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April 14, 2016

Thinking in Three Dimensions

Posted by Holly Benson (View Profile | View All Posts) at 11:33 AM

As a Partner in Infosys Consulting, I've spent the past 11 years helping Infosys clients master the human challenges that accompany technology change.  So I'm not a technology inventor or implementer  - instead, I'm a change management professional who deals with the effects of technology on human systems. 

Looking at human systems is a three-dimensional problem - you have to be able to see far-reaching effects of apparently-simple actions and decisions.  The old "If a butterfly flutters its wings, will it create a hurricane half way around the world?" You have to be able to understand what drives human behavior, and know how to motivate people to evolve in a direction you want them to evolve.

Many change management professionals are organizational psychologists; I'm an armchair psychologist.  But my academic and early work background trained me well in how to study, model and understand three-dimensional systems. My degrees, and the first decade of my professional work experience, were in petroleum geology, where the challenge was to develop a three-dimensional picture of the earth's subsurface and predict where pools of oil and gas would accumulate based upon the relationships between structure, reservoir, source rock, and seal.  This background taught me to think and see three-dimensionally.  It also gave me the physical scientist's love of data and experimentation, and gave me a structured way of looking at problems, formulating hypotheses and testing them - which is not so very different from what we call "prototyping" today!

At some point - as I half-jokingly, half-seriously quip to friends - I just decided that people were more interesting than rocks.  So I began an on-the-job practical study of human systems and organizational dynamics that utilized many of the thought processes I'd developed as an earth scientist - and that ultimately brought me to where I am today.

My interest is in large-scale human systems - like those found in the Fortune 500 companies that dominate Infosys' client list.  When I look at what drives change into organizations, nothing is more influential, nor more pervasive, than technology.   Infosys lives on the cutting edge of technological change - so I can think of no better place to ply my trade.  As a primary innovator and developer of new technology, and as an implementer of game-changing partner technologies, Infosys is helping to push the frontiers of the digital economy - meaning that change management practitioners at Infosys get to be on the front lines of seeing how those technologies change jobs, organizations, and even corporate cultures.   Working here is a chance to get "ahead of the curve" in my own profession.  

I'm proud of how Infosys has incorporated the human elements of technology change into its offerings - that it's had the breadth of vision to understand that unless people fully immerse themselves in new technologies, those technologies will fall far short of their intended impact.  What I hope for Infosys in the future is an even deeper partnership between the resources who think about machines and code, and the resources who think about how humans will take up new innovations and use them to amplify individual and corporate performance.   

What woman in technology inspires me? Leilah Janah, founder and CEO of non-profit Sama, whom I heard speak at a mindfulness conference in San Francisco this winter. (Janah and Sama were also featured in FastCompany's "50 Most Innovative Companies" this year - March, 2016 issue). Harvard-educated, former management consultant Janah is a woman on a mission. Her organization goes into impoverished communities around the world and trains people to do digital work, to lift themselves out of poverty. Using a radical new funding model, she is simultaneously changing the face of social entrepreneurship by creating a fully self-funding non-profit - and changing the face of the communities where she creates digital-age jobs for the poor. "Every human being you help is an infinite victory," she notes. 

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