Design by Intention

Why do humans have such issues with change when transformation is the fundamental way of life? Psychologically, change represents the unknown and the unknown, for many, brings up anxiety and fear. Change makes people uncomfortable. At Mindshift, we understand human behavior, the human side of management, and organizational dynamics. We help people transition and organizations transform.

Everything in our world is connected in a web of relationship where the primary imperative is clear and inescapable: learn and grow if you want to survive. To meet this transformational imperative, organizations must continually learn and reinvent themselves. To do this, we use a systems thinking approach. A second imperative, equally as important, is the desire to not do harm. Because the world we exist in is an integrated and interdependent system of life, no matter what we do, each action creates ripple affects that bring about change far from where we first acted. As we bring about change in an organization, we must consider the unintended consequences, on people, the organization, and other connected systems.

All of this is meant to simply say that we must change how we design our organizations if we want to bring about better outcomes. But what do we mean by better outcomes? Our signature statement at the top of our home page describes this pretty well. Better outcomes are outcomes that give life to a better world, supporting equality and nature and supporting society in general—as opposed to a sole focus on Wall Street's interests, for example. So then, what kind of design makes sense for organizations if we want such better outcomes? In the past we designed organizations for production and profits. We still do. Design goals such as these can create places where people feel out of place and unable to flourish, because the design is not for human connection.

To design for human connection requires different design principles. At Mindshift, we design organizations and organizational change with community as a design principle, and with a focus on intention and structure that supports practice, learning, and form. For example, we design a change with the idea of bringing in the entire community of stakeholders and involving them from the beginning, involving them in the design of the change, up front.

In A Timeless Way of Building, architect Christopher Alexander describes spaces where people flock and flourish, versus other spaces where no one seems to come. Christopher studies a space—like a public square, for example, and how people experience it and use it, what purpose it serves and what purpose it might serve, before he begins to design. In other words, he learns about the people and their needs before he begins to design. The art of design is one of enabling purpose. When it comes to organizations, we are talking about a purpose-driven community.

People want to be in places where they feel they belong, where they feel they can contribute, and where they feel comfort. How we design organizations and change matters. Design today must consider the human condition, and strive for the creation of vibrant cultures and communities. No matter what you hope to achieve, this form of design will produce the most value from any organization. While every organization has the goal of producing something of value, perhaps we need a different way of looking at how we create a space for people to work together.

There is a simpler way to organize human endeavor. It requires a new way of being in the world. It requires being in the world without fear. Being in the world with play and creativity. Seeking after what is possible. Being willing to learn and be surprised. This simpler way to organize human endeavor requires a belief that the world is inherently orderly. — Margaret Wheatley

At Mindshift Consulting, we understand that organizations operate within the constellation of larger systems, that leaders struggle to balance stability with the need to move quickly and be nimble, and that all elements of an organization need to flow in harmony. Leaders set the vision and culture delivers the goods. How well any organization can pull this off, is a matter of clarity.

As simple as it may sound, we begin at the beginning. It is difficult to organize anything without first clarifying one's intentions. As people of the world, what we have in common is our desire to create and give life to a better world. From this place of good intention, an organization sets out to solve some need in society. Ideally, organizations exist to support human needs and social values, making it possible for people to translate their beliefs into their life's work. We all know people working in organizations and doing work they do not believe in. At Mindshift, we intend to change this.

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