Exploring and visualising systems with Polinode

When we look at something in detail it’s often hard to understand what is really going on behind the scenes. This is particularly true when exploring complex ideas such as business transformation. I’m finding that pictures (rough sketches) help me start to make sense, and visualising networks of ideas take me further.

We need to think in systems to see the interrelatedness of components. 

How might a company’s culture be affected by changing the business model (for example becoming more platform focused). How might harnessing data or technology impact on the customer?

For the past couple of years, I have designed workshop sessions that use the big digital first companies as case studies; to highlight ways of thinking about technology, ways of working, customer centricity and ways of creating value.  

We’ve dived into explorations of Amazon, Google, Facebook, Pokemon Go and Alibaba.  I’m looking to push my students (or course participants) to go beyond what they think they know. They are always surprised about the interlinkages between how these companies operate and their abilities to change, move into new areas and embrace emerging technologies.

These companies never start with technologies; they start with a problem that humans or customers  are trying to solve and then apply technology to address these problems.  In doing so, they adopt new business models and create ways of working that allow rapid change and experimentation. 

Amazon for example, as we all know, started as a book seller, evolved its own systems, atomised these systems to create a data driven service platform for its own use and then made these services available to others. At the same time as it decoupled its technologies (making them resilient and independent) it mirrored this in new ways of working and new ways of running teams and projects.

Traditional companies seeking to learn from these digital giants need to see how making changes to only a small part of a business or tweaking a few processes may have less impact than they expect or have unintended consequences as changes ripple through their business.

Currently I’m excited by networks as a way of visualising some of the important connections between these ideas and I’m loving a tool called Polinode that makes it very simple to visualise and explore the links between ideas.

The process is very simple: describe your network of ideas (as Source, Target, Relationship entries) in a pair of sheets in Excel, upload to Polinode and use the simple but powerful  network tools to visualise and explore patterns in the data.  It’s all in the cloud and there is a free level to get you started.

Singapore MRT as a network

It took less than an hour to model Singapore’s MRT system in Polinode as a way of introducing my students to basic network concepts such as the variety of ways in which network scientists consider “the most important” nodes, clustering and  resiliance. They can then apply these ideas back to explore social, team communication, ownership/investment and ideas networks.

Definitely one to add to your toolkit.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.