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Tony Quinlan: Designing Portfolios with Sensemaking


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Tony Quinlan ( from Narrate gave a presentation on Designing Portfolios with Sensemaking in Sitra Lab's ( Innovation Portfolio Sensemaking and Management workshop on 27.1.2020 (

Published in: Leadership & Management
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Tony Quinlan: Designing Portfolios with Sensemaking

  1. 1. 1 Designing portfolios with sensemaking
  2. 2. 2 109876543210
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  4. 4. 4 What we’re skipping today ... Detecting radicalisation The limits of social taboos Foresight Risk assessment and horizon scanning Non-causal systems Scaling programs using complexity principles Central monitoring, local projects Bangladesh latrine habits The problems of using measures as targets Impact assessment Sharing knowledge from crisis situations Organisational culture change Prejudice and attitudes to ethnicity Peace and reconciliation in Eurasia Misinterpretation of field results Rwandan gender attitudes
  5. 5. 5 Cynefin framework Obvious Sense - Categorise - Respond Best Practice Complicated Sense - Analyse - Respond Good Practice Complex Probe - Sense - Respond Emergent Practice Chaotic Act - Sense - Respond Novel Practice Disorder
  6. 6. 6 Rules get more complicated to take scenarios into account
  7. 7. 7 Joining up the dots Number of dots Number of possible links Number of possible patterns N=4 L=6 P=64 N=10 L=45 P=35 trillion N=12 L=66 P=73.8 quintillion L= N(N-1)/2 P=2L ‘Connectivity, Extremes and Adaptation’ Boisot & McKelvey in Journal of Mangement Inquiry 2011 20:119
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  9. 9. 9 We a d a p t u r b a n d e v e l o p m e n t t o t h e p h y s i c a l l a n d s c a p e We accept there are some things that we can’t do, given the terrain The same applies to the invisible cultural landscape •Different history •Different religions •Different values •Different concerns
  10. 10. 10 The core of dealing with complexity shift the system, don’t solve the problem monitor broadly Take Oblique approaches build in diversity Set direction not destination Nudge and experiment see the system landscape
  11. 11. 11 Portfolio design approach 1 Multiple overlapping, poorly described problems in the same space Diverse group of participants List out what influences or restricts each issue (or use more sophisticated systems maps) Cluster influences and restrictions preferably for coherence Simple grid to help decision-making problems vs clusters Multiple experiments around the clusters, not the original problems
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  13. 13. 13 Complex problems Deal with the system, don't break it down into components Understand the reality of now, along with the possible and impossible routes forward Set directions, not targets or fixed future visions
  14. 14. 14 Acoustic SenseMaker
  15. 15. 15 Think of a recent event related to your work that frustrated or pleased you. Summarise that example on a sheet of paper in whatever language is most natural for you Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation or grammar If that were in a newspaper or a clickbait blogpost, what headline might you give it - write that on a post-it note
  16. 16. 16 Think of a recent work event that frustrated or pleased you. Now write your birthday (as four-digits) on the post-it note So 18th December = 1812, 8th January = 0801 Now go to the sheets on the wall and put your four digits on each one to show where you believe your example sits
  17. 17. 17 Only the respondent knows what their story means Layers of meaning De-privilege the expert Clarifying the voice of the beneficiary
  18. 18. 18 ‫الحرية‬ ‫حمامة‬ ‫حمامة‬ ‫عن‬ ‫عبارة‬ ‫وهى‬ ‫بالحرية‬ ‫بتفكرنى‬ ‫بحرك‬ ‫ماكنتش‬ ‫النت‬ ‫على‬ ‫زيها‬ ‫شوفت‬ ‫الحرية‬ ‫والحرية‬ ‫الحرية‬ ‫حمامة‬ ‫تحتها‬ ‫مكتوب‬ ‫كان‬ ‫االنسان‬ ‫فى‬ ‫غريزة‬ ‫وهى‬ ‫انسان‬ ‫كل‬ ‫يستحقها‬ ‫والحيوان‬
  19. 19. 19 What type of justice is shown in your story? Deterrence, stop other people doing the same Restorative, reconciling Get your own back, revenge
  20. 20. 20 Deterrence, stop other people doing the same Restorative, reconciling Get your own back, revenge 20 ‫الحرية‬ ‫حمامة‬ ‫حمامة‬ ‫عن‬ ‫عبارة‬ ‫وهى‬ ‫بالحرية‬ ‫بتفكرنى‬ ‫بحرك‬ ‫ماكنتش‬ ‫النت‬ ‫على‬ ‫زيها‬ ‫شوفت‬ ‫الحرية‬ ‫والحرية‬ ‫الحرية‬ ‫حمامة‬ ‫تحتها‬ ‫مكتوب‬ ‫كان‬ ‫االنسان‬ ‫فى‬ ‫غريزة‬ ‫وهى‬ ‫انسان‬ ‫كل‬ ‫يستحقها‬ ‫والحيوان‬
  21. 21. 21 Deterrence, stop other people doing the same Restorative, reconciling Get your own back, revenge 21 1895 stories
