Firm Follows Form

Organisation Design Blog by Nathan Waterhouse

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July 28, 2013

Designing new innate human skills

We recently had a new addition to the household: a Siberian Cat called Willow. We got him as a kitten and something struck me as interesting the other day: he has never had any real interaction with other cats and yet he knows exactly how to be a cat. He knows how to catch food, how to clean himself, how to walk precariously across a fence, and how to beg for love. We on the other hand, are born with inbuilt instincts and capacities but few innate skills or solutions that can be used almost immediately without supported development. If you left a baby to its own devices it would struggle to cope alone.

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July 3, 2013

How to nurture & design your community

With so much of the interaction online being centered around its social nature, I’ve been wondering ‘can you design a community?’ When we first designed OpenIDEO.com we began with some design principles to help steer our decisions. They included things like: optimism, being inclusive, etc. A big surprise to us was that, as time went by, those principles translated into community behaviour, which was immensely gratifying for us to see. Those principles informed how we designed the user experience, but also ended up being the beginnings of how we would recruit new team members, and informed our ongoing strategy as a team.

Building off those guiding principles and learning from some of the impact that the community has created – often spawning new physical communities like MiLES has done (transforming disused storefronts in New York and their neighbourhoods) here’s some initial thoughts on some principles for nurturing existing and designing new communities. My question for you: what’s missing? Do these translate to physical community creation as well as the online world?

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June 4, 2013

The future of human centered design

Throughout my career, and especially as a designer at IDEO, I’ve been a passionate believer of the value of placing people first, of designing from an end–user perspective. I’ve seen first hand the potential for how Human Centered Design (HCD) can transform careers, organisations,  industries and people’s lives. However, lately an idea has started to gnaw at me. – Read More –

May 25, 2013

The Convening Power of Open Innovation

At IDEO, we’ve begin to take the software we built to create OpenIDEO and begin customising it for other firms to leverage their communities, employees, and extended networks to solve problems. We’re learning really interesting things about how the platform, called the OI Engine, can help companies reach their goals. Here’s an example from the Knight Foundation, a wonderful organisation dedicated to creating lasting change in communities, journalism, and the media. – Read More –

April 17, 2013

Lessons from Skoll World Forum 2013

The Skoll World Forum is an international event, hosted in Oxford England each year. It brings together an impressive community of philanthropists, social entrepreneurs, foundations, NGOs, governments, corporations and individuals passionate about creating sustainable social change to address our most pressing global needs. Rather than having a singular format of speaker and audience, Skoll keeps it fresh with a mix of panel sessions, debates, delegate-led discussions, and plenaries. It’s impossible therefore to attend everything as a lot happens in parallel, and the most important conversations seem to happen between 10pm and 2am in various bars in Oxford. Here’s what I learned during my time there this year.

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March 30, 2013

How to lead in a virtual team

At End Of Road You are standing at the end of a road before a small brick building. Around you is a forest. A small stream flows out of the building and down a gully. Enter Command >

This is how the first arcade text-based adventure game began. You played by entering 5 letter commands – there were no visuals whatsoever, you had to use logic and your imagination to figure out what might happen next. Your navigation of the game were  limited by a range of cryptic text-commands. It is also exactly how working in and managing a virtual team feels.

For most of the day, you have to rely on text-based cues from emails that you catch from people you care about separated by multiple time zones. Even when you speak with them during your weekly video calls you have to uncompress their week’s experience from the limited time you have together. How are they feeling, what’s going on at home you wonder, are they happy, are they overstretched, are they inspired by their work – these are just some of the questions that regularly cross your mind when you are running through the laundry list of tasks and team priorities. If you’ve ever had to work with someone who is not physically in the same room as you on a regular basis you know what it’s like to work in a virtual team. Why do we work like this and what can be done to make the experience smoother and more enjoyable for everyone?

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March 21, 2013

Going beyond the workplace: nine ways to improve health

This is a reposting of my recent Guardian article on improving health beyond the workplace.

The way we travel, eat, work and generally live today is having a profound effect on our health and that of those around us. Diabetes and other chronic diseases, including obesity, are on the rise. According to the WHO, there are 36 million preventable deaths every year from these health problems – leaving a devastating social impact and a major financial burden.

Businesses suffer as well through absenteeism and retention problems, affecting their overall success. The good news is they are in a strong position to help, but to be truly effective, this can’t just start and stop in the workplace.

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February 27, 2013

Virtual team emerges from open challenge & helps revitalise a struggling community

Today is the official launch of a project that we’ve been watching very carefully at OpenIDEO. miLES is a great example of what can, just sometimes, emerge from creative collaboration on platforms like OpenIDEO. This inspiring social venture started life in the OpenIDEO urban revitalisation challenge, which focussed on places that are depopulating – like – Read More –

February 20, 2013

10 Insights to improve wellbeing in the workplace

Our everyday lives from what we eat to how we travel, and how we work are having a profound effect on our own health and that of the people around us.

Diabetes and other chronic diseases, along with obesity, are on the rise – alongside rapid growth in levels of work related stress and mental illness. According to the World Health Organisation, there are 36 million preventable deaths every year from these health problems – a devastating social impact and a major financial burden.

Last year, IDEOBupa and the International Diabetes Federation collaborated on an OpenIDEO challenge that addressed the question: “How might we create healthy communities within and beyond the workplace?” The global OpenIDEO community developed some excellent concepts and you can check them out here.

Through the process we learned some amazing things about health & wellbeing, particularly within the workplace or other kinds of communities. I hope these are useful to you if you’re working in this area or even if you’re just trying to make or sustain a change in your own health:

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January 27, 2013

The need and the challenge to think long-term

In the snowy mountains of Switzerland, in the town of Davos, world leaders and thinkers have come together for their annual pow-wow to discuss how to address the world’s biggest challenges. Much of the dialogue emerging from the event seems to be pointing, somewhat predictably, to the recent economic crisis facing the world’s major economies, and to how we all need to become more resilient to massive change. Davos’ founder himself made a call for more strategic vision setting rather than temporary fixes. It reminds me of the 2012 Earth Summit in Rio, which I attended and was honored to speak at last year. Even at Rio (an event that happens much less frequently), the ability for our leaders to collectively address and agree on long term plans seemed impossible. And yet, with the challenges we face as a species we can’t carry on assuming this theory of change will work.

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