onsdag 4. august 2010

Making the small, but highly effective stuff - the responsibility of the Chief Details Officer?

In a TED-talk I saw the other day, Rory Sutherland makes a plea to try to find small adjustments that may have a great impact. Because, he argues, a lot of the time effort and result don't work linearly, to the frustration of anyone who's trying to calculate the future. Great effort might have little effect, take for example organisational change, whilst small efforts might have surpringly disproportionate effects. He used a 2x2 table, a long-time sociologist favourite, to explain that the small effort with great effect lacks a name. However, he did say that he thought that any organisation should employ a CDO, a chief details officer. The CDO should be someone with real power, but a very small budget, so that any solution they come up with should have real impact. I love the idea!

I was also intrigued by his challenge to find a name for the concept. For me, it was clear that positive deviance should be the answer. But I suspected that someone might have thought something about it before, so I searched the net. Another blog I found was written by a User Experience Designer, and his answer was that User Experience (UX) Research should fill that fourth quadrant. An old saying predicts that if all you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like nails. I seemed to have gone into that trap.

Thinking about it, I don't doubt that UX design is one method that could yield great effect with little money. But just as there are many types of strategizing, there would be several methods that would enhance the small stuff thinking producing surprising results. And I don't have a name for the methods, I have a name for the results: that would be positive deviance. Or rather: they would start as deviance, then recognized as positive, finally (and hopefully) grow into normality. Positive deviance is characterized by being unexpected, having great impact and affecting power relations, therefore they also will meet resistance.

My thesis is that such deviances can be mindfully produced, or at least that there are ways in which to enhance the possibility of creating and sustaining them. Some of those ways will be about turning the focus to how people experience products and services. But additionally, the ways in which people handle failure, how they are able to produce a multiplicity of perspectives, and the environment they are in will be possible roads to check out to find out what really matters. The CDO needs the best possible toolbox - I'd love to help!
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