This is the story of our innovation as a firm, with a nod to our past, and the innovation spirit that we continue to cultivate.
Like many adventures, we started with a burning question: How do we make lasting positive change at scale in a rapidly changing world? From there we were driven by our relentless drive to question, adapt, learn – and place the human at the centre of everything we do. This is the story of our innovation as a firm, with a nod to our past, and the innovation spirit that we continue to cultivate.
Change starts where we have the most agency – with ourselves
At The Moment, we’re driven to make a contribution to a world that works better for all humans. But how can we support others through a journey of change, if we ourselves aren’t on that same path? We must be continuously questioning and refining our theory of change, the services we offer, and how we approach innovation work itself. Just as importantly, we must take this same approach to our own organization – how we structure ourselves, how we make decisions, and how we show up to each other as colleagues and humans.
To contribute to a culture in which humans can thrive out there, we need to start with working towards a culture in which humans can thrive in here. Powered by trimesterly full-team strategic retreats (now affectionately referred to as Mo’ Days) and an on-going emphasis on continuous personal and internal improvement, we’ve made several key pivots since we started in 2011. Here’s a brief history of our company’s ongoing evolution and journey towards our purpose.
2011: “The Moment” is Now
In early 2011, having discovered our shared ambition to make a positive social impact at scale, Dan Rose, Mark Kuznicki and myself, Greg Judelman, landed on the name “The Moment” for our new company. It symbolized our message that now was the time for us and others to find new ways of working together, as well as our appreciation for the fact that we can’t actually change our past or our future, only how we show up and engage in the present moment.
At this point, our practice was an exploration of what could be possible at the intersection of our individual backgrounds in strategy, design, and collaboration. Working out of the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto, we learned that we could support teams to see their challenges in new ways with provocative questions and a facilitated collaborative experience. Our impact was limited, however, as we focused on process in a facilitation role. We learned that we needed to bring a structured framework to augment the depth, quality, and impact of collaborative outputs.
2012-2013: Facilitating Creative and Strategic Collaboration
To give more structure, we anchored our approach in the design thinking toolkit. We led design thinking trainings and workshops and hosted large participatory conferences. This was the era of the sticky note revolution, when the experience of stepping away from a desk and standing up to work at the wall was enough to inspire.
But we realized quickly that the creative inspiration was fleeting. Teams were not equipped with the right tools, mindset, or culture to sustain the momentum. Our challenge was to extend our practice from one-off interventions to a project-based approach that would support teams to turn sticky notes into impact.
2014-2016: Bringing Organizational Design and Service Design Together
We reframed our facilitation offering and took on longer-term projects to develop new products, services, and strategies. We discovered and experimented with a range of toolkits, including organizational, systemic, and service design. We used agile and lean project management methods to keep our projects iterative and learning-driven and encouraged our clients to do the same.
Innovation is not just our offering to the world, but a practice that we live and breathe moment to moment.
We faced challenges in the context of both our organization and our practice. As our team grew to about ten people, it became more complicated and time consuming to make decisions. Inspired by the ideal of becoming a teal organization, we were drawn to a “flat” and self-managing organizational model in which everyone was empowered. While it felt exciting to be experimenting at the leading edge of organizational design, the reality was that invisible power dynamics persisted, and bottlenecks and tension resulted from a lack of clarity about who was accountable for what.
On the practice side, our projects were producing deep insights and exciting concepts, but our client teams struggled to push designs forward to implementation. There were messy hand-offs to technology and product teams, while funding and people were pulled unexpectedly in favour of “quick win” projects. This resulted in a lack of alignment across and up the organization around why this approach was worth the investment. True innovation can be challenging, and we saw time and again the barriers to impact and success, and knew there was a better way.
2017-2018: Innovation Design with Joined-Up Teams
We realized that we needed to focus equally on the “seed” of the design output and the “soil” of the organizational context in which the work would grow. We committed to our joined-up team approach so that our client teams could learn-by-doing our innovation practice alongside us. We thoughtfully engaged diverse internal stakeholders so that they could see first-hand the value of the approach and be primed to take the work forward. After demonstrating the impact with a project or two, we collaborated with senior leaders to shape strategic portfolios of projects that could have a greater impact on the business and organization over time.
Internally, with our team growing incrementally and deliberately, we moved to an organizational operating system of Holacracy. We spent our Mo’ Days to develop a transparent and value-based incentive (salary) system while gradually weaning ourselves into Holacratic roles and processes. We felt a sense of a collective ‘levelling up’ as our highly engaged and trusting team made decisions at an ever increasing pace. Despite the clear positive benefits of the system, there were tensions and occasional conflicts as we learned the hard way how Holacracy forced us to tend to ourselves as humans (‘souls’) and manage an ambitious and ever-growing set of role-based internal activities.
2019+ Beyond: Scaling our Impact
We now find ourselves in 2019 with a refreshed brand and new website launched, our practice has a high-value positive impact with clients, our Holacracy systems are maturing, and our team culture is positive and engaged (most days!). We are keen to let our self-managing team engine run at speed, enabling us to respond dynamically to the challenge of adapting to an ever-evolving practice and business landscape.
We want to continue to engage with our network of intrapreneurs and purpose-driven peers, partners, and clients to develop the practice of Innovation Design. We want to scale the impact of our work by improving our ability to measure and extend impact downstream to end users while deepening our strategic consultation practice. We’re also cooking up some experiments with new ways to positively disrupt the broken systems we live and work in.
We’ve learned so much over these last 8 years, and yet we feel like our journey is just getting underway. Innovation is not just our offering to the world, but a practice that we live and breathe moment to moment. We’ll never stop asking the same question we started with, “How do we make lasting positive change at scale in a rapidly changing world?” – and we’re hoping that you’re asking the same question too.