Steen Schledermann's Blog

Innovation and Change

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Square or Round Wheels?

no-thanks-were-too-busyFreshly inspired from participating in Børsen IT Value conference in Copenhagen, May 2014 and the often referenced metaphor “Are you too busy to improve” I feel inspired to contribute to the debate on the digital revolution and the need for change capability.

This metaphor is a great enabler for the discussion on how to improve. It is so simple and a great way to start the discussion on very complex matters. I have seen the metaphor quoted, shared and commented on many times, which tells us how easy it is to relate to. Lately I saw it commented on at LinkedIn: “I see it all the time” – “we see it every day”. That itself is very interesting, because it could potentially mean that the need for continuous improvement is significant.

Well the world is not necessarily always, what it appears to be. The fundamental reason that we “see it all the time” is because we are individual people with individual perspectives, backgrounds, level of capability and ambition and different motivations on the same subject. Therefore, what appear to be square wheels to some may very well be round wheels to others.

The classic example is the external consultant who’s fundamental motivation is his next job with little or even no insight to understand the reasons for the current situation actually being round wheels. This can be the external consultant’s value proposition (and often is) but it can also be the dangerous trap, where the carriage is at risk of falling of the jack while attempting to change from square to round wheels.

To evaluate if we are looking at square or round wheels it is essential to practice the 5th habit of the Seven habits of highly effective people (by Steven Covey) – “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood”, or any other phrasing of this statement. This exercise hopefully leads to a clarification on what is actually being pursued in terms of ambitions, vision, objective, goal, motivation or value. Very often we do not spent the appropriate time for clarification of the higher purpose and the alignment of the understanding of the higher purpose, and we end up experiencing the “square wheels all the time” – that’s where we are too busy.

The fast pace of changing technologies and financial crisis puts competition under pressure and calls for new ways of doing things. The digital revolution and the “Internet of Things” fundamentally introduces many new round wheels, which need to be identified, understood, invented and defined. A dilemma arises – the busier you get in keeping up with change, the more need for change you or someone watching you experience. Complexity grows and the challenge of vendors of technology grows to assist their customers to handle the complexity as added value – for free!

New inventions are based on existing, knowledge and past inventions – they have build-in assumptions for how to realize the value of the new ideas. If you fall behind on keeping up with the continuous development, you will lack in fulfilling those build-in assumptions and you may fail in realizing the expected new value. A shift from expecting hard deadlines for delivery to a continuous flow of improvement becomes important.

The use of cloud offerings is an example of taking the pain away from the core business to focus on the business and the business development rather than the heavy burden of the on-premises IT operations. However this change require a change in your way of thinking about IT Services in a number of ways. Pursuing this strategy – the use of cloud services and offering cloud services will provide round wheels for your own business and for your customers business.

Take care that “the change of wheels” don’t get too hard. You may have bad experiences from the past that certain changes failed or you may have a strong believe in specific ways of doing things. You may use those stories to convince yourself and others that change is bad or impossible and hereby prevent yourself from gaining those – sometimes necessary game changing benefits. Any important change is possible – it simply just need a decision to do it, a proper sponsor – all the way to completion – and committed and competent change agents. One thing you can be sure of  is what used to be round wheels easily becomes square wheels and this is happening at a growing pace.

So – Let’s go Seek First to Understand then to be Understood – and then Make some Change.

Thanks to all of the contributors of Børsen IT Value conference, to Steven R Covey and the unknown artist of the great cartoon version of the metaphor, for inspiring me.


House of Change

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House of Change – Living the Logical levels

House of Change

House of Change

House of Change

Here is my house. My wife and I designed the house. The house was build “bottom-up”, in several stages and had no formulated blueprint from the beginning, but driven by emerging needs and an unpleasant surprise along the way, the house was extended over 4 iterations. The original 50 square meter holiday home in has transformed into a 186 square meter family residence. It is true that agile iterative development has certain implications and calls for re-factoring now and then. However this works well with software development, where change is a matter of changing lines of program code, but hardware development – especially cost full building construction – does not easily offer re-factoring. Anyway the iterative process has contributed to an amazing place to live. The 1200 square meter lot raises 4 meter from end to end and challenge your creativity as an architect.

Building both up hill and down hill from the center of the house we ended up with 6 different levels – equal to the number of levels in the NLP Logical Levels of Change Model, inspired by Gregory Bateson. As noted there were no blueprint outlining this similarity and my idea of drawing the connection is likely related to the personal development process, which both my wife and I underwent while building our new house and at the same time completing the NLP practitioner, Master Practitioner and Coach training.

The NLP Logical Levels of Change Model, inspired by Gregory Bateson and developed by the pioneers of Neuro-Linguistic Programming is very helpful in designing an action plan for change. The Stages of Change give us a general road map of the process of change — a process that has a beginning, a middle, and an outcome. If the Action Plan for change is inadequate a recycling, or relapse, will occur sending the person “back to square one” or “back to the drawing board” of Contemplation again where they must start over… or give up and decide change is not possible.

NLP Logical Levels

Living the Logical Levels.

Comparing the final blueprint of the house and the pyramid representation of the NLP Logical Level model clarifies the idea of relating the two. It becomes even more clear after having tried the exercise of the NLP model, e.g. walking the steps of the model rehearsing a new habit or empowering a goal or a vision by training each of the 6 logical levels.

The journey through the house, starting at the low level (The Environment) towards the highest level (the Vision or Spirituality) becomes a very similar experience – if you chose to. This way it becomes a daily practice to exercise change. The second level – Behavior – includes most of the daily activity facilities, entree’s, bathrooms, kitchen and laundry, which makes it easy to review many of your own habits and your attempts to make a change to them. In case you realize no change, it is easy to step up a level (the capabilities/competences) and take a second position to your self and your own behavior, to learn or review what competences your are not using or need to learn in order to make the changed behavior come alive. In case this does not have the needed effect, you can easily step up to higher levels to review your motivation (Values & Beliefs), your Identity and your Vision. Coming back down the levels rehearse your new personal insights, and a successful change is right at hand.

Final Blueprint

This way practicing change has become a natural element of the family life. We tend to think of the house as a house of many opportunities. Often – maybe once or twice a year, a new room at a different level of the house is used as bedroom. This way your dreams has the opportunity to develop your mind at different levels. The House of Change I consider a highly valuable place to live, while considering the need for change in an global exponential growing economy (e.g. see Economic Growth is Exponential and Accelerating, v2.0).

Well – this story is of course purely based on my own ideas, but tells a story about how I enjoy to identify patterns and structures of different elements of the world and make something new of it – innovate – perhaps this could even become the idea of new concept houses of the future. Here are a couple of additional innovative ideas, using the special roof construction for a ski slope: Waste Treatment Plant and The North Slope Ski Hotel.