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We all suffer from a profound case of “Idea Surplus Disorder” at Filament — and we think that’s a good thing. Here are some of those ideas we’d like to share with you.

 

 
Monday Morning Meeting #65
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Good morning! After taking a week off for Labor Day, the Monday Morning Meeting is back! Did you miss us?

Building on a great summer, we’re rolling up our sleeves to prepare for a busy fall. Here are few things on our plate before winter arrives: delivering these three workshops in Toronto and Phoenix, creating a new strategy model for a local school district, facilitating a two-day collaboration workshop for a Fortune 500 client’s second-largest customer, putting the finishing touches on a “workshop in a box” that’s already been piloted globally, and building a facilitation workbook to support a soon-to-be-released book.

We also just created something simple we hope you like: a video collecting 30+ “bits of advice, best practices, or lessons learned the hard way” from a conference we just attended. Let us know if you have an event coming up where some “wisdom capture” might be useful.

FILAMENTAL THINKING

If you follow us on Instagram, you know we post testimonials every Tuesday, but here’s one I couldn’t wait to share. It wasn’t sent to us, but rather forwarded by the sponsor of a Meeting Design Workshop we hosted earlier this year. It is lightly edited to preserve the anonymity of the sender:

I always considered my meetings to be purposeful, deliberate and always ending with next steps/responsibilities.

I went into the Filament workshop openminded not knowing what to expect but looking for nuggets of insights and perhaps even tools to use when having a meeting. What I didn’t expect was to walk out with a shift in perspective and a tool to drive an even more purposeful engagement.

I had decided to use my new insights/tools for my upcoming Strategy Planning Workshop. There would be a lot to gain if successful and a lot to lose if not. The long and short is that this first-ever workshop was a SUCCESS!

The meeting prep [ I learned in the Filament workshop] ensured that I had considered and thought through the meeting, engagements, flow. . . everything! Seriously, a game-changer. As a result of this meeting, there is more holistic team collaboration.

Attendees said that they can’t believe this hasn’t happened before and that they want to come to town for it next year.

YAY!!! We now have full team participation. Thank you so much for letting me participate.

INTERESTING IDEAS

How many agreements do you need to reach consensus in your organization? It might be more than you think:

When we try to reach an agreement in our meetings, the number of actual agreements that need to take place rises exponentially as more people are added to the group. With two people, you need one agreement for unanimity. With four people, you need six agreements. With a group of ten, forty-five agreements must be made to come to a consensus on anything.

From the “that idea is so crazy, it just might work!” file: an audio podcast on mime. I learned the astronauts were taught mime in case their communication devices failed?

I found this interesting take on “Services as Software” in Rob May’s InsideAI newsletter:

Everyone knows SaaS stands for software-as-a-service. The term came from the delivery and billing model that allowed users to just pay a fee and access software on a remote cloud computer, rather than buy and install in on their own servers.  I was thinking about it this week as I realized many of the successful companies I know in the AI space are selling "services as software.”

What does this mean?  It means they sell you a task that is traditionally done by a human and then augment or replace the human with software.  You need task X done?  We do it at half price.  How do we do it at half price?  We scale our people by replacing many of their tasks with software. 

Why books don’t work (and what we can do about it):

Books are “surprisingly bad at conveying knowledge.” Read a non-fiction book, and within a few days or weeks you will have forgotten all but a few key points. Our basic error is to think that complex knowledge can be relayed efficiently just by means of words on a page. No. To take in information you need to read slowly, think deeply, take notes; return later to the book, revise it, test yourself or have others test you. This is the scholarly method, and it does work; but it has no part in the standard reading model.

Stop focusing on “great” and concentrate on “good enough” instead:

Good enough is a lot more probable than great. Good enough is a lot less angstful than great. And, the reality is that good enough over and again is precisely how you become great to begin with. Go big or go home and you often end up home. Go small, steady, and consistent over time and you end up with something big.

Love your AirPods? What signal does wearing them send to others?

