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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.


Posts in Business
Put Your Ideas in Quarantine
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My name is Matt, and I’ve got Idea Surplus Disorder a.k.a. “Shiny Shiny Syndrome” real bad.

You’ll know you have it too when you regularly give in to an overwhelming urge to start working on something new (and amazing) instead of wrapping up your current projects.

And Idea Surplus Disorder isn’t only an individual affliction — organizations can suffer from it, too!

Though “ISD” isn’t (usually) fatal, the cumulative results of pursuing new ideas at the expense of finishing others can have debilitating impacts on your business and your team.

Because Idea Surplus Disorder is incurable — at least I hope so — I’ve begun to treat my case by learning to “quarantine” my newest ideas. From Wikipedia:

Quarantine is compulsory isolation, typically to contain the spread of something considered dangerous, often but not always disease.

Whenever I have a great idea, I capture it so I don’t lose it, but then I wait at least 90 days before I give it any more of my time. This “compulsory” waiting period keeps me from starting work on a poorly-formed idea I’ll later lose passion for. It also gives me time to think about the idea and socialize it with friends and colleagues. If I’m still enamored with it once the 90 days have passed, it goes straight to the top of my “To Do” list.

By creating a process to postpone and ultimately resurface the ideas I have, I’ve learned to devote more energy working on what matters now, knowing that if my new idea still feels as “shiny” in 90 days as it does today, we’ll both be ready for a long term relationship.

You can download your own version of our Idea Quarantine Poster here.

What Could Possibly Go Worng? Using Pre-Mortems to Reduce Risk of Future Failures

Though there’s no shortage of management gurus extolling the benefits of learning from failure, a harsh truth remains: failure sucks. It’s hard to fail even when the stakes are modest — and when you’re working on a “bet the farm” project, it seems unthinkable.

So, how might your team learn from failure before it happens? The answer is simple: do a Pre-Mortem.

A pre-mortem is a managerial strategy in which a project team imagines that a project or organization has failed, and then works backward to determine what potentially could lead to the failure of the project or organization. The technique breaks possible groupthinking by facilitating a positive discussion on threats, increasing the likelihood the main threats are identified. Management can then reduce the chances of failure due to heuristics and biases such as overconfidence and planning fallacy by analyzing the magnitude and likelihood of each threat, and take preventative actions to protect the project or organization from suffering an untimely "death".

According to this Harvard Business Review, "unlike a typical critiquing session, in which project team members are asked what might go wrong, the premortem operates on the assumption that the 'patient' has died, and so asks what did go wrong.”

We’ve built a worksheet (which you can download here) that prompts your team to imagine your project was “a miserable failure” and to answer the following questions, as if you’re remembering what happened instead of predicting it:

  • What are ten things that went wrong?

  • What were we most nervous about before we began?

  • What were our blind spots?

  • What should have been our back-up plan?

  • Who was our biggest detractor, and what might we have done to get them on board?

  • What are at least three things we’ll never do again?

Use the worksheet before you kick-off your next project, and it will help you ensure your reality turns out way better than your imaginations.

PowerPoint Bingo

We don’t like to use PowerPoint at Filament, but have sat through our share of bad presentations elsewhere. In case you’re in a meeting or conference and bored to tears, have a bit of fun and play some PowerPoint Bingo!

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Pre-Innovation Meeting Questions

Mitch Ditkoff at Idea Champions shares a great list of questions to ask senior leaders before hiring an innovation consultant. Because so many of them also apply to the work we do at Filament I thought I'd share a few that will be added to our client assessment toolkit:

1. Do you have a clear, compelling vision of our organization's future? If not, are you willing to create one?

2. Are you personally committed to fostering a culture of innovation? Are other senior leaders on the same page with you? If not, are you and your colleagues willing to get on the same page within the next few weeks?

4. Are you willing to challenge the status quo?

5. Are you open to receiving new ideas from the workforce -- and are you willing to establish a process that will make it easy for them to do so?

9. Are you willing to go beyond "command and control", empower people, and push decision making further down the food chain?

The Ten Rules of Networking

We don't really do "networking" here at Filament in the traditional way. Because we believe people connect better when they're thinking together vs. (just) drinking together, we work hard to build collaboration and small-group discussion into everything we do.  Nevertheless, if you're heading out to a networking reception anytime soon, here are a few tips to take along with you:

  1. "Network" isn't something you do, it is something you build.
  2. If the first thing you ask someone is, "What do you do?" it suggests your interest in them depends upon their answer.
  3. Boundaries in business matter. "Friending" someone you hardly know practically guarantees it will stay that way. 
  4. Your life story is far more interesting to you than to someone you've just met - and you've  heard it before.
  5. It takes more time to recover from a weak handshake than it does to learn to give a firm one.
  6. Stories that start with, "This one time, I almost ..." are boring as hell.  Learn to embrace experiences instead of avoiding them.
  7. The most underrated networking skill is the ability to politely end conversations, not start them.
  8. Never enter a conversation at a networking event with more than half a drink in your hand.  Needing a refill is a great excuse to leave.
  9. When you meet someone for the first time, make certain they don't hear you complain.  About anything.
  10. Never "network" to meet people.  Network to help people.