Why Design Thinking Works: Design on the Fly

Thursday, February 27th, 2020
5 tips to Design on the fly
5 tips to Design on the fly

Any designer knows the first step in the design process is understanding the problem. What is the human need that a new design can solve? On a recent design event we were faced with exactly that question, though it came in the middle of the sentence, rather than the beginning. As new information emerged during one of the report outs, it became clear that the exercise we had designed for the next module didn’t address the true need, so we had to think fast to come up with new one that would. To use a tired business cliché, it was clear we were going to have to rebuild the plane while it was in the sky.

We don’t often find ourselves in this situation; our typical preparation period for a Collaboration Consulting event includes a deep exploratory period to understand the client need and work hard to make sure all the right people are in the room. This means the decisions they make will stick afterwards, but also that new information may only emerge as the end-users start playing with options. The design process relies on iterative loops, going backwards and forwards as each new model is tested, so we need to be agile and responsive, even if it means designing on the fly.

While it can be very uncomfortable to have to make major adjustments quickly, if it’s necessary and well-timed, it does not have to be stressful. By keeping in mind a few basic principles, a re-design on the fly can be easy and successful.

  1. We’re all in this together. Okay, you need to make some changes. Everyone wants this re-design to be successful and we’re all ready to help. Reach out to the people who have the information you need, ask them clearly and ask them quickly. It’s important to have a strong and flexible client sponsor helping you out in this scenario, especially if you need to move people around or use content-specific language.
  2. Communication is key. Listening carefully is vital to the process of a smooth re-design. Remember, good communication skills got you there in the first place, so rely upon them now to be able to think on your feet. Listen closely so you know when you’ll need to say yes, and when you might need to say no.
  3. Always support others. If, like us, you work as a team, really support each other. If you see someone struggling, reach out an arm to lift them up. Because design/re-design involves continuous collaboration, it’s important to create a safe, supportive space in which to interact and create, and make sure that everyone knows what they are going to do next before they leave the room.
  4. Keep it simple. You might have only a few moments to re-design before going live with what you’ve made. Now is not the time for an overly-complicated setup with lots of moving parts. Remember, you are responding to information you just learned, so take that at face value. The simplest designs are often the best, and definitely the easiest to pull off in a high-pressure, time-sensitive situation.
  5. Be comfortable working without a script. Whatever you had originally planned to do was probably amazing. However, nothing can match the sincerity, spontaneity and good feeling of a design that you iterated in response of something you just learned. It can be scary, but even a rough and ready design that serves the clients’ needs is better than delivering a perfectly trimmed one that didn’t quite fit.

In the end our re-design was exactly what the client needed at that point in the event, which led ultimately to a successful outcome. The power of design thinking is the ability to respond to the human need as it presents itself, regardless of your original plans, so all decisions domino from there. Whether you take the main roads or a scenic detour, reaching the destination is the best reward.

Innovation Arts is the globally recognised hybrid strategy and design consultancy known for its work with some of the world’s leading companies, as well as a range of global NGOs and public sector organisations. Named by GQ as the ‘management consultant of the future’, Innovation Arts has enjoyed over 12 years of helping business leaders to successfully navigate transformational change and organisational challenges within their companies.

The Value of Behaviours

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019

Harnessing the power of the behaviours that underpin your culture can energise employees and unleash enormous potential in your organisation.

Organisational culture is hard to define. It is complex and unique to each organisation – there’s no such thing as a universally ‘good’ or desired culture. However, there is broad consensus that it encompasses a company’s norms and traditions, values (lived and espoused) and behaviours.

What can also be agreed is that culture has a significant role to play in determining success.

Here at Innovation Arts we’re fond of the familiar phrase ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ because we’ve seen first-hand how organisational objectives can be thrown off-course by culture. We understand that the most successful organisations have cultures that are aligned with strategic ambitions and supported by strong leadership. Moreover, such organisations have coherent mission, vision, purpose and values; all of which is underpinned and reinforced by a set of acceptable or desirable behaviours.

We’ve found that it’s useful to zero-in on these behaviours as a way to create, maintain or foster a desired culture. And that it helps to provide tangible contexts and scenarios in which culture can be discussed in terms of behaviour.

