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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.


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Monday Morning Meeting #44
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Welcome to Filament’s Monday Morning Meeting: a mix of innovation news, the tools we use, and the interesting things we found to help you think differently about your week ahead. You can also check out past issues of the newsletter and subscribe here.


We don't use a lot of PowerPoint here at Filament because there are usually better methods to convey information and engage an audience. However, if you've got a presentation to give, keep these Ten Rules in mind. Your audience will thank you.

  1. The greatest gift you can give your audience is a passion for your material. If you don't care for it, they won't care for you.

  2. Your audience’s attention is a lot like your virginity. You only get to lose it once.

  3. PowerPoint is always optional. A bad speech doesn't improve when accompanied by slides in a dark room.

  4.  If PowerPoint makes it easy to do, you probably shouldn’t do it. Avoid bullet points, clip art and cheesy animated transitions at all cost.

  5. The number of words on a slide is inversely proportional to the attention your audience will pay to them. 

  6. Your slides are not your script. The purpose of PowerPoint is to help others understand your material, not to help you remember it. 

  7. Never read your slides. When you do, it suggests to your audience you think they’re incapable of doing so themselves. 

  8. The average person remembers just three things from your presentation. Great speakers make certain everyone remembers the same three things. 

  9. Unless your presentation tells a story, the audience won't care about the ending. They’ll just pray for it. 

  10. Never underestimate the impact a great presentation can have on your audience or your career. Being well prepared serves both of them well.


One of my favorite organizational behavior books is Read This Before Our Next Meeting by Al Pittampalli. Here’s just a small reason why:

Before you make your preliminary decision, you aren't allowed to call a meeting. If you invite me to a Modern Meeting for which a clear decision hasn't been established, I'll look at you, puzzled. I might even walk out. Modern Meetings can't exist without a decision to support. Not a question to discuss—a decision.

If you’re like me and you have a lot of highlights in your Kindle e-books, you’ve got to check out Readwise. Every morning, I get a random selection of things I’ve highlighted from nearly twelve years of Kindle reading. It is a daily dose of inspiration and a great way for me reconnect with the insights and ideas from books I’ve read years ago.

I think this is true of team members, too:

“Speak to your children as if they are the wisest, kindest, most beautiful and magical humans on earth, for what they believe is what they will become.”

This is why trying new things is so hard to do.

Do you do a “Weekly Appreciation” with your team? Tim Sanders has a framework that we’ll be trying here at Filament:

When it comes to finding reasons to be grateful—I think of them as avenues of appreciation—it helps to follow a practice I call the POET approach, which stands for People, Opportunities, Experiences, and Things.

Even though it is tempting sometimes, here’s why we shouldn’t ignore email at work:

Your inbox isn’t just a list of other people’s tasks. It’s where other people help you do your job.

When you begin a conversation, stop asking, “How are you?”

These are the three most useless words in the world of communication. The person asking doesn't really want to know, and the person responding doesn't tell the truth. What follows is a lost opportunity and meaningless exchange with zero connection.

Drill this into your head: It is a horrible icebreaker. There are a few exceptions, like if it's a genuine interest of yours and your boss or colleague shares that passion. But try to move beyond those cliché topics to things that are more important and personal to you.

The three most annoying sentences in organizational life:

  1. That’s not what my experience shows.

  2. That’s the way we’ve always done it.

  3. That will never work here.


“Everything we have today that’s cool comes from someone wanting more of something they loved in the past.” — Patton Oswalt

“A good salesman sells everybody. A great salesman sells everybody but himself.” — Kevin Ashton

“Coincidence is the word we use when we can’t see the levers and pulleys.” — Emma Bull

“Trust is the conduit for influence. It’s the medium through which ideas travel.” — Amy Cuddy

“To be exotic, on the other hand, one had to think not just outside the box but outside the world of boxes.” — David Sedaris

Monday Morning Meeting #41
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It is time for another Monday Morning Meeting from Filament — your weekly mix of smart ideas and interesting links. Ready to get started?


Please join us for our third birthday party from 3-7 pm on Friday, March 29th with some food, facilitation, fun, and cake! Here’s the link to sign up — and please bring a friend or business colleague.


If you’re mentoring someone suffering from the (very common) imposter syndrome, here are several things to keep in mind, including:

Do not allow your mentee to give you all the credit: When a mentee with imposter syndrome gives you the credit, express thanks and then highlight in no uncertain terms how she deserves the lion’s share of credit — and explain why.

I love this customer experience design question:

If you tried to rework your entire customer experience around the needs and interests of ONE incredible customer, who would that customer be? What would you start to do if you only had to address them in your customer experience?

Cognitive biases are “systematic patterns of deviation from rationality in judgment” and we’ve all got ‘em. Here’s a lengthy list to share (and here’s a cheat sheet) with your team before making a big decision or building a strategic plan. Here are a few of my (new) favorites:

  • Backfire Effect: The reaction to disconfirming evidence by strengthening one's previous beliefs.

  • Ben Franklin Effect: A person who has performed a favor for someone is more likely to do another favor for that person than they would be if they had received a favor from that person

  • The "I-knew-it-all-along" effect: The tendency to see past events as being predictable at the time those events happened.

  • The Law of the Instrument: An over-reliance on a familiar tool or methods, ignoring or under-valuing alternative approaches. "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

  • Pro-Innovation Bias: The tendency to have an excessive optimism towards an invention or innovation's usefulness throughout society, while often failing to identify its limitations and weaknesses.

  • Parkinson’s Law of Triviality: The tendency to give disproportionate weight to trivial issues. Also known as bikeshedding, this bias explains why an organization may avoid specialized or complex subjects, such as the design of a nuclear reactor, and instead focus on something easy to grasp or rewarding to the average participant, such as the design of an adjacent bike shed.

We’ll occasionally use a “Stupid Idea Wall” at Filament to encourage people to share their bad ideas instead of just their good ones. Mitch shares a similar process:

  1. Identify a challenge worth brainstorming.

  2. Conjure up a bad idea in response to it.

  3. Tell someone about your bad idea.

  4. Ask the other person to express something redeemable about your bad idea -- an aspect of it that has merit.

  5. Using this redeemable essence as a clue, brainstorm some new possibilities

The surprising power of simply asking coworkers how they’re doing.


“If you ask for money, you get advice. If you ask for advice, you get money.” — Unknown

The four most dangerous words in the English language are, ‘This time will be different.’” - Naill Ferguson

“To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” — Lao Tzu

“It is no good getting furious if you get stuck. What I do is keep thinking about the problem but work on something else.” — Steven Hawking

Monday Morning Meeting #34

Let's welcome another Monday with a few interesting things we found last week just for you.

When Expertise Kills Innovation:

Experts only know the way that got them there. They want to give answers, but innovation requires new questions. These new questions can only be asked by shifting ones perspective, a job outsiders are perfectly positioned for. Outsiders are the ones who change the game because they’re not blinded by expertise; they approach the situation. Companies, just like people, exploit their competence up to the point where it makes them irrelevant. Behind expertise is the need for certainty, but your need for certainty kills innovation.

I really love the idea of Weeknotes. It would be a great way to capture all the lessons learned on a project or a team in near real-time, and I've been thinking of a way we might incorporate it into our work.

Maybe we need more walls and fewer screens:

Digital things look ‘finished’ too soon. when something is a work in progress on a wall, it looks unfinished, so you keep working on it. moving things around, reshaping things, connecting things, erasing things, and making them again. Walls make it easier to iterate. Iteration, in my opinion, is massively correlated with quality.

There is something about a group of people standing in front of a wall full of sketches, or index cards or post-it notes. Its a different kind of collaboration than you get around a table, or in a digital tool. You’re usually standing up, so you’re paying attention, you’re focused

For team productivity, ease into your to-do lists.