AirPods are changing our behaviour, and not generally for the better. “They visually signal the wearer’s choice to perpetually relegate the immediate environment to the background. They create a soft but recognisable obstacle to personal interaction. They express potential distractedness in a sustained and effortless manner. You don’t have to look down at a screen to convey that your mind might be elsewhere. AirPods efficiently communicate your refusal to pretend to be fully present.

Finally, as we look to grow our team, Ed Catmull’s advice from Creativity, Inc. has been front of mind for me:

If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.

MEMORABLE QUOTES

”If things were simple, word would have got around.” — Jacques Derrida

“Anything you build on a large scale or with intense passion invites chaos.” — Francis Ford Coppola

"Always be prepared to think that experts are stupid. They often are." — Jane Jacobs

"We’ve all learned to answer email on Sundays, but none of us has learned to go to the movies on Monday afternoon.” — Ricardo Semler

”Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none is undeservedly remembered.”
— W.H. Auden

Monday Morning Meeting #64
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FILAMENT NEWS

Happy Monday! We’re back from Orlando (and a quick weekend to Portland, Oregon) and gearing up for some cool work leading a handful of workshops this week.

One of the highlights of our week at ILTACON was an hour-long session we built called “N.S.F.W. (New Skills for Work): How to pitch faster, innovate smaller, fail bigger, change easier, meet smarter, critique better, and ask more.” It is an hour-long overview of some of the coolest things we’ve learned (and stolen) from our great customers. Here’s a link to the presentation. Let us know if you’d like a version for your team or organization!

INTERESTING IDEAS

Building a “roadmap” for your organization’s future seems like a great idea, but…

The trouble is, the metaphor is misleading. Conventional roadmaps chart the way to real places; change roadmaps are about imagined destinations. They assume that change is a predictable process of simple steps in cause and effect, where the consequences build in a linear fashion.

A tool originally developed to represent existing realities doesn’t work well as a mental model for creating new realities...if the world is a complex adaptive system and consists of complex adaptive sub-systems, is it surprising that linear, deterministic, and static tools so often fail?

I’m totally going to put these to the test with my daughter: Questions to ask instead of “how are you?”

Wondering why it is so hard to invent things that are obvious in hindsight? Ponder why we waited so long for the bicycle:

First, the correct design was not obvious. For centuries, progress was stalled because inventors were all trying to create multi-person four-wheeled carriages, rather than single-person two-wheeled vehicles. It’s unclear why this was; certainly inventors were copying an existing mode of transportation, but why would they draw inspiration only from the horse-and-carriage, and not from the horse-and-rider?

I’m not quite sure how to describe Ludwig, but it looks like an interesting addition to every writer’s toolbox.

Lots to chew on in these leadership lessons, including:

Repetition won’t spoil the prayer when communicating with your team. You need to keep everyone going in the same direction. The entire team needs to know and understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Defining the mission, the goals, the objectives, and the path will help you keep everyone moving together. But once you define those points, you need to repeatedly communicate them all to the team over and over and over again to make sure it’s fully understood, remembered and kept front of mind. You can’t do it just once a year. Do it once a month!

and this:

If your org chart doesn’t make sense, then most likely….. neither does your org. And don’t optimize your org for one or two people and de-optimize it for everyone else. Set things up in a clear way that optimizes for performance and growth of the entire organization.

Gone is an ephemeral to-do list where your tasks disappear after 24 hours if you don’t complete them.

Seek is the coolest app I’ve seen in a while. It uses the power of image recognition technology to identify the plants and animals all around you. Practically magic!

MEMORABLE QUOTES

“The only way to consciously deactivate a thought is to activate another. In other words, the only way to deliberately withdraw your attention from one thought is to give your attention to another.” ― Esther Hicks

“Success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.” — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

"Always be prepared to think that experts are stupid. They often are." — Jane Jacobs

Monday Morning Meeting #63
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Welcome to the Monday Morning Meeting, a weekly collection of Filament news, tools you can use, and interesting ideas that will help you think differently about your week ahead.

FILAMENT NEWS

This week, we’re hanging out in Orlando with 2000+ friends at ILTACON: “the premier legal technology conference for professionals undertaking initiatives in support of the practice of law.”

