I was reading an obituary of a former co-worker who died too early and discovered a host of other gifts she had that I had never seen or known. At work, I knew her as a lovely Marketing Professional, a highly capable one. Yet there was a greater dimension to her than I had ever seen at work. It made me wonder “Did she feel she could bring her whole self to work?” People talk about all the hats they wear as if they are discrete things, yet all those hats are worn by 1 person. One integrated soul who must show great agility across the various roles they must play. Yet, typical business norms have reinforced separation and disintegration. Early in my career a well-meaning mentor suggested I had too many pictures of my family on my desk; I was too forthright about my commitment to family. Without saying it, he was suggesting I hide my whole self. Yet, it was through my role as mom that I became a better leader and business woman. My fully integrated self has always outperformed the one that is segmented and siloed. In my work marketing of some of the world’s best brands, such as Pampers and Olay, I always found it difficult to isolate on just the functional moment. I always found our customers weren’t just thinking about that functional moment, but really about their desires holistically—happy, healthy baby or beautiful youthful skin. As an Assistant Brand Manager on Pampers in the mid 90’s, we were losing to our key competitor Huggies because of this fixation on the function of the product rather than the impact on a life. We were the best, we told ourselves, because of the functional containment and dryness of our Pampers diapers. Yet, moms were voting for Huggies with their weekly purchase for the way the diaper looked and felt on their baby. Huggies was approaching the baby with an integrated solution that included acceptable functionality for 95% of babies. It was not until we began to look at moms and their babies as integrated people with hopes and dreams that we began to win again. First, we understood Moms’ dreams for their children and began to design solutions with that in mind. Once we realigned ourselves to a purpose driven brand focused on helping moms care for baby development, we began to create products and services that went beyond just the function of the diaper. Pampers began to grow, rapidly. It was an incredible argument for a more integrated approach. Design Thinking is a systems-driven process thus integration is valued, both in the people engaged in it and in the problem solving approach. The business case of systems thinking and design thinking is growing as this capability is growing. One clear advantage of looking at a challenge holistically is you often go beyond just the obvious symptom to a root cause that, if solved, would transform a situation. Reframing a challenge after having considered the broader system is powerful. In the Design Thinking efforts I have led, the system often holds more inspiration and opportunity than the first cut definition of a challenge. And, people bringing their whole self to the challenge often offer more insight and wisdom. Something to consider.
Spend 10 minutes reflecting and on your own life/challenges and the ability to approach in an integrated manner:
– Are you tapping into all your talents and experiences when you walk through the door at work? If not, what is holding you back?
– If you are to approach your current work challenge more systemically, what do you need to do? What barriers are there to taking a more holistic approach?
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