Tag Archives: Systems Thinking

How to Design the Workplace to Increase Effectiveness and Retain Top Talent

Experience Designing the Workplace

A hot topic in modern business, Customer Experience has an equally important cousin: Employee Experience.

What is Employee Experience?

Employee experience is using a blend of psychology, personality types, observable behavior, interests, mental and physical ability, styles of learning, game theory, and gamification to create a custom tailored workplace.

Everything that can be customized to increase a person or group’s effectiveness will be customized.

Quantified Self:

Collecting a person’s blend of individual personality type, observable behavior, interests, preferred style of learning, mental abilities, physical abilities, and experiences is essentially used to create their Quantified Self. This is a new concept called Humanistic Intelligence.

All of these factors are collected by certain tests, mixed with monitoring a person’s activities through the technology they use, along with wearable monitoring devices (to capture things that cannot easily be observed, such as mental or physical stress.

The Layout of the Workplace:


Inspired by Pixar, the entire floor plan of the office is specifically designed to promote accidental, spontaneous collaboration and maximize creativity. However, this takes it one step further, because instead of using rules-of-thumb about human psychology to create the environment, the quantified selves of the actual employees customize what can be customized.

The Software and Equipment Used to Perform the Job:

All the software programs are customized, so that employees intuitively know and clearly understand what is expected of them. By completely “knowing” a person, everything that this person interacts with can be customized to enhance their effectiveness and quality of life.

What About Privacy?

This will be a controversial topic, as this can be seen as an invasion of privacy. In my opinion, it should remain a controversial topic, so that it is constantly being evaluated. This way, we can make sure that the ethics of how such data can be collected and for what purpose is under continual review.

Yes, there is the potential abuse of such data collection. However, that doesn’t mean that it should not be used. There is a chance that I’ll be killed in a car crash on the way to work. That doesn’t mean I should not use a car. However, it does mean that the safety of using automobiles should always be discussed, debated, and improved.

Ultimate Goal:


Essentially, the end goal is making people better at doing their job, while at the same time making it easier and more enjoyable. If done correctly, Employee Experience should be a win-win scenario for the business and the individual.

Making what the employees are supposed to do, what they want to do. Creating an environment custom-tailored to enhance both the effectiveness and enjoyment of the employee.


My Secret Weapon: Creative Destruction?


Sometimes Creative Destruction is the Cure for Businesses.

Lately I’ve reflected upon my career, my life, and what made me who I am today.

Looking back, there have been a few important lessons I’ve learned and big moments that have influenced and stuck with me. A lot of these moments involve leadership and the ways I’ve learned to lead through encouraging, challenging, and empowering people vs managing them.

However, the moments where I’ve made the biggest impact for the organizations I worked for money-wise, were actually a form of creative destruction:

Systems Thinking / Heuristic Mentality

Using a combination of wild creativity and extreme logic, and applying it across the entire span of a business.

In a Large Organization

Most of these times, nobody lost their job. It simply made the operation stronger, leaner, and smarter.

It was looking at all the elements, how they interrelate, and then creating / redesigning systems that massively reduce cost and increase efficiency.

Startup / Small Business

This time was simply the result creatively making the best of a crappy circumstance:

Not having the two other managers I needed to run the business and the lack of cash flow to hire them.

Out of necessity, I created a system where areas of responsibility, normally performed by managers, were distributed among the staff.

It was a decentralization of hierarchy.

It empowered the staff, developed them into leaders of their own, saved the business a ton of money, and resulted in an operation that ran smoother than it ever would have with a traditional management structure.

That is the ideal. That is the way a business should run. I was putting creative destruction to good use.

Midsize Company with Old Methods

The most recent of these moments did result in a person losing their job, but it was unavoidable. It was the same technique I had used before to decentralize management.

Unfortunately, in this case, there already was a second manager.

But I saw the big picture and at that point it was too late. He wasn’t needed.

It’s Not About Money or Cost-Cutting

His place in the hierarchical structure was creating more of a hindrance than a benefit.

The same functions could be carried out by developing a few of the naturally talented team members into leaders, while still performing their normal job functions.

Decentralize and Empower

Spreading out leadership and responsibilities in this way creates a team that’s more adaptable, focused, and present at moments of crisis. They grow to become motivated by the vision and what’s in the best interest of the business, versus being motivated by a boss pestering them with a list of duties.

They work harder, take ownership, and lead themselves.

I feel bad anytime someone loses their job. I’ve been there more than once, and it’s a terrible position to be placed in.

