In 1998, Generon developed a process which enables teams to create breakthroughs in any field – the creation of knowledge thatchanges the world as we know it. That process, now known world-wide as “The U-Process”,was developed in response to a challenge issued by a senior officer of what became known simply as the “Alliance”, then the world’s largest downstream organization (Shell Oil Company, Texaco and Saudi Aramco).
& Strategy Formation
|Enhanced Human Performance & Operational Excellence|
That senior officer, speaking to the top 250 officers of the Alliance, identified the greatest challenge facing the organization – how to compete effectively with a newer and more nimble entrepreneurial downstream operators that had appeared in the marketplace in the last five years. “We’re going to have to act as ‘gazelles’ – to become true entrepreneurs – or we won’t be in the phone book in five years.”
That spring, Generon undertook an action-research project to discover the answer to two questions:
“What is the source of the entrepreneurial impulse?”
“What is the source of our capacity to access the knowledge for action needed at the moment?”
The Generon team sought out and ultimately interviewed over 150 of the most remarkable thinkers and practitioners in the field of innovation, discovery, high performance and entrepreneurship.
One of the earliest thought leaders the team interviewed was W. Brian Arthur, a pioneer in the new science of complexity, a co-founder of the Santa Fe Institute when he was teaching at Stanford. Arthur’s early training was in operations research, a highly sophisticated scientific, mathematical method of strategy formation and decision making. “I once thought,” Arthur was quoted in a Fast Company interview as saying, “that I could make any decision, whether professional or personal by using decision trees, game theory, and optimization. Over time, I’ve changed my mind.”
Arthur said that for the day-to-day work of running a business – scheduling a fleet of oil tankers, choosing where to open a new factory – scientific decision theory works pretty well. But “for the big decisions in life, you need to reach a deeper region of consciousness. Making decisions then becomes not so much about ‘deciding’ as about letting an inner wisdom emerge.” He concluded the interview by noting, “This approach to decision making requires time, patience, and another key ingredient: courage. It takes courage to listen to your inner wisdom. But once you hear that wisdom, making a decision becomes fairly easy.”
After a day-long meeting with Dr. Arthur, Generon drew its first U-Process model – a three stage sequence around the figure “U”. In its final form, the U-Process was used to enable the Alliance team to create and propose new growth platforms for the firm, and of equal importance, to develop the team’s skills to unleash and engage the full creative potential of their respective business units. For the full story ,Click Here
∞ ∞ ∞
Over the following 15 years, Generon refined and advanced the U-Process (sometimes referred to as Generative Discovery) to reflect 7 core practices (or “movements” around the U). These 7 movements embody a single experience – that of creating actionable knowledge, enabling the enterprise to perform at exceptional levels.
The U-Process can be used to gain solutions to a firm’s most pressing issues including:
Advanced Decision-making & Strategy Formation
The U-Process can also be used by units or teams as the firm’s focus on two other vital areas of emphasis:
Enhanced Human Performance & Operational Excellence
∞ ∞ ∞
Our institutions are facing profound change and rising complexity, accelerating at a scale, intensity and speed never experienced before. In the face of this high velocity business environment, and as the economic foundations of our world become less stable, the nature of decision-making, strategy formation and implementation must change.
In a less complex business environment, scientific decision theory is adequate, but in the context of continuous change, complexity and uncertainty, an individual or team must follow a continuous process: deepening personal awareness and renewal; releasing limiting belief systems; scanning the business environment; identifying the driving forces at work and the resulting chains of cause and effect; accessing insights beyond the mind’s previous reach; and acting in the moment. Using these principles, a team charged with maintaining the overall strategic direction of the firm can learn to formulate and implement strategy in parallel, rather than sequentially, creating a continuous cycle of learning and action – “laying a path in walking.”
The U-Process can be used in discreet projects to resolve the most pressing issues facing the firm. We refer to this as the Innovation Lab. The selection of the Lab team is vital. The team must be a “microcosm”, representative of the organization, unit or division affected – “having the whole system in the room.”
The 8 elements of a typical Innovation Lab are as follows:
Co-Initiation: Identify opportunities, stakeholders, and core players; conduct Generative Interviews.
