Are You A Discipline That Raises or Lowers Confidence?

If we now stand at a point where we are defining “good” from the interpretations of data to the other extreme of the subjective H.I.P.P.O. we are systematically removing curiosity. To be clear, I’m not pointing at any one discipline, because we are all accountable for raising confidence.

I can’t imagine the energy it must take to constantly be digging in and insisting on knowing what’s true without learning and considering other possibilities. Yet, it continues in so many companies.

In 2004, Richard Borland and Fred Collopy published “Managing As Designing” It is a detailed, well researched book that does a deep dive into areas of architecture, art, and design. The quote at the end of this post sums up the challenges of not just getting to “done” but getting to a truly better state.

I would argue, regardless of your chosen process to solving problems, the best outcomes result in asking better questions. Such questions can only be surfaced when individuals know they can confidently step foward.

Raising confidence can be accomplished in many ways. I suggest we start by understanding that which sparks curiosity in employees.

Field Notes

I invite you to start this approach with the questions that follow. Step back and consider where you’re being a critic and where you’re raising confidence.

  • Have we [insert your role or discipline here] evolved our thinking and approach beyond expanding titles and shifting responsibilities?
  • Have we [insert your role or discipline here] gotten better in areas that actually deliver a better outcome?
  • Are we [insert your role or discipline here] facilitating or simply putting all our efforts into the branding of influencing and arguing as a marketed ‘thought’ or ‘brand’ leader?
  • What have you [insert your role or discipline here] done in your career to learn from others outside your discipline?
  • Is your [insert your role or discipline here] view of the possible fixated on a few pixels that are your responsibility or do you have a panoramic view of the product / service?

As political scientist Paul Schulman puts it, the history of organizational theory is one of ‘moving from a belief that organizational behaviour could be fully determined by a set of complete and consistent design principles, to a hard-won recognition that more and more variables come into play.’

The problem here is that, as the variables multiply, scholars say less and less about more and more. The net result is that we now function as a discipline of critics who lower confidence rather than as a discipline of designers who raise confidence.

When people make sense of flows, they impose labels that are good enough to move projects along. But they hold those labels lightly and update them without apology and return again and again to perceptions and exploration and dreams. Thus, updating and repeated sensemaking become a testimony to the soundness of design, not an indictment of its flaws.

If managers need to understand and coordinate variability, complexity, and effectiveness, then they need to create designs that mix together perceptual and conceptual modes of action or move back and forth between theses modes or rely on multiple compounding of abstraction. Designs that fit these requirements are best achieved if design is recast as designing that uses transient constraints, bricolage, and improvisation.