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Talking with The Moment, an innovation design studio in Toronto.

Since coming back to Toronto I’ve slowly been connecting with people helping organizations evolve into new ways of working which you might call Responsive.

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Much of this work is trickling out of places like SF, NYC, and London, but I did get the chance to meet with folks in the Unleash Network, a more decentralized group of practitioners working with agile, Holacracy, new ways of working, and conscious capitalism.

And one group I have been following is the Toronto innovation design studioThe Moment (also here on Medium). So when I noticed that Greg Judelman, Innovation Designer and Co-Founder, had joined the Responsive.org Slack group I jumped on the chance to connect with him.

From looking at the evolution of their service offering and my chat with Greg, it seems they have been taking inspiration from organizational design agencies such as August (also here). The Moment themselves are implementing new ways of working within their team, and developing a service offering that balances product or process design innovation like you might find at IDEO or Idea Couture, and pure organizational design like you might find at August.

What they aim to do is build innovation capacity. And the best way is to plant those seeds in the context of a project.

While everyone wants to develop innovative solutions, the issue is that product managers or directors aren’t always focused on their team’s capacity for innovation. In my mind this is a continued failure to see that innovation doesn’t come from C-suite strategy sessions, but from the bottom-up creation of ideas and testing of hypotheses.

This isn’t a new idea, whether you call it Lean Startup or Design Thinking. Venkatesh Rao his accessible but well-footnoted Breaking Smart series goes into the theory behind pragmatic and agile ways of building not just software but products and systems as well.

From the “Software as Subversion” chapter in Season 1 of Breaking Smart.

From the “Software as Subversion” chapter in Season 1 of Breaking Smart.

One insight I got from speaking with Greg at The Moment was, instead of trying to implement these new ways of working within an entire organization or even a single department, they’ve found what works best is to start on a small project to plant the seeds of an innovation culture within an organization.

Building from this insight, this is most likely because:

  1. It is easier to align a sense of purpose on a single project, and harder to do that for an entire organization up front.
  2. Small projects allow for the creation of cross-functional teams and a safe space for collaboration, ideation, and rapid failure without judgement.
  3. It is more important to change behaviours, not just the lines on an org chart.
  4. A successful project can create champions for new ways of working that can then inspire the rest of the organization.

While it might be easier to hold a two-day workshop on design thinking and innovation, that learning is easily lost when not put into practice.

So The Moment has evolved its services, offering solutions from a single agile appetizer to a whole buffet of organizational change.

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Most interesting is the Innovation Accelerator: it’s like a tw0-week vacation to Agileland, where you get to see all the sights of brainstorming, prototyping, and testing. Working on a single project, companies can experience new ways of working in practice, with a tested prototype developed by the end.

After that teaser, companies can move to medium-term strategy or project engagements that don’t just solve problems, but develop in-house innovation capacity for long-term success. And for larger cultural transformations their Innovation Program offers ongoing organizational evaluation, learning and development, and cultural realignment in the context of key projects.

My path lately has been thinking about how we can adopt the responsiveness of the most innovative companies to organizations of all kinds. And The Moment’s work around design thinking, lean startup, agile project management, and the structure of innovative teams isn’t just management hype, but a roadmap for companies in any area to make this leap to new ways of working. For a detailed look at the process check out their publication Setting Up Your Innovation Team For Success.

It was great to see that the members of The Moment themselves are working to implement more responsive ways of working, using their own organization as a prototype to push the envelope on how they function.They’ve taken inspiration from Reinventing Organizations, implemented week-long strategy retreats three times a year, focused on agile sprints, and moved to a Holacracy-inspired structure of roles over positions and advice and consent decision-making. I even noticed today there are no longer any “Chief” anythings on their staff page.

It was great to speak with Greg. Our talk reaffirmed my own sense of purpose and I received some new ideas for a direction towards working in this space. I hope to meet and cultivate our community here in Toronto and look forward to speaking with more of the team in the future.

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