Seeking Allies in Purposeful Innovation

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At The Moment, we see our work applying and scaling Human-Centered Design (“HCD”) practices to innovation challenges as part of a higher calling, or purpose.

Working toward purpose is co-creative

Shaping and articulating an organizational purpose is challenging – it needs to be long lasting and withstand many pivots – but we feel it is critical to define our North Star, our reason for being. As we grow, it becomes increasingly important to be clear on why we’re here, and who we’re for.

We guide strategy and decisions with our purpose:

…to empower people to lead change and co-create a thriving human future..

In order to scale our impact and evolve our purpose, we need allies. We’re looking for them. Maybe you’re one of those people.

We need allies inside client organizations (corporate, government, nonprofit, and startups) that are positioned to create value at scale that positively impacts people. We need allies in other organizations in the innovation ecosystem with complementary offerings with whom we can partner. We need allies among the communities of technology, design and innovation practitioners who share our purpose-driven practices and values and want to see them amplified in the world.

Only by working co-creatively with people outside The Moment will the true shape of our purpose become clear.

With great power comes great responsibility

The biggest challenge that faces those of us who are shaping the future through the products, services, and systems we design is how to do that work well, while feeling great about what we build. How might our work, when aggregated across all sectors of the economy and society, make the future better for humans: for customers, stakeholders, employees – for all of us who are part of this system of product-service-systems we all occupy?

Innovators are future shapers. We know the power and the tremendous value of the work we do and we see it all around us. Everything has been designed. But how?

We know the tremendous power of new technologies and their huge potential for human betterment. We also see the dark side of technology-driven one-sided innovation run amok: the rise of surveillance capitalism, the gaming of users to act against their own interests, and the risks of those intended and unintended consequences to the social fabric that human life depends upon. Facebook’s recent share price collapse is a signal of the market catching up to this dark side, and leaders should pay attention.

When the digital becomes the primary material defining human experiences in the 21st century, the importance of an ethical basis of design becomes clear. Maybe we need a movement of digital humanism.

We need communities of purpose

I attended the most recent Overlap retreat in Spring 2018 held outside Toronto near Long Point on Lake Erie. It was beautifully hosted on the theme of “Belonging” by Momenteer Chenny Xia together with friends of The Moment Craig Saila and Jessica Fan, and Warren Anthony. One of the best series of conversations I had at Overlap this year ended up suggesting that we need to develop some “Design Principles for Human Flourishing.” There was a strong sense that a collective sense of belonging and the institutions that support it are in decline, and without some framework to design systems to support increasingly atomized individuals towards a sense of a collective good, we are heading to a bad place.

Another great group I came to know from meeting Shannon Lucas (EVP and Head of Emerging Business at Ericsson) at the Intrapreneurship Conference was Catalyst Constellations. Shannon spoke passionately about the critical role corporate intrapreneurs have in shaping the future. These changemakers need to create sustainable personal practices and a network committed to support the movement to improve the systems around us, solve the toughest problems, and create more meaningful solutions.

Our Momenteers have been engaging in communities like these around themes such as aging, the future of work, education, mobility, housing, financial wellbeing, media, and many others. Several of our team members also research and teach critical practices of design in academic settings.

We need more spaces for critical conversations like these. People who work long hours every day shaping the future struggle to overcome barriers to making a better world possible. They need the kind of support and renewal that comes from connecting with their own kind, and reconnecting to their personal sense of purpose. These spaces are a source of energy for this important work.

A bridge too far?

From moments of deep reflection like these, the gap to the practical decisions and daily life of business today may seem a bridge too far. Ethical considerations are often perceived as too abstract or disconnected from issues of day-to-day concern. We disagree.

The era of shareholder capitalism, defining that the only purpose of the corporation is to maximize shareholder value, has outlived its usefulness and is causing much harm. Peter Drucker said that “the purpose of business is to create a customer.” Jack Welch said that shareholder capitalism was “the dumbest idea in the world”. Roger Martin has argued that this era of management theory should give way to “The Age of Customer Capitalism”. For critics of the shareholder capitalism view, business exists for a greater customer and social purpose which, if effectively pursued, produces profits as a by-product.

This echoes the design approach to value creation. Focus on the customer, discover the value that is desired, and then turn to questions of feasibility and viability to turn that customer value into a sustainable, scalable business solution that generates returns.

Implied in The Moment’s purpose is the proposition that there is a way to reconcile the drivers of business and those that underpin future thriving of human life on this planet.

Exploring this overlap lies at the core of our philosophy. We see ourselves as partners in this work of affecting change through companies, institutions, and systems toward a better future.

A community of innovators and service designers gathers at SDN Canada conference, December 2017.

We need people like you

Together with our allies, we want to explore some critical questions:

  1. How do we direct innovation work towards value creation that helps customers, creators, and investors thrive while respecting the needs of our wider social context?
  2. How do we effectively advocate for the human values embedded within Human-Centered Design, Agile, and related innovation and organizational practices within our business or institutional contexts?
  3. How might we be intentional in our relationships, networks, and personal practices to keep these higher order objectives in mind and feel great about the work we do and how it serves humanity?

We are reaching out to our customers, our mentors, our advocates, and potential business partners to identify who wants to be part of this conversation and this movement.

Where is this work heading?

  • We are always looking for like-minded clients who see themselves in our purpose, who are designing humanized products and services that create better results for people and business.
  • We are launching a series of conversations, in person and online, with innovation leaders to help share learnings with our wider community.
  • We are convening thoughtfully curated events with smart practitioners and leaders to explore these key questions and build networks together.
  • We are looking to thoughtfully curate our network of service providers who are purpose-aligned and offer complementary services or channels to the right kinds of projects and purpose-aligned customers.
  • We are in the early stages of recruiting an Advisory Board for The Moment. This small group of smart, purposeful innovators will help us refine our purpose and its supporting strategies, and will help make sure we never lose sight of why we exist and for whom.

By engaging with us, we want you to receive value in return – practical learning, business impact, development, relationships, connection, and inspiration. If you’re interested in being part of any of these conversations, we want to get to know you (or get to know you better!), and together build up a movement of people who create meaning from their work by creating value for people and a better future. Email me if you’re interested to know more,