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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 #57


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 FEATURED ON FOX2: We appeared on Fox2 news last week. Here’s a link to our (brief) segment with Kim Hudson.

WE’RE BEGINNING OUR “OFFERINGS” SPRINT: We work in 10-week sprints to better focus on a single goal at a time. We’ve just begun our new “Offerings” sprint. In the next ten weeks, we’ll launch three new offerings, including this one that’s on our to-do list already:

BUY ONE, GIVE ONE SKETCH SESSIONS: We’re creating a “Buy One, Give One” Sketch Session for companies and organizations who need some help visually thinking through a challenge, new idea, or offering. Clients describe Sketch Sessions as a creative mix of innovation, coaching, consulting, brainstorming, and visualization. Here’s how it will work:

  • Schedule a two-hour Sketch Session at Filament with me (Matt Homann) and our incredible artist Todd Bauman and we’ll work with you and a small team to draw out your challenge(s) and help you explore ways to solve them.

  • After the session, you’ll get a great visual of the challenge we discussed along with the ideas and action steps we discovered.

  • After your Sketch Session, you can “give” another one to a non-profit you support and we’ll do a free sketch session with them.

FILAMENT FRIDAY ON JULY 19TH: We’ll be doing another Filament Friday on July 19th. If you’d like to work with us, share a challenge you’re working on, and/or offer a bit of help to others who might appreciate a hand, you can RSVP here.

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ELEPHANT, SQUIRREL, ZOMBIE, PORCUPINE: Inspired by an exercise called Elephant, Dead Fish, Vomit invented by Airbnb (and shared in the wonderful book Rituals for Work), Elephant, Squirrel, Porcupine, Zombie is a group conversation “tool” designed to nurture more honest dialog among people who work together. Here’s how to use it:

During every all-hands meeting, carve out time to discuss the following:

  • Elephants: Big things people are worried about but not talking about.

  • Squirrels: Things that might be distracting the organization or team from focusing on the work that matters most.

  • Zombies: Old issues, projects, or ways of working that never seem to go away.

  • Porcupines: Touchy subjects that might be hard to handle.

We’re in the process of turning each of these into a card people might hold up during our meetings when they feel the group has encountered an elephant, squirrel, porcupine, or zombie. We expect they’ll help our groups have deeper conversations to help them get past the barrier each one of these entities poses.

What are the elephants, squirrels, porcupines, and zombies in your organization?


I was finishing up Kevin Kelly’s The Inevitable and was hit by this passage about how the extraordinary things we might have see once in a lifetime are now are new status quo:

Every minute a new impossible thing is uploaded to the internet and that improbable event becomes just one of hundreds of extraordinary events that we’ll see or hear about today. The internet is like a lens that focuses the extraordinary into a beam, and that beam has become our illumination. It compresses the unlikely into a small viewable band of everydayness. As long as we are online — which is almost all day many days — we are illuminated by this compressed extraordinariness. It is the new normal.

Greg Fraley shares an example of what to communicate to operational employees during an innovation initiative. Here are just a few of my favorites:

  • Innovation is part of everyone’s job. Yes, you’re busy focusing on your job description, AND, we need to innovate to survive, so, innovation is part of your job.

  • Not all ideas submitted will be acted upon, in fact, most won’t. We still want the ideas. When an idea matches our criteria, it will be made into a project. Some projects will make it through a pipeline, many will not. Projects are how innovation happens, and successfully implemented ideas work to help us make money, save money, improve safety, and/or sustainability. If we ask for your help with the project we expect you to make best efforts to assist.

  • You will be evaluated. Your contribution to innovation in terms of ideas, and assistance with projects, will be part of your eval. Because measuring is how we improve

Here’s a cool icebreaker for a roomful of strangers: Write a Collective Biography:

The short version of how it works: A group of people figures out what things they have in common. Are we all from the United States? Do we all like sushi? Do we all dislike the Boston Red Sox? Whatever you can come up with through asking questions and conversing. "Assemble your statements," Krouse Rosenthal wrote. "Call it your Short, Collective Biography." At this workshop, I gave the 10 groups of 10 people each just 10 minutes to come up with a minimum of three facts in common. These teams gathered people from different offices and departments who didn't necessarily know each other, so everybody had to start asking and interacting immediately.

I’m not going to lie, I kinda like this idea better than a vacation autoresponder:

To encourage employees to take real time off, the German automaker Daimler allows them to select an email setting that automatically deletes messages sent to them during vacation, lets senders know that the recipient will never see the messages, and encourages senders to email again after a specified date or to contact someone else. 

If your team needs a creativity boost, bore them first:

Once the [boring task] was over, each group was instructed to spend five minutes on a creative task: They had to come up with reasons why a hypothetical person was two hours late for a meeting. What the researchers found was that the bored group came up with not just more ideas than the control group, but more creative ideas than the control group, too. The quality and quantity of production was higher for people who were bored than those who were not.

I once had dinner at a table next to Teller (the silent partner in the magical duo Penn & Teller) and now really wish I’d have found a way to talk with him. He’s a former teacher, and shares some of the “magical” ways he engaged his students in this fascinating article.

Finally, here’s a pretty cool image from NASA of St. Louis from the International Space Station.


“Writing dignifies any turmoil it puts you through.” — Mike Sacks

“You do not need anybody’s permission to live a creative life.” — Elizabeth Gilbert

“The best revenge is not to be like that.” — Marcus Arelius

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” — Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

“You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.” — Colette