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Modeling Leadership @SemanticWill
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Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

Sep 15, 2014

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Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

“By its very nature, design is about exploring, about options, about embracing many disciplines and multiple points of view.Within this sometimes confusing and often contradictory diversity, leadership is the ability to discern vistas and pathways.”

This talk started out as a stone in my shoe. I had been reading on the various UX related lists including the IxDA and IA Institutes mailing lists people complaining about the lack of empowerment they felt in their jobs within organizations. Some of these posts bordered on whiny kvetch-fests saying in essence that they had no influence within the organization; their ideas where not considered; engineering had all the power; or they simply had no seat at the table.

This got me thinking about influence and power, because I knew that over the years, the user experience profession had developed a powerful set of tools for understanding problem spaces, and designing innovative solutions to those problems.

Why complain? Not to put too fine a point on it, but why whine like little bitches suffering from Stockholm Syndrome? Why couldn’t we take activities, methods, and processes from UX itself and try to solve for this problem space. This talk presents a history of management theory, and exploration of the philosophy of power, a deep dive into the attributes of successful leaders, and a list of key attributes that designers seeking power can use to become the leaders that have the ability to become.
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Page 1: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

Modeling Leadership

@SemanticWill

Page 2: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Modeling Leadership

&Traversing Power Structures

Page 3: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

Outline• Quick History

• Power, Authority, Influence

• Organizations as Systems

• Modeling Conversation

• Enframed by language

• The limits of the grammar of efficiency

• The Paine Principle

• Stance, Tools, Experiences

Page 4: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans@SemanticWill | Will Evans

TO PWN A THING, YOU MUST FIRST GROK A THING

Page 5: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Governing Dynamics of Social Systems

Power

Authority

Influence

Page 6: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Let’s start with a little Frederick Taylor and management science

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans@SemanticWill | Will Evans

His ideas about management were informed by the Prussian Military

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans@SemanticWill | Will Evans

His ideas of control where shaped by the penal system of discipline & punish

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Taylor’s ideas about human nature where informed by Freud…

Page 10: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Who did an epic amount of coke.

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans@SemanticWill | Will Evans

But also the more sober ideas of Kurt Lewin – who was first to study group

dynamics

Who was influenced by Max Weber

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Three forms of authority distinguished by Max Weber

Charismatic

Traditional

Rational-Legal

Page 13: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Power is “the probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in a position to carry out

her own will despite resistance”

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Domination is “the probability that a command within a specific context will be obeyed”

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Authority is ‘legitimate domination’

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Authority is more enduring than non-legitimate forms of domination

• Authority is related to the belief in legitimacy

• It may persist even if those obeying have a greater material interest in disobeying

• Authority is engendered by power

Page 17: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Foucault and Power

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Authority is predicated on power

• Power is not a substance. It is not something you possess

• Power is a relation between people

• A set of actions on the actions of others

• Every relation is a power relation

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Exercising power is structuring the field of action of others.

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Power and Knowledge

• Power and Knowledge are intertwingled

• Every field of power creates a body of knowledge

• Every body of knowledge creates a field of power

• Power/Knowledge is a flow.

• Knowledge is encoded in language

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Power is created through 3 axes of subjectivity

Language (knowledge)

Governance (rules)

Ethics (cultural norms)

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Language enframes process;

Process becomes the Panopticon

Page 23: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

SO WHAT OF INFLUENCE?

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Influence is the ability to affect other’s beliefs and behavior without power.

Influence requires a defined context.

That context we’ll call a social system.

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Teams are social systems

Page 26: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

As are organizations

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans

SOCIAL SYSTEMS ARE SYSTEMS OF CONVERSATION

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IF ORGANIZATIONS ARE SYSTEMS OF CONVERSATION

We need a model of conversation to understand power dynamics, decision making, and influence

Page 29: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

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Cybernetic model of conversation

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans

One participant starts with a goal or need

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Context must be articulated

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Shared language is negotiated

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A symbolic token is transmitted

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The symbol is interpreted, and sent back

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Which can lead to further exchanges

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans

And agreement (transaction) can happen

Page 37: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Yeah, but…

Page 38: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Kanban creates a shared context..

Using cards as “social objects”

Which allow teams to have conversations

Page 39: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

ORGANIZATIONS ARE CONVERSATION SYSTEMS

An organization creates itself through conversation with practices encoded in language

A system is defined by boundaries between itself and its environment

Social Systems are created by selecting what is meaningful to reproduce itself (Autopoiesis)

Page 40: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

An organization increases it's efficiency by creating and refining a shared

language.