For instance, many organisations are increasingly prioritising wellbeing and seeking to foster a positive workplace culture by reinforcing behaviours that support mental and physical health and prevent burnout, absenteeism and high turnover. However, this can be challenging for businesses with performance-oriented, high-intensity, long-hours cultures. It’s a paradox, a dilemma, at odds.

So how to work through?

In our work with organisations, we find that employees are less likely to question the expectation of ‘always-on’ availability unless they are given permission or provided with alternative courses of action that are explicitly supported from the ‘top down’. The desired behaviour here, therefore, might be to set limits around hours of availability, seek flexibility, request time-in-lieu, etc.

It can also be useful to reflect on elements of culture that may be identified as problematic, such as harmful or toxic behaviours. If an organisation has a culture of bullying behaviour which runs counter to its core value of ‘respect’, we’ve found that it is helpful to upend assumptions about what is and isn’t acceptable by creating space for sensitive conversations between all levels of the organisation, empowering employees to challenge behaviours they might previously have accepted as just part of the ‘way things are done around here’. This is especially important when employees receive mixed messages from middle management about what does and doesn’t constitute bullying.

Desired behaviours should be encouraged and discussed in an holistic way across the organisation, from HR processes (recruitment, induction, performance management, incentive and reward, training, learning and development) through strategic goals; role-modelled by leadership; and lived throughout the business (in meetings, as part of policies, in ethics and codes of conduct).

In our Games Science work we have uncovered ways to enable people to engage with the specifics of behaviour in their organisations using the power of play, by encouraging structured conversations, and through using collaboration principles. The game apps we are currently developing leverage these concepts into everyday behaviours that support the cultures of successful businesses (and shine a light on what needs attention, such as whether people really do internalise ‘good’ behaviours as a result of Diversity & Inclusion training) with data that illuminates patterns and allows comparisons over time. It’s not a panacea, but it’s a pretty powerful way of exploring what lies behind behaviours in organisations.

Does this resonate with your organisation? Whether at diagnostic stage, in the throes of culture change or happily sustaining an existing culture of high performance, we’d love to hear from you!

Innovation Arts is the globally recognised hybrid strategy and design consultancy known for its work with some of the world’s leading companies, as well as a range of global NGOs and public sector organisations. Named by GQ as the ‘management consultant of the future’, Innovation Arts has enjoyed over 12 years of helping business leaders to successfully navigate transformational change and organisational challenges within their companies.

The Terrifying Potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Monday, November 4th, 2019
Image of the landscape of the fourth industrial revolution where technology is connected to everyday life.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to empower individuals and communities, as it creates new opportunities for economic, social, and personal development. But it also could lead to the marginalization of some groups, exacerbate inequality, create new security risks, and undermine human relationships.” Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum has identified the era in which we are now living as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, an era of complex, interconnected political, cultural and economic change made possible by the widespread accessibility of digital technologies. The future has never before been so bright—or so bleak. So, what does it all mean for business, society and humankind?

There’s a lot to know about the Fourth Industrial Revolution: first, it follows on from the first Industrial Revolution (the transition to mechanization) we all learned about in school. But did you know that there was also a second (transition to electricity) and third (transition to digital) industrial revolution? It’s true, and like all the others, the Fourth Industrial Revolution contains as many threats as it does opportunities. However, what is particular to this industrial revolution is the interconnectedness of all the innovations enabled by low-cost and easy availability of the digital tools powering it. Boundaries between the digital and physical worlds are blurred at a pace never before experienced, resulting in transformation on a global scale. And we are powering it: from the Fitbits on our wrists to the gene profiling kits one can purchase on the internet, because of the very nature of the way we live now, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is driven from the ground up. Curious pre-teens on personal computers could easily weaponize a smart thermostat or baby monitor and now have access to a kind of power once reserved only for governments or institutions. The sophisticated connections of the Internet mean that information and goods can flow very easily and quickly in any direction, creating new cyber security risks for the systems that depend upon them. In addition, the twin bogeymen of climate change and political instability that haunt the Fourth Industrial Revolution pose existential risks to humanity as a whole.

