Photos from Designed Leadership Book Launches

The last few weeks have been “launch heavy”.  Another one coming up at INFORM on Thursday October 5th.    Here is the link:  INFORM Launch

And on Wednesday October 11, there is a launch/lecture at OCAD in Toronto:  To book your ticket:  It is free!  6-7:30pm.

From the September 21st Launch at the Vancouver Club

VC Roof Deck launch

From the September 28th Launch at Deloitte (thank you Michelle Osry!)

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Image 2017-10-01 at 11.16 AM
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Introduction to the Principles of Designed Leadership

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

Introduction to the Principles of Designed Leadership

Designed Leadership

“Designed leadership depends on having some sort of problem-solving or opportunity-seeking process to help you when you need to plan or when you are ‘stuck.’ Even when you may not be quite sure of where you are going, having a thinking process is essential. It is a touchstone along the journey.” — Moura Quayle

This week, our featured book is Designed Leadership, by Moura Quayle. Today, Quayle provides an introduction to the principles of designed leadership she discusses at greater length in her book.


Introduction to the Principles of Designed Leadership
By Moura Quayle

Looking at familiar places, I realized that the last time I had worked in our capital city was in the private sector, as the principal of a built environment design business – it would now be called a “start-up.” Close to four decades later, looking out my government office window when tasked with reviewing and updating a system of twenty five institutions with assets in around fifty locations and links in a hundred countries, serving over one hundred eighty thousand students, and governed by twenty five boards with combined operating budgets of $1.6 billion, I wondered what in the world prepared me for this task. The products I was dealing with were ideas and people, with no common bricks and mortar, or other tangible form. My task was providing leadership for organizational and institutional transformation.

Yet I felt comfortable and confident in using a strategic design approach. Over the previous quarter century I had studied and applied it, scaled up and out. More importantly, perhaps, I had learned the importance of the old saw that to go far you need to go with others. When applying risk management and fiscal accountability in integrating diverse interests, this meant building common understanding of terms of reference and decision-making values as well as information infrastructure. When the context is complex and dynamic for the long-term, the skills are not intuitive but learned. Designed leadership.

I realized that using strategic design in leadership roles is a way of looking at the principled pragmatism of getting things done. Design is a process driving towards a solution – a product, a service, or sometimes something intangible. When done well, the results have both utility and the elegance of complex inputs resolved. Yet when the solutions are held accountable to diverse interests and standards, silos of expertise are often the cause of structural and cognitive barriers. A new set of skills and knowledge is required. Rarely do experts weave together human nature, business pragmatism, and political influences to update and upgrade systems, products, or organizations. From one perspective, my work is at the increasingly hybrid convergence of diverse public, private, special and self-interests in a digital age.

Designed leadership depends on having some sort of problem-solving or opportunity-seeking process to help you when you need to plan or when you are “stuck.” Even when you may not be quite sure of where you are going, having a thinking process is essential. It is a touchstone along the journey. Therefore, job one is becoming comfortable with a problem-solving process. As result of designing a business innovation course at the UBC Sauder School of Business, my colleagues and I came up with ASK.TRY.DO., which essentially serves as a hook for remembering the strategic-design method. The excitement around innovation and learning to live with ambiguity and failing fast is one example, but even then often some pragmatic layer is overlooked – perhaps finances, perhaps public safety regulations, perhaps systems for sustained markets. So informed inquiry, testing and updating, getting it done, and following up to improve and upgrade are not new ideas for those in quality management. However, the scope and complexity with which designed leadership works with may be.

