Understanding Champions for New Work methods

The people we work with are extraordinary. They dare to try out new methods, such as Book Sprints, in their organisations, often working around institutional hierarchies and at their own risk. They go to great lengths to get buy-in from others and to get the job done. 

What characterises these adventurers, what are their challenges, and how can we support them? This blog post is the first of a series focusing on the people we work with — our Champions.

We have seen a pattern of personality traits in those that take the risk to establish a new method or tool and innovate their organisations’ workflows. People who initiate things, make alliances through their valuable network and work hard to convince decision makers. This made us curious as to who these people are, sometimes labelled intrapreneurs, sometimes innovators. 

 

Book Sprints team

The Book Sprints team teaching each other a new design tool

The New Work Champion blog post series

We are following this curiosity with a series of blog posts:

  1. We share the insights from a feedback survey and in-depth interviews that we conducted with our Champions over the last four years about their challenges when planning a Book Sprint.
  2. We learn more about the characteristics of innovators and intrapreneurs in other areas from three practitioners and researchers of intrapreneurship. 
  3. We look at the strategies that innovators and intrapreneurs typically employ to face the challenges in their organisations.
  4. Finally, we write up the results from a survey that we conduct with a wider group of people who identify as innovators, intrapreneurs and New Work Champions.

New Work in legacy organisations

The label “New Work” summarises work cultures and innovative methods, such as Book Sprints, that build on collaboration, level hierarchies, meaningful engagement, shared ownership, digital tools, and facilitation techniques (for the original coining of the term New Work, see Frithjof Bergmann). 

For us at Book Sprints Limited, these methods have been our operating mode since the company was founded eight years ago. We have an unfair advantage: The Book Sprints team is small, young, and globally distributed, and has been making use of digital tools, collaboration methods and facilitation from the get-go. As many other “New Work natives”, we mostly work with institutions with legacy structures — where amazing people do amazing work! — that take a long time to innovate.

One solution for these organisations is to bring in an external service to implement a new method. Our team provides services to the increasing demand for fast content creation. We do so by designing and implementing new facilitation techniques, fostering collaboration among teams, and using digital design and production tools. 

A woman writing on a whiteboard with sticky notes at a Book Sprint in Nigeria

Brainstorming and clustering exercise during a Book Sprint

It takes a Champion

Almost anyone bringing new methods into existing organisations faces many uphill struggles. This is also true for a Champion seeking to organise a Book Sprint. The job of the organiser is a huge one. By the time we start a Book Sprint, the organiser has already been on a journey to convince their management and ten to fifteen experts to spend five days together — on the sheer promise of making a book! We know that our method works, but for a first-time Book Sprinter it takes a lot of trust. Defining the framework for the book and finding the right people to write it; securing the budget and logistics… the list goes on. There is a lot of pressure to succeed, especially on the person who initiated the project, and not always a lot of recognition when they do. Once the method is tested and proven within an organisation, it gets much easier to make it part of an organisation’s toolbox. 

So, we want to get better at supporting the Champions through the journey, with the best of our experience and wisdom. The upcoming survey and the New Work Champion blog post series are a step towards understanding their needs and challenges, and our way of celebrating our Champions. Learn more in the following post of this series about the challenges for champions adopting new methods.

 

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