In the past year I have had the privilege of traveling around the country while connecting with women from a diverse range of chapters. We’ve reminisced about our respective leadership journeys, collaborated to develop bold leadership for the future of healthcare, shared a few laughs and even some poignant tears.
I am grateful for the opportunity being a WOTY has afforded me to connect with so many wonderful women, many of whom we are not even close to tapping the full contribution of what they have to offer, and I am quite taken by how many expressed discontent.
For over 25 years, the firm I co-founded, Insigniam, has worked solely in generating measurable breakthrough results. Our mission is to transform the practice of management and leadership to unleash new and unprecedented levels of performance. In our work with innovation, one of the most powerful methods we employ is design thinking. Human-centered design has been the engine behind some of the most compelling products we’ve been given by Proctor and Gamble, Apple and GE Medical Systems.
It begins with empathic observation of the end user—the proverbial “walk a mile in the shoes of another,” and ends with an outcome, whether it be a process, product, or service that surprises and delights the end-user by meeting needs they never could have expressed. It requires suspending the knowledge you already have for the discovery of opportunities you couldn’t have previously imagined. So, what does this have to do with my past year as a WOTY?
Well, it’s reinforced my awareness that even the most talented teams and businesses sometimes fall into the trap of solving a problem the same way every time. Especially when successful results are produced and time is short. Design thinking requires getting out of the office and involving oneself in the process, product, shopping experience or operating theater. As we all can attest, no one’s life was ever changed by a PowerPoint presentation.
Somehow we are missing the mark, not yet building work places in which young, or female or racially or ethnically diverse individuals thrive and appropriately advance. And yet, as I work with executives and individuals around the world I am struck by the glaring lack of any empathic design in our work places and practices.
Today’s organizations are relics from the post-war era of corporate families composed by a white man and white wife where the husband worked… and used management and leadership methods learned from his time in the armed forces and the wife tended home and hearth and their 2.2 children.
What could we invent in our work environments if we stepped back, just a bit, and brought the spirit of innovation to the environments we create for our workforce?
What would happen if we altered the way we organize, the way we think and the way we work just a few degrees to insure that today’s workforce could thrive?
For most it is too radical to make the complete shift like Google or Apple—and yet both of these companies have had meteoric growth in sales, share and valuation, employee engagement and customer satisfaction.
It is easier to leave such radical notions to those “young mavericks in Silicone Valley” as we smugly go about with what is familiar and known.
Today I challenge us to move over a bit: change a work schedule here, a benefit there and few empathic observations occasionally.
My challenge to us today is to bring the spirit of discovery and deep talent for execution in this room to create a very different idea of what the word “work” means for today’s individual, versus the meaning it had for previous generations.
I promise we will see the unleashing of inspired performance.
In the words of Albert Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”