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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 TenThings
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.
Ten Rules for Presenters

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.

Filament's Ten Rules of Retreats

Before you sit down to plan your company's next retreat, take a moment to think about what you'd really like to accomplish. Instead of defaulting to last year's agenda of terrible presentations followed by golf and booze, begin with a clean sheet of paper and design your event to get meaningful work done in a fun and unique way. Here are a few "rules" that might get you started:

1.  When planning a retreat, the most important voice at the table belongs to your best customers. Ask them what your business needs to improve upon in the coming year, and invite them if you dare.

2.  At a good retreat, your company's leadership should spend as much time listening as they do talking. At a great retreat, that ratio is closer to 3:1.

3.  It is far more important for you to think together at your next retreat than it is for you to drink together.

4.  If you don’t make time for your people to improve your company during the retreat, they’re less likely to improve it when the retreat is done.

5.  The first things your attendees should learn are one another’s names.  Familiarity builds collegiality. Attendees won’t care what their colleagues do until they know who they are.

6.  “Networking” cocktail parties don’t encourage company-wide collaboration as much as they encourage company-wide inebriation.

7.  If the retreat is the only time your people talk about marketing, it will be the only time they think about marketing. Same goes for client service.

8.  Your staff knows more about how to serve your customers well than your associates do. Bring them along, value their opinions and act on their suggestions. You’ll find that the cost of their attendance is far lower than the cost of their absence.

9.  The three questions every attendee should be able to answer after a retreat are: “What can I do better?” “Who should I know better?” and “Why should I be better?”

10.  The two costliest items at any retreat are the time and attention of the attendees.  Use them wisely.

If you're still struggling to plan that next retreat, give us a call. We'd be happy to help!

Filamental Links 3

We're finally open!  That means that we've been focused on the mundane (utilities, furniture, technology), the profane (city business licensing and inspections) and the insane (doing our first big conference the same week as a high-level strategy retreat for a big client).  It also means that we've neglected our writing for a while.

Here are some cool things we've run across in the past few months:

Working in downtown St. Louis is pretty cool. Eating in downtown STL is even better.

It is worth remembering that (with technology at least) the Best is Often the Next-to-Last:

a technology often produces its best results just when it's ready to be replaced - it's the best it's ever been, but it's also the best it could ever be. There's no room for more optimisation - the technology has run its course and it's time for something new, and any further attempts at optimisation produce something that doesn't make much sense. 

Here are 27 things to ask someone when you meet them besides "What do you do?" My only gripe: "What is your favorite emoji?"

Don't think you can make a part of your business work better? Watch this sub-2-second pit stop:

Maybe this is why you should regularly take a peek at your old yearbook: Nostalgia fosters creativity and openness.

There are lots of things to think about in this post about Innovation Deserts.

It’s important to map out what the ecosystem looks like in your community not only as a whole, but also for different groups. What does it look like for a female startup founder? What does it look like for a Black, Hispanic, or Asian entrepreneur? What about for the LGBT community? This should include identifying the funders, the co-working spaces, accelerators and incubators, community programs, coding bootcamps, government agencies that provide resources, innovation hubs, and startup and innovation event organizers.   

It isn't all about hiring the young and the cheap: Parents make better employees.

Here's a good overview of Agile from

Such a great quote about the value of fantasy:

Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.”
— Dr. Seuss

Finally, it turns out it is pretty hard to draw a bicycle from memory: