Know OD, Be OD, Do OD: Cultivating an OD Mindset

Karen Dumain

Karen Dumain, National OD Lead, NHS Leadership Academy

Paul Taylor-Pitt

Paul Taylor-Pitt, Assistant Director Organisational Development at NHS Employers

Karen Dumain, National OD Lead at NHS Leadership Academy and Paul Taylor-Pitt, Assistant Director Organisational Development at NHS Employers provide 5 key steps to fully embrace an OD mindset. Karen and Paul are presenting at the CIPD Organisation Development Conference which takes place on 24-25 September 2019 in London. Book your ticket today.



The concept of mindset as an idea came into being during the 1970s but it is only in the 21st century that the term has really taken off. Business people in particular love it. LinkedIn is soaked with articles on how mindsets shape success. Motivational speakers claim to be able to shift yours from good to great. But do we really understand what mindset means?


Essentially a mindset is a set of attitudes – a way of thinking based on our point of view. When you begin to dig deeper, you’ll discover different flavours of mindset. There are popular mindset model’s like Dweck’s ‘Fixed and Growth Mindsets’ that help us change how we think about learning. Covey talked about the ‘Abundance Mindset’ where we recognise that there is enough of everything for everyone. Mindsets can be powerful metaphors.


The question we are sitting with is, what is an OD mindset? What is an OD way of thinking? Well let’s start with what it isn’t and chisel away some of the myths about OD. You may have heard, or said, some of these before. OD is not pink and fluffy, or a magic wand, or a solution to everything. OD is not about forcing people to change or to have fun. It is not about giving the answers and doing things to people.


OD, in our NHS definition, is about enabling people to transform systems. Good OD practice demonstrably improves patient care. OD is the application of behavioural science to organisational and system issues, helping to amplify the humanity in our workplaces. To do good OD means to bring hope into our organisations, co-creating spaces where people can explore and solve their own problems. OD is data driven and evidence based. At its best, OD is strategic, agile, credible, impactful and inclusive.  So what kind of mindset do OD practitioners need to cultivate in order to be those things?


We believe that the OD mindset contains five key elements. There certainly may be more, or different, but these are our top ones. An OD mindset is about….


1. Thinking systemically

  • Recognising that everything is connected and interdependent. Seeing the whole and the parts.

2. Remaining curious

  • Asking deep, or simple, questions to stimulate new ways of looking at things.

3. Building expansiveness

  • Appreciating that the answer is rarely found in the either-or, but in both.

4. Continually enabling

  • Helping rather than telling, empowering the client to build their own capability.

5. Paying attention to the why and the how

  • Going beyond the what, holding both task and process in equal importance.


This OD mindset brings value to organisations because it is different to traditional forms of consulting and helping. OD should be contextually congruent, not off the shelf. Understanding the conditions and climate of the system helps us to work in the most useful ways for our clients. It becomes an automatic way of being, part of our O-DNA. It’s more than simply doing OD. It’s about knowing OD and being OD. That’s the difference that makes a difference.


Paul and Karen are presenting the closing keynote titled “Developing an OD and design mindset to succeed in your role” at the CIPD Organisation Development Conference which takes place on 24-25 September 2019 in London. Book your ticket today.