There are challenges your organization faces that are so complex that they require a different approach. Traditional strategy, marketing and innovation can be powerful, but it doesn’t always move the needle when it comes to growing a stagnant market or creating a market that doesn’t exist, increasing adoption of an emerging solution, getting multiple polarized stakeholders to work together towards a common goal.
Introducing Systemic Innovation.
Over the years, after working with many organizations tackling tough business, social and political problems, we learned so much about what doesn’t work, that we ended up designing a new approach for tackling wicked problems which we call Systemic Innovation. Systemic innovation combines systems thinking, breakthrough innovation, strategic alignment and business incubation, to channel limited resources in a way that maximizes systemic impact.
The approach starts with systems mapping around a challenge, which helps all of the decision makers reach simplicity on the other side of complexity–seeing patterns and leverage points within the complex system that really make a difference.
Once leverage points are identified, breakthrough innovation helps decision makers find new and better ways to make a change in the system.
Since complex problems tend to have a complex network of stakeholders (even if they are within the same organization), strategic alignment helps decision makers agree on the best path forward, taking into account the diverse priorities of these multiple stakeholders.
And finally, incubation helps the innovations coming out of the process to have a structured approach to becoming real, overcoming the tremendous obstacles that innovative ideas face in their early stages.
Wicked problems we have tackled through systemic innovation
In the past three years, we have had the privilege of working on some of the world’s most common wicked problems. Do any of these sound familiar to you? If so, we should talk.
Can we launch financial products that will grow the agricultural industry?
A micro-finance organization with millions of clients was stuck trying to figure out how to best foster growth in certain agricultural sectors in strategic geographies. After mapping how the money flows through the entire industry–from agricultural input suppliers to final markets, we identified key gaps in the system that could be solved with having the right financial products at the right access points. The innovations emerging from this process will be saving millions of dollars in financial costs throughout the industry and enabling growth for thousands of people involved in the supply chain for years to come.
Can we increase the per-capita consumption of a food product?
A food company with a dominant position in their food market was stuck trying to increase the size of the market. After bringing together years of quantitative and qualitative market research into one comprehensive systems map that shows the drivers and inhibitors of consumption, we identified key leverage points that could move the needle in increasing per-capita consumption. The decision makers chose several disruptive innovations that they are in the process of implementing in the coming years.
Can we grow the demand for electricity in our energy grid?
A key player in an electricity market was stuck trying to increase value for all players in the market. After mapping how the electricity flows from generators all the way to consumers through all of the different stakeholders, we identified key leverage points that could enable the market to grow. The decision makers agreed on several strategic thrusts that will be improving the overall health of the grid for years to come.
Can we improve the innovation flow in our multi-thousand employee organization?
A large financial institution with thousands of employees was stuck trying to improve how innovation flows through their organization. After mapping how innovation flows through people and departments, we identified key employees that need to be included in the innovation efforts. The decision makers have implemented several internal initiatives that have increased the effectiveness of their innovation efforts.
Can we optimize our long-term sustainability investments in order to maximize future EBITDA?
An industry leader with a strong desire to generate impact was stuck trying to be more effective in their sustainability efforts. After mapping the interconnectedness between their future core business and all of the social, environmental, technological factors on which that future business depends, we identified key sustainability areas that will be critical to their success in the future. The decision makers optimized their sustainability strategy to focus on key areas that are critical to their success.
Can we predict what prop tech startups will need to be created in the real estate market?
A real estate investor was stuck trying to identify the best growth opportunities that would have an impact on the whole industry. After mapping the whole flow of the industry–from land management to property management in the secondary market, we identified key systemic pain points that can be solved with emerging technologies. The decision makers pursued partnerships with prop tech companies that will be generating value for years to come.
Can we raise the average level of education in a country?
A university with the mission to impact the whole education system was stuck trying to find the best approach to raise the average level of education in their country. After mapping the flow of the entire population through the education system, we identified critical systemic leverage points that could really move the needle. The decision makers sponsored the creation of a new educational initiative that will be impacting hundreds of thousands of students when launched.
Can we optimize our investments in digital transformation as a university to maximize the student experience?
A university wanting to embark on digital transformation was stuck trying to prioritize their digital initiatives. After mapping the entire process flow of students from recruitment to alumni, we identified key systemic pain points that could make a significant impact on student experience. The decision makers identified innovative approaches to solving these pain points and defined an actionable strategy that maximized impact while minimizing the budget.
Can we increase buy-in of a new law across all of the agencies and stakeholders who are affected by a new law?
A group of leaders pushing for new legislation was stuck trying to get buy-in for the new law. After mapping the connections and interactions between all the different stakeholders and the proposed law, the leaders were able to provide a clearer explanation of how things would work under the new proposed law, adapted to each stakeholder.
Can we drive the growth of a country’s culinary industry?
A group of leaders pushing for new legislation was stuck A group of chefs pushing to create a stronger culture of local foods at both a national and international level was stuck trying to find an effective strategy for increasing awareness and appreciation of traditional foods. After mapping a large number of local ingredients, dishes and tourist attractions, we found key differentiators to base a strategy on. The group went on to develop several high-impact events and strategies to increase culinary pride.
Can we enable the growth of a country’s exports?
A group of leaders pushing for new legislation was stuck A An organization focused on supporting exporters was stuck trying to figure out how to best help exporters adapt to the global shifts affecting their markets. After mapping the flow of exports and the enabling systems affecting the exports, we found key systemic pain points within the sphere of influence of the organization to empower exporters to transition to the digital economy. The decision makers launched several major strategic initiatives that helped exporters pool together around new go-to-market strategies and expand their sales through digital channels.
Can we increase the collaboration among a strong network of leaders who are working on similar things?
A group of leaders pushing for new legislation was stuck A An organization focused on supporting exporters was stuck A leadership organization with influential members was stuck trying to figure out how to improve collaboration among leaders working on similar projects. After mapping areas of expertise, projects that leaders were working on and support that they needed, we identified critical relationships that needed to be fostered. The decision makers implemented initiatives that increased collaboration among the network.
Can we prioritize our logistics infrastructure investments to make our country’s supply chain more efficient?
A key organization in the logistics industry was stuck trying to figure out how to prioritize its efforts to increase efficiency along the whole supply chain. After mapping the flow of cargo through air, land and sea we identified a few key systemic enablers to infrastructure modernization that could move the needle in lowering costs in the transport industry. The decision makers implemented a hyper-focused strategy to maximize the impact with a limited budget.
If your organization is stuck trying to tackle a wickedly complex problem, we can help. Reach out to us today so we can explore if our approach is a good fit for your challenge.