This common language helps the organization arrive at decisions more

efficiently.

Page 41: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Yet while language fosters efficiency, it also limits the organizations ability to

evolve.

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans

The language and grammar of efficiency is very different from the language of innovation – yet both are necessary

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Constrained by a limited vocabulary, the organization becomes unable to adapt to

exogenous shocks to the system.

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Unable to adapt, the organization eventually declines and dies.

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans

By continually changing its language, and it's conversations, an organization may

continually regenerate itself.

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans

The Paine Principle

An outsider introducing new language may incite radical change

Named after Thomas Paine - an outsider to the America colonies, who brought a new language of radical freedom, and gave a voice to the revolution.

(He was, in essence, translating Voltaire into the context and vernacular of colonial America)

Page 47: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Like any organization, TLC is a set of conversations among people. Like many organizations faced with the market

conditions it sees itself, it needed to change to meet new challenges.

Page 48: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

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TLC couldn’t use it’s existing language & conversations to change the way it handled adversity.

So it sought new languages… and a new grammar for structuring conversations.

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans

To support an organizations future viability, effective decision makers actively introduce change into the system.

They do so by generating new language that appropriate groups in the organization come to understand or embrace.

Page 50: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Design Thinking brought about a new way for teams to collaborate and produce value, but it

also introduced a new language of collaboration as well as a grammar.

Page 51: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

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• For organizations to regenerate itself, it must first recognize the limitations of its current language. Then it must seek new language domains, and translate them into conversations the organization may understand and embrace.

Page 52: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

WHAT IS THE ROLE OF LEADERSHIP?

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Leaderships role is…

• About the reduction of uncertainty?

• About reinforcing shared values?

• Creating a framework for conversations?

• Introduction of new languages?

• Strategic reduction (or introduction) of friction?

Page 54: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

It’s the role of leaders within an organization to incubate and then

introduce new languages

Page 55: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

A thought…

• You cannot use the language of the past to articulate a vision for the future.

• Current language can only write a narrative of futures past.

Page 56: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Stance, Tools & Experiences

Page 57: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Stance

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Tools

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research personas mental modelsconceptual

models

task flows sketchingopen card-

sorting strategy brief

Use UX tools to explore social graphs

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Experiences

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Review

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans

❯ Define the problem space Understand the governing dynamics of social ❯

systems Defined Power, Authority and Influence within a social ❯

graph Stated that social systems are systems of ❯

conversation Modeled Conversation❯ Modeled Framing: Stance, Tools, Experience❯ .... mapping influence in organizations❯

So where are we?

Page 63: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Place all the actors

Page 64: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Ask the Ten “Who’s”

1. Who is making the decision?

2. Who else will effect that decision?

3. Besides those players, are there other players?

4. Who else effects those players?

5. Who supports this outcome?

6. Who is against this outcome?

7. Who benefits?

8. Who loses? Or Who thinks they lose?

9. Who loves the Status Quo?

10.Who hates the Status Quo?

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Add all salient factors

Page 66: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Cluster them by context

Your team

External team

External Company

Country

Society

Page 67: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Define their roles

define roles

champion

boss

peer

gatekeeper

pawn

Page 68: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

For all primary roles, ask these questions:

1. Who are the actors?

2. What are their roles?

3. For each actor, what do they value?

4. What is the very next outcome you need to get close to your goal?

5. Return to 3

6. Traverse across the graph

Page 69: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

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Traverse the Graph

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@SemanticWill | Will Evans

Page 71: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

• The task of discovering the requisite variety of tools and disciplines is iterative.

• The source of new languages is questions – questions that spark new conversations

Page 72: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

As a leader, ask yourself…

• What questions should you be asking?

Page 73: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

As a leader, ask yourself…

• What questions should you be asking?

• What questions are you not supposed to ask?

Page 74: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

As a leader, ask yourself…

• What questions should you be asking?

• What questions are you not supposed to ask?

• > Ask those.

Page 75: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

As a leader, ask yourself…

• What questions should you be asking?

• What questions are you not supposed to ask?

• > Ask those.

• Ask questions that don’t come easy.

Page 76: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

@SemanticWill | Will Evans

As a leader, ask yourself…

• What questions should you be asking?

• What questions are you not supposed to ask?

• > Ask those.

• Ask questions that don’t come easy.

• Ask the questions that are tough, awkward, taboo.

Page 77: Modeling Leadership & Traversing Power Structures

Thanks!

Will Evans | @SemanticWill

tlclabs.co