Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies

Envisioning Innovation in Service Systems: Induction, Abduction and Deduction

In engagements with clients/customers, my work often includes system envisioning: facilitating the description of a collective desirable future (on a horizon of maybe 1 to 3 years out).  Once a group has converged on a future state or vision, moving forward is merely a matter of will.  Defining that future state, however, is more art than science.  In addition, with many more businesses operating as service systems, getting a handle on the invisible work that will be performed can be a challenge.  Work practices will coevolve with new technologies in ways unfamiliar to experiences to date.

In discussions with my colleagues, differences between their engagement approach and mine became clearer.  I understand and appreciate the process-based methods (e.g. process consultation by Ed Schein) used by large consulting teams, but my typical engagement is now timeboxed to a few weeks elapsed time, with just a few interviewers.  Some executive sponsors may ask for an interview guide in advance of coming onsite, but I don’t use a formally-structured guide.  The context for 60-to-90 minute interviews are light — we want people to talk about time-intensive activities and annoyances in their jobs — and generally find that interviewees would be happy if small adjustment could be made so that each would have to do less work.

Reflecting on these methods, I’ve seen a pattern of three stages in this approach:

  • (1) Induction: Rather than coming in with a preconceived model of how work gets done in a particular business, let those closest to the activities speak freely.  From the data collected, converge on common patterns in issues and/or problems that can be reviewed, validated and prioritized for resolution.
  • (2) Abduction: Test the feasibility and desirability of various alternative paths and/or options.  The future could be a small step from current practices, or a bigger leap where some discomfort may occur.  Evaluation of the preferred future state is subjective, coalescing around sensemaking with a variety of perspectives being voiced.
  • (3) Deduction: Once the desired future state is clear, then constructing a roadmap to get from the current state is relatively straightforward.

This whole idea has been expanded in a paper, “Envisioning Innovation in Service Systems: Induction, Abduction and Deduction”, presented at the ISSS Brisbane 2009 meeting, and now posted on the Coevolving Innovation Commons.  Here’s the abstract.

An initiative to transform or redesign a service system can be centered on envisioning a future that may be explicit or implicit, shared or tacit. When that future represents a discontinuous change from the current state, detailed analysis from a single frame (e.g. process modeling) may mislead or confuse collective choices and priorities.

Four envisioning engagements – across a variety of  service businesses – are reviewed as case studies to surface commonalities in approach. Success in the engagements has largely been attributed to the sequencing of consultations into sequential phases of induction, abduction and then deduction. Challenges to adoption of this three-phase approach are outlined, as a departure from current practice in envisioning innovations.

Following an inductive style of description, conclusions are presented with theoretical saturation of research concepts based on the philosophy of phenomenology.

The levels of skills required to successfully execute this approach aren’t clear, so I won’t claim that the method is universally replicable.  In addition, techniques are unlikely to scale when the engagement team gets large.  For more details, see the full paper.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • RSS qoto.org/@daviding (Mastodon)

    • daviding: “Pre-announcing April 30 Dialogic Drinks session I'm leading …” April 23, 2024
      Pre-announcing April 30 Dialogic Drinks session I'm leading on "#Yinyang and Daojia into #SystemsThinking through Changes", online 18:30 Singapore, 11:30 London, 6:30am Toronto. Repeating May 2, 8:00pm ET. Official #EQLab notifications https://www.eqlab.co/newsletter-signup
    • daviding: “Diachrony (or diachronic shifts) resurrects a word from 1857…” April 10, 2024
      Diachrony (or diachronic shifts) resurrects a word from 1857, better expressing *changes through time*. A social practice publication in 1998 contrasts synchronic with diachronic. https://ingbrief.wordpress.com/2024/04/10/diachronic-diachrony/
    • daviding: “Web video introduction of 15 minutes for 1-hour Lunch and Le…” March 22, 2024
      Web video introduction of 15 minutes for 1-hour Lunch and Learn #CentreForSocialInnovationToronto on "Systems Changes Dialogues for Social Innovation" invites practitioners for upcoming monthly meetings. Evocative animated images, details deferred to conversations with mentors. https://coevolving.com/blogs/index.php/archive/systems-changes-dialogues-csi/#SystemsThinking
    • daviding: “Web video of slides from "From Unfreezing-Refreezing, to Sys…” March 21, 2024
      Web video of slides from "From Unfreezing-Refreezing, to Systems Changes Learning" for Dialogic Drinks of #EQLab represents only 1/5 of the time compared to peer-led discussions. Concise hosting called for brevity, and richer presentations. https://coevolving.com/blogs/index.php/archive/from-unfreezing-refreezing-eq-lab/ #SystemsThinking
    • daviding: “Hosting multiple Dialogic Drinks on "From Unfreezing-Refreez…” March 8, 2024
      Hosting multiple Dialogic Drinks on "From Unfreezing-Refreezing, to Systems Changes Learning" online, March 12 (Europe), March 14 (Americas), March 15 (Australia). #Leadership meets #SystemsThinking . Short presentations, longer discussions https://www.eqlab.co/from-unfreezing-refreezing-to-systems-changes-learning-david-ing
  • RSS on IngBrief

