Last weekend, I participated in the Institute of Management Consultants annual conference in Dallas, Texas. It was a great experience – I met some interesting and smart people, listened to insightful presentations, and created an action plan for my own business. I certainly hope that attendees enjoyed my workshop on Enhancing Your Consulting Skills with Creativity, as well. We learned and practiced Design Thinking tools to better understand our clients and customers resulting in deeper empathy that allows us to frame the customer value proposition clearly and concisely. More information is available here.
At the conference, I especially enjoyed topics on personal branding, artificial intelligence (AI), ethics, and governance. Interestingly, the presentation on business exit strategies was more about growing, stabilizing, and sustaining your business than leaving it. We all have to think about what’s next and planning the business life cycle is exactly the kind of topic we discuss in Life Design Master Mind. I’d love to share all my thoughts and feelings from the conference, but I will focus on three areas that are of interest to innovation leaders today: ethics, governance, and design.
Watch the uber-short video below and then read on for full details!
Ethical behavior is based on trust and all relationships require authentic trust to function. Trust does not mean a team has no conflict but when there is conflict, it is dealt with openly and fairly. Trust forms the basis of all relationships and is difficult to create yet easy to break.
Ethics is defined by Dictionary.com as “moral principles”. Every culture and society defines its principles and code of conduct differently, yet as human beings we share a set of morals that are universal. Thou shalt not murder or steal. Thou shalt respect one another. Every society across time and space recognizes murder, theft, and fraud as crimes against humanity.
When we talk about knowledge workers and professionals such as innovation leaders, New Product Development Professionals (NPDP), professional engineers (PE) and Project Management Professionals (PMP®), ethics covers our actions behaviors as certified and licensed professionals acting as ambassadors for the profession. Our work engagements must attain a level of respect, accuracy, and confidentiality that reflect our own morals as well as those of the trade society we represent.
While many organizations have an established code of conduct or ethics standard, not everyone has a Board of Governance. Governance is “the act of governing” and reflects how an organization links its mission, vision and values to behaviors. Governance boards check that ethical standards and behaviors are represented by all employees, especially the decision makers. Governance also means that projects and resources are used to their highest value to achieve the strategic mission of the firm.
When we talk about governance for innovation, it means ensuring that our resources – people, money, time, and equipment – are utilized for the best purpose. Processes are in place (like product portfolio management, PPM) to ensure senior management directs and allocates scarce resources to the highest strategic value. Decision making processes are transparent and free from influences of personal gain.
So, what does the design have to do with ethics and governance? Ethics and governance have both legal and moral implications. I picture stern lawyers wearing dark suits and proper ties with brightly polished wingtips sitting around a giant wood table when I think of ethics and governance. On the other hand, when I think of design, I picture an open lab with bright lighting, neon colored foam pieces, tools, paper, tape, scissors, and lots of sticky notes. How can these opposing images be related? We’ll see in a minute.
Design Thinking is a set of creative and collaborative problem-solving tools that build empathy with customers. We use the Design Thinking methodology to ensure product features are designed and developed with customer needs at the forefront. Design Thinking speeds time-to-market through enhanced customer interactions and rapid prototyping. Observing customers and inquiring about their needs is a first principle of building empathy for design thinking.
As innovation leaders and new product development practitioners, we are obligated to treat customers with respect, fairness, and honesty. We should declare our reasons for talking with and observing them. We ask permission to record conversations and we use generic personas – rather than specific individuals ‑ to describe market needs, thereby protecting individual privacy. Ethics and a moral code guide our interactions with existing and potential consumers.
Governance in design for new products includes transparency. Senior managers are informed at the team’s progress and have the obligation to cancel projects that are not strategically aligned and are not achieving the highest utility of scarce resources. A PPM system coupled with effective new product development (NPD) training demonstrates transparency in decisions while senior executives provide personal feedback for each new idea whether it is adopted or not.
Ethics, Governance, and Design
Every person, team, and society acts based upon an internal barometer of truth, trust, and values. Our personal goals cannot outweigh professional or moral objectives. Every profession maintains a code of conduct reflecting standards and expectations for behaviors that are ethical. I outline the ethics and code of conduct for Innovation Leaders in my upcoming book, The Innovation Answer Book.
As innovation leaders interacting with a wide variety of people (team members, customers, suppliers, and management), we are in a unique position to establish a framework of trust and professionalism. Innovation leaders direct and delegate human and financial assets to their highest value. Our decisions and actions must be honest, transparent, and just.
Please comment regarding your own thoughts and feelings on ethical product development. Also, please join me on Monday, 21 October at noon CDT (1 pm EDT, 10 am PDT) for a free Q&A webinar on Design Thinking. In Life Design Master Mind (LDMM), we explore personal and professional opportunities by applying Design Thinking tools. You need to attend if you are at a pivot point in your career, feel disengaged with your job, or are thinking about returning to school or retiring soon. LDMM is both fun and insightful! Register here. Space is limited!
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