Achieving Our Innate Purpose

Achieving Our Innate Purpose

Steve Spear

Steve Spear

Senior Lecturer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Achieving Our Innate Purpose: Creating the structure and dynamics to turbo charge our problem solving capabilities

Sometimes it just doesn’t seem fair.  We show up at work to solve hard problems that no one could resolve individually, and we bust it to develop design and deliver great products and services.  But that outfit “across the street” keeps beating us, arriving earlier and faster with solutions to their customers problems that fit better and which they generated with seemingly less effort.  How’d they pull that off when we’ve got access to the same science and technology, the same talent pool, and more or less the same market information? 

The answer is that they, like you, they devote creative energy on the “objects” in front of them—the code, molecule, part, weld line, patient experience through which value is expressed, and they also invest energy in the instrumentation through which creativity is expressed, yours and theirs.  In addition, they’re constantly managing the organization’s own structure and dynamics to reduce confusion and otherwise increase the efficacy and efficiency by which individual efforts harmonize into collaborative problem solving, whereas you’re often stuck so confused or distracted by not knowing how your fit into the larger whole.

They literate creativity for being clever and creating value by clarifying and simplifying (linearizing) flows of work and otherwise stabilize them so local issues aren’t too disturbing locally or systemically.  This right away changes conversations.  Group priorities better help set local priorities, an immediate contribute to completion speed, as we can all be pulling together.  Also, whereas you might know your roles, they’ve made more obvious fore and aft relationships, so it’s easier to explore interdependencies and design exchanges and tasks for mutual benefit.  That adds to quality on top of speed.  With all that in place, they’ve a number of tactics for increasing the yield of their exploratory and experimental problem solving collaborations.  Radical delegation to get as many minds around a problem as possible, as a precursor for synthezing a collectively best known approach is one.  They also decompose huge multi variate problems into many incremental, few variable steps, and work to convert trial and error tests of change into bona fide experiments.  There are several others.

What we’ll realize, when we look at organizing as something we do to optimize our ability to collaboratively solve problems, and see the disparate fields in which these relatively few tactics are used with great results, is that many of these particular items about which we’ve heard—lean, agile, TQM, psychological safety, some aspects of feedback and 2nd order learning, even disruptive innovation, are all part of the same cloth.

Watch the full webcast discussion with Steve here:


"The High Velocity Edge" Ch 1, 4 and 5