If this all sounds overwhelming, it is. But more than anything else, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is a call to action. The time is now to work together to build the future we want to inherit. And if there is anything we know about at Innovation Arts, it’s how to work quickly together. By exploring scenarios, being open and flexible to change, and ready to accept whatever challenges come our way, those who develop offerings in a way that promote an empowering, collaborative and sustainable foundation for development will be the ones placed to lead. Like any large, multi-stakeholder challenge, coping with the Fourth Industrial Revolution is not about making a one big future-proof shift, but about many micro revolutions happening in parallel, and how we cope with it requires creativity. The Fourth Industrial Revolution requires leaders with skills to manage rapid change who will be able to guide their organizations through dramatic changes and recognize that robust activity is not necessarily a sign that the organization is thriving. As professionals we need to embrace change and understand that the jobs we hold today might be dramatically different in the not too distant future. Do we have the flexibility and critical thinking skills necessary for future workplaces?

Above all, we must understand the time is now to collaborate on potential solutions: by sharing knowledge, sharing resources, and helping each other learn, innovate and defend. By acknowledging shared values we can pool our resources and respond to the challenges that we will all face together.  

Innovation Arts is the globally recognised hybrid strategy and design consultancy known for its work with some of the world’s leading companies, as well as a range of global NGOs and public sector organisations. Named by GQ as the ‘management consultant of the future’, Innovation Arts has enjoyed over 12 years of helping business leaders to successfully navigate transformational change and organisational challenges within their companies.

Stepping out of the comfort zone

Thursday, October 10th, 2019

Innovation Arts is the globally recognised hybrid strategy and design consultancy known for its work with some of the world’s leading companies, as well as a range of global NGOs and public sector organisations. Named by GQ as the ‘management consultant of the future’, Innovation Arts has enjoyed over 12 years of helping business leaders to successfully navigate transformational change and organisational challenges within their companies.

Serious Fun

Monday, July 8th, 2019
Illustration of adults playing a learning card game

Why is it so hard for adults to play? As soon as we get our first real jobs, using our time productively shoves play off the agenda. But why? Is adulthood really this boring?

Researcher Stuart Brown, MD describes play as “time spent without purpose.” That makes a lot of people very anxious, so we create purpose to fill the time: agonizing over presentations, picking them apart until they become meaningless, or drafting and re-drafting the same speech until we can’t remember what we wanted to say in the first place. We even turn supposedly fun things (like running) into workouts, activity-based problem-solving becomes a workshop, a bunch of like-minded colleagues transform into a workgroup. Why are we all working so hard? What happened to play?

The notion of play is something all animals have as part of our evolutionary drive for survival. Play connects us with others, which helps us increase our tribe and provides safety, and also helps us know we are not alone in the world. But somehow, human adults treat play as a thing to grow out of. In a culture where there is simply no time for non-productive time and where exhaustion (“too busy to sleep!”) and productivity are status symbols, goofing around is seen as, well, child’s play. Yet, adult play is important. It has the opposite effect on the body as stress—it often leads to laughter, which makes your blood pressure go down and your dopamine levels go up. Clearly play is good for your mental health, and vital for your sense of well-being.

Play can also make us more productive. Free time is at the core of creativity and innovation because it creates clear space where ideas are born. Playing and collaboration at work helps with team building and rapid solutioning, and it’s no secret that play is a huge part of the design thinking process. Watching kids play with blocks is the clearest example of how play leads to a better result: if a tower topples over, they don’t rebuild it exactly as it was, they frantically search for the nearest thing to stabilize it and build without fear of failure. In fact, they are never too attached to anything they build because they expect it to fall apart, and know each tumble is only a temporary setback before they scoop up the blocks and try—possibly fail—again. If it didn’t work, they don’t care, because now they can rebuild with wings this time, or five additional storeys, and doing it over is the whole point of the game. Playing helps them figure out how to make something stronger and better.

At Innovation Arts we know that if you can’t have fun with a problem, you will never solve it. In our consulting work we encourage people to draw big on large whiteboards and super-sized pieces of paper rather than perfecting PowerPoint presentations. Similarly, our creative communications work typically starts out with sketches literally on napkins. And through our emergent work around games science, we are building ways to enable collaboration through play in the workplace—convinced as we are of how group energy and productivity surge powerfully when people are purposefully engaged in creating and learning.

