Work from the Inside Out

One of the most successful ways to approach systems change is to start inside yourself and your organization. By understanding your own biases, preferences, values, and core meanings, you’re better able to relate to others. Likewise, by understanding the mission, culture, goals, and vision of your organizations, you’re bet­ter able to act on the values and core meanings that enable and support them. One good tool is to assess the values and core meanings for all key stakeholders, including customers, part­ners, competitors, and so on. This is especially true for the development team itself. When our values aren’t correctly engaged and supported, we can’t align our work to the biggest drivers within us. Finding overlap between custom­ers, company, and team is most important. To whatever extent these attributes are different

than those of our competitors, that creates op­portunity to differentiate offerings. It’s critical to find the parts of the system that will benefit from sustainable change in order to gather support for innovations that may feel foreign to many stakeholders.

Involving trusted stakeholder representatives in the process is also recommended. Each perspective within the system will offer new solutions to changing the system itself. For ex­ample, if you think that a material, component, or service supplier is the key fulcrum where systems change needs to occur, you need them involved if you hope to help that change take effect. In fact, the very act of involving stake­holders in cooperative development may create opportunity where lack of communication and understanding existed before. So often, two related parties don’t discuss common concerns simply out of tradition and the fact that they’ve never done so in the past. Thus, opening these lines of discourse can enable development where none was possible before. It’s common, for instance, that researchers never encounter customers, and therefore they can’t direct their research toward the goals and strategies that organizations set simply because they don’t know enough about the customers for whom they are creating.

Ultimately, designers and developers must find ways to question every aspect of “busi­ness as usual”—from materials to processes, to policies, to partners. Each time a piece of the system is addressed, there is an opportunity to innovate that piece into a more unified whole that accomplishes sustainable goals. Of course, this has to be done carefully and appropri­ately. When everything is in question, there often isn’t enough information that is solid or has a decision attached to it in order to move forward. It’s also seldom possible to change everything at once simply because of the vast details involved. However, over time, this kind of questioning can make the most powerful change occur.

Each time a piece of the system is ad­dressed, there is an opportunity to in­novate that piece into a more unified whole that accomplishes sustainable goals. [63] [64]

• Life Cycle (Is it possible to eliminate, streamline, or redesign one of the steps in the life cycle: manufacturing, transportation, distribution, use, maintenance, recycling, disposal, reuse, and so on?)

• Process (Is it possible to eliminate, stream­line, or redesign one of the steps in the de­velopment or maintenance process?)