We’ve built twenty-seven facilitated “Collaboration Sessions” that use our tools and methodology to help attendees from nine different communities of interest (like innovation, knowledge management, or IT) engage with their peers, share their best ideas, and design their post-conference action plans.

I’m also delivering a new workshop called “N.S.F.W. (New Skills for Work): How to pitch faster, innovate smaller, fail bigger, change easier, meet smarter, critique better, and ask more. It is an hour-long overview of some of the coolest things we’ve learned (and stolen) from our great customers. Here’s a link to the presentation.

INTERESTING IDEAS

I’ll kick off the links portion of the newsletter with one many of you sent me last week: Harvard Discovers That PowerPoint is Worse Than Useless:

The entire concept of PowerPoint is apparently misbegotten, according to a recent Harvard study cited in Forbes, which found that "PowerPoint was rated (by online audiences) as no better than verbal presentations with no visual aids. (Ouch.)"

Consider that for a second. You audience will be just as happy with your presentation if you do it without your slides. Which means the time you spent building the deck was basically wasted.

Here’s an interesting benefit of working quickly:

If you work quickly, the cost of doing something new will seem lower in your mind. So you’ll be inclined to do more.

Speaking of working quickly, how would your email inbox change if everyone replied using only five sentences?

In this article titled The Technology of Kindness, I found a passage that reinforces why in-person interaction (at home, at work, and in meetings) is more important than ever:

People’s ability to connect is the glue that holds our culture together. By thinning out our interactions and splintering our media landscape, the Internet has taken away the common ground we need to understand one another. Each of us is becoming more confident about our own world just as it drifts farther from the worlds of others. Empathy requires us to understand that even people who disagree with us have a lived experience as deep as our own. But in the fractured landscape of social media, we have little choice but to see the other side as obtuse, dishonest or both. Unless we reverse this trend and revive empathy, we have little chance of mending the tears in our social fabric.

I really like this icebreaker question (from the Range.co link I shared last week):

Kids today will never understand the struggle with what?

Leaders: You can’t make people change. But you can create an environment where they choose to.

Finally, a useful negotiation tip:

When you talk numbers use odd ones, numbers that end in zero feel serious.

MEMORABLE QUOTES

"Ignore any advice that tells you you are going to miss something. Every mistake I have ever made in business, marriage, and personal conduct was because I thought if I didn’t do or get this now, it was never going to happen.” — Terry Crews

“It’s not how well you play the game, it’s deciding what game you want to play.” — Kwame Appiah

Make Your Experiments Smaller
 
 
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We work in “experiments” all the time with our customers, asking them to identify simple, cheap, fast, and easy things they can try to improve processes, increase communication, etc.

However, it isn’t always easy for people accustomed to working in large organizations to think small enough, so they regularly propose much larger experiments than necessary.

A few weeks ago, we shared a simple framework that has helped to shrink our customers’ experiments to just the right size. Here’s how we describe experiments now:

An experiment is smaller than a pilot which is smaller than a project which is smaller than an initiative.

The moment we shared this hierarchy, everyone began thinking about experiments the way we’d hoped they always would.

Track the Decisions You Make and the Decisions You Need After Every Meeting

We recently hosted a Meeting Design Sprint: a four-day workshop to help a client redesign a big meeting that had grown stale as well as to help the attendees rethink the dozens of other meetings they owned or influenced.

One of the best ideas to emerge from our time together: At the end of every meeting create two lists: “The Decisions We Made” and “The Decisions We Need.”

On the first list, capture the specific decisions you made in the meeting and the details for each. On the second, capture the decisions you need from elsewhere in the organization and then assign the responsibility to go “find” that decision (along with the when, the who, and the how) so your team doesn’t get stuck waiting on someone else.

Every time the leader of your team has a meeting with her leader, she should bring your team’s master list of “Decisions We Need” with her so she can ask her leader to make the decisions needed to move forward or use her influence to help find them elsewhere.

