Rewiring Organizational thinking | Adjunct Professor | Speaker | Trainer | Researcher
My passion is building teams that pursue bolder targets by thinking bigger, starting smaller but moving faster.
Effectual innovation is an approach to bootstrapping transformative innovation in organizations that leads to an organic shift in mindset, skillset, behavior, and ultimately culture. At the heart of effectual innovation is effectuation with a focus on creating the best possible futures with what we already have and without taking on undue risk. It advocates the creation of ‘wild spaces’ at the edges of our organizations. These are spaces of maximum diversity where new things can be tried, and the chances of positive contagion are at their highest. It is about growing new possibilities that enhance or replace the core rather than trying to change the core.
I have over 28 years of experience working on and leading innovation projects in a range of leading organizations. I have guided individuals and teams in EMC, Dell, IBM, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Central Bank of Ireland, Bank of Ireland, etc. In 2011 I was awarded a Ph.D. for my action-based research into the innovation models of organizations.
I’m Co-Founder and Chair of the Digital Transformation Lab at Cork University Business School, which is a peer-learning network for sharing digital transformation best practices.
What attracted you to data management or IT, and why did you choose to pursue this career?
As a 14-year-old living in Ireland, I purchased my first home computer (a Sinclair ZX Spectrum). My love affair with programming had commenced! I continued this interest into university and into my early career as a software engineer with GEC. My immersion in data modeling, systems analysis, and system design grew as I progressed toward managing and leading enterprise architecture projects. In the 1990s, I began offering consultancy services that introduced a human-centered design approach to driving business value from the data assets of large organizations in Ireland and the UK. For me, data and design are complementary in releasing the trapped value in our organizations.
What has been your greatest career accomplishment so far, and why has it been important to your career?
I’m a passionate advocate for using evidence-based approaches that bring together the latest research, practice, and pedagogy. I’m proud of my involvement in the creation of an approach to transformative innovation, called effectual innovation. It has emerged out of my Ph.D. research and out of engagements with leading global organizations and experts. I have long advocated the fusion of data and design skills to tackle the challenges of thriving in an increasingly complex digital world. I was involved in the design and delivery of one of the first educational programs in the world focusing on bringing these skills to a wider management and leadership audience.
What are the two or three biggest challenges you face as a data management professional / CDO and how can we address them?
In the past, there has been a focus on developing technical and (more recently) digital literacies in organizations. However, data literacy is now one of the most pressing issues facing this profession and our client companies. We are accused of building advanced technical solutions that are having a limited impact on the critical decisions being made in organizations. Related to this is a growing realization of the need for ‘data by design’ approaches, whereby we combine empathy and evidence in the design of more appropriate human-centered solutions. This requires a design literacy that is largely missing from our profession. Thirdly, we need storytellers that can engage with businesses in the language of business value.
How do you see data management / the role of the CDO / IT changing in the next 2 – 3 years?
I’m currently involved in a research initiative that is interviewing leading data experts. It is interesting how (compared to 5 years ago) there is now a growing emphasis on value-driven (rather than data-driven) transformation. There is a mounting call for data professionals to explain their data initiatives through the language of business value. An increasing number of experts are talking about the power of storytelling as a way for data professionals to involve themselves in deeper conversations with organizational stakeholders. These conversations can be a source of key insights for uncovering high-impact collaborative data projects and in explaining the value that data can bring to organizations.
Do you have any planned next steps for your career?
I hope to continue combining the best research, practice, and pedagogy in collaborating with parties interested in bringing effectual innovation and design-led data practices to a wider audience.
What is the single best piece of advice you have received in your data management / IT career so far? Why has it been so important to you?
“If you can’t teach it, you won’t be able to scale it”– Ed Morrison, Architect of Strategic Doing
This resonates with the way I see the world and the need to share best practices through peer-supported learning and teaching. It is fantastic to see DataManagementU supporting a similar ethos.
Can you share something about yourself as a person that people wouldn’t know about you?
At home, we have a potbelly pig called Geoffrey, who not liking the dark or cold, sleeps each night in our house!
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