NOW AVAILABLE The draft of my book on Organizational Intelligence is now available on LeanPub http://leanpub.com/orgintelligence. Please support this development by subscribing and commenting. Thanks.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hybrid Thinking

Let me start with a few brief quotes from Dev Patnaik, Forget Design Thinking and Try Hybrid Thinking Fast Company, Tue Aug 25, 2009

Something bigger is going on, more powerful than the adoption of a single school of thought. The secret isn't design thinking, it's "hybrid thinking": the conscious blending of different fields of thought to discover and develop opportunities that were previously unseen by the status quo.

Hybridity matters now because the problems companies need to solve are simply too complex for any one skillset to tackle.

Hybrid thinking is much more than gathering together a multidisciplinary team. Hybrid thinking is about multidisciplinary people. ... Hybrid thinkers [are] folks who can connect the dots between what's culturally desirable, technically feasible, and viable from a business point of view.


I think the key here is to recognize that hybrid thinking doesn't have to be any particular combination of thinkings, but represents an open-minded quest to bring many thinkings together.

Any new or new-to-us thinking (for example, design thinking is attracting a lot of interest in some circles) should generate some new sources of innovation and value. This is because new thinking is always implicitly combined with old thinking, and so we have hybrid thinking by default. The problem arises when the new thinking is given the full credit for any successful outcomes, because it then starts to become dominant and the hybridity (which was perhaps the true cause of the success) is weakened or altogether lost.

3 comments:

  1. "I think the key here is to recognize that hybrid thinking doesn't have to be any particular combination of thinkings, but represents an open-minded quest to bring many thinkings together."

    I think that's too broad, Richard. The way Gartner defines it (and Dev, if I can speak for him), hybrid thinking brings together many different thinkings BY FOCUSING ON EMPATHY. That's why design thinking is at the center of all the other thinkings: design thinking takes as primary how people feel about a design.

    Other combinations of thinkings, without deign thinking in the mix, might only focus on technical feasibility or economic viability. For example, econophysics is certainly integrative thinking, but it doesn't qualify as hybrid thinking unless it is integrated with empathic thinking.

    I'll admit that even the idea of making empathy (or human-centeredness, or meaningfulness, or connectedness) the focus of integrative thinking is not new either. But even though an idea is old, it may still be incredibly powerful at the right time.

    Take democracy for example. The idea is thousands of years old, but it finally had a major impact in the last few centuries. To parahrase Victor Hugo: "Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come." Or as I would put it: The power of an idea comes from its timing, not its age.

    Is the time right for integrating different ways of thinking with empathy at the center? I hope it is, I think it is, and I feel it is.

    -- Nick

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Nick. I completely agree that hybrid thinking can't be just a diverse collection of ungrounded thoughts. You guys at Gartner talk about being "passionate, creative, empathetic, integrative, optimistic, experimental, collaborative and comfortable with ambiguity" (Introducing Hybrid Thinking for Transformation, Innovation and Strategy
    13 April 2010). These are words that describe the manner of the thinking (adverbs or adjectives) rather than its content. This contrasts with terms like "design thinking" and "enterprise architecture", which tell us what the thinking is supposed to be about.

    So I think it follows that the focus and passion in hybrid thinking needs to come from the manner rather the content.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think we're in complete agreement. Design thinking should have been called designer thinking to make clear it is a manner of thinking, not the content. Designers (at least the kind that Tim Brown et al are talking about) are more "passionate, creative, empathetic, integrative, optimistic, experimental, collaborative and comfortable with ambiguity" that most other kinds of "thinkers". Labels--you can't communicate clearly with them or without them.

    ReplyDelete