Our experience, combined with research into neuroscience, psychology and anthropology, has deepened our understanding of how to design play scenarios to help organisations with a spectrum of challenges from problem solving to bringing culture to life, to facilitating integration between groups. The sweet (fun?) spot is where people come to life in a safe and creative space, where they have permission to express themselves. Just imagine what happens when colleagues are at their most free, their most intimate, their most, well, human.

Don’t take our word for it: call us to arrange a free play-test of our pioneering values game Dilemma! Innovation Arts is the globally recognised hybrid strategy and design consultancy known for its work with some of the world’s leading companies, as well as a range of global NGOs and public sector organisations. Named by GQ as the ‘management consultant of the future’, Innovation Arts has enjoyed over 10 years of helping business leaders to successfully navigate transformational change and organisational challenges within their companies. On the public stage, Innovation Arts works with organisations as diverse as the World Economic Forum and TED where they support the emergence of new ideas through creative collaboration. Innovation Arts’ head office is based in London with satellite operations throughout North America and Europe

Powered by Pictures

Friday, May 24th, 2019
Powering the Change

We were invited in early May to be part of a very important future-building transportation energy event. With a participant list drawn from a wide range of backgrounds it would be a challenge to create a community of shared expectations, visions, and potential solutions, but complex challenges are our favourite kind, so we were delighted to collaborate. The client originally approached us for help designing and delivering a two-hour module of work to take advantage of the breadth of participant expertise, but while scoping the work, we introduced the idea of graphic facilitation and proposed the creation of an InfoMural to illustrate the possibilities of the future mobility ecosystem.

An InfoMural and live scribing can have enormous impact in an event, and is always a fantastic idea. To have someone mapping a conversation real-time can be very powerful. As a focal point in a long conversation it is useful, as a tool for making connections and links between the different topics as they are discussed it is invaluable. Moreover, to watch a conversation appear before your eyes is magical. Our scribes are experts in listening, distilling and illustrating the essential meaning of a conversation, not only to record the content but also to show how distinct ideas fit a whole. The InfoMural functions in the same way as an individual session scribe except that it weaves individual chapters together into a larger visual narrative of the full event with its own beginning, middle and end. The InfoMural can be an agent of change, providing the people in the room with an identity as participants in a larger story of transformation.

With only a short preparation time available, we knew we had to move fast, and so very quickly we took the design co-created with the sponsors and mobilized the IA team toward creating an unforgettable event. While the Collaboration Consulting team dove into designing the working sessions, the Creative Communications team began sifting through a mountain of research provided to us by the client to get our heads around what the future might look like. What will vehicles look like in 2030 and how will people use them? How will power channel to the many places people want it? Where will the power come from? We generated lots of ideas and consistently iterated until we had settled on a draft design. After a feedback session with the client and several more iterations we prepared a rendering of the InfoMural we’d use as a blueprint to build in large scale on the day. This early, intensive preparation ensured our messages were right, and allowed us the freedom to work quickly and confidently on a day where the InfoMural and graphic capture was consistently photographed and shared by participants. In the client’s communication of the event, the InfoMural featured prominently, and our work has since been shared hundreds of times on social media.

The further out into the future you look, the more difficult it is to imagine. When you try to do it with a group of people, some complain the effort hurts their brains; the larger the group, the bigger the headache. But a picture provides you with a tool to see the future, which gives the team trying to develop a new idea the ability to move back and forth between concrete direction and abstract concepts, absolutely essential when preparing for the future. With words alone, it’s easy to get tangled up in syntax, but with a picture, we can see where we are going, and imagine how to get there from here.

