Organisation Design & Cognitive Science in Product Development. "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs 5 January 2017 True Cognitive Science, Organisation Design, Product Development, Strategy, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 449 Nathan Snyder talks about cognitive science in product management at ProductTank NYC Product Management 1.796

Organisation Design & Cognitive Science in Product Development.


Nathan Snyder is co-founder at Nature of Work, a New York based Work Design Studio using organisational development tools blended with cognitive science to help make work more satisfying and fulfilling for all employees. In this talk for Product Leaders, Nathan tells how even large and complex legacy companies can make strategy personal to all their staff, leading to happier teams and speedier, more profitable new product development.

We can’t keep up!

Social and technological revolutions are turning markets upside down and the speed and complexity of change frequently outpaces the capability of large organisations to adapt. The organisational structure of legacy firms was developed for control and efficiency, not adaptability and change. Nathan and his team at Nature of Work enable legacy companies to consider how to respond to these changes at governance level. Nathan’s talk centres around a case study from a large financial services firm and the work he did to bring together a multi-stakeholder governance body and to support them to transform their new product development strategy and process.

Underlying Nathan’s talk is a rich set of research into humans’ ability to make sense of complexity, and the fact that different people have different abilities to grasp high-level complexity (& translate it into practical action). Crucially, Nathan’s argues that this means that we should learn to translate our high-level product strategy into formats that make sense to colleagues at every level of the organisation, who all have different perspectives and needs in terms of the balance of long-term complexity and short-term action.

How to make Stage-Gate suck less

The stage-gate model of product development used by many legacy firms is typically slow, static, inhibits research and feedback, and does not support product variation across markets. It also impedes employee creativity, risk-taking and motivation.  Nathan’s goals during his case study project were to increase speed in new product development, allow a greater variation in products and features and increase employee satisfaction and motivation. The solution he describes is three-fold:

  1. Reorganise stage-gate into tracks based on risk, with the goal of dramatically speeding up development of low and medium risk products by combining gates.  
  2. Move governance-level decision making away from consensus decision making to consent-based decision making.
  3. Build moonshot gates to enable risk-taking and encourage new revenue creating opportunities.

Make Strategy Personal

Nathan’s passion and expertise lies in making strategy personal for all employees. He advises big companies to better engage with and motivate their employees by understanding their different ways of thinking and working and then translating strategy across all work levels. To succeed, leaders need to empower people, within the right accountability zones, with the right decision making practices.