Ultimately, the workers who completed the mundane tasks first were happier, felt more motivated, and got more done than the group that just tackled their to-do lists without “easing into it.”

We really need some of these Mechanical GIFs at Filament!


And finally, a great reminder to everyone from Albert Einstein:

“Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.”
– Albert Einstein

Monday Morning Meeting #32

Happy, happy Monday! Want to see some of the cool things we noticed this week? Keep reading!

We draw (a lot) here at Filament -- because we think it helps our clients think big and generate lots of new ideas.  We also love comics!  That's why we're sharing this link first:  Comic Book Artists That Fueled a Century of Innovation.

Such a great question to ask your team at the end of every day: "What was the best thing you did today?"

Perhaps it is time to embrace some JOMO

JOMO, is not a misspelling of “mojo” but, rather, stands for “joy of missing out.” The antithesis of FOMO (fear of missing out), JOMO is about disconnecting, opting out and being O.K. just where you are.

Working in a small business? Check out this great interactive guide to working with clients.

Do you read a lot, but remember little? Perhaps you should rethink how you read.

Get your architect on the phone because Open Offices Don't Work. Here’s a summary of what they found:

[T]he 52 participants studied spent 72% less time interacting face-to-face after the shift to an open office layout... At the same time, the shift to an open office significantly increased digital communication. After the redesign, participants sent 56% more emails (and were cc’d 41% more times), and the number of IM messages sent increased by 67%.

Mindfulness matters to creative teams:


[T]o foster a culture of innovation, leaders need to give greater attention to their employees’ mindsets and consider championing mindfulness practices throughout their organizations. By cultivating milieus where employees are encouraged to be creative, they’re able to move past a mere focus on organizational efficiencies and to develop ways of working and thinking that haven’t been seen before.

Finally, forget sports cars, maybe creativity is the answer to the new midlife crisis.

Monday Morning Meeting #31
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Good morning!  Here's what we've saved to share with you this Monday.

We've built a new version of our Operating System, and here it is!  This quarter, we're launching several new "inventions" of ours.

Here's something I've been thinking about for a while, when you live your entire life online, are you able to change your mind?  Ding Dong, the Feed is Dead  

It’s hard to believe there was a time, in those early, heady days of social media, that I wanted more of it. New services would pop up on what seemed like a weekly basis and I — the young naif — would sign up for every one of them. Each social service represented some part of my identity — my music tastes, coffee shop check-ins, and Twitter ruminations.

I even welcomed the arrival of Friendfeed: a meta-service that collected all my blog posts, tweets, status updates from multiple platforms into one feed. Anything I’d ever said or shared about myself online was there, an ongoing archive of my self collected in real-time. It was a neat little summation of who I was.

But that isn’t what’s happened. As social media became entrenched as part of mainstream life, they also became subject to the downsides of any normal thing: too much noise, too much exposure, and increased risks of abuse or harassment. Having our histories be public just made it worse. Old opinions or bad tweets that hadn’t aged well were ripe to be taken out of context, and trolls with malicious intent have often done just that, weaponizing people’s own history against them. The further back one’s online life stretches, the greater the risk.

See also: What happened to blogs? and Ten Reasons for Deleting your Social Media Accounts Right Now.

Here are four questions you should stop asking in one-on-one meetings (with a few alternatives, instead). One that isn't just asked in one-on-one meetings, but that could disappear from surveys as well is:

#4: “How can we improve?” This is the vaguest of questions. The problem with vague questions is they invite vague answers. You prompt the person to offer broad suppositions and knee-jerk assumptions, instead of exact details and practical examples. Ask an employee “How can we improve?” and they think, “Hmm, from a business development perspective? Marketing perspective? Leadership perspective? Where to even begin?” Now, some employees you work with will be able to craft a distinct, rich answer from this question. But it’s infrequent. And it’s probable they spent a good chunk of time thinking about the answer ahead of time. For most employees who you ask this question to without any warning, you’ll receive a variant of “I think things are pretty good right now” about 90% of the time.