Innovation Arts is the globally recognised hybrid strategy and design consultancy known for its work with some of the world’s leading companies, as well as a range of global NGOs and public sector organisations. Named by GQ as the ‘management consultant of the future’, Innovation Arts has enjoyed over 10 years of helping business leaders to successfully navigate transformational change and organisational challenges within their companies. On the public stage, Innovation Arts works with organisations as diverse as the World Economic Forum and TED where they support the emergence of new ideas through creative collaboration. Innovation Arts’ head office is based in London with satellite operations throughout North America and Europe

A Team of Rivals

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

Recently in the news, the term “compromise” has been much bandied about. Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic are faced with red lines and walls they are unwilling to cross. Without the ability to compromise, deadlock reigns. But to compromise seems to suggest failure; as a noun “compromise” is an agreement reached once each side makes concessions. It could be said to be an agreement with which no party is happy because each feels they either gave away too much, or received too little. And so, we can naturally expect extremism, that antonym of compromise, to follow. Each side digs in its heels further, making progress impossible. What is unusual, here in 2019, that heel-digging seems almost tribal, the sense that each side’s position is part of their very identity. In the words of US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, concession would be, “…an immorality. It’s not who we are as a nation.”

Human beings have always organized themselves into tribes, whether along the lines of age, race and sex, or in more modern times gender, politics and football teams. Tribes offer a sense of identity and belonging, reinforcing values and creating support networks. There was a time when one’s “tribe” was generally to be found geographically, or within kin. Now, enabled by the digital revolution and social media, tribes of all kinds can connect anywhere and everywhere. “Finding your tribe,” no matter how specialized, has never been easier.

But tribal thinking and behaviour is usually underpinned by the idea of the binary, the concept of X and “not X,” where X is “people like us” and “Not X” is all the rest. Social psychology refers to these as ingroups and outgroups, giving us vegans and non-vegans, English speakers and non-English speakers, liberals and non-liberals. This binary mindset can lead to social fragmentation, and on a smaller scale “siloed” behaviour in our clients’ organizations—quite a challenge when you are trying to create a cohesive culture.

However, tribalism can offer some advantages: passion, loyalty, identity. You might be Tottenham and I might be Arsenal, but what we can agree together is that football is a great game, we both love it fiercely and will defend it to the death. In We are all Weird, Seth Godin discusses the tendency towards tribalism, challenging marketers and employers to speak in a targeted way to all the different “normals” rather than trying to get people to conform to a single type. As the architects of collaboration our challenge is how to bring all these different normals together to build something. We want to use tribal loyalties and specialisms to create momentum and innovation, without suffering from the resistance created along the binary that puts one’s own tribe above all others, leading to discrimination and animosity.

On a recent DesignSession, it became clear that our client faced exactly this issue. To highlight it, we introduced an exercise that first facilitates the rapid formation of tribes and then—under a position of stress—asks all participants to relinquish the values and identity they have just created. The first part of the exercise is already interesting, asking small groups to align on a number of value judgements, choose totems, find their voice. But the second part of the exercise speaks loudest. After an introduction from each new “tribe,” where they proudly state who they are and what they hold dearest, an ultimatum is given and they must all enter into negotiations on whose set of tribal values and symbols will be adopted by all. In effect, we have asked a diverse set of ingroups to adapt a homogeneous culture at odds with their own, face severe consequences.

Some groups attempt to form coalitions, teaming up with other like-minded tribes, to leverage that as power in negotiations. But even when agreement would be to everyone’s benefit, people are unwilling to let go of the values and identity they created only moments before. Of course, this is powerfully analogous to where participants may find themselves in their day-to-day jobs. Different parts of the organisation may be siloed, or have their own, strong sub-identity or sense of comparative value to the business or organisational goals, and once adopted, those identities are difficult to relinquish. Why?

It’s in our DNA. Anthropology teaches us that humans have a limited capacity for operating in large social groups. One thing we know is true, for example, when we design and facilitate our Design Sessions, is that while a group of eight people will typically work well and cohesively, a group of nine will split into subgroups of four and five. On a larger scale, and thinking ahead to maintaining momentum in your transformation, people can only maintain meaningful close relationships over time with a relatively small community: depending on the study the numbers vary from 150 to almost twice that. In The Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell refers to a personality type he calls ‘Connectors’ – those who are successful at bringing these otherwise unconnected groups together. Identifying these people at the start of a programme in a large organisation can be vital.