Foundation Workshop: Create shared understanding of purpose, process, roles and responsibilities
Learning Journeys: Arrange for observing and total immersion in relevant contexts
Innovation Retreat: Use the generative processes of Nature as a portal to discovery
Common Commitment: Present and choose prototyping initiatives
Learning by Doing: Rapid cycle prototyping of chosen initiatives
Presentation of Results: Present prototyped initiatives to Venture Committee
Implementation of Initiatives: Pilot projects
Generon focuses on three elements to help a firm gain dramatic improvement in Human Performance and Operational Excellence:
Driving Out Fear
Behavior within organizations is influenced by subtle fields of thought and emotion. These fields are affected by the attitude and actions of managers and supervisors throughout the organization. As research has shown for years, people perform best and thrive in environments characterized by trust, safety, mutuality, freedom, personal responsibility, and reflection. Organizational environments dominated by fear, defense-ness, protectiveness, excessive competitiveness, and ceaseless frenzied activity undermine learning, innovation and organizational knowledge creation. In other words, the very conditions often associated with the successful organizations in the Industrial Age are the very ones that prevent excelling in the Knowledge Age.
The very existence of a highly challenging business environment can cause managers to shift their way of operating, causing people to become fearful and risk adverse even against their usual way of being. The fear that pervades many organizations at all levels includes: fear of making mistakes; fear of being seen as incompetent; fear of not knowing what is really going on; fear of losing power; fear of showing our emotions and our vulnerability; fear of not being promoted, or worse of losing your job all together. Fear is the key impediment to innovation.
The first focus of an Organizational Renewal must be to “Drive out fear”.
Encourage Autonomy within Bounds
The drive to learn is among the most basic human instincts. All managers struggle with the paradoxes of power and control – to encourage autonomy but within bounds. When people feel their ideas matter and when they are actually given “freedom within big rules”, the full release of human possibility is enabled. There is a central dynamic that occurs in the firms that thrive even in the face of the most challenging business environment: managers and those in authority genuinely believe in their people.
They hold the following convictions:
People deeply care about their work
People have great ideas and goals
People will get involved and committed to something they help create
People will shoot for challenging goals if you let them and if you support them
The right environment promotes collaboration and learning
A collaborative environment actually makes the job of the manager or supervisor easier.
Scaffolding the Firm’s Developmental Growth
“Scaffolding” is Generon’s practice of matching employees’ development with operational work, providing a daily opportunity for business transactions to be used as a learning vehicle. Each operation and each transaction is performed with the conscious awareness that accompanies a more comprehensive worldview.
Scaffolding is the infrastructure the organization establishes to ensure the employee is dedicated to teaching others what he or she has learned, while at the same time, learning something new from others. This is the way Stage IV [link: the Advent of Stage IV Leadership] practices become embedded in the fabric of the day-to-day enterprise.
A changing quality of developmental support takes place over time. A more skilled or experienced partner adjusts the assistance he or she provides to fit the others’ level of development and current level of performance. More support is offered when a task is new; less when the other’s development and competence increases, thereby encouraging the others autonomy and independent mastery.
Thus, the senior team guides and enables the enterprise to develop into a teaching and learning community – a system that develops people through daily work. Work becomes a pedagogy – the science of teaching. This is what Generon refers to as the “Nothing Extra” approach to developing a Stage IV organization.
When appropriately introduced and applied throughout the organization, Scaffolding enables the firm to perform at exceptional levels.
Generon’s signature approach to large-scale change can best be described as “continuous renewal”, implying that the firm must never see itself as a “finished product”; but one always evolving and adapting to the accelerating volatility and complexity of the business environment.
How does the organization stand confidently in the midst of perpetual change? There are four core elements that, if embraced, ensure the firm’s lasting success:
Embracing a Comprehensive Worldview – a cognitive understanding of the world around us combined with a strong sense of possibility – the possibility of actualizing hidden potentials lying dormant in the Universe
Embracing a Guiding Philosophy that fuses the high purpose of the firm with its values
Embracing a Governance system designed to effectively deal with the paradoxes of power and control
Embracing a Commitment to Practices for High Performance Thinking