“How can we improve?”
It’s a conversation taking place at nearly every organization. It is also a conversation that innovators and product managers are specially equipped to participate in as well as to lead actions. As they gain influence throughout the organization by working cross-functionally, they begin seeing the organization as a system. Most leaders see organizations as a collection of parts, but meaningful improvement requires a different perspective.
Innovators and product managers have the right perspective that is needed. They are uniquely equipped to make the move from building better products to building a better organization.
Someone who has helped several organizations be better, specifically those in health care, is Dr. Gene Beyt. Gene is a medical doctor who now works with organizations as a healthcare designer, educator, artist, and creative director. He has a simple mission — to put human needs and well-being at the center of all that we do. We discussed how organizations can improve and he shared two useful tools to use:
Here is a summary of the topics discussed and a link to the interview:
- [3:34:] How are product managers uniquely equipped to transform the organization? The position of a product manager provides three advantages. (1) Product managers are system thinkers who have a holistic view of the organization. (2) They have a strong sense of the culture of the organization, understanding the expected norms and routines. (3) They have gained relationships over time that span the organization, which enable them to navigate politics and have a powerful perspective.
- [7:18] What is a positive business? Much of the research in this area has come out of the University of Michigan. It’s a fundamental idea that an organization that is human-centered and customer-outcome focused and chooses affirmative business practices will have greater beneficial impacts to employees and customers. It is a business based on positivity. Such organizations typically have a general good as its aim, with a positive impact on the community and the environment while pursuing profit. The research of such businesses indicates that the outcomes of performance and profitability usually exceed expectations. The bigger picture is to help humans thrive and flourish, and in the process, such businesses achieve higher performance. There is a current movement to create “B-Corps” which is a public business entity that has the charter to do good first while maximizing profit.
- [13:44] How do you apply Design Thinking for organizational improvement? In a traditional organization where there is a fair amount of control, the common path to improvement is through reducing variation. Plan-Do-Check-Act cycles and Lean tools are used to reduce waste, improve profitability, and hopefully improve customer satisfaction along the way. From the perspective of the healthcare industry, there are four areas to consider. Real improvement cannot be achieved without re-designing these areas. They are (1) the patient experience, (2) patient outcomes, (3) cost, and (4) the workforce that tends to be burned out and disengaged. What Design Thinking does is turn around the normal problem-solving process. Instead of first focusing on a solution, you start by gaining an empathetic understanding of those affected – the customers (patients) and the employees (care providers). When employees are taught Design Thinking and they use it to solve problems, you see real change in the culture and improvements across the four areas.
- [24:15] What is Positive Change Leadership? Positive Change Leadership is used concurrently with Design Thinking. Fundamental to the definition is the understanding that at one time or another everyone in the organization is leading other people and everyone is a follower. The idea is that leaders are making a change towards a positive business. My work in this area began by asking what a wise leader is. Wisdom has a specific definition and it uses a cycle that aligns with Design Thinking. It begins with a perception of others, then there is reflection of what that means, and that leads to compassion. This is the ability to walk in another’s shoes and to then look for opportunities to thrive and prosper.
Listen to the interview with Gene Beyt on The Everyday Innovator Podcast for product managers and innovators.
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Chad McAllister, PhD. is a product innovation guide, innovation management educator, and recovering engineer. He leads Product Innovation Educators, which trains product managers to create products customers love. He also hosts The Everyday Innovator weekly podcast, sharing knowledge from innovation thought leaders and practitioners. Follow @ChadMcAllister