Hybrid Thinking – just old wine in new bottles ?

Hybrid Thinking – just old wine in new bottles?

When preparing my guest lecture at Fresenius university of applied sciences in Cologne in December 2015 on “Hybrid Thinking” I asked myself what I would answer if a student would ask that question: Is hybrid thinking just old wine in a new disguise ? Of course, there is very little breakthrough innovation in management science, so I tried to dig deeper and want to share my thoughts with you here.

What is Hybrid Thinking about ?

As you might know, Hybrid Thinking integrates service design thinking with other schools of thought. According to Dev Parnaik it takes on more complex problems though, such as Next Generation Air Traffic Control Systems versus more “simple” problems tackled by service design thinking such as developing a new aeroplane. And furthermore, Hybrid Thinking is supposed to take a more human centered approach by putting the co-creation of different type of personalities at the core.My  definition of Hybrid Thinking however is the following:

HYBRID THINKING is the individual combination of Design Thinking with empathy, human-centered perspective and other schools of thought to solve today´s wicked problems that are characteristic for the hyperconnected global economy

I completely agree with Dev that in our world where we need to manage complex problems, we can´t only relay on rational left brain type of thinking and that using our right side of the brain makes great sense. I also believe that so-called “Hybrid Thinkers”  or “T-Shaped Personalities” will be beneficial for any company. Hey, who wouldn´t like someone who´s a great expert in one field and at the same time someone who knows a good deal of just about everything. And which executive wouldn´t say that he wants to hire someone who is creative, emphatic, integrative, can live with ambuigity, optimisitic, likes to experment and who is the perfect collaborator ? But how many of these people do actually exist out there ?


Why we need Hybrid Thinking

I think hybrid thinking is a a good way to address the increased complexity of nowadays digital life. When you look back ten or twenty years in your life – how would you rate the complexity to manage daily work and private life, just to keep afloat ? How has the way changed that you learn ? How do you communicate differently ?This fantastic video inspired me when thinking about how my life got so complex…


Source: Youtube

If your answers are somewhat similar to the ones I give to this question, it will become very clear that we are dealing with a much higher level of complexity and speed today. In order to manage that successfully, new schools of thoughts won´t harm. And increasing digitalization will require more and more ways to deal with ever increasing speed and complexity. To achieve simplicity is key to be successful today and in the future.

How can Hybrid Thinking help with Digital Transformation ?

In the matrix at the beginning of this article, I have synthesized Professor Jay Rao´s assumption that we are at a point where not only problems are unknown but also solutions with Dev Parnaik´s Hybrid Thinking approach. You can see

I believe that there are many good examples for this. Just take cars for instance. When Google or Apple are building their (autonomous driving) cars, they do not base their development very much on experiences gained by Porsche or other established Automotive OEMs – they go from scratch, because the problem they tackle can´t be solved with known solutions on how to burn fuel in a most efficient way for example. By the way, for other auto makers they might become a real competitor, e.g. given Uber´s plans of shifting towards autonomous driving…  but for Porsche it´s not the value proposition to get from A to B but rather the driving experience

I don´t believe that building the type of car that Apple or Google might have in mind would benefit a lot from the knowledge that engineers from Porsche have

Dr. Sven Lorenz, CIO of Porsche at Handelsblatt Euroforum on January 19th, 2015 answering the question if Porsche fears Google or Apple to hire their best engineers

There are many more examples that rising complexity requires new forms of dealing with the requirements in the era of digital transformation. This fuels open innovation efforts as well as new forms of organization development. I found the following sequence very interesting. It gives some insight on innovative ways to collaborate with other companies to closed the digital talent gaps for organizations that go more and more digital.

Source: Youtube

How to get started

Well if you ask yourself how to be a hybrid thinker, you got a couple of hints on how to develop your personality above. But well, you might be looking for some rather pragmatic hints. Ok – here you go:

      • Make it easy: Provide lightweight methods for people in your company to connect with outside stakholders
      • Make it everyday: Have your customers present in your offices – with photos, spare parts, their passions…
      • Make it experiential:Go feel what other people are feeling – IBM did that “Bear Hug” program in 1993, way beyond Hybrid Thinking was “invented”…

My key Takeaways

I believe that Hybrid Thinking works well with Service Design Thinking and vice versa. None of them is better than the other. Hybrid Thinking is rather how an individual thinks than Service design, which is rather a methodology. And hey – who wouldn´t like to hire those T-shaped personalities – of course everyone would ! And as applying creativity techniques benefits any employee, not just the few T-shaped ones, I think Hybrid Thinking is nothing 100% new, but still a useful new management theory.

Please feel free to share this article and let me know your feedback.

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