Correlations between design maturity, leadership maturity, and innovation

Published Tue, Jan 17, 2006 by Austin Govella. Updated Tue, Jan 17, 2006.

Jess McMullin’s design maturity continuum, reminded me of “The seven transformations of leadership“, David Rooke and William Torbert’s article about leadership maturity in the April 2005 Harvard Business Review.

Similarities appear between how thinking evolves as someone explores either design (systems communication) or management (systems organization). I prefer more maturity than less, but one level isn’t necessarily better, just different.

Lately, I’m using the Management Innovation Group‘s innovation trailmarker as a kind of personal mandala, so, of course, as I finished the original diagram, I had to integrate their Products > Process > Culture mantra.

So here’s a graphic representation of two things:

  1. Correlations between design thinking maturity and leadership maturity.
  2. A map of where innovation “lives”?


Correlations between design maturity, leadership maturity, and innovation
(Available as farm fresh, 91kb, PDF)

How to read the madness

Horizontally, from right to left, I’ve mapped maturity on a linear scale from less mature on the right to more mature on the left. Because in the western world, the most important items go in the top left where you see them first.

Jess’s design maturity continuum stretches across the top from Framing to No Conscious Design. The steps on the continuum describe how people think at each stage of their “maturity”. Steve Jobs frames. My brother no-conscious-designs.

Rooke and Torbert’s leadership maturity continuum stretches across the bottom from Alchemist to Opportunist. They call these Action Logics and refer to the logic one uses when choosing your actions. The leadership continuum describes how managers and executives think at each level of their leadership maturity. Steve Jobs is an Alchemist. My brother is an Opportunist.

The grey strip in the middle pretends to statistical mumbo-jumbo.

The green bar suggests the more mature your design or leadership thinking is, the more equity your thinking generates for your organization. I have no numbers, but this is truth.

The red bar likewise suggests the initial investment required to generate this equity becomes less the more mature your design or management thinking. Again, no numbers, but this is truth.

(As a side note, Ziya’s latest signature posits that design does for a dime what anyone can do for a dollar.)

The bluish bar graphs real, actual numbers from Rooke and Torbert’s article. Based on their surveys, they calculated percentages of the management and executive population that resided in each Action Logic group.

Vertically, I’ve tried lining up the various stages where they tend to match. The leadership maturity continuum has two more levels than the design maturity continuum, which is why Framing covers both Alchemist and Strategist. (The stages don’t match up exactly, but in several places it’s perfect.)

The grey swath at the top is the Management Innovation Group’s innovation trailmarker (not referenced in the way they describe it on their website).

Understanding the Innovation Trailmarker

(This is my understanding of the trailmarker, based on no actual conversations with anyone from MIG.)

For the Management Innovation Group, the trailmarker maps how innovation can move from one Product, influence the Process of other organization members, and create a Culture of innovation. They illustrate this process using three concentric circles. The first circle, Product, is encased in the Process circle, which is in turn encompassed by the Culture circle.

It’s easiest to think of the trailmarker as a pond. Pick up a pebble. This is your Product. Toss in the pebble and the impact ripples throughout the entire pond. In any Cultural pond, a good Product (which can be any product of an organization, whether this is a physical product or a service), will have more impact than a bad one. Other humans see your success and copy what you did.

They copy your Process. MIG contends good Products organically, from the bottom up, spread good Process until it permeates every level of an organization’s Culture. One good, innovative product can transform the Culture of an entire organization into a culture of innovation. (Innovation is both the imperative and entirely relative.)

(Caveat: This all depends on how a given culture frames success. If you’ve framed other ethnic groups as bad, then killing scads of them is a success.)

What’s hidden, however, is how the trailmarker actually details how to inject foreign culture to change, co-opt, and (optimistically) assimilate a host culture. Viruses, memes, blah, blah. MIG’s design Culture frames their design Process which allows them to create certain kinds of Products.

Inside a different organization, their Product exemplifies a Process people in that organization can copy. The trailmarker illustrates how Culture is transferred from one body to another, and this body can be a multi-national, conglomerated enterprise, or it can be two people, so it’s no surprise the Culture > Process > Product mantra mirrors the structure of mental models and the architecture of experience.

So, how does this relate to either the Design or Leadership maturity continuums? It shows where the various levels “live”. Framers, Alchemists, and Strategists operate on Culture.

(Visit the MIG website for a description of the trailmarker, and Victor Lombardi explains how improvements in products, process, and culture can reinforce each other over time on his blog, Noise Between Stations.)

This isn’t perfect

Jess’s stages don’t match exactly with Rooke and Torbert’s stages, but what interested me is how they’re close. Likewise, the innovation trailmarker doesn’t match up exactly, but it’s close. The closeness interests me. It details similarities that bridge previouly separated conversations, and the differences better illuminate the shape of each separate conversation.