Find out more in the Video, and in the Question & Answers below.
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Questions & Answers
Q: I understand that time, is a key theme here, can you explain more?
A: Yes. Time, is actually one of the key components of this method, and what makes it different to most other innovation methods. By illustrating the past, present, and future as the key elements of time, this method highlights clearer how project members are shifting their mental model/structures during a project. It also attempts to underscore that history and context are important, and the use of feedback loops, as a way to check projects are still on track, that they are still relevant, or to adapt to unforeseen events for example. An innovation tool that, although different in its' approach, also builds on historical trends to project into the future, to develop strategies in the present, is the work done by Simon Wardley.
Q: Does this method work for any project?
A: To date, the method frames well the basic evolution of innovation projects. Within one large project, there are normally many sub-projects inside it. And project groups will find, that the sub-projects will be moving around the method (maybe more than once), whilst the overall project moves around at a different pace. For example, this web page describing the multi-loop method is now in the evaluation stage, whilst the complete website (v1) is still in mid development...
Q: Is it a one size fits all method?
A: Yes... ...and No. The method is the overview, the tools and processes used within the four main stages are diverse and flexible. For example, stage 1 'Discover & Frame', can involve, workshops, interviews, data analysis, site visits, systems research, presentations... and stage 3 is probably the most diverse, as each project scale and type requires specific processes and tools relative to that context.
Q: What broad trends have you seen using this method?
A: The Method benefits a lot from a mix of skills, motivations and outlooks, within the project team. For example, the 'Map' part can be dominated by researchers and designers or project managers; and this group can sometimes get caught up in theory, and never progress into the 'Make' part. In other situations, those people that prefer to be in tangible action, maybe engineers, or managers for example, can be eager to start the 'Make' part without sometimes even doing much (or virtually none) of the 'Map' part. Both the 'Map' and 'Make' are equally important, and so it is up to the group to understand the complete method, and the different biases and strengths of different team members.
There is also often a split in the group with those comfortable in the left and those more comfortable in the right.
It is up to those responsible for facilitating the project to manage these different tendencies and try to bring out the benefits, and reduce the potential conflicts.
Q: In the video, when describing the 'Discover & Frame' stage, the feedback arrow uses the same arrow as in the 'Evaluate & Improve' stage; shouldn't the feedback arrow stay in the 'Discover & Frame' quadrant of the diagram?
A: Good question. No. In fact, this feedback arrow from the 'Discover & Frame' stage is an evaluation. It is the evaluation made, by individuals or the project group as a whole, of the discover and framing work made so far. This also applies to the feedback arrow shown during the 'Develop & Deliver' stage; particularly if using agile processes, a constant checking of how the project relates back to the original definition ('Imagine & Define' stage), and if things need to be changed due to new unforeseen events, is being made.
Q: Somehow it reminds me, in some way, of the 'Double-Diamond' method developed by the UK Design Council; am I right that there are some links?
A: Yes. One of the Double Diamonds' (see links at the end) main strength is that it visualises in the illustration how projects go through multiple divergent (opening), and convergent (closing) phases within a project. And this has been taken into account in the Multi-loop Method. Each of the four main phases has a divergent and convergent phase. For example, 'Discover' is divergent, and 'Framing' is convergent; 'Imagine' is divergent, and 'Define' is convergent; 'Developing is divergent as it is still unknown technically how the concept will be exactly made, and 'Deliver' is convergent as a product is shipped or a service is provided; 'Evaluation' is divergent as many elements can be measured or reviewed, and 'Improve' is convergent as it is where selected and prioritised actions are made.
In summary, the project team moves from left to right across the map, using the top and bottom quadrants, but leading from the top. Then, after the 'Imagine & Define' phase is complete, the team moves along the bottom, right to left, again using the bottom and top, but leading from the bottom.
This method is based on experience in, and leading, innovation projects, and work by others, particularly the UK Design Council (double-diamond) - which visualises the divergent and convergent stages within projects; behavioural economist Dan Ariely - amongst other interesting topics, has studied the knowledge and desirability gap; and Daniel H. Pink - his work covering how we move people from one mental state to another.
Last edited on the 05/02/2016 v.1.5
Behind the Method
Whenever there is a project method that draws an arrow from top to bottom, or left to right, it is already mixing managing time - the resource that often seems the most limited in businesses - with managing learning. Time may be linear (lets not get into the physics of time - just yet;-)), but knowledge development is not. And this is really what is being managed in a new project - moving ourselves and others from one mental model or state to another. And this is cyclic, or perhaps better thought - like a spiral: we build on what we knew before, and come to a point we understood previously, but this time with greater insight, so at a higher level. And so, although all project managers need to manage time, this shouldn't be the backbone of a mental structure (the method image) that is supposed to help us think about how a project develops.
For example, often we may feel like we have gone 'back to the beginning' or we are re-opening the 'why's' of a project (which are often asked at the beginning) when, at least in terms of time, we may be half way through the process. But the new 'why's' that are being asked at this stage, will often be more pertinent, and closer to the new reality than those asked at the start of the project. So, we are not moving backwards, we are simply clarifying that our understanding of reality fits with the new reality - shifting back and forth in the image (from the left or the right) back to the centre. However, if a project method shows a linear time line, then obviously it looks like we are going backwards.
It is also fitting, that this method is non-linear, as innovation and projects being developed in the blue and circular economy, and nature itself is non-linear. A non-linear tool, for a non-linear reality.