A vital link in strategic design and leadership is the idea of using principles to link values to actions. More specifically, principles guide decisions and provide common points of reference for performance, accountability, and improvement. In Designed Leadership, I note ten principles that I learned, and relearned, and relearned, which allow me to work with amazing people from different cultures, education, expertise, and levels of experience to get things done. These principles are derived from theories that are the platform of built environment design that is my background: landscape architecture and urban design. I thought about the various ways that we make decisions and test ideas in the built environment – and then imagined how useful they could be to the strategic design of organizations or services. Here they are:

  1. 1. Make Values Explicit
  2. 2. Know Place and Experience
  3. 3. Value Diversity
  4. 4. Emphasize Edges and Boundaries
  5. 5. Bridge Gaps and Make Connections
  6. 6. Evaluate for Fit, Scale, and Context
  7. 7. Learn from Natural Systems
  8. 8. Apply the Jane Jacobs Test
  9. 9. Attend to Patterns
  10. 10. Never Finished but Always Complete

As a background to the principles, I emphasize different kinds of values: core values (like accountability, effectiveness and respect), process values (like complexity, resilience and diversity), and foundation values (like long-term, cost-effective, efficient). These values form the basis for the principles and for the practice of designed leadership.

In the book, I also dip my toe into the cognitive science of decision-making and the evolution of strategic design in business thinking as examples of both the scope of relevant information and of the convergence in diverse disciplines around these ideas. There are also chapters on thinking visually and spatially, places to practice designed leadership, learning and education, and some case studies.

Of the half-dozen concluding takeaways, perhaps the most important is that of continual learning. I had fun working on this book and look forward to correcting, improving, and updating it. Designed leadership is always a work in progress; indeed, that is also its strength and what keeps our organizations dynamic and young.

Look for the next blog on unpacking some of the principles of designed leadership.

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CUP Blog: Designed Leadership: Principle 1: Make Values Explicit

Monday, August 28th, 2017

Designed Leadership: Principle 1: Make Values Explicit

Designed Leadership

“In the world of designed leadership, values are essential underpinnings for key principles and practices. What is the use of identifying values in an organization if you don’t use them on a daily basis for decision-making?” — Moura Quayle

The following is a guest post from Moura Quayle, author of Designed Leadership. Over the next several weeks, Quayle will take readers through all ten of her designed leadership principles in a series of posts.

Designed Leadership: Principle 1: Make Values Explicit
By Moura Quayle

This post is about the first principle of Designed Leadership – making values explicit. The other nine principles will be explored over the next few posts.

There is not much that is more important in this world than awareness of what we value—and of what those values are. As I was pulling together my leadership experiences in writing Designed Leadership, I realized that there are different kinds of value sets that are useful in making decisions on everything from the strategic plans for organizations to household decisions around the types of financial institutions we use or the philanthropic choices that we make. There are core values, process values, and foundation values. The value you hold also drive your approach to the strategic design method—a collaborative, visual, disciplined thinking method for tackling complex problems (small and large) and systemic challenges.

As I write in my book: “In designed leadership, values are strategic markers to orient principles and provide touchstones for assessments of incremental or final performance. This accountability (also a value) is fundamental to the effectiveness of designed leadership—it’s the value-add of the design process generally.”

Core values such as accountability, effectiveness, elegance, and respect are defined only as a means to aggregate other components or meta-values. When I started thinking about what values are “core,” accountability popped up as a key one. And it isn’t simple to identify what accountability means beyond the usual financial or accounting business context. I also have accountability to myself and my colleagues around my relationships and my work. Similarly, effectiveness means different things to different people. If accountability is assessment of external values, then effectiveness is an assessment of internal values which range from communication to process understanding to getting the job done. Elegance is maybe one of my favourite core values and perhaps an unusual one for some people. Elegant solutions are something to strive for whether you are a math whiz, a coder, or the US ambassador to France. The elegant outcome is one that takes complex inputs and makes the solution look easy. Elegant solutions are achieved through hard work and intention. Finally, respect is core, process, and foundation all rolled together for designed leadership. It is essential, aspirational, and learned. Respect is how we can acknowledge and learn about the many belief systems that exist in our world. Most importantly, people have to feel respected before they can be comfortable with change, and these days change is constant.