Monday Morning Meeting #61
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Welcome to another edition of the Monday Morning Meeting: A weekly collection of Filament news, tools you can use, and interesting ideas that will help you think differently about your week ahead.

FILAMENT NEWS

OUR SPRINT SPACE IS OPEN! Our new Sprint Space is open for business. If you’re looking for a creative space to work with your team for a week or a month — and might appreciate some Filament services to help you — check out our new Sprint Space.

FILAMENT TOOLS

This one comes from a Meeting Design Sprint we hosted in July:

At the end of every meeting create two lists: “The Decisions We Made” and “The Decisions We Need.”

On the first list, capture the specific decisions you made in the meeting and the details for each.

On the second, capture the decisions you need from elsewhere in the organization and then assign the responsibility to go “find” that decision (along with the when, the who, and the how) so your team doesn’t get stuck waiting on someone else.

Every time the leader of your team has a meeting with her leader, she should bring your team’s master list of “Decisions We Need” with her so she can ask for the decisions and/or help finding them.

INTERESTING IDEAS

Here’s an interesting exercise to spur innovation on your team that has many similarities to our Five Futures exercise.

At your next team meeting, pull out a pad of paper, turn to an empty page, and divide it into three columns. Each one corresponds to a question relevant for innovation:

  1. “What is the existing practice/the recipe for success/the way we’ve always done it at our organization?” Jot your thoughts down in the left-hand column, including the key beliefs or assumptions underlying the practice. Then look critically at each of them and ask yourself if any are on the verge of becoming anachronistic or obsolete.

  2. “What market shifts, external forces, or technologies might threaten the elements of our operational status quo?” List these in the middle column.

  3. “What can we do about these impending disruptions you’ve uncovered?” For each one, use the right-hand column to note some preemptive action you could take. Sometimes you’ll want to tweak an existing practice to render it “disruption-proof.” Other times you’ll need to toss it out and start from scratch.

Stuck? Give this idea from Seth a try:

When you’re feeling stuck with your project, grab three index cards. On each card, write down an element of the project that, if you invested time and money, would change for the better. If those three things happened, if those three elements improved, what would happen to your project? Okay, now that you’ve got all three… what are you going to do about it?

Some advice on advice:

Only take advice from those people who are experts, who have recently done something similar and who were perhaps a little unwilling to give the advice. This might mean they simply weren’t thinking about it before you asked them. Spontaneous advice will often be superior to the advice someone has been giving for some time.

I’ve bookmarked How to Be a Better Writer to come back to again and again when I’m stuck in my writing. So many simple ideas, but here’s a favorite I’ve already put to use:

In your last pass, change the font to something unfamiliar. Then change the font size. When you’re familiar with a piece, your eyes gulp whole passages and you miss typos. New fonts focus your eyes on each letter.

Here are nine interview questions that would provide some great conversation starters for your current team. Imagine asking this one and then blocking an entire day to “see” their answers:

If you had an entire work day with no meetings, obligations, or interruptions – what would you do?

This is a sobering reminder from Tyler Cowen that we’ve all got to put the work in:

Recently, one of my favorite questions to bug people with has been “What is it you do to train that is comparable to a pianist practicing scales?” If you don’t know the answer to that one, maybe you are doing something wrong or not doing enough. Or maybe you are (optimally?) not very ambitious?

MEMORABLE QUOTES

"The world is not made of atoms. It is made of stories." -- Muriel Ruykeser

"The real difference between telling what happened and telling a story about what happened is that instead of being a victim of our past, we become master of it." — Donald Davis

"A lost coin is found by means of a candle; the deepest truth is found by means of a simple story." — Anthony De Mello

Monday Morning Meeting #60
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Welcome to the Monday Morning Meeting: A weekly collection of Filament news, tools you can use, and interesting ideas that will help you think differently about your week ahead.

FILAMENT NEWS

OUR SPRINT SPACE IS OPEN! Our new Sprint Space is open for business. If you’re looking for a creative space to work with your team for a week or a month — and might appreciate some Filament services to help you — come on down and check out our new Sprint Space. We’re really pleased how it turned out, and will share some pictures next week.