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  23. 23. 23 In a complex environment, we need … Detailed data, that combines actual experience and context, with quantitative elements for measurement Diverse perspectives, from across the organisation Scanning mechanism •Regular, frequent information •Fast input focused on key shaping factors
  24. 24. 24 Why have them use the triads, etc? More authentic voice Prevents misinterpretation Makes every voice equal Allows data-sharing with anonymity/ confidentiality Sharing the meta-data without sharing the stories where necessary Can build dashboards for specific groups/users Data is often relevant to other departments Lets us monitor and measure and perform statistics on essentially qualitative data
  25. 25. 25 Gathers qual and quant data simultaneously Every dot on a triad gives us three relative values - one per corner Then we can do stats and analysis…
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  27. 27. 27 Formaljobsarethemainsourceof income A person’s skills are the important factor in this example
  28. 28. 28 1. If this is the issue they believe is paramount, it will be very hard to shift perceptions 2. If this is the issue they believe is paramount, things are more likely to get worse
  29. 29. 29 Formaljobsarethemainsourceofincome A person’s skills are the important factor in this example More like these Fewer like these
  30. 30. 30 Portfolio design approach 2 Narrative defined direction (not destination) Diverse groups of participants Experts in subject matter, experts in local context, representatives of citizens What projects would you do that would generate “more stories like these and fewer like those” Evolve ideas rapidly subject them to challenge and combine/re-combine them Simple grid to help decision-making problems vs clusters Multiple experiments around the clusters, not the original problems
  31. 31. 31 common mistakes No pre-planned review cycle Feedback to research subjects helps ensure more data later Looking for confirmation, not paying attention to disproving results Learning is the goal All projects succeed Not testing the boundaries of unpredictability Not being innovative enough Not realising some things are necessary steps on the journey - but only temporary Simplistic lessons learned - do’s and don’ts Expecting a final steady state
  32. 32. 32 Confidential country Peace and reconciliation Showed key issues in isolated breakaway region were not international isolation, but poor local infrastructure, creating increased community Balkans Roma social deprivation and immigration cycle Revealed different national perceptions of Roma groups, key areas of social need, along with likelihood of re-entering EU countries Jordan Sustainable Livelihoods programme as PVE Showed multiple programme effects - importance of social capital, increased diversity and reduced susceptibility to radicalisation
  33. 33. 33 Colombia Economic innovation Identified key obstacles and attitudes to developing more SME economic activity UK Healthcare Gave patients voices to shape transformation, share knowledge and improve training of healthcare professionals Honduras Situational awareness for transition Developed small-scale local actions to begin to stabilise communities and reduce conflict inclinations
  34. 34. 34 Monitoring experiments via narrative
  35. 35. 35 Reducing effect No change Increasing effect Most important and welcome shift Characteristics of this group 0 10 20 30 40 step 1 - lowest step 3 - low-middle step 5 - high 18-24 4 ‫ﺣﻠﻮة‬ ‫اﻟﺤﯿﺎة‬ ‫ﻟﻤﺴﺎت‬ ‫ﻛﻔﺎح‬ ‫ﻗﺼﮫ‬ ‫٤ﺳﻨﯿﻦ‬ ‫ﻓﻲ‬ ‫ﺣﯿﺎﺗﻲ‬ ‫ﻋﺎطﻠﻮن‬ ‫اﻟﻠﮫ‬ ‫ﯾﻔﺮﺟﮭﺎ‬ ‫اﻟﺤﻤﻞ‬ ‫ﺗﻮزﯾﻊ‬ ‫ﺑﺴﯿﻂ‬ ‫إﻧﺴﺎن‬ ‫ﺣﯿﺎة‬ ‫ﻣﻐﺘﺮﺑﯿﻦ‬ ‫اﻟﻤﻌﺮوف‬ ‫رد‬ ‫اﻟﻮرﺛﺔ‬ ‫ﯾﮭﺮب‬ ‫ﻣﺤﺎﻣﻲ‬ ‫ﻣﺴﺘﻘﺒﻠﻲ‬ ‫ﻣﮭﺎراﺗﻲ‬ ‫ﺗﻄﻮﯾﺮ‬ ‫ﺑﺎﻟﻠﮫ‬ ‫اﻻ‬ ‫ﺑﻮة‬ ‫وﻻ‬ ‫ﺣﻮل‬ ‫ﻻ‬ ‫اﻟﺤﯿﺎة‬ ‫ﻋﻠﻰ‬ ‫اﻻﺻﺮار‬ ‫اﻟﺮاﺑﻄﺔ‬ ‫ﺣﯿﺎﺗﻲ‬ ‫ﺻﻌﻮﺑﺔ‬ ‫ﻟﻨﻔﺴﻚ‬ ‫ﺷﻲء‬ ‫اﺻﻨﻊ‬ 5 ‫ﻛﻔﺎح‬ Concerning signs of negative deviancy
  36. 36. 36 More subtle effects and indicators These people believe less than they did that diversity is helpful These people have not changed These people now believe more than they did that diversity is helpful
  37. 37. 37 This study have changed my point of view to tend to social capital more than financial capital When people able to survive they look for social status. Relationships are the base and through it, we develop skills and experience that lead you to financial capital Quotes from beneficiary participants in analysis workshop, December 2017
  38. 38. 38 Social Capital Critical, very important ‫حرج‬ Lacking,notenough‫قليل‬ Toomuch,lots‫كثير‬ Irrelevant ‫عالقة‬ ‫ال‬
  39. 39. 39 Social Capital How much social capital? ‫اإلجتماعي؟‬ ‫المال‬ ‫رأس‬ ‫مقدار‬ ‫ما‬ How important is social capital? ‫اإلجتماعي؟‬ ‫المال‬ ‫رأس‬ ‫اهمية‬ ‫ما‬ -5 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 1 2 3 4 5 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 1 2 3 4
  40. 40. 40 After this workshop… Slides will be available One-to-one clinic sessions for confidential discussions Sitra2020