Design

Getting to Insight: The Little Things Mean a Lot

For the last two weeks of November, during Thursdays at lunch time, I sprinted up to Toronto General Hospital to visit my grandfather. Four weeks ago, we discovered he had stage four lung cancer. Two weeks ago, he passed away.

I spent considerable time in the hospital with my grandfather and our family during this time. Before this, I never really had much exposure to the worlds of healthcare, illness, palliative services, or the experience of death. But my time with my grandfather, paired with an emerging perspective on human-centred design research, was an eye opener to just how much opportunity for change is out there. Continue reading

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Design

Design Research: Thoughts on Problem Finding & Problem Framing

For the past few months, our amazing OCAD U MDes SFI team has been working towards the design of new solutions for early childhood learning in urban slums. The first part of our project focused on design research: stakeholder analysis, developing empathy for stakeholders, building personas, journey mapping, and identifying areas for innovation.

Some of our work is shown below (licensed via Creative Commons), including a video piece we put together talking about the human-centred design process and how it impacted our framing of the early childhood learning challenge.

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Design, Research

Shifting the Diversity Curve: Thoughts on Group Dynamics, Creative Resilience, and Designing the Design Team

Conducting a design research project alone was difficult. While ambiguity and complexity were certainly factors in this, I found the most challenging aspect of the project was going through it alone. Without a team, it was difficult to ‘check my back swing’.

And while group work comes with its own set of challenges, it also presents an entirely new set of advantages stemming from the diverse backgrounds and experiences of team members. The group benefits from this particularly in the ‘performing’ stages of team formation. A major factor in team performance, this leaves me curious about the role that diversity plays in projects, teams, and organizations as they evolve, and what that means for design.

One of the most difficult parts of working alone on a project as important as basic user research was the absence of real-time feedback, constructive criticism, and collective inquiry in challenging my own findings. While the pace of individual work can be liberating – ebbing and flowing through work uninterrupted and without the need to slow down to convey meaning – the benefits of having a sounding board and multiple perspectives are lost, and surely felt.

Now, several weeks into a new design project, this time with a group, our team is beginning to perform. Polite reminders and gentle nudges are gradually being traded in for probing inquiry and penetrating questions – and this is great. We are critically thinking not only about our own independent work in between team meetings, but about the quality of research we put forth, the meaning of our findings, and the methodologies by which we will drive forward through the project.

This is a delicate, but important balance. It represents the power of diversity within groups consisting of talented individuals, especially those who are tasked with uncovering new insights and generating unexpected solutions to wicked problems.

In thinking about the relationships between these concepts – diversity, quality of insights, and team dynamics – I found myself thinking about the possible following tensions.

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Design, Research

Slow, Complex, Hard: Finding Opportunities amongst Ambiguity & Change

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been developing stakeholder research related to two wicked problems. Here is a clipping from a piece I recently authored on the intersection of human-centred design research and stakeholder analysis when defining problem direction, generating insight, identifying unmet needs, and finding innovation opportunities:

The concept of creating lasting, systemic change is an important one. All too often it is dismissed in the name of quick fixes, tight deadlines, rigid assumptions, and using surface-level information to (mis)diagnose complex challenges. Society rewards those who are quick to think and quicker to act, yet there is immense value in the ‘slow, complex, and hard’. In this piece, I wish to explore human-centred design research as a methodology for solving problems that matter through empathy, relational understanding, and pattern- finding. That is, affording the time to develop the deepest possible understanding of a problem through the intricate and connected lens of those affected.

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Interviewed in the Globe and Mail’s ‘Business Without Borders’ – CEOs Heading Abroad

This week I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Sean Fine of the Globe and Mail for Business Without Borders, a collaborative project exploring the opportunities and challenges for Canadian businesses going global, put together by Canadian BusinessReport on Businessthe Economist, and HSBC.

Kevin Morris Business Without Borders Globe and Mail

I sat down with Sean Fine to discuss what we were hearing from Canadian CEOs in regards to the challenges that come with navigating global markets. Through conversations with many of our CEO Global Network Members, discussions in CEO Group Meetings, and even having the chance to travel with several of our Members as they enter new markets, I was able to explore with Sean the importance of leadership in expanding internationally, and how CEOs can help CEOs to be more successful in those areas.

Have a look at the article itself: it’s called “Learning about Nuanced Language in a Rice Field: Dealing with Diversity at Home Gives an Advantage to Canadians Going Abroad” (which refers to a story I encountered where an executive refused to let team members into a meeting when they entered China without first experiencing the culture, history, and traditions of the Chinese people.)

I also touch on why I think Canadian CEOs are excelling at preparing a new generation of leaders through mentoring and peer groups, why even CEOs need help when it comes to making critical decisions, and traits we see in successful CEOs who are tackling new markets and regions.

Be sure to check it out over on Business Without Borders.

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Lessons from a Quarter Life Crisis

A rare one from me – a bit of a personal post. I generally try to keep a pretty tight profile online and don’t get into life issues all that much, but this one’s been on my mind for a while now and after a recent event – I figured I’ve got at least some insight here as to what’s happening in the minds of us ‘young people’. Perhaps what I’ve learned can help others. If that’s the case, please leave a comment below with your thoughts or experiences, particularly if they differ from mine. Continue reading

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Ex-Employees, Social Networks, and the Reverse Flow of Knowledge

Originally posted at Wikinomics.com

In my research on how social networks can be leveraged for talent purposes, one of the core themes that has emerged has been how organizations can evolve relationships with candidates throughout a more complete employment lifecycle. Traditionally, ex-employees have been viewed as unloyal, traitors and not to be trusted. After all, an employee who leaves is likely taking all their knowledge with them to the next company, right?
But in an economy so demanding of maintaining relationships with talented individuals, does it make sense to cut ties with those who walk out the door? And does it necessarily mean that an organization loses that knowledge altogether?

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