As we co-create collaborative Design Sessions with our clients, one key step in the process is intentionally leveraging – and intentionally breaking – existing ‘social’ structures within the organisation, and then recreating the networks to inspire collaboration, innovation, and creativity by knowing how to add two ideas together to create an entirely new idea. In our DesignSessions, nobody compromises, we encourage disparate passions and identities to give birth to new concepts. We manage the full group, whether 20 or 120 participants, with all its ingroups, to reveal existing conflict where necessary in order to treat it, but most of all, seeking to leverage the values of all the organisation’s tribes and help everyone collaborate to best effect.

Later in the transformation process, particularly when we are focusing on values, it’s equally important to bring people together to share their different experiences and understanding of organisational behaviours in a controlled and collaborative way (this is when we both agree how much we love football). Thinking back to how tribal behaviour works along the binary, no matter what an organisation’s stated values are, they are often played out differently depending on if someone is ‘management’ or ‘not-management’, customer-facing or not. We use Dilemma, a tool that takes the form of a multiple-choice game for small groups, to discuss what behaviours really exist and why, creating alignment across ‘tribes’ on what the right behaviours should be and agreement on how to achieve that going forwards.

No matter what you want to bring your people together to achieve, recognising how tribal tendencies work in your organisation is the first step to turning them to your advantage.

Innovation Arts is the globally recognised hybrid strategy and design consultancy known for its work with some of the world’s leading companies, as well as a range of global NGOs and public sector organisations. Named by GQ as the ‘management consultant of the future’, Innovation Arts has enjoyed over 10 years of helping business leaders to successfully navigate transformational change and organisational challenges within their companies. On the public stage, Innovation Arts works with organisations as diverse as the World Economic Forum and TED where they support the emergence of new ideas through creative collaboration. Innovation Arts’ head office is based in London with satellite operations throughout North America and Europe

New Role: Full-Stack Software Engineer

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

We are looking for a self-directed developer to help us build out our technology platform around ‘games with purpose’.

About Innovation Arts

At Innovation Arts we make change happen – by design.  We are a hybrid strategy consultancy and design agency known for our work with some of the world’s leading companies, as well as a range of global NGOs and public sector organisations.  We are specialists in designing bespoke interventions and tailor-made programmes using collaboration methods, design-thinking, storytelling and play. Our business is made up of three complementary strands: change-consulting, creative communications and Games Science. We’re now entering a new phase with Games Science, focusing on building ‘games with purpose’ that help people thrive within organisations.

We have enjoyed over 10 years of helping business leaders to successfully navigate transformational change and organisational challenges, and we also work with organisations such as the Army, the NHS, the World Economic Forum and TED, and in conflict resolution working alongside Tony Blair/John Kerry.

We are located at the heart of Old Street’s – ‘Silicon Roundabout’, with fantastic public transport links, and the area is increasingly pedestrian and cyclist-friendly.

The Role

This is not a standard development gig!  While your experience will be important, your ability to work in a non-technical team and create solutions will be crucial.

It’s a full-time role ideal for a technologist who likes their work to have some social impact.  The product is still under development, but aims to help companies understand their employees better and vice versa, resulting in a healthy environment for all.  At the moment we are focussing on working with both corporates and large mission-driven organisations such as the Army and the NHS.  

Technical spec: this role is ideal for someone who is comfortable at every level of the software stack, from setting things up on cloud services (in particular AWS), to building back-end and statistical analysis services, to building a front-end progressive web application with online/offline functionality. Communication skills and a client-service orientation are a must as you will be working with non-techies.

You’ll be an integral part of the Innovation Arts and, specifically, Games Science team, and, as the only full-time engineer (for now; we will grow the team), you’ll take the lead on technical implementation and design of new features, working alongside the CTO, content producers, project managers, designers and other team members to shape our ideas and turn them into reality.

As Tech Employee No 1! you’ll get involved in scoping new features as well as design sprints to specify new feature ideas. You will be excited by having sometimes unexpected challenges thrown at you, and approach them as creative learning/growth opportunities. Once the build starts, you’ll be responsible for delivering engineering excellence and building products that meet the expectations of users, while keeping in mind the needs of the business with regard to cost, reliability and scalability. We are particularly interested in your problem-solving approach and ability.

