• Niklas Hall

I spy a helio-centric system!

Updated: Feb 28, 2019

In this third post on the differences between geo-centric and helio-centric systems, we look at how to ID a helio-centric system or approach. The odd thing is, that while it's easy to ID the shortcomings of the first, the benefits of the latter are more tricky to spot – especially if you are a customer. But there is a perfectly good explanation.

If you regularly spend time on LinkedIn, chances are that you have come across the model "mindset shift for organizational transformation": From "profit" to "purpose"; from "hierarchies" to "networks"; from "controlling to empowering"; from "planning" to "experimentation" and from "privacy" to "transparency". In many ways, the "to" destinations signifies the helio-centric (or customer-centric) approach.


The main feature of the helio-centric system, is that it works collaboratively. Collaboration is "more" than simply working together. As one definition puts it:

"Collaboration is a purposeful relationship in which all parties strategically choose to cooperate in order to accomplish a shared outcome. Most collaboration requires leadership, although the form of leadership can be social within a decentralized and egalitarian group."

The "shared outcome" is important. In a traditional hierarchy, people will often work to "have their own cake and eat it too". Put into metrics, this cake might be a 1 by 1 square. Working collaboratively, you get part of a cake. But as collaborative teams are way more proficient and outcome/output bigger, the part you get is – say – 2 by 2. Still, many in traditional organization find it hard to choose between the 1 by 1 piece and 2 by 2 piece – even if simple math tells you that the latter is 4 times bigger. It's the "part off" thing that gets them.

In terms of leadership, a team working collaboratively might still work in a traditional hierarchy. But the style of leadership needs to be a lot different. More coaching than instructing. This understanding may also be derived from Geier's Team State Model moving from Team State 2 (competition) to Team State 3 (collaboration). Geier being the man behind DISC profiling. More on that in a later issue.


Collaborative teams overcome resource scarcity by pooling whatever resources are available to them. This includes attention, time and money, but especially data, insights and knowledge. Consequently, knowledge sharing is the default setting for collaborative teams. Transparency.

One famous collaborative format is "community of practice" (CoP). CoP's holds great potential for building internal networks (especially in large scale and international organizations); for disseminating actual or tacit knowledge; for fast onboarding of new members; for business development and process optimization. One famous example is CoP of service technicians in Xerox achieving process optimizations worth 11.2 million US$. Thus, the ROI associated with supporting collaborative formats is massive.

Consisting of members from the organization, each individual CoP members may bring only a limited supply of resources to the table. A little time, a little budget. But once pooled together, the CoP can then decide to use the collective resources in the most proficient way. For the ORGANIZATION. Targeting key processes, provide a smoother service setup getting rid of bottlenecks and unclear interfaces. Building internal network in itself helps to break down silos, as reaching out across the organization becomes second nature. Even across borders.


Being the customer, you represent the sun in the helio-centric system. Service delivery is customer-centric. Key aspects of customer-centric design include:

  • A single point of contact

  • Sharing of data and knowledge across systems

  • Back-stage coordination

  • Elimination of bottlenecks and interfaces

  • Service Recovery and clear service standards

Everything needed to provide service is coordinated backstage – what you just experience is the collective, coordinated outcome. "Seamless" would be your first thought, if any. Cause the thing with customer-centric service experiences are: You most likely don't notice them – they just "happen".

In all service design "Customer Experience Management" is the current big thing. And while being something entirely different that providing an actual experience (personal, memorable, reveled over time) CEM can be characterized as" nice, easy, convenient". Time well saved. For you as a customer this simply translates to you getting the service you expect delivered seamlessly across platforms.

Some otherwise geo-centric systems – large scale organizations – is slowly getting to grips with how to provide better service. In doing so they realize that they have to adopt the workings of the helio-centric systems. Even if this means sharing data and re-organizing service touch-points.

This calls for facing strong basic beliefs and tearing down well entrenched silos and so progress is often slow. But once they start, they quickly realize that the helio-centric, collaborative approach always provide better results for a smaller investment of resources. That the helio-centric approach provides more EFFECT. Not just efficiency, but more IMPACT.

In our next issue, we explore WHY the differentiation between geo-centric and helio-centric systems matter for your organization. In that process, we turn to the McKinsey Quarterly. Stay tuned!









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