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The Filament Blog


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

Good morning. Welcome to another Monday Morning Meeting at Filament.

Tom Fishburne shared a great way to abandon PowerPoint and think creatively:

I talked about PowerPoint-itis as a barrier to building and sharing ideas in an organization. I then shared a simple, overlooked way of communicating ideas — the back-of-the-envelope sketch. First I asked everyone in the audience to individually draw a marketing idea as a doodle complete with stick figures. Second I asked them to exchange that drawing with someone around them.

That second request caused a mild panic. The idea of sharing a sketchy, unpolished drawing with a colleague is fear-inducing. But that’s exactly the state and stage that ideas are best shared with colleagues — when they’re unformed and half-baked, not when they’re polished and perfect in a lengthy slide presentation. I think the fear of sharing ideas at this embryonic stage is part of what gets in the way of collaborating inside an organization.

I asked everyone to build on their colleagues’ back-of-the-envelope sketches with more drawing and then return them. I don’t think that simple informal exchange of ideas happens enough in business.

Why it is fun to like stuff before it gets cool (via Indexed).


Want to brainstorm better?  Try the Japanese game of shiritori (watch the TED talk):

Putting limits on your brainstorming may seem counterproductive, but it actually helps you get your ideas flowing. The Japanese game of shiritori is an easy way to guide your brainstorming session, whether you’re looking for ideas for a new project, book, or physical product.

The basic idea behind shiritori is that you start with a word and then come up with another word that starts with the letter the first word ends with. Tweak this to apply to brainstorming by thinking of ideas as well as the next word. As toy developer Shimpei Takahashi explains in his TED Talk above, let’s say you start with the word “cat”. In his case, he designs toys, so what would a cat themed toy look like? Then moving on, something that starts with “t”, maybe “toothbrush”. How can you turn a toothbrush into a toy? (Spoiler: You make it into a guitar shaped brush.)

Most of the ideas you’ll come up with won’t necessarily be very useful, but that’s okay because the goal is simply come up with as many ideas as possible. You’re bound to end up with one or two great ones, and the important part of brainstorming has already happened: You’ve opened the floodgates and you’re thinking creatively.

We live draw every meeting at Filament because it helps people think faster, understand more and remember longer.  The Ink Factory shares four reasons why you should graphic record your next meeting along with a handy-dandy infographic.

These Eleven Innovation-Killing Bad Habits are worthwhile to keep in mind every time you're doing some strategic planning.  We've seen nearly every one of these in our work, but the three that are the most pernicious are:

Bad Habit #10: Innovation is siloed from Execution
Companies struggle to get the “execution engine” and “innovation engine” to collaborate, rather than to compete. Rather than realizing that managing the present and inventing the future are equally important and should be equally resourced, they often fight for the same resources. Often the execution engine deprives the innovators from access to valuable resources like customers, brand, or skills. That means the innovators end up competing without any competitive advantage against the more nimble and agile startups.

Remedy: Create a culture where executors and innovators collaborate because they understand each other’s value to the organization. Create processes and incentives that grant innovators access to customers, brands, and skills so they can outcompete the more nimble and agile startup ventures.

Bad Habit #8: Focus on technology risk at the expense of other risks
New business ideas face many different risks. The California design firm IDEO distinguishes between three types of risk when they assess prototypes: desirability, feasibility, viability. Desirability is about the risk of your customers not being attracted by your new value proposition. Feasibility is about technology and infrastructure risks. Viability is about financial risks. We added a fourth risk, adaptability. Adaptability is about the risk of a business model and value proposition not being fit for evolving external factors, like competition, technology change, or regulation (risk: external threats).

Remedy: Make sure you test all four types of risks: desirability, feasibility, viability, and adaptability.
Bad Habit #9: Innovation is career limiting
In many companies being an innovator is not an attractive career path. First, in most organizations any type of failure is seen as a negative for your career. Yet good innovation processes require rapid experimentation and failure to gain insights, adapt, and ultimately succeed. Second, corporate incentives are geared to rewarding execution, where failure is not an option. Third, in most companies, innovation is still seen as a department for pirates and “the crazy ones” who really add no value to revenue and profit. And finally, prestige in companies is measured by who commands the largest budget and staff. But great innovation programs always start small.

Remedy: Create different incentive systems for the people focused on execution, and the people focused on innovation. Make innovation a prestigious job in your company. After all, the innovators are ensuring your organization’s survival in an age of constant change.

We've been doing some big-picture, strategic-shift work for a few clients who's industries are changing rapidly.  One lens that's worthwhile using is this one: What is Your Organization's Massive Transformative Purpose?  A Massive Transformative Purpose (MTP) is a hugely audacious aspirational goal focused on creating a completely different future for your organization:

Having an MTP can trigger incredible outcomes, which is why high-growth organizations all tend to have them.

The aspirational quality of an MTP pushes teams to prioritize big thinking, rapid growth strategies, and organizational agility—and these behaviors all have substantial payoffs in the long term.

As an MTP harnesses passion within an organization, it also galvanizes a community to form outside the company that shares the purpose. This sparks an incredible secondary impact by helping organizations attract and retain top qualified talent who want to find mission-driven work and remain motivated by the cause.

Additionally, when people are aligned on purpose, it creates a positive feedback loop by channeling intrinsic motivation towards that shared purpose.

Finally, like a north star, an MTP keeps all efforts focused and aligned, which helps organizations grow cohesively. As the organization evolves and scales, the MTP becomes a stabilizer for employees as they transition into new territory.

Our MTP here at Filament is to Change Every Meeting.  What's yours?

See you next week!