Envisioning a New Approach

Envisioning a new approach has two inputs: your understanding of the current reality of the work process or activity, and your newly developed understanding of what’s possible. Developing an understanding of both inputs with some degree of separation enables greater clarity of understanding due to single-tasking: you only have to define what is currently done, and then you only have to look around to see what has changed that could potentially have a bearing on what is currently done. But the two are not done simultaneously and intertwined, otherwise there will be the risk of quick solutions, premature fixation on an immediate solution, and becoming enamoured with just updating the current form without questioning the ongoing validity of the goal.

But there comes a time for combinatory analysis. Taking these two inputs and looking at each separately and together is about creating a space for thinking, exploring, and playing with possibilities for how one can affect the other. It is about a mental analysis – what Stephen Covey called the mental creation – to design something new that both honours and hones. Envisioning a new approach honours the original goal and intent of the current process, and yet hones its goal, intent and form in light of what’s newly changed.

There are many tools in the re-imagining toolbox that help with envisioning the new:

  • Looking at the flowchart of a current work activity or process, and asking “in light of what we now know, what could change in this process?” Is the goal still valid, or has it changed (or disappeared)? How could we improve the quality of the process? How could we increase speed?
  • Drawing a mind map of a work activity to show the elements, relationships, and associations. Once again, to then ask what could change, what could get better, and how could current problems and issues be addressed?
  • Focusing only on the goal of the current process (entirely ignoring its current form), and with the assumption that you could start from scratch, ask how you would design a work activity or process to meet the goal in light of current tools and approaches.
  • Asking a consultant what they would recommend, in full understanding that a consultant can only see the world through their specialty and is blind to the world beyond that. As long as you know that vendor and product aligned consultants will see according to what they know, you can then hear the recommendation in the right way.
  • Questioning what a new person would do. Several decades ago Intel faced a crisis of existence (continue with memory chips or embrace microprocessors), and the current CEO (and chairman, Gordon Moore) and Andy Grove asked themselves “If a new CEO was appointed to run Intel, what would they do?” The answer was clear – to embrace the microprocessor. Gordon and Andy then said, “Let’s do it ourselves.”

What tools do you use for envisioning the new?

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