The Journey to 2017
“Professor Max Planck, of Berlin, the famous originator of the Quantum Theory, once remarked to me that in early life he had thought of studying economics, but had found it too difficult!” - John Keynes.
Human beings are extremely complicated. You don’t have to venture further than a moment of honest introspection to realize that. Yet, for so long, organisation managers have relied on simplistic economic models either directly, or through ideas rooted in these models’ assumptions.
Over the last few years, however, we have been at the precipice of an exciting transition away from these basic assumptions. There are many reasons as to why this has happened, but one of the most important that we’ve picked up was a global shift towards more human-centric strategy, communications and design during 2014 and 2015, driven largely through competition and a need to develop an ‘edge’ through better service experiences.
This shift was exemplified by an increased focus on behavioural data analysis, client feedback systems and service experience research. The idea was simple - through a richer understanding of their clients, managers could make better and more informed decisions around how to improve services and communications with them.
An insight that has become more and more apparent as this transition continued during 2016, however, was the conflicting realization bestowed upon those early explorers into this new and exciting space - that progress down this route looked very different to the forms of progress that they were used to.
This conflict manifests from the paradoxical realization that the more managers learnt about the drivers, judgements and decisions of their clients, the less they felt they knew about them.
The inherent complexity hidden behind a blanket of ignorance had started to unveil itself, continuously moving these client-centric managers away from a feeling of certainty towards one of doubt.
Ian Leslie articulates this idea nicely using a metaphor described in his book ‘Curious’:
“The island with its sands of the ‘known’, its shore of the ‘known unknowns’, and its seas of ‘unknown unknowns’. By increasing the sands of the ‘known’, we also expose ourselves to more ‘known unknowns’.”
Progress in this form feels counter-intuitive to most, at least initially. It leads to more questions than answers, more second thoughts, less confidence and a whole lot more doubt, breaking the most treasured normative characteristics of organisational corporate culture.
Organisations therefore need to move away from an entirely outward client-focused approach, to one with an inward component, shifting the norms and reframing doubtfulness as a healthy trait in an organisation, rather than an ‘unhealthy’ one. There is a need to start celebrating doubt! To start supporting the curious, the questioners, those who widen the "shore of the known unknowns”, and a need to challenge those who only focus on the sand that they have in front of them.
Fortunately, we’re starting to see this already. Error-prone gut feelings clothed with confidence are starting to be substituted for behavioural insights, usability testing and field experimentation. Incremental iteration is now preferred to radical leaps into the dark and a general respect for the unknown is building quite quickly.
With this in mind, we have spent much of our time this year gearing Gravity Ideas for fitness in this sort of environment. We’re rapidly consolidating our services into product-like offerings with a focus on observing, listening, gathering and testing functions. The idea is that these offerings will act as modules that can plug into organisations’ existing design processes in order to improve the judgements and decisions of managers, giving them a unique edge over others in their competitive environment. We’ve also done quite a bit of work with teams within organisations, developing their understanding of the Behavioural Sciences and building a culture of research, testing and experimentation.
Our focused approach on improving the judgements and decisions of managers within organisations, echoes an insight by the famous behavioural scientist, Danny Kahneman:
“Whatever else it produces, an organization is a factory that manufactures judgments and decisions.
Every factory must have ways to ensure the quality of its products in the initial design, in fabrication and in final inspections."
Overall 2016 has been an incredibly exciting year for Gravity. Besides service innovation, the company has also experienced a lot of success. From winning gold at the Nudge Awards in the UK, to growing the team, to a host of new and exciting projects with interesting clients and strengthening our relationships with our existing clients. With all this behind us, and momentum hurling us forward, 2017 looks like it is going to be a big year for the company.