    • The Nature and Application of the Daodejing | Ames and Hall (2003)
      Ames and Hall (2003) provide some tips for those studyng the DaoDeJing.
    • Diachronic, diachrony
      Finding proper words to express system(s) change(s) can be a challenge. One alternative could be diachrony. The Oxford English dictionary provides two definitions for diachronic, the first one most generally related to time. (The second is linguistic method) diachronic ADJECTIVE Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “diachronic (adj.), sense 1,” July 2023, https://doi.org/10.1093/OED/3691792233. For completeness, prochronic relates “to […]
    • Introduction, “Systems Thinking: Selected Readings, volume 2”, edited by F. E. Emery (1981)
      The selection of readings in the “Introduction” to Systems Thinking: Selected Readings, volume 2, Penguin (1981), edited by Fred E. Emery, reflects a turn from 1969 when a general systems theory was more fully entertained, towards an urgency towards changes in the world that were present in 1981. Systems thinking was again emphasized in contrast […]
    • Introduction, “Systems Thinking: Selected Readings”, edited by F. E. Emery (1969)
      In reviewing the original introduction for Systems Thinking: Selected Readings in the 1969 Penguin paperback, there’s a few threads that I only recognize, many years later. The tables of contents (disambiguating various editions) were previously listed as 1969, 1981 Emery, System Thinking: Selected Readings. — begin paste — Introduction In the selection of papers for this […]
    • Concerns with the way systems thinking is used in evaluation | Michael C. Jackson, OBE | 2023-02-27
      In a recording of the debate between Michael Quinn Patton and Michael C. Jackson on “Systems Concepts in Evaluation”, Patton referenced four concepts published in the “Principles for effective use of systems thinking in evaluation” (2018) by the Systems in Evaluation Topical Interest Group (SETIG) of the American Evaluation Society. The four concepts are: (i) […]
    • Quality Criteria for Action Research | Herr, Anderson (2015)
      How might the quality of an action research initiative be evaluated? — begin paste — We have linked our five validity criteria (outcome, process, democratic, catalytic, and dialogic) to the goals of action research. Most traditions of action research agree on the following goals: (a) the generation of new knowledge, (b) the achievement of action-oriented […]
  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • RSS on daviding.com

  • RSS on Media Queue

    • What to Do When It’s Too Late | David L. Hawk | 2024
      David L. Hawk (American management theorist, architect, and systems scientist) has been hosting a weekly television show broadcast on Bold Brave Tv from the New York area on Wednesdays 6pm ET, remotely from his home in Iowa. Live, callers can join…Read more ›
    • 2021/06/17 Keekok Lee | Philosophy of Chinese Medicine 2
      Following the first day lecture on Philosophy of Chinese Medicine 1 for the Global University for Sustainability, Keekok Lee continued on a second day on some topics: * Anatomy as structure; physiology as function (and process); * Process ontology, and thing ontology; * Qi ju as qi-in-concentrating mode, and qi san as qi-in-dissipsating mode; and […]
    • 2021/06/16 Keekok Lee | Philosophy of Chinese Medicine 1
      The philosophy of science underlying Classical Chinese Medicine, in this lecture by Keekok Lee, provides insights into ways in which systems change may be approached, in a process ontology in contrast to the thing ontology underlying Western BioMedicine. Read more ›
    • 2021/02/02 To Understand This Era, You Need to Think in Systems | Zeynep Tufekci with Ezra Klein | New York Times
      In conversation, @zeynep with @ezraklein reveal authentic #SystemsThinking in (i) appreciating that “science” is constructed by human collectives, (ii) the west orients towards individual outcomes rather than population levels; and (iii) there’s an over-emphasis on problems of the moment, and…Read more ›
    • 2019/04/09 Art as a discipline of inquiry | Tim Ingold (web video)
      In the question-answer period after the lecture, #TimIngold proposes art as a discipline of inquiry, rather than ethnography. This refers to his thinking On Human Correspondence. — begin paste — [75m26s question] I am curious to know what art, or…Read more ›
    • 2019/10/16 | “Bubbles, Golden Ages, and Tech Revolutions” | Carlota Perez
      How might our society show value for the long term, over the short term? Could we think about taxation over time, asks @carlotaprzperez in an interview: 92% for 1 day; 80% within 1 month; 50%-60% tax for 1 year; zero tax for 10 years.Read more ›
  • Meta

  • Creative Commons License
    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
    Theme modified from DevDmBootstrap4 by Danny Machal