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The Dolphin Index is the ideal tool for assessing your climate and so for understanding the levers to pull so as to make the enterprise more dynamic, innovative and successful.

Nick Gurney, Former CEO Bristol City Council

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Why many organisation die within 30 years

Successful organizations need not just one culture or climate, they need a number of different climates and cultures. They need a plurality of cultures and climates. And until there is clarity about these different worlds, people, especially those in more traditional organizations will rarely innovate and do things better and differently. The very simple reason they won't innovate is because in such organizations there is a taboo against the making of mistakes and failing.


And under certain circumstances you must be able to make mistakes and have failures so at to ever innovate.

Let me explain these circumstances, or what I call the 5 D's of the 'Control-Creativity Continuum'.

There is both interesting and very practical mileage in exploring this ‘Control-Creativity Continuum’ – and unless as a Board/organization/you lead and manage for ALL of the continuum you will die very slowly – or very quickly.

To summarise the 5 Dimensions or 'D's' of the 'Control-Creativity Continuum':

0D (as in 'overdose') - don't do these things - injunctions and prohibitions - critical safety issues - don’t kill people; critical money issues - don't run out of cash, don't 'bet the farm', don't steer your ship onto those rocks

1D (simple straight line thinking) - routine activities that you want to run efficiently and effectively, like 'clockwork'

2D ('within the box', incremental, evolutionary thinking) – doing everything you do 'better' to delight your customers, shareholders or which ever stakeholders you are concerned about

3D ('outside the box', discontinuous, revolutionary thinking) - doing new and 'different' things to delight your customers, stakeholders etc.

4D (redefines your world, a fundamental shift) - a new world is emerging and you need to spot it early to stay alive – or, if you want to be really 'can-do', you create this new order!

Every organism and organisation needs to be smart around 0D and 1D - otherwise you perish fast - and may kill some people too!

If the world were static 0D and 1D would suffice to survive. In a more demanding, changing or competitive world, you need to do the 0D/1D AND look after 2D, 3D and very possibly 4D. When and how much you do of each 'D' depends on how your environment and competition are behaving - and whether you want to play 'me-too', lead the pack or completely leave the competition behind.

Obviously you also need to think about how much of each 'D' you want to bring to each and every part of an organisation.

And you may want to think about the extent to which to engage some or all of your people in thinking creatively around 2D, 3D, even 4D.

There can be a real tension between some, or even each, of the 'D's. 1D is 'Don't sit there, DO something'. 3D, on the other hand, is 'Don’t just do something, SIT there'.

And you never want to see mistakes or failures in the 0D or 1D areas. These mistakes and errors can be disastrous and involve untold damage. These we call 'stupid' or 'catastrophic' mistakes.

And yet if you are to have a culture that also nurtures the new, you need people to be trying things out in the areas of 2D and 3D. And because these are experiments, some will succeed and some will fail. Such successes are great. Such failures are also valuable. These are 'glorious' mistakes and failures. You learn and move on from these. You must be allowed to make such mistakes. In fact if your organization isn't having a fair number of 2D and especially 3D mistakes and failures, you are being complacent.

Many organisational structures I know however are more 1D only or at least predominantly – they are uni-dimensional (straight line, predominantly top down, male or male-minded(?), hierarchies) - 1D - they are designed for productivity and efficiency - NOW. This is fine in the short term.

However we also need organisations, that if they are to survive for any considerable time, to be multi-dimensional, allowing for all the 'D's' (some talk of 'heterarchies') - where all parts, at least some of the time, can talk openly to all other parts (including the 'outside' world) in a coherent way, for maximum learning, intelligence and creativity.

Along with 1D organisational life, often goes a very 1D frame of mind - busy, busy, busy, fast time. You need 'time out', slow time, serendipitous time, to be 'out of time', much more apparently 'idle' or 'stiller mind' time, especially for 3D. Time out is not time off.

So the primary structure of many organisations is 1D, the level of brain arousal amongst employees encourages laser focused, fast, more obvious 1D thought, and lastly the primary 'thinking structures' available in many senior minds may encourage 1D or tamer 2D thinking. Again fine in the short term but…


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Having looked at several practitioners of the Ekvall criteria, I have been delighted to work with Mark and the Dolphin Organization to evaluate BBI’s culture for change and creativity. Mark has combined excellent, pragmatic business realism, with the passion to drive 21st century business growth, and he communicates this in a way that has engaged every level of the business and been truly inspirational. If you are looking to the future for you and your business, you need to do this!

Peter Corish, Head of Business Development, BBI Group

The great thing about the Dolphin Index is the opportunity to benchmark your climate against the world outside - and get feedback that says 'It doesn't have to be like that!'

David Mayle, Head of the Open University Business School's Centre for Innovation, Knowledge & Enterprise

The Dolphin Index is a really useful tool for clearly identifying our strengths and areas for improvement.

Jo North, Commercial Director, Northern Rail

The Dolphin Index has been an important tool in Nestle Rowntree’s strategy to develop a broad innovation culture across the business and to remove the mystique that so often surrounds creativity and innovation.

Creativity Development Manager, Nestle Rowntree

The Dolphin Index is the ideal tool for assessing your climate and so for understanding the levers to pull so as to make the enterprise more dynamic, innovative and successful.

Nick Gurney, Former CEO Bristol City Council

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