Thoughts on designing the “social innovation” system

The team at SystemicLogic has done some great work in testing social based systems in corporate settings. One of the areas that has been of particular interest to me; is the use of social systems in organizations where formal structures and more add-hoc based social systems are in conflict. This conflict can be used to drive innovation energy if used in a constructive fashion.

Organizations are designed to implement the defined purpose and must produce economic prosperity (or in the case of a non-profit firm, design needs to achieve the firm’s mandate). There are many other factors including efficiency, effectiveness, geographical factors, access to skill, etc that all play a role in the design process. But, at the end of (and often while…) the thinking process there is a structure where people feel they fit into the greater whole.

These structural formalisms are used to depict the organization, but is not the way in which people use ideas to drive innovation. Innovative people need the intellectual freedom to test ideas, both formally and informally, without the boundaries of the structure.

In reality work gets done by people interacting in many different ways; and often in ways never intended. I see that the emergence of new forms of designs will form part of an “expanding architecture” theme. Learning from other disciplines, I feel that “Expanding Architecture: Design as Activism” is a great book that addresses some of these issues. Have a look at this short clip that explains some of the concepts.

New York Expanding Architecture Design Conversations Part I from Metropolis magazine on Vimeo.

The move towards understanding new forms of responsible structures is well underway. As seen in the video clip; our ability to influence design in every day situations is also becoming more prominent. The more adaptive organizations have been using these concepts for some time now. But can we apply these principles when designing a system of innovation?

Can idea systems facilitate this messy process of getting ideas developed throughout the organization? How do we get the process of self-help and “wikinomics” implemented by means of natural social development?

Design oriented innovation is becoming a core capability where design decisions are pushed into the network of actors rather than left upto a small group of specialists. The implications are that changes will come about mo

“There is no issue that’s not a design issue”
– Bryan Bell