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Reflections on EODF: AI in org dev and design 

Tony and Martin recently went to the EODF conference in Lisbon and in this short podcast episode they discuss the conference’s energy, innovative ideas, and the harmony between technology and people. They talk about artificial intelligence and how it influences how businesses are organised, blending tech tools with the human aspect in companies.
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In today’s episode, Tony and Martin reflect on their experience of attending the EODF conference in Lisbon. They talked about how they found the conference, what we think Mayvin can bring to the organisation design field and how AI will affect the organisation development and organisation design world. I hope you enjoy listening, thanks. 


Martin Saville 1:43 

So Tony, we said that we would have a chat after the EODF conference in Lisbon just to share what we made of it. 

Tony Nicholls 1:52 

Yeah, so the European Organisation Design Forum, which is the group of people that get together from across mainland Europe and North America to further the field of organisation design, in particular. 

Martin Saville 2:06 

Yeah and we were at a conference there a couple of weeks ago now. In Lisbon, on a Friday and a Saturday. What did you make of it? 

Tony Nicholls 2:17 

So that was my second trip with that group and I felt more engaged this time. Maybe because we’ve been turning our attention more to organisation design, as a product offering. And within Mayvin. And I think a couple of things that I came away with was the forward looking nature of that, that group of people. Very much focused on the future of organisations, and they’re design, with a lot of high energy. Very engaging, very motivating, very inspiring group of people. And the second thing that I came away with, which was specifically about the theme that they put together, which was around tech, and AI, and that’s really given me a big poke in the ribs to say come on Tony, you need to wake up to this thing called AI because it’s here. And it’s going to be around forever. And it’s figural in organisation design, and probably going to become more and more figural in organisation development, as we progress into the future. So, yeah, two things I came away with. So very engaging, very motivating, very inspiring. And, yeah, we need to look at this thing called AI. 

Martin Saville 3:30 

Absolutely. Yeah, I mean, all of that for me too and a sense of outward looking they are as a group, which was was really inspiring and I think it’s quite challenging actually, for us as OD practitioners, because sometimes we can we can get a little bit caught in our own world. And that was part of the poke in the ribs for me was was that sense of looking upwards and outwards more. I thought that the whole conversation, the ongoing conversation through the conference around tech was was really interesting, because at one level, the impact on me was quite paradoxical. In that, the more we talked about tech and the the opportunities AI offers, as well as the challenges and the threats, the more I found myself thinking, and that makes it even more important to know what it is to be a human being in organisation. What the human piece of relational life is all about. And so, from ethical conversations to conversations about systems that promise to deal with all the mess, by designing them out and realising, actually, that’s a pipe dream that goes to, you know, some specific tools, which with the right inputs through questionnaires or monitoring email traffic sort of metadata around email traffic, can make recommendations about how you can improve your operating model by looking at how work is really getting done. Even those kinds of things, which seems hugely powerful, but left me thinking, that’s great, because actually that gives you the kind of data you need to then have the real conversations, you know. 

Tony Nicholls 5:35 

To do the work proper, yeah. It reminded me of the integrated organisation design and development product that we’re trialling at the moment, really looking at how, as you redesign an organisation, in terms of operating models and processes and workflows, there’s an opportunity to not only engage the people in that process, but also develop the leaders in a way that fundamentally shifts their view of the world and how they see the complexity in their organisations and how they lead in disruptive times, etc. I guess, what’s really struck me about the organisation design forum, as opposed to the organisation development network, because we fundamentally come from the development field of practice, is the different use of language and the different perspectives. Neither right or wrong, they’re just just alternative ways of seeing the world. But I actually saw a lot of organisation development in the organisation designed forum language, but they just don’t call it that. And that’s okay. But it’s there. It’s absolutely there, they fundamentally have this belief that humans are at the centre of organisations, and they need to be paid attention to, they just come at it from a sort of a design angle, and we come at it from a development angle. And that’s where they meet, that’s the sweet spot. 

Martin Saville 6:59 

100%, because there’s a way in which you start in one place or the other typically or your method, your mindsets, your orientation. And I absolutely have a sense of both fields of practice, and both organisations, reaching from their starting place more towards the other and ask really important questions about how those two come together. We had in Mayvin, our session yesterday, our community event on integrated or development and design and part of the conversation there was all about actually how, how they come together, but actually, you know, to what extent is this even a useful distinction? And, yeah, it’s an age old conversation. It’s always, you’re just doing your thing, you know, and whatever you call it. 

Tony Nicholls 7:57 

I think what we’ve discussed is a fundamental difference in underpinning methodology, I think, in organisation development and organisation design. And, and again, neither right or wrong, just fundamentally different around how we approach our work from a practice perspective, and how they they approach their work more from a technical tools orientation. And it’s when they come together that you get that sweet spot.

Martin Saville 8:23 

Yeah and I mean, I think that’s really inspiring. And I think that’s what I’m inspired by in terms of the work that we’re doing is when you find those moments where, by doing the design work, you’re simultaneously creating opportunities for organisations to develop, you know, develop their capability in their culture. 

Tony Nicholls 8:45 

Well, more of that to come, I think, because I think we’re, you know, we want to get close to that organisation, that’d be good. 

Martin Saville 8:50 

Yeah absolutely. Great. Nice talking to you. Thank you. 

Claire Newell 8:55 

Thank you so much for listening to us today. And we hope to see you next time. Take care, bye bye.

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