If you’re like many in my social media feeds, you’ve picked your word for the year or even three words. A well-chosen word acts like a guide.
Why not take it further and try a picture?
We’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. It crystalizes everything. A picture can represent an accomplishment and embody a feeling. It can transport you to another time. When I look at a picture, my mind adds sound and makes it come alive.
If a word exercise is powerful, try an image. Make your chosen words its caption.
“I believe that visualization is one of the most powerful means of achieving personal goals.” -Harvey Mackay
I know someone who swears that goals are more achievable if they are visualized.
Put up a picture on your refrigerator of your dream home. Years ago, when I was a child, I had a vision of my future home and sketched it out on paper. Once, when my parents came to visit us, my mom stepped back and couldn’t believe it. “I’ve seen this house!” she said, “You drew this as a kid!”
Cheryl Heller is the founding chair of the first MFA program in Design for Social Innovation at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan.
What is social design?
Social Design is the design of the invisible dynamics and relationships that affect society and the future. It’s the creation of new social conditions intended to increase human agency, creativity, equity, resilience, and our connection to nature.
It is essentially the same process used to develop innovative products and services, but applied at a larger scale. Instead of a small team of expert designers being responsible for the creative output or product, however, social design is done by cross-disciplinary teams, including both people inside the company and in external stakeholder communities. The goal, in addition to breakthrough products and services, is breakthrough interactions between people that lead to ongoing innovation. Because the process is participatory, everyone learns to do it. Because learning to do it instills a greater sense of agency and possibilities, everyone who participates is transformed.
“Social designers are resourceful, observant, open minded and able to live and work with ambiguity.” -Cheryl Heller
Social Design differs from traditional approaches in several important ways:
‣ It looks far beyond design thinking, which has made significant inroads in business, education and social organizations in recent years. It is an iterative process for developing alternative ideas and strategies based on understanding a “user” and a specific problem. Social design’s purview is whole communities or societies.
‣ The design process isn’t relegated to a team of designers, or isolated in a specific phase of the research and development process. Cross-departmental teams, some of whom are designers, are formed around a particular goal or outcome, and everyone participates in the entire process. What are typically sequential activities, performed by a series of experts, like research, problem framing, synthesis, ideation, testing and the like, are collapsed into a series of fluid stages in which everyone’s perspectives are integrated. This not only surfaces opportunities and challenges early, but also gives everyone access to insights that make them smarter, regardless of which stage they are accountable for.
‣ Social design relies on observation and inquiry rather than formal strategies and fixed plans. Preconceived ideas, however brilliant they sound, are to be avoided. Research is undertaken not to prove a theory, but to understand context and reframe questions. Answers are not determined in advance. The ultimate outcome may be fixed and inviolate, but not the step-by-step path to getting there. Observation of patterns, of unexpected reactions, whether in team members or customers, become the source of inspiration and invention—the real-time feedback that makes the idea, when it is developed, far more likely to work and succeed.
‣ Social design employs “making to learn.” That means giving ideas form to which others can react and help refine in collaborative fashion. Instead of waiting to get an idea “perfect” before showing it to its intended audience, users respond to versions in unfinished stages, and that input is incorporated into the design. Making-to-learn relies on iteration, and requires the freedom to pivot along the way, sometimes abandoning an idea, but always long before a big investment has been made. Giving form to ideas makes those ideas more appropriate to the people for whom they’re intended and makes them accessible to more people, and more diverse perspectives, as they’re developed.
‣ The outputs aren’t PowerPoint slides and Excel spreadsheets. Instead, they are maps and sketches and images and pictures underpinned with data that bring to life the entire ecosystem of stakeholders and forces in play. These visual outputs help make sure diverse people are seeing the same thing and can uncover otherwise hidden dynamics.
“Social design relies on observation and inquiry rather than formal strategies and fixed plans.” -Cheryl Heller
The professional landscape is transforming, and the only way to maintain competitive advantage is to maximize the unique skills of your workforce. In Humanity Works: Merging Technologies and People for the Workforce of the Future, consultant and futurist Alexandra Levit provides a guide to making the most of the human traits of creativity, judgment, problem solving and interpersonal sensitivity.
If you’ve ever wondered what the ‘robot takeover’ will look like, how talent and machines can work side by side and how you can make organizational structures more agile and innovation focused, you will be interested in Alexandra’s work. I recently spoke with her about her research and observations.
“Enlightened 21st-century leaders will abandon command-and-control to diplomatically govern their organizations.” -Alexandra Levit
You cover some sweeping trends. Would you share a few of the macro themes that are the backdrop of your work?
The book addresses a few essential questions: In a world where robots can do more and more, where does that leave us as humans? How will leaders build integrated human teams that can compete in a business world with constant evolutions and disruptions while remaining productive, marketable and sane? We explore the demographics, technological advances, work structures, organizational priorities, leadership models, individual career paths and human roles coming to fruition in the immediate years to come.
“The speed with which information populates the online world means with one wrong move, your organization’s reputation could be in jeopardy.” -Alexandra Levit
I’m pleased to say that the book took off right away, soaring in its first week to the top 25 list of all nonfiction in the United States. Week three saw it hit the Wall Street Journal bestseller list. Over 100 five-star reviews hit Amazon in week one and many others on Goodreads. It has also hit local lists across the country.
Foreign rights requests started immediately with deals reached quickly in languages ranging from Korean to Spanish and even Ukrainian.
Near to my heart is libraries, and the book is in over 200 libraries across the country.
Thank you for your support of the book and its positive message. Only you have the power to determine if your future mimics your past.
“Only you have the power to determine if your future mimics your past.” -Skip Prichard #TheBookofMistakes
It was gratifying to have so many early endorsements from amazingly talented authors, friends, and personal heroes. They are on the cover of the book and on the book’s website. But it is even more gratifying to receive notes from individuals around the world sharing the book’s impact. That’s why I wrote the book. For you!
Here are just a few comments to show you why I’m so encouraged (from people I had not met previously):
“Your Book of Mistakes was absolutely the most interesting and thought-provoking book I have ever read.”
“I have asked my assistant to order 100 copies of the book for my team and expect great conversation on the subject once they enjoy your book. Thanks again for writing a book that will appeal to everyone in every walk of life with lessons of a lifetime!”
“I could not put your book down. My whole life is now going to change!”
“One of the best motivational books I have come across.”
These notes are completely unexpected and just amaze me. They are humbling to say the least.
I also want to thank my amazing Book Launch team. They took the book’s message to places I never dreamed of.
“Readiness is when your desire is stronger than your distraction.” -Skip Prichard #TheBookofMistakes
Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook called the Netflix “freedom and responsibility” deck “the most important document ever to come out of the Valley.”
The document is 124 pages and it outlines the principles behind the unique corporate culture at Netflix. It has had reverberations far outside of Silicon Valley and way beyond Netflix itself. The principles have been debated and adopted by organizations throughout the world. It has been viewed over fifteen million times.
Patty McCord helped write the document. She worked at Netflix for 14 years as the company’s Chief Talent Officer. In her book, POWERFUL: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility, Patty shares what she has learned about building a high-performance culture. I recently asked her to share more about her experience.
Challenge the Rules
You challenge many of the existing HR rules with new ways of thinking. What advice do you have for leaders that will help them embrace these changes?
It begins with questioning, literally, everything we do in HR: policies, procedures, guidelines, practices, permissions. What is the purpose of each of these activities? Do they achieve the desired result? If you started from scratch, would you embrace these methods?
“People can handle being told the truth, about both the business and their performance. The truth is not only what they need but also what they intensely want.” -Patty McCord