Process values—complexity, resilience, diversity, erudition—bring another perspective to intentional design. They direct and guide us through any thinking and problem solving methodology. We run across complicated problems on a day-to-day basis and usually find a way to solve them. However, complex problems can stop us in our tracks. These complex problems are often called messy or wicked problems these days. The wicked problem terminology came from Horst Rittel and his colleagues at UC Berkeley. I had the great experience of taking a course from Rittel so was introduced to this “type” of problem early in my career. These are problems that are difficult to define and owned by many. The strategic design method is great to help unpack them. Resilience, diversity, and erudition are values that are key in designed leadership where adaptability, robustness, openness and earning are essential.
Foundation values are perhaps the ones that we are most used to identifying as values: honesty, cost-effectiveness practicality, and being organized. As David Fushtey (governance guy) says, “Today, in value terms, everything matters.” Designed leadership acknowledges this fact and embraces the idea that everything does matter.

The ten principles for designed leadership illuminate how a designer mindset applies to leadership and what principles are useful to apply in life and in work. The first of these ten principles, Make Values Explicit, illustrates the centrality of values in designed leadership.

Principle 1. Make Values Explicit: Make values explicit to communicate more consistently with others in decision making, oversight, and accountability assessments.

In the world of designed leadership, values are essential underpinnings for key principles and practices. What is the use of identifying values in an organization if you don’t use them on a daily basis for decision-making? At the British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education we tried various ways of integrating values into our decision-making processes, including making them an explicit part of the agenda. This involved co-creating the agenda at the beginning of our meetings and keeping visual reminders around the meeting table. It also required discipline on behalf of the executive to connect our discussions and decisions to our values. “Good designed leadership makes values explicit, stating them in easy-to-understand terms, followed by principles and, often, by guidelines or standards. This way, the values are connected and can be used transparently and openly to inform decision-making. Designed leadership demands elasticity of thinking—being able to take a value like ‘respect,’ and articulate what it means to be respectful, as well as what it means to be disrespectful. This type of discussion helps us more deeply understand values and what they mean.”

Value discussions can cause tension as we cross disciplines and start talking business and design. We have different languages and use words in different ways. “Language is the medium we use to explore and learn, to grow and change—based on our values. So, connecting the languages of business and the language of design has the potential to create new language and new behavior—and ideally, new approaches to problem solving.”

“It is vitally important to clarify your own values, and to work with colleagues to define the key values of a community or organization. Once defined, it is important to use values in decision making and strategic thinking.”

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Designed Leadership by Moura Quayle

Designed Leadership cover

Great leaders aspire to manage “by design” – with a sense of purpose and foresight. But too few leaders incorporate the proven practices and principles of the design disciplines. That should change with Designed Leadership. Here, strategic-design scholar and urban systems designer Moura Quayle presents a clear and accessible handbook for understanding and incorporating design lessons and processes into leadership applications. For example, every designer knows that failure – essential to innovation – is catastrophic in implementation; it’s why designers created studios in which to test ideas. It’s expressed in the indispensable concept of ASK. TRY. DO. Designers also know how to learn from natural systems. They know it is vital to make values explicit. From artists to architects, engineers to inventors, design practitioners know that strategic design loosens the mind and activates innovation. For managers at any level, Designed Leadership uses original visuals and field-tested examples to illuminate the kind of thinking, theorizing, and practice that results in long-lasting high performance in the workplace and beyond.

15May17 Designed Leadership flier


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From Greenways-Publicways to the Resilient City

In the December 2016 Sitelines (BCSLA) edited by Alan Duncan, there is a short piece called::  From Greenways-Publicways to the Resilient City.  In it, I promise a link to the Greenways-Publicways Report.

Sitelines December Issue


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Planta Road: The Brown House

This gallery contains 22 photos.

The Brown House was built around 1914.  It is where I grew up — well from age 12.

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Planta Point: the Beach House

This gallery contains 19 photos.

Planta Point: the Beach House. 3550 Stephenson Point Road.  Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada Here are some selected shots of the Beach House in Gallery format.  Refer to the post on the “Planta Point Story” for more info.      

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