The Person

You are a self-starter with loads of initiative, who enjoys working independently, but also loves being part of a small multidisciplinary team with big ambitions, working in a fast-paced, entrepreneurial environment. Creative and with a can-do attitude and an eye for detail, you’re a natural when it comes to understanding and delivering great technology for our mainly corporate clients. You’re excited about the opportunity to evolve a technology product and explore new avenues for its development. 

Our Culture

Innovation Arts thrives on creating spaces for conversation and collaboration.  Here are some of the team’s answers to the question “why are you here?”

  • [The team and your work] encourages learning, problem-solving and iteration
  • I am empowered to make decisions, and then figure out how to best deliver
  • I love being challenged and challenging others constructively
  • It’s great to spend the day learning, dreaming, adapting, growing…
  • Collaboration, creativity, can-do attitudes.

Your commitment will be rewarded with trust, autonomy and the space to express yourself freely and creatively. We have fun together but also work hard, and are generally guided by using our ‘powers’ for good.

What you’ll achieve

You’ll be responsible for and lead the way on the most challenging technical aspects of our products. You’ll deliver elegant solutions that are enjoyable to use, start meaningful conversations and effect real change for people in organisations. You’ll establish and uphold software development best practice for Games Science and Innovation Arts.

What you do well: Essential

You have at least three years of experience in software development roles (or equivalent track record) and an understanding of how to build production systems. Our products are written in Python and JavaScript, and use frameworks such as Flask, Zappa and React. Experience with these languages is key, but we also prize being a quick learner with real world experience of a broad range of languages and technology. Outside of that, you have:

  • Experience with AWS and setting up infrastructure such as API Gateway, Certificate Manager and CloudFront.
  • Experience building digital products used by real users.
  • A good understanding of the web as a whole and awareness of front-end and back-end best practices.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • Excellent project management and interpersonal skills and the ability to build productive working relationships.
  • Self-confidence and ability to work both independently and collaboratively.
  • A desire to learn and develop.
  • Comfort with working in a start-up environment.

What you do well: Desirable

You have a working knowledge of the process of product development and delivery. You also have experience of scaling digital products and of working in a product team. Proficiency or interest in data visualization would be an advantage. 


The salary is between £40K and £50K, dependent on experience, plus employer pension. We are not yet in a place to offer stock options but this is an amazing opportunity to contribute to and gain experience in a unique experience in a workplace built on creativity, impact and freedom. You will also gain entry to a unique network of highly professional people who work all over the world, and get the chance to work with top people from top organizations.

Planning for disruption: An A,B,C

Monday, February 26th, 2018

Claire is featured in this month’s issue of The HR Director Magazine speaking about how organisations can prepare themselves for disruption and harness the potential of innovation in order to maximise the opportunity it presents. You can read the article in print or online at the link provided below.

Read the full article…

Planning for disruption: An A,B,C

Designing for a Brexit future

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

The UK Referendum result on Brexit has provided us with only one certainty: uncertainty. In the midst of uncertainty, our experience shows that traditional approaches to strategic planning can be downright dangerous. One pitfall is to take a binary view: assuming that the future is either open to precise predictions, or that it is completely unpredictable, and therefore will produce only unpredictable outcomes. Underestimating uncertainty can lead to strategies that neither defend against threats nor take advantage of the opportunities that uncertainty may provide.

In our last blog,we wrote about the questions our clients are asking us about navigating the future as the UK plans to exit the European Union, acknowledging that accepting the uncertainty and asking questions is the right place to start. But we also know that facing uncertainty can be very stressful for organizations and the people within them, because it can be difficult to make decisions and judgments in those conditions. It is a time when we have no playbook to follow; we must rely upon our imaginations and creativity as a source of inspiration to cope with what could happen, which is why working together can produce far better results than going it alone.

It used to be that predicting the future was fairly straightforward for many organizations; by looking at current trends and evaluating the existing landscape, they could make educated guesses about the future, as if the graph would continue in a straight line. However, because of the necessary confidentiality and evolving nature of the Brexit negotiations, there are multiple uncertainties circling, each with its own rich store of conceivable outcomes. Furthermore, it can be difficult to lead in such probabilistic situations: no one wants to hear, “there’s a 68 percent chance we won’t go out of business,” from their boss. No approach will make the challenges of uncertainty go away, but by using collaborative design thinking, scenario planning, and rapidly testing possible hypotheses to explore the challenge in depth, we can help prepare leaders to make more confident strategic decisions when opportunities and or threats from disruption present themselves.

