Our underlying principle was that ownership of information in the workplace should sit close to where it has practical value. Leaders, individuals and teams collectively can be trusted to determine what is useful to them. Our job as communicators is to provide well signposted and accessible sources. In this way they can self select the information they need. They are in a much better position to ensure relevance than a remote internal communicator setting a corporate agenda that is largely irrelevant to local needs.

    We would always include strategic, product or brand messaging – or clear simple operational directives when needed. But the day to day business of getting hold of the information/knowledge needed to do a good job should be owned locally.

    Hard to implement successfully in a top down corporate culture where internal communications is often regarded as a mouthpiece for the board and senior management and trust in the intelligence, creativity and independence of employees can be lacking.

  17. Came across this while wandering the web and thought you’d find it another interesting perspective on complexity/diversity and the evolution of design thinking [seems like we’re not that far behind afterall]: http://blogs.harvardbusiness.org/merholz/2009/10/why-design-thinking-wont-save.html

    Cheers

    • Dan Gray says:

      Thanks for this Debbie – great link and quite an interesting bridge between this and the debate raging on the second Commscrum post on the back of Kevin’s typology of the different IC priesthoods.

      Bottom line: a) there’s nothing new under the sun, and b) treat anyone who parades their particular religion as the ‘one true voice’ with extreme scepticism!

      In any event, these sorts of people are usually the ‘me too’ fad followers, massively oversimplifying what is, in reality, a much richer picture – in this instance presenting it as a straight binary choice between left- and right-brain thinking.

      Just look at the examples of T-shaped people that Tim Brown gives in his book and you see that it’s not a case of ‘either/or’, it’s ‘both/and’ – they may be architects who have studied psychology, artists with MBAs or engineers with marketing experience.

  18. […] ability to diagnose and understand context goes right to the heart of what I was saying in my first post too. In an increasingly complex world, that (strategic) understanding is becoming infinitely more […]

  19. Rokapchen says:

    The problem is, we really all ARE t-shaped. But to fit in a mechanical biz world our top extenders are summarily sawed off — we lose our arms and become less human so we can ‘fit’ into the peg hole.

    A week-long course I custom designed for a BI service group (they manipulated the BI tools for reports so everyone else didn’t have to), a good portion of it was to help them reconnect with their ‘real selves’, and learn to capitalize on all of their talents to make their team more engaging. It also meant that I introduced a lot of color and fun into the room. Their conference rooms had glass-faced hall walls. People would walk by and say, “I want to be in THAT meeting!”

    The team was all women, save for 1 guy. They’d worked together for months/years. None of them knew he had an adopted Korean sister. He’d never thought of applying some of his sister-relationship skills at work. Just HAVING those sorts of conversations is critical in worklife. And yet, what meetings are typically held for such focus on Yin-related things that will put us back in balance? [And I’m not talking about stupid ‘training’ sessions]

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