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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 Creativity
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.

Intentionally General

We brag about our meeting methodology being “content agnostic” because we believe it is more important to have someone running your meeting who knows how to get the most out of the smart people in the room vs. being smart about the same things they are.

In other words, we’d rather be content generalists and meeting experts instead of the other way around because working in so many different areas helps us make connections our siloed customers can’t.

David Epstein, author of the upcoming book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, would seem to agree:

He discovered that in most fields — especially those that are complex and unpredictable — generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They’re also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can’t spy from deep in their hyper-focused trenches. As experts silo themselves further while computers master more of the skills once reserved for highly focused humans, people who think broadly and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives will increasingly thrive.

in the last year, we’ve designed and facilitated meetings focused on everything from legal innovation to plant data science — and our clients value most the ideas we share from outside their industry instead of the ones they’ve already seen inside of it.

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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Dump the Hour Keynote and Do This Instead

Here's an "alternative" keynote format we've used at Filament that combines the best of TED Talks, conversational engagement, room for introverts and extroverts to think and process alike, and speaker-audience connection. It is lightly edited from its original form as posted in a Tweet-stream here.

First, this works best when the room is set in rounds with 4-8 attendees. It can work in auditoriums or when a room is set as "classroom" style -- and don't get me started on what an oxymoron that is -- but it works best in rounds.

Before the speaker begins, every audience member gets a worksheet with room for notes, a place to doodle, and a few prompts like: What was the most compelling thing you heard? What did you disagree with? What would you like to know more about? etc.

On the agenda, the keynote is given an hour (so it looks familiar to those too afraid of big changes), but it is broken down differently:

  • Minutes 1-15: The speaker gets 15 minutes to make their three key points. They can use slides if they want, but it is best to limit the number if you can.

  • Minutes 16 - 20: Once the speaker's 15 minutes are done, the room gets 5 minutes of silence to contemplate what they just heard and complete the worksheet. This is ridiculously hard for extroverts but loved by introverts. It is OK if some take out their phones, though only a few will.

  • Minutes 20 - 40: After the silent time is over, each table gets 20 minutes to talk with one another about what they just heard, what they liked, etc. Ideally, they'll follow the framework from the worksheet, but not terrible if they do a bit of networking, too. During the table time, the speaker can roam around the room and engage one-on-one with audience members who have specific questions. However, each tables' key deliverable during this period is ONE question they'd collectively like to ask the speaker.

  • Minutes 41-60: Finally, for the last 20 minutes of the hour-long keynote slot, each table can ask their question of the speaker. If you have a lot of tables, obviously you'll only pick a few, but every table can still submit their question for the speaker to answer later if they're able. In case it’s not obvious, the reason the table must ask a question collectively instead of allowing individual questions is to eliminate the long-winded, self-important audience member from asking their 5-minute, "I'm so smart, don't you agree" question that bores the rest of the room to tears.

We've found this is so much better than the traditional "sage on the stage" hour-long keynote. It is easier for the speakers, better for the audience, and more fun to boot! I hope you'll try it and let me know if it works for you.

Monday Morning Meeting #33

Welcome to our Monday Morning Meeting. You're right on time!

Sometimes, just changing the question gets us better answers: Think About What You Could Do, Not What You Should Do:

I gave participants difficult ethical challenges where there seemed to be no good choice. I then asked participants either “What should you do?” or “What could you do?” We found that the “could” group were able to generate more creative solutions. Approaching problems with a “should” mindset gets us stuck on the trade-off the choice entails and narrows our thinking on one answer, the one that seems most obvious. But when we think in terms of “could,” we stay open-minded and the trade-offs involved inspire us to come up with creative solutions.

Overwhelmed by your to-do list? Here's a succinct summary of several prioritization strategies (with simple graphic summaries of each).

For better memories, sleep after good experiences and stay awake (for a while) after bad ones.

The waking brain is optimized for collecting external stimuli, the sleeping brain for consolidating the information that’s been collected. At night, that is, we switch from recording to editing, a change that can be measured on the molecular scale. We’re not just rotely filing our thoughts—the sleeping brain actively curates which memories to keep and which to toss. [So] sleeping soon after a major event, before some of the ordeal is mentally resolved, is more likely to turn the experience into long-term memories.

A Lego Bond car? Yes, please!


Check out LIstenNotes a search engine for thousands of podcasts. 

Stuck? Try drawing 30 Circles:

Take a piece of paper and draw 30 circles on the paper. Now, in one minute, adapt as many circles as you can into objects. For example, one circle could become a sun. Another could become a globe. How many can you do in a minute? (Take quantity over quality into consideration.) The result: Most people have a hard time getting to 30, largely because we have a tendency as adults to self-edit. Kids are great at simply exploring possibilities without being self-critical, whereas adults have a harder timeSometimes, even the desire to be original can be a form of self-editing. Don’t forget — good artists copy, great artists steal.

This essay on Getting What You Want has some great tips. The one that stuck with me:

Learn how other people have already gotten the thing you want: It has never been easier to find out exactly how to achieve bizarre and difficult feats. It’s absurdly easy, in fact, and our pre-internet forefathers would be shocked at how flippantly we ignore this spectacular advantage. Just Google it—“How to afford a trip to Japan”; “How to start an online business”; “How to build a tree house like in Swiss Family Robinson.” Answers abound.

Finally, we'll close with a cool exploration of the ways Hitchcock elevated architecture in his films.


Filament on HEC-TV

Our friends at HEC-TV did a nice little bit on Filament.  Check it out!

From their website: 

“Corporate meetings suck.” Those are the rather blunt words of Matt Homann, owner of Filament. His company both houses and facilitates a new kind of meeting. It’s one that shuns all of today’s modern gadgets and takes things “back to the future,” employing toys, games, and even a cartoonist to encourage face to face, more creative communication. One professor we spoke to, who specializes in organizational behavior, says this “new” approach is a sign that we’re learning things about our technology that simply don’t work.