Times are Changing

Businesses need to run lean and make the best use of the talent and resources at their disposal. This means less hierarchy, a more empowered team, and creative business models. It also means providing an environment where employees believe not only in what they’re doing, but why they’re doing it.

Filed under: Business, Creativity, Employment, Innovation, The Future Tagged: Business, Creative destruction, Creativity, Decentralization, Efficiency, Employment, Empowerment, Hierarchy, Innovation, Lean, Management, Organization, Small business, Systems Thinking, The Future, Work [My Secret Weapon: Creative Destruction?](https://backwardstimemachine.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/my-secret-weapon-creative-destruction/) http://feeds.wordpress.com/1.0/delicious/backwardstimemachine.wordpress.com/1472/

Strategic Thinking and Systems Thinking

Strategic Thinking is also called Systems Thinking, critical thinking, solutions thinking, future and forward thinking, long-term thinking, and high level thinking. It is not analytic thinking, which is tactical, mechanistic, reductionist, and either/or thinking, one-best-method.

  • Systems Thinking focuses on relationships, multiple outcomes, holism and boundaries, the environment, the larger system, and feedback.
  • Strategic Thinking is about clarity and simplicity, meaning and purpose, focus and direction, relationships and feedback, and desired outcomes.
They are the Same Thought Process

Despite being referred to differently, depending on the context, Systems Thinking and Strategic Thinking are fundamentally the same concept, only applied in different circumstances.  It is a heuristics-based mindset, exactly what’s needed more of in today’s business environment.

Systems Thinking Skills

Senge’s 11 Laws of Systems

In The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Senge suggests 11 laws of systems that support that essential understanding:

  1. Today’s problems come from yesterday’s solutions. Leaders are happy to solve problems, but don’t always think about intended and unintended consequences. Too often, our solutions strike back to create new problems.
  2. The harder you push, the harder the system pushes back. Humans have a stubborn tendency to bully our way through tough situations when things are not working out as we would hope. We charge ahead without taking time to think through solutions to find better alternatives. Sometimes we solve problems; more often, especially in the current environment, we find ourselves up to our ears in more problems.
  3. Behavior grows better before it grows worse. Short-term solutions give temporary improvement at best but never eliminate fundamental issues and problems. These underlying problems will make the situation worse in the long run.
  4. The easy way out leads back in. Leaders often have a few quick fixes in their “quiver” of solutions that have brought quick and easy success in the past. Too often, the easy way out is retrofitting these fixes to any situation without regard to the unique contexts, people and timing.
  5. The cure can be worse than the disease. Often, the easy and familiar solution is not only ineffective but addictive and dangerous. It might even induce dependency.
  6. Faster is slower. At the first taste of success, it is tempting to advance at full speed without caution. Remember that the optimal rate of growth or change is far slower than the fastest growth or change that is possible.
  7. Cause and effect are not always closely related in time and space. We are good at finding causes, even if they are just symptoms unrelated to root causes.
  8. Small changes can produce big results — but the areas of highest leverage are often the least obvious. The most grand and splashy solutions — like changing company policy, vision, branding or tagline — seldom work for transforming change. Small, ordinary but consistent and repetitive changes can make a huge difference.
  9. You can have your cake and eat it too — but not all at once. Rigid “either-or” choices are not uncommon. Remember that this is not a dilemma if we change our perspective or the “rules” of the system.
  10. Dividing an elephant in half does not produce two small elephants. As a leader, failing to see the systems as a whole is at your peril. This flaw in perception and vision often leads to sub-optimal decisions, repeated tasks, lost time and energy, and maybe even losing followers.
  11. There is no blame. People and organizations like to blame, point fingers and raise suspicions about events, situations, problems, errors and mistakes. Sometimes we even believe the blame we throw around. Ourselves, the cause of events, situations, problems, errors and mistakes are all part of the system.
Understanding Systems Thinking is Essential

In fact, it is the foundation and catalyst of leading change.

W. Edwards Deming first pointed out the need to understand the system in post-World War II America. Deming stressed that learning must be emergent, designing out the system aspects that are wasteful, sub-optimizing, and unnecessarily redundant.

To improve performance, the system has to change because the system drives 95 percent of any organization’s performance. He also said that any improvement that does not involve human system change methods was doomed to failure in the short-, mid- and long-term; you cannot implement a new system in an old environment and anticipate success.

The Key to Achieving the Necessary Human Mindset Change Lies in Curiosity:
  • Ask questions.
  • Learn by doing.
  • Observe.
  • Think about what could be.
The Future

Deming’s messages fell on deaf ears in the U.S. post World War 2 boom. Thinking did not change, and thinking must change for the system to change.