What should you ask instead? Focus your efforts on asking specific questions, instead of defaulting to general ones. For instance: “What do you think is the most overlooked area of the business?” or “Where do you think we’re behind in, that other companies are excelling at?” Notice how specific each of these questions are. The more specific the question, the more effective they are.

I loved this cartoon from Tom Fishburne.


I've had this book sitting around on the corner of my desk for quite some time before finally cracking it open and it is fantastic!  If you're someone who tells stories for a living (hint, that means all of us) read it!

Here are some great ways to stay inspired and come up with new ideas. A key takeaway:  the moment you wait "until later" to capture an idea, it will probably be gone by the time you planned to remember it.

I don’t know how many times I’ve thought of something and decided to wait to capture it, only to find the idea has completely slipped my mind. We like to think, “There’s no possible way I’ll forget this,” but humans are actually pretty terrible at remembering things. Jot it down, or even write it on your hand if you have to. Just make sure to physically capture the idea the moment it strikes. (Exception: don’t pull your phone out and interrupt a conversation with a friend.)

And lastly, because you know you were curious: The Best Mario Kart Character According to Science.

See you next week!

Monday Morning Meeting #30
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Welcome to Monday!  Check out this week's collection of interesting ideas and cool things we've found for you.

You can be a jerk at work, but it sucks for you as much as it does for your coworkers:

The problem with the jerk path is not that it isn’t more effective, it’s that you have to spend your days being a jerk.

We "work in analog" at Filament a lot, so I'm enjoying this card-based note-taking method.

Speaking of working in analog, have we reached Peak Screen? Some of the reasons we don't encourage folks to use any technology in our meetings:

Screens are insatiable. At a cognitive level, they are voracious vampires for your attention, and as soon as you look at one, you are basically toast.

There are studies that bear this out. One, by a team led by Adrian Ward, a marketing professor at the University of Texas’ business school, found that the mere presence of a smartphone within glancing distance can significantly reduce your cognitive capacity. Your phone is so irresistible that when you can see it, you cannot help but spend a lot of otherwise valuable mental energy trying to not look at it.

When you do give in, you lose your mind.

“What you get sucked into is not the one thing that caught your attention — your text message or tweet or whatever,” said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at the technology research firm Creative Strategies. Instead, you unlock your phone and instantly, almost unconsciously, descend into the irresistible splendors of the digital world — emerging 30 minutes later, stupefied and dazed.

“You open this irresistible box, and you can’t fight it,” she said.

If you want to be less distracted by your phone, check out these settings.

Google is sharing a ton of its internal management tools. Maybe you'll find something you like.  We're experimenting with this G.R.O.W. framework for our meetings:

  • Goal: What do you want? Establish what the team member really wants to achieve with their career.
  • Reality: What’s happening now? Establish the team member's understanding of their current role and skills.
  • Options: What could you do? Generate multiple options for closing the gap from goal to reality.
  • Will: What will you do? Identify achievable steps to move from reality to goal.

We'll be playing with Brush Ninja this week.  Looks like a fun & easy way to make GIFs from simple hand drawings.

Great insights into two key traits of the best problem-solving teams:

The groups that performed well treated mistakes with curiosity and shared responsibility for the outcomes. As a result people could express themselves, their thoughts and ideas without fear of social retribution. The environment they created through their interaction was one of psychological safety.

And finally, never forget:

"The silly question is the first intimation of some totally new development." - Alfred North Whitehead

See you next Monday, and have a great Independence Day!

Monday Morning Meeting #29
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Good morning and happy Monday!  Here are a few things we found this week we thought you'd like:

Not to start off on a downer, but it's amazing how many of these 14 Habits of Highly Miserable People also show up in organizations.  Any sound familiar in yours?