What is Design Thinking with Innovation Arts?

When we work with an executive team on a collaborative design session, we stress the importance of working together as a high-performing team (like those of an emergency room, Everest climbing expeditions or Formula One pit crews) to cope with new information. This relies upon building knowledge of an unfamiliar landscape, exploring the need for collaboration and trust, and seeking out opportunities for innovation, to help anticipate what will be necessary to make the right decisions before the actual need arises. Moreover, we like to work with large groups of 50 or more so we can explore as widely as possible, test and discard many different options before narrowing in on the right solution we can build together to embrace what comes.

Navigating an uncertain future with an approach that is often new to the team can be unsettling. However, the Innovation Arts process is designed to deliver against the objectives we set together with the sponsor team at the start of the process. Your main question might be, “how do we plan for Brexit?” but by working together, we will also uncover a myriad of other relevant questions that will influence your future direction. Using a rapid-iterative, collaborative approach based on the design thinking methodology, we will uncover the forces driving your current organizational approach as well as the likely probable futures to identify how your system will respond. A useful analogy is how the various harmonies of a complex piece of music would sound if one or more different chords are struck.

In a collaborative design session with a client facing Brexit questions, we would encourage them to engage in a scenarios exercise, which would allow them to explore their response to the plausible but unexpected outcomes of the negotiations that might affect their business. In the case of Brexit, this would likely mean understanding which of their structures, frameworks, initiatives and timeframes will be most impacted by Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. After working with the organization’s major stakeholders to understand the basic trends and driving forces in the industry, we would use the information to unearth the key uncertainties in the disrupted landscape. We’d then take the driving forces to the extreme: drastically reduced time frames, radical numbers, dramatic actions—for example, is it possible that a process that today takes twelve months could, in the future, be completed within five days? What would enable that to happen? With whom would you have to work and what would need to be in place? Think about it like training at high altitude for the marathon you plan to run at sea level—similarly, working through a scenarios exercise is about maximizing fitness and readiness for the run ahead. The next step in the process is to work backward to close the gap between that imagined future and the way we work today to start readying ourselves for any eventuality.

Working collaboratively on a thorny problem is an ideal way to get a team prepared for a future they can’t quite envision.

The Innovation Arts process allows an executive team to practice making decisions based on available knowledge, and to build and test flexible systems to manage future events. Even if a team doesn’t know what to expect from the changing environment, working together will prepare them to face any challenge, identifying what to have ready to cope with any new situation (technology, cash reserves, new ways of working, effective communication systems, etc.). By practicing as a high performing team in a scenarios exercise with IA, executive teams who do not normally work together can have the chance to work through the tough questions and make the challenging decisions an uncertain future will inspire, making them more fit and ready to cope when the actual need arises.

For any company working in, or doing business with the UK, this is a deeply turbulent time, full of emotion and predictions about what might happen next. But it is also an exciting time, packed with new opportunities waiting to be explored. It will be impossible to guess the outcome of the ongoing Brexit negotiations, but with careful planning and forethought, major surprises or unexpected disruptions can be avoided, and that is where we can help.

If you have questions about how your organization can use collaborative design thinking exercises to be better prepared for Brexit and would like to work with our team, please contact us at encore@innovation-arts.com.

Innovation Arts is a hybrid strategy consultancy and design agency. Innovation Arts brings a fresh and highly effective approach to stimulating ‘group genius’ through design practices that stretch people’s thinking and initiate ideas. 
Described by GQ as the ‘management consultant of the future’, the Innovation Arts team is a mixture of strategists, management consultants, designers, advertisers, branding and communications experts and artists, all skilled in helping organisations make change happen. It’s a unique blend that helps an organisation think differently about the challenges it’s facing, as well as address them.
Based on their experience of working repeatedly with some of the leading FTSE100 and Fortune 100 companies, governments and civil society organisations, their clients engage them because they deliver systemic, high-quality, sustainable outcomes with less risk, more certainty and in a fraction of the time compared to conventional approaches.