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Persistence: Repetition Through Learning

True innovation comes from doing something well, consistently. Consistency only comes from persistence. While not as easy to package, sell, and tell compelling stories about, there is much potential in persistence.

Before we get to persistence — let’s first talk about its close (and much more popular) cousin: grit. Grit is what helps people persevere in spite of challenges, not because of them. The qualities of grit are courage, resilience, conscientiousness, passion, and perseverance.

Angela Duckworth’s research on grit has received a lot of attention. Her book is a best-seller and her TED Talk has been watched millions of times…


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The secret to large scale transformation is thinking big and acting small and thinking differently about it all.

When faced with a challenge or threat there is a theory that we need to match our force like-for-like: massive change requires massive action. While partly true, it’s also misleading.

Complex situations — those with a lot of activity happening on different levels of influence, mechanisms, and timescales — are tricky to address (even becoming wicked). They are also resistant to massive action.

There’s evidence that small changes performed often, in close coordination, and rigorously monitored can provide the kind of flexible…


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“Changing times” demands we consider both words change and time if we want to understand systems that hold both for us.

It’s fair to say you’ve probably we’ve never seen more transformation of everyday life on a global level than you have with what’s come with the COVID-19 pandemic. On a sheer scale, scope, and complexity, this is a different beast for our work, our homes, the way we relate to each other, and the way every country in the world is or has wrestled with it. …


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The most visible systems lesson from virus spreads is related to networks if we know how to see them.

In the early 1980s Faberge Organics Shampoo (the stuff Steve, the character in the Netflix show Stranger Things uses to get his hair so ‘perfect’) ran advertisements that used network theory to serve as a prop for how things — like recommendations for hair care products — spread between people. The movie Wayne’s World even featured a spoof of it. (see below)


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The global pandemic has provided us with another lesson in systems thinking: the role of complexity.

A well-known proverb states that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago and the second-best time is today.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has upended so much of what was normal and this has as much about how it affects the inter-relationships between the many aspects of our daily life that we take for granted. Further, it affects these in different, unpredictable, inconsistent, and unreliable ways that may not be fully expressed or immediately felt. …


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Events like the COVID-19 pandemic provide us with examples of how to think about systems and why, when, and how to prepare, panic, do neither or both.

A Thursday evening trip to the neighbourhood supermarket was anything but ordinary. The first sign was the lack of parking spots and no shopping carts outside.

Inside it was a frenetic hive of activity with lineups for the cashiers snaking around the entire building surrounding aisles of empty shelves where toilet paper, cleaning products, dry pasta, and bags of rice once sat.

Those in the lineups were mostly glued to their phones looking…


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‘Unprecedented’ is a term that is changing how we understand complexity and foresight and what we need to do to act wisely in the world.

One thing that often makes complex situations live up to their name is that there is so much going on at once in different directions, velocities, and timing; it’s hard to connect causes with consequences.

We hear the term ‘unprecedented’ being used to speak of our current times. For those trying to understand what is going on, how we got here, and what it means that term takes on a meaning that is also unprecedented.


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How to do, manage, and think about creating impactful innovations? The secret to innovation success is in three organizing mindsets.

Innovation is a word often used, poorly understood, and oversimplified. When looking at what is involved in innovation it shouldn’t surprise us that there is a quest to create simple solutions to reduce the complexity associated with it all and make change easier. Yet, simple solutions to complex problems are most often wrong.

There are, however, ways we can reduce the amount of complexity to better think and organize what it is involved in innovation. …


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Design thinking is many things and well-described is one. But what does design thinking actually do (we don’t know)?

The summer of 2017 was a big one for design thinking.

Natasha Jen from Pentagram gave a talk at the 2017 Adobe 99u conference and came out and said in public something that many of my fellow designers have said in private to each other: design thinking is bullshit.

Her talk ignited considerable discussion and debate over the merits and problems with design thinking, including my own. Some have taken the position that Jen is right and we still need it…


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Complexity is a term familiar to individuals, foreign to organizations. Understanding it and its implications can transform everything we do.

We are an organization devoted to applying best practices” is a variant of an expression I often hear in my work, particularly within healthcare. While those who utter such phrases are usually not intending to deceive (me or themselves), they are really telling a lie or are showing that they don’t know where they are going. The reason has not to do with their intent, but the complexity in which they operate.

Complexity is a term that is familiar to…

Cameron Norman

Designer, evaluator, educator, & psychologist supporting people in making positive change, by design. Principal @censeltd @censeacademy

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