Leading into the Future XIb: Holding the Center While Innovating and Opening Boundaries

Leading into the Future XIb: Holding the Center While Innovating and Opening Boundaries

I find that I can effectively introduce this element of play In my own work with organizations of many kinds—be they educational, governmental, security-based or human service-based. I have created a process called “morphological analysis” that encourages a program design team to “play” with alternative scenarios regarding a wide variety of parameters—such as the population being served, length of the program being offered, and location of the program delivery. We can design a program for 1 person that lasts five years and is totally digital, or a program for 1,000 people, provided for 5 minutes and offered in a National Park. Take your pick. The important point is that planning for this program enables a team to break their established set in a playful manner. Thus, they can come in with a looser framework when they sit down for “serious” deliberations regarding the envisioned programs—and might even incorporate some of the ideas generated in the morphological sessions (maybe a session or two that emanates digitally from a national park . . . ).

Frans Johansson (2004, p. 59) offers a similar approach in suggesting ways to bring about the Medici Effect:

Apply the idea to someone or something else: Imagine that you are designing a beach house. What would it look like? Now assume that you are designing that house for Pablo Picasso­ how would that change the design? Forget that you have no idea of what he actually wanted, but work from your percep­tion of who Picasso was as a person. Then suppose you were designing the house for opera singer Luciano Pavarotti. What would happen to the size of the rooms, the curvature of the valves? The ideas you would get from these types of explo­rations could evolve into something interesting and unique when combined with your standard way of thinking about such a project.


Create constraints: When a yoga teacher broke her arm, she was not sure if she could continue teaching while it healed. She soon found, though, that without the use of her arm, she naturally resorted to new and inventive methods for both understanding her own body and teaching yoga. By creating constraints, by accident or on purpose, we may be pushed to explore alternative ways to solve a given problem. Say that you are trying to innovate your in-store customer service operation. What happens if you assume that the customer service personnel can’t speak? Or can’t use their hands? By creating constraints, you may break down the barriers and think of ideas that would never have occurred to you otherwise.

For both the architect and yoga teacher, the set has been broken without either of them abandoning their core focus and mission. They have broken barriers while not forgetting what is at the heart of their work. The center holds while innovative ideas abound. These ideas are even more likely to emerge if the boundaries of not only our minds, but also our organizations, are opened up. I now shift my focus to this second suggestion about open organizational boundaries (and, in particular, the intersection of ideas and organizations).


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About the Author

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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