Divided minds.

09 divided minds 1 0


In a previous series of blog posts I described what I’ve come to call a ‘human organisation’. Human organisations engage customers in the development of new products and services, unlock staff from being fragmented across their organisation, and diffuse the intense pressure that executives are often forced to handle. In short, they make the experience more human for everyone involved.

In this series I focus on the three main barriers to an organisation becoming more human and explore how these barriers came to be. The first of these barriers, disconnected plans, looked at what hampers the execution efforts of an organisation, making it difficult for those who work there to be truly effective.

The second main barrier to making an organisation human is ‘divided minds’. This goes largely unnoticed in most organisations, but affects almost everything an organisation does.

The industrial revolution was a key historical moment in the development of the modern organisation. One of the most significant ideas coming from this time was the division of labour. Breaking down complex tasks involved in delivering a product or service into simple tasks that could be mastered by individuals. Individuals are then divided up into their different skills areas (departments) to deliver the product or service to market. This is a genius idea for achieving incredible advances in areas like manufacturing, education, and healthcare. However, it also has negative implications.

With the division of labour also comes division in the minds of people, because people have been able to do their task without needing to consider the entire organisation.

Making organisational decisions requires the ability to hold both the big strategic picture, and the detailed nuances of the situation. The departmental structure of organisations offers a great platform for either the big picture or detailed view, but not both.

The challenge for organisations is to find ways to engage multiple specialisations in key decisions. The difficulty is in finding a basis for decision-making which is not reliant on any single department.

Enter the customer.

Mapping the experience of the customer provides neutral territory for the different departments to make organisational decisions. It also shows how each department needs to work together in order to deliver value to customers. Mapping allows each specialist to share the nuances of their situation, while maintaining the big picture of the organisation of which they are a part.

In the last year, at DNA we have designed a number of customer experience maps, and seen the effect they have on bringing an organisation together. They have helped identify and prioritise the key organisational problems that are constraining growth, spot the areas and causes of breakdown, and identify where and why customers are leaving.

One of the big reasons for the effectiveness of these customer experience maps (and tools like them) is the simple fact that they enable all parts of the organisation to share the information needed for good decisions. It’s a simple move, but really important for enabling organisations to overcome the barrier of divided minds.

For those organisations looking to become more human, it's essential to let the experience of your customers help you make decisions together as an organisation. 

My next post will explore the last of the three main barriers to organisations becoming more human: isolated knowledge.


Matt Ayers _ Experience Designer