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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 Facilitation
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.

Elephant, Squirrel, Zombie, Porcupine.
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Inspired by an exercise called Elephant, Dead Fish, Vomit invented by Airbnb (and shared in the wonderful book Rituals for Work), Elephant, Squirrel, Zombie, Porcupine 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 or working that never seem to go away.

  • Porcupines: Touchy subjects that might feel too 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?

Thinking in Experiments: Use If/Then (Maybe) To Try New Things

Our customers design “experiments” in nearly every meeting we facilitate at Filament: simple, easy, fast, and cheap things that might help their organization learn something, try something, or build something.*

Experiments are smaller than “pilots” and certainly not as large as “projects” or “initiatives.” They’re just big enough to provide a modicum of proof and direction that might help a team decide what to do next.

Here’s how it works:

  • 15 Minutes: After setting a topic for the experiments (teamwork, meetings, technology, customer service, etc.), we ask everyone to spend some time alone with a handful of small experiment cards and capture a handful of “If we try ___________, I think this might happen…” ideas.

  • 45 Minutes: Next, we group teams into “Labs” of 5-7 people where they’ll listen to everyone’s individual ideas, explore common themes and then develop 2-3 experiments to share with the larger group — using the worksheet you see at the top of this post.

  • 30 Minutes: After the experiment sharing, we’ll do a gallery walk of the experiment sheets, and then a small “pricing team” will assign a “price” to each experiment using the Fibonacci sequence** before the group votes on the experiments they’d like to try next.

At the end of the exercise, the group has at least 2-3 experiments they’ll do next several weeks. More importantly, they’ve learned the value of trying new things quickly without getting bogged down in “Project Paralysis.”

* Experiments work so well that we’re building an entire two-day, deep-dive workshop about how to make experimentation a central part of an organization’s way of working.

** We’ll share our Experiment Pricing Methodology in a future post.

Building a Better Strategy with "Our Five Futures"
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The next time you need people to plan for a disruptive future, give them five to think about instead of just one. When we do this work, we divide people into at least five different groups, and give each group one of the following “futures” to discuss:

  • A disruptive technology that will impact their industry, competitors, or customers such as AI, Blockchain, or Quantum Computing government action,

  • A disruptive competitor will enter their market like an Apple, Amazon, or Google,

  • An unexpected business model will demand they rethink traditional talent, production, or pricing strategies much like AirBNB did to the hotel industry,

  • A change in governmental policy or regulation will realign incentives or shift risk tolerances like what would happen to if the tax code were dramatically rewritten, or

  • A future where everything that happens is predictable and nothing that occurs is surprising (The Status Quo).

For each of these futures, we ask the following questions (shown on the worksheet above):

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how likely do you believe this future will happen?

  2. What do you hope will be true in this future?

  3. What do you fear will be true in this future?

  4. Are there ways we work/operate now that might make it harder to be ready for this future?

  5. If we’re certain that even part of this future will occur, what should we focus our attention on now to be ready?

Once the groups reconvene, ask each to share a story about the future they were given — paying particular attention to their answers to last two questions (4 & 5 from the list above).

We’ll bet you’ll find that no matter the future, each group will answer those last two questions in a very similar way. And that’s where you should begin your strategy work.

You can download the set of all Five Future Worksheets here.

Workshop Weeks at Filament

We’ve been thinking about a new offering here at Filament called “Workshop Weeks.” In the spirit of “Shitty First Drafts” and working out loud, here’s a cleaned-up summary of a Twitter thread that captures the idea:

Lots of people have great ideas, but need an occasional push to build a cool prototype, finish a project, or explore a new business model.

What if that push came from a handful of other creative, interesting people who are also working on their cool prototype, project, or business model?

And what if that interesting group of unique people building cool things was supplemented by a handful of professional writers, coders, prototypers, innovators, and designers?

And what if we brought all of those cool people and talented "helpers" into an amazing space for a week of support, help, advice, work, and getting shit done?

This wouldn't be an agenda-driven, expert-centric, un-conferency gathering, summit, or meetup. Instead, it would be a week of caffeine-fueled, peer-supported, engaged working on real projects -- with people who are building something cool on their own (but helping you, too).

We'd limit the number of "projects" to 10 or so, and support both individual change-makers and small teams. We'd also include housing at a brand-new boutique hotel across the street.

Facilitation would be limited to a handful of daily, scrum-like check-ins with progress pitches at each day's end -- though we'd ask every attendee to spend at least an hour each day helping someone else.

Does this sound interesting? We don't think there should be a single industry focus, and believe there's likely an application process for prospective attendees.

Let us know what you think, and please give me a sense of what price seems fair (though a pay-what-you-want model is really interesting). I'm hoping our first Workshop Week happens late Summer, 2019.

Look for more information soon!

Explore Your Challenges Before Solving Them: Using "How Might We ..." to Ask Better Questions

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” 

Innovation doesn’t begin with finding better answers, it begins with building better questions.  This exercise is where we sharpen the axe, by helping teams come up with a great “How Might We …” question before they begin to develop experiments to solve it.

Here’s a downloadable version for you.

Three Rectangles and Four Circles
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If I can draw the format of 75% or more of your event in just three rectangles and four circles, you might want to shake things up a bit! All that’s missing are the microphones, name tents, water pitchers, and a terrible powerpoint up on the screen.

If you’d like help reimagining your meeting, give Filament a shout!

Rethinking Process Mapping: Our Customer's Journey

Every week, we work on something that (we hope) will help us improve the way our customers experience Filament. This week, we started with a quick “Sketch Session” to illustrate our customer’s journey. It is still a work in progress, but because we’re trying our best to #workoutloud, we thought we’d share:

A lot more fun and useful than a wall full of Post-It Notes, don’t you think?