INTERESTING IDEAS

If you’re looking for a great morning routine for your team, borrow an idea from the Japanese and do a Chorei (a morning standup focused on motivating everyone to have their best day):

Every team is different, so designing your own Chorei should be a collectively creative process. Take suggestions from your team on what they’d like to try as a group activity in the morning. Here are just a few out-of-the-box ideas:

  • Include a 3-minute standing meditation or visualization from an app like Calm or Headspace.

  • Nominate a handful of people each day to share a personal goal they’re working towards. In many Chorei, this is considered “speech training” for employees.

  • Have a rotating inspirational mini-speech from leadership.

  • Crowdsource interesting industry headlines or tips from relevant news to share knowledge.

  • Track towards a shared company goal with a daily progress chart.

  • Do a team chant or cheer, or maybe just yell really loud!

In the Five Elements of Effective Thinking, authors Edward Burger and Michael Starbird suggest a better way to think about failure. Fail in Bite-Sized Chunks:

The next time you face a daunting challenge, think to yourself, “In order for me to resolve this issue, I will have to fail nine times, but on the tenth attempt, I will be successful.” This attitude frees you and allows you to think creatively without fear of failure, because you understand that learning from failure is a forward step toward success. Take a risk and when you fail, no longer think, “Oh, no, what a frustrating waste of time and effort,” but instead extract a new insight from that misstep and correctly think, “Great: one down, nine to go—I’m making forward progress!” And indeed you are. After your first failure, think, “Terrific, I’m 10% done!” Mistakes, loss, and failure are all flashing lights clearly pointing the way to deeper understanding and creative solutions.

Are you looking for a new business idea? Check out the Houston newsletter. Once a week, they share five real problems people would love to solve. It is an interesting read.

Some two-thousand year old wisdom from Marcus Aurelius:

Even if you’re going to live three thousand more years, or ten times that, remember: you cannot lose another life than the one you’re living now, or live another one than the one you’re losing.

I just shared Photomath with my daughter: scan almost any textbook math problem with your phone’s camera and it’ll generate a step-by-step solution instantly.

I’m still processing this one, but lots to chew on in this piece by Jonathan Zittrain about how AI might be more dangerous to humankind when it is right than when it is wrong:

Most important, we should not deceive ourselves into thinking that answers alone are all that matters: indeed, without theory, they may not be meaningful answers at all.

Want to experience more things in a shorter time? Learn to shrink the quantum of experience:

“Instead of reading a book, read a wikipedia article. Instead of eating a cup of ice cream, eat a spoonful. Decreases turnaround time, which both reduces procrastination and also allows me to decide whether I want to go deeper.” This tip encourages me to follow my curiosity, but reminds me to start with small bites.

Here’s how to reach out to someone who’s career you admire:

Highlight what makes you interesting. Successful people like connecting with other interesting people because it feels like fun, not work. And yet so often they’re approached by people taking the role of supplicants, who only want to ask questions and glean wisdom. It’s flattering at first, but with enough volume, it can become exhausting. So one secret is to position yourself as a peer who is notable in your own right.

Finally, I think you’ll be inspired by this beautiful letter from Hunter S. Thompson to a friend about goals. It is absolutely wonderful.

MEMORABLE QUOTES

"There are no right answers to wrong questions." — Ursula K. Le Guin

"What people think of as the moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question." — Jonas Salk

"The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions." — Antony Jay

"We need to look hard at the stories we create, and wrestle with them. Retell and retell them, and work with them like clay. It is in the retelling and returning that they give us their wisdom." — Marni Gillard

“If you’re opening a hot dog stand, you could worry about the condiments, the cart, the name, the decoration. But the first thing you should worry about is the hot dog. The hot dogs are the epicenter. Everything else is secondary.” — Jason Fried

Monday Morning Meeting #59
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Happy Monday! Welcome to the July 22nd edition of the Monday Morning Meeting: A weekly collection of Filament news, tools you can use, and interesting ideas that will help you think differently about your week ahead.

