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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 Links
Monday Morning Meeting #27
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Welcome to another Monday Morning Meeting!  It has been a few Mondays since our last visit together, but we're back at it with a collection of a few things we thought you might find as interesting as we have.

Seth suggests all proposals include a pre-mortem:

If you want us to take your new proposal seriously, consider including a pre-mortem. Include a detailed analysis of why your project might fail. Specific weak spots, individuals who need to come on board, assumptions that might not be true… If you've got a track record of successfully predicting specific points of failure before they happen, we're a lot more likely to trust your judgment next time.

Speaking of failure, check out  Flopstarter -- a Kickstarter for absolutely terrible ideas.

Stop predicting the robo-apocalypse, it is already here.

[T]echnology is only getting cheaper, so each successive drop squeezes out more human labor, and is able to automate more lower-skill labor that is newly more expensive than machines. Expect the next recession to put over ten million of people out of work, and for the economy to realize they didn’t really need those people as workers after all to produce what was being produced.

And what is one of the things robots (specifically AI) will do first?  Make prediction cheaper.

Looking for a simpler way to work through your never-ending to-do list?  Try this tip:

I have a [two column] list of things that require a lot of mental bandwith and a list of things I can do at the end of the day when my energy is depleted. There’s an easy column and a hard one. My daily goal, which is ridiculously low, is one item from each category. On most days I will do well more than [that], but I find it useful to set the bar really low in order to not get demoralized.

Listening helps people change:

[I]t seems that listening to employees talk about their own experiences first can make giving feedback more productive by helping them feel psychologically safe and less defensive.

I really love this idea from Marshall Kirkpatrick about how he keeps a daily Q&A journal:  

One of the journals I keep is a Daily Q&A journal, which asks the same question each calendar day every year for five years. It’s a great exercise in seeing what’s changed in your life and what’s not; where I’m moving toward my goals and where I’m stuck.

It seems this would be a great tool for organizations and teams as well.

Finally, a great idea for your next family trip:  Library Tourism


Monday Morning Meeting

Good morning. Welcome to another Monday Morning Meeting at Filament.

Tom Fishburne shared a great way to abandon PowerPoint and think creatively:

I talked about PowerPoint-itis as a barrier to building and sharing ideas in an organization. I then shared a simple, overlooked way of communicating ideas — the back-of-the-envelope sketch. First I asked everyone in the audience to individually draw a marketing idea as a doodle complete with stick figures. Second I asked them to exchange that drawing with someone around them.

That second request caused a mild panic. The idea of sharing a sketchy, unpolished drawing with a colleague is fear-inducing. But that’s exactly the state and stage that ideas are best shared with colleagues — when they’re unformed and half-baked, not when they’re polished and perfect in a lengthy slide presentation. I think the fear of sharing ideas at this embryonic stage is part of what gets in the way of collaborating inside an organization.

I asked everyone to build on their colleagues’ back-of-the-envelope sketches with more drawing and then return them. I don’t think that simple informal exchange of ideas happens enough in business.

Why it is fun to like stuff before it gets cool (via Indexed).


Want to brainstorm better?  Try the Japanese game of shiritori (watch the TED talk):

Putting limits on your brainstorming may seem counterproductive, but it actually helps you get your ideas flowing. The Japanese game of shiritori is an easy way to guide your brainstorming session, whether you’re looking for ideas for a new project, book, or physical product.

The basic idea behind shiritori is that you start with a word and then come up with another word that starts with the letter the first word ends with. Tweak this to apply to brainstorming by thinking of ideas as well as the next word. As toy developer Shimpei Takahashi explains in his TED Talk above, let’s say you start with the word “cat”. In his case, he designs toys, so what would a cat themed toy look like? Then moving on, something that starts with “t”, maybe “toothbrush”. How can you turn a toothbrush into a toy? (Spoiler: You make it into a guitar shaped brush.)

Most of the ideas you’ll come up with won’t necessarily be very useful, but that’s okay because the goal is simply come up with as many ideas as possible. You’re bound to end up with one or two great ones, and the important part of brainstorming has already happened: You’ve opened the floodgates and you’re thinking creatively.

We live draw every meeting at Filament because it helps people think faster, understand more and remember longer.  The Ink Factory shares four reasons why you should graphic record