We have long built tools as a species. In recent times these tools have been information-based: mobile apps, software, computing hardware, the Internet. We currently have acces to a plethora of tools complex and simple to help us with every imaginable task (including distracting ourselves.)

Tools are all designed to provide functions that create specific deliverables. A spreadsheet helps the user work with and make sense of numerical data.

Need -> Tool -> Deliverable

Services are tools as well. Flower delivery is a tool. As it accounting, and teeth cleaning.

Operating Frameworks (Innovation Platforms)

Having built and contributed to the building of many of these tools in my working life, the question I find myself asking now is: do we need yet more tools (other than as marketing devices?)

An operating framework (OF) is the system that leverage any number of tools, in a collaborative social context (ie involves people), to work towards a set of broad outcomes.

Wicked problems -> Operating Framework -> Outcomes and Behaviours
ToolsOperating Frameworks
Discrete tangible items: apps, websites, databases, resource management applications...Conceptual and systemic: smart cities, e-government, crisis response, education, health.
Singular or narrow-range functions; enables actions to create deliverables.Vision, values, guiding principles and ideals. Tool-agnostic; leverages existing tools, experts, thinking, feelings, culture etc to work towards broad outcomes.
Have clear starts (inputs) and ends (outputs.)Continual cycle of operating.
Standalone value creation; single individuals can create deliverables.Require the interaction between people, using different tools, to run.
Can be built by small teams of domain-specialised experts or even individuals.Need larger teams of experts, users, and others across different domains, communities and stakeholder groups to come together.
Clearer determination of success or failure. “Did it work or not work?”Dynamic and fluid; less black and white pass or fail.“How are things?”

From Tool-making to Framework-building


We have a lot of information and knowledge tools at our collective dispose today; made by different people for different reasons at different times.. There are fewer situations now where we need to reinvent the wheel or build a tool from scratch. But tools alone cannot help us tackle the larger issues.

The next big frontier is the design and creation of operating frameworks to tackle more complex, systemic and wicked problems. Operating frameworks provide the context and integrative drivers to enable the collaboration of tools and people.