FILAMENT NEWS

VENTURE CAFE CORPORATE INNOVATION EXCHANGE: The Filament Team is heading to Boston in October to facilitate the RE: IMAGINE Corporate Innovation Exchange, a three-day conference we’ve built with our friends at Venture Cafe.

OFFERINGS COMING SOON: We’ll have our BOGO (Buy One / Give One) Sketch Session up on the site this week, along with a new Meeting Design Sprint offering.

THE SPRINT SPACE IS NEARLY COMPLETE! Look for a Sprint Space announcement next week. We’ve taken Matchbox Design’s old space and turned it into a super creative innovation space you can rent by the day, week, or month — and you’ll get a mix of our services with each engagement.

TOOLS YOU CAN USE

PREPARE BETTER FOR YOUR NEXT MEETING: Trying to plan your next team meeting? Here’s a Meeting Preparation Worksheet we created during our Meeting Design Sprint a few weeks ago. It is part of a full Meeting Kit we’re working on.

INTERESTING IDEAS

What would you give for an “Untouchable Day” each week where you can focus without meetings, interruptions, and calls? Here’s how to do it:

How do I carve out Untouchable Days? I look at my calendar sixteen weeks ahead of time, and for each week, I block out an entire day as UNTOUCHABLE. I put it in all-caps just like that, too. UNTOUCHABLE. I don’t write in all-caps for anything else, but I allow UNTOUCHABLE days to just scream out to me.

Why sixteen weeks ahead? The number of weeks isn’t as important as the thinking behind it. For me, that’s after my speaking schedule is locked in — but, importantly, before anything else is. That’s a magic moment in my schedule. It’s the perfect time to plant the Untouchable Day flag before anything else can claim that spot.

On the actual Untouchable Day itself, I picture myself sitting in a bulletproof car surrounded by two-inches of thick impenetrable plastic on all sides. Nothing gets in. Nothing gets out. Meetings bounce off the windshield. Texts, alerts, and phone calls, too. My cell phone is in Airplane Mode all day. My laptop has Wi-Fi completely disabled. Not a single thing can bother me… and not a single thing does.

Forget talent, hire for curiosity:

The world is changing so fast and in so many ways that we need leaders who are equally curious about how to create customer value as they are about creating social value as an enterprise.

Part ways with your organization’s Heretics:

This kind of employee, and we have all seen this up close, is negative about the Company and disses the management, coworkers, the board, the strategy, the workplace, and everything else under the sun. But for some reason the heretic prefers to stay and be miserable than to move on and find another place to work that is more to their liking. My friend states in his book that you have to part ways with heretics in your company, regardless of how talented they are, how connected they are, and even if they are protected in some way. You have to find a way out of the heretic mess.

It is hard for us to agree with this more: Why a Monthly Offsite is Crucial.

Remember “Opposite Day” in grade school? Austin Kleon shares his approach to writing that would work for organizations trying to build something new:

Making a list of everything stupid and idiotic that someone else is saying and then sitting down and trying to articulate the exact opposite.

Disruption Starts with Unhappy Customers:

The fastest way to grow is to offer something that your current customers, those most loyal to you, would gladly pay for if you provided it and that, by virtue of them acquiring this new offering, it would make your original product or service even more valuable to them. And here is the catch: the new products that are launched do not need to be better than those of the established companies to be successful. As long as new products have synergies for the customer, they will likely get adopted.

Can’t wait to put this together.

A list of books for every age (literally).

MEMORABLE QUOTES

"Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo" — John Sinclair

It’s okay — in fact, it’s better than okay — to make mistakes, really big mistakes sometimes.… That strikes me as where all the good stuff happens.” — Melissa Harris-Perry

“If you want to love what you do, abandon the passion mindset (‘what can the world offer me?’) and instead adopt the craftsman mindset (‘what can I offer the world?’)” ― Cal Newport

"Great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart." — Mencius (Meng-Tse)

“No matter who you are, no matter what you do, no matter who your audience is: 30 percent will love it, 30 percent will hate it, and 30 percent won’t care. Stick with the people who love you and don’t spend a single second on the rest. Life will be better that way.” ― James Altucher