The Unreasonable Institute’s CEO Teju Ravilochan facilitated the Scale X Design Accelerator‘s final core lab on pitching last week. This article was one of the pre-reads for the teams before the session. The teams will work on their pitch over the next few months to prepare for the Scale X Design Challenge, a first-of-its-kind event in January in New York City!
New Profit‘s Founder & CEO, Vanessa Kirsch, and Board Chairman, Jeff Walker, published a piece in Harvard Business Review entitled “Why Social Ventures Need Systems Thinking” over the summer. With co-author Jim Bildner of Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, they coin the term “systems entrepreneurs” to characterize a critical element of New Profit’s evolved approach and the future of social problem solving: “The work our entrepreneurs face today is more complex than ever and requires a set of tools and a framework designed to address the complexity inherent when innovations are integrated into existing systems like school districts, welfare agencies, health departments, and corporate structures.” What are your thoughts on systems thinking in social ventures?
At 356 pages of fairly dense writing, you’d hardly call it a page turner. But if you’re a global development practitioner, you might have hard time putting it down.
Getting to Scale: How to Bring Development Solutions to Millions of Poor People looks at the hard truths of how few development solutions go to scale and provides the most in-depth analysis and evidence on the topic that we’ve seen so far. Read, enjoy and share your thoughts on scale with us!
What’s the “poison pill” that prevents pilots from going to scale? According to scaling expert Larry Cooley, it’s complexity.
We’ve been thinking a lot about how to reduce complexity in order to achieve scale. In fact, “How do we reduce cost and complexity?” is key design question #4 that we explore in our Designing for Scale lab in the accelerator.
Another book that helped us think about design question #3 – “What is the optimal fidelity for scale?” – is Scaling Up Excellence, by Robert I. Sutton and Huggy Rao.
“The first major business book devoted to this universal and vexing challenge” – Amazon
The authors walk us through decades of case studies on how various companies and initiatives found the right place on the continuum of customization versus replication as they scaled.
My favorite part? This little bit of wisdom:
“Organizations that scale well are filled with people who talk and act as if they are in the middle of a manageable mess.”
Well hey… if office space is a reflection of this sentiment, then maybe the Accelerator is well on its way!
In our Design for Scale lab, design question #3 asks us: “What’s our optimal fidelity for scale?”
What is fidelity? Very simply, it’s the degree of exactness with which something is copied and reproduced.
Why is it important?
Well, in some fields it’s both easy and critical that that the fidelity of an intervention is high. For example, when you’re sick and you take a pill you’re taking the same pill that others who share your diagnosis will take. The dose, timing and other instructions that you receive must be followed in order to get positive results.
Designing an intervention that should be replicated with high fidelity is both necessary and relatively straightforward for many fields. What about development? As we scale, we know that we can’t simply take our exact model and apply it to new geographies, new demographics and new sectors. We know that it won’t work if we don’t adapt.
Conversely, adapt too much or let the model be watered down and we may not be able to get them same positive impact we did in our pilot or the early stages of our programs.
David Butler, VP for Innovation at Coca-Cola, helps one of the world’s largest companies design for scale using a simple framework of determining what elements are “fixed” and which are “flexible.”
To break it down for us, he uses the analogy of lego bricks. The whole video is great, but for the part on legos start at the 8 minute, 30 second mark and end at 13 minutes, 50 seconds.