21 November 2012

Strategy is a service!: A keynote from NEXT Berlin

Many organizations struggle with complexity, externally as well as internally. Yet, focusing on tactics only has limited value. The value of strategy is long-lasting. Strategy involves human needs, characteristics and drivers that never change. It guides the creation of a plan to get from the existing situation to the desired one, shaped by goals and constraints. At the “NEXT Service Design” conference in Berlin, Alexander Baumgardt (“a practical buddhist who makes money” at Systemic Partners) outlined the value of strategy, design and human needs for business organizations dealing with massive change.

In his keynote, Alexander Baumgardt (a.k.a. @baumgardt) outlined what business leadership can learn from (service) design and vice versa. Some of his “buddhist” thoughts:

In the age of the customer in which everything is iterative, there are no recipes for success. But companies focusing on human nature become successful.

Our new world is complex because almost everything is in flux and this complexity requires deep thinking. Business leaders must make sense of this world, facing many challenges created by external and internal forces.

Business must re-embrace the interconnection of things as an ecosystem based upon humanness and must realize that goals of employees can be different from those of the organization. Therefore, market and internal organization are equally important entities.

On strategy

Strategy changes a current situation into a preferred one, by means of design. It embodies timeless principles driven by human nature and based upon the understanding of human nature. As a result, strategy can be seen as a human-centered design practice.

Human interactions are in essence conversations, augmented by technology. All these interactions are goal-directed, and take place between organization and market, or between employee and customer. Designers must concentrate on these points of interaction.

What to do next?

According to Alexander, a systemic design mindset for designers and business leadership is required, which contains the following imperatives:

  • Look for patterns and interdependencies.
  • Focus on description rather than explanation.
  • Aim to extend peripheral vision beyond traditional boundaries.
  • Assume complex, non-linear relationships.
  • Value curiosity, insight and intuition.
  • Develop a lively interest in the “What”, preceeding the “Why”.

The best advice given in his presentation: “Work creatively with paradox, uncertainty, and contradiction.”

Other interesting presentations from the “NEXT Service Design” conference (which took place in September 2012) are available as well.

Digital strategy (22), Service design (41)