Turn Frustration into Creation

Remember the last day of school? You couldn’t wait to break free. No more homework, teacher oversight, busy work assignments. Just the freedom to be creative. You explored. You invented.

Now think about your current work environment. Feeling the same restrictions? Boxed in? Beaten down? Micromanaged? Confined to your desk, or worse yet, a cube?

Insights Ignited worked with a multinational that had high employee fatigue. They had lots of ideas in their pipeline, yet were still losing market share. Their predictive models failed to indicate a clear winner among all of their possible options. Employees saw the writing on the wall. If they didn’t come up with some breakthrough products, another round of layoffs was inevitable. This elevated the stress level of their associates even more.

Their first solution was to bring in an entrepreneur as an inspirational speaker. That didn’t work. At the end of the “motivational” speech by the successful entrepreneur, employees had one of two reactions:

  1. “Everything the entrepreneur said was true. But that will never work here”.  Or.....

  2. “I’m so inspired. I have an idea of my own. I want to quit this job and work on my own idea”.

Either way, the company wasn’t the beneficiary. All they got was an increasing level of frustration as people sought external outlets for their creativity.

Then they tried Effectuation.

Effectuation empowers employees.

Effectuation puts a limit on the downside. Managers explicitly set an acceptable level of risk. But within those parameters, employees are free to innovate. Effectuation provides a framework for communicating both the risks and the process of innovating that allows managers to be comfortable with letting their employees have creative freedom.


In this case, the company cited 4 components of Effectuation that they felt most contributed to increased employee engagement.

  1. A common vocabulary - The language of Effectuation (e.g. Bird in Hand, Lemonade, Crazy Quilt, etc.) is memorable and easy to understand. There’s not a lot of technical jargon.

  2. A shared understanding of boundaries - Effectuation requires explicit acknowledgment of risks. This allows managers to feel confident that employees understand the non-negotiables, while leaving them free to pursue innovative outcomes.   

  3. Conversion of perceived negatives into positives - Setbacks are a part of trying new things. Effectuation provides a way to transform unexpected events from a project risk to a potential benefit.  

  4. Innovation accountability - When a group pivots, it can be difficult to track progress. Effectuation provides metrics that hold innovation teams accountable to process as well as outcomes.

Using Effectuation, this company was able to develop and launch a product that opened a new segment for them. And they did so in a non-traditional way, using a new process and marketing approach as well. Employee satisfaction improved and they cited feeling more empowered to do their jobs.

How about you? Feeling frustrated at work? Empower yourself – and your team – through Effectuation.

--Written by Sara Whiffen, Founder & Managing Partner, Insights Ignited LLC