1. Be afraid, be very afraid, of economic loss. In hard economic times, many people are afraid of losing their jobs or savings. The art of messing up your life consists of indulging these fears, even when there’s little risk that you’ll actually suffer such losses. Concentrate on this fear, make it a priority in your life, moan continuously that you could go broke any day now, and complain about how much everything costs, particularly if someone else is buying. Try to initiate quarrels about other people’s feckless, spendthrift ways, and suggest that the recession has resulted from irresponsible fiscal behavior like theirs.

6. Whatever you do, do it only for personal gain. Sometimes you’ll be tempted to help someone, contribute to a charity, or participate in a community activity. Don’t do it, unless there’s something in it for you, like the opportunity to seem like a good person or to get to know somebody you can borrow money from some day. Never fall into the trap of doing something purely because you want to help people. Remember that your primary goal is to take care of Numero Uno, even though you hate yourself.

11. Ruminate. Spend a great deal of time focused on yourself. Worry constantly about the causes of your behavior, analyze your defects, and chew on your problems. This will help you foster a pessimistic view of your life. Don’t allow yourself to become distracted by any positive experience or influence. The point is to ensure that even minor upsets and difficulties appear huge and portentous.

Got a coffee table in need of a few books?  Check out The Observers, a collection of "Photo books recommended by visionaries."  Very cool!

"If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less." - General Eric Shinseki

Are you willing to put the work in to have an opinion?

Only then, when you can argue better against yourself than others can, have you done the work to hold an opinion. That is the time you can say, “Hey, I can hold this view, because I can’t find anyone else who can argue better against my view.”

Great thinkers, like Darwin, did the work necessary to hold an opinion. And it’s one of the biggest reasons he’s buried at Westminster Abbey.

Doing the work counteracts our natural desire to seek out only information that confirms what we believe we know. When Darwin encountered opinions or facts that ran contrary to his ideas, he endeavored not only to listen but also not to rest until he could either argue better than his challengers or understand how the fact fit. Darwin did the work. It’s wasn’t easy, but that’s the point.

Here are some great quotes on planning.  Our faves:

"It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan." -- Eleanor Roosevelt

"Plan for what is difficult while it is easy. Do what is great while it is small." -- Sun Tzu

Why the most productive meetings have fewer than 8 people (unless they're at Filament).

Finally, if you're looking to relax, here's a youtube video of 10 hours of oceanscapes from BBC Earth.

Monday Morning Meeting #28
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Happy Monday!  Welcome to your favorite meeting of the week.  Here are a few things we found this week you might like:

What if you brought some Grand Canyon Focus to your next task?

Imagine you’re standing at the edge of a cliff, where you really need to concentrate in order not to fall into the abyss. Imagine the intensity of that, the forced focus, the complete and utter devotion to being present.

Now try that kind of complete and utter concentration for reading the rest of this post. No distractions, no pulling away to other things, just stay with the words, keep connecting with me and the meaning of this article. Be here, without fail, or you’ll fall off the cliff.

You can practice this with any task, from washing a dish to writing a paragraph. Fully pour yourself into it, so that the doing of the task is you. The doing is a full expression of who you are.

Here's an interesting thought:  Emails are micro-meetings eating our days.

[O]ur inboxes are really just to-do lists.... There’s no way anyone could manage such a system without spending the vast majority of their day doing email. Such is the world in which we live.

Such a great chart:

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Here's an idea we're exploring for meetings:  writing a failure resume.

A few years ago, Melanie Stefan, a postdoc at Caltech, wrote an article for Nature titled “A CV of Failures” after she got rejected for a fellowship to which she’d applied. [S]he realized that for every hour she’d spent working on something that succeeded, she’d probably spent six hours working on something that failed.

The problem with ignoring those setbacks, Stefan concluded, is that it leads to false perceptions of how success actually works.

How about asking a disabled person for creative advice next time you're stuck trying to figure something out?  Check out The Disabled List:

Disabled people are the original lifehackersOur lives are spent cultivating an intuitive creativity, because we navigate a world that isn’t built for our bodies. We believe in the innovative value of this skillset, which is why we are building pathways into design for disabled people.

Finally, Seth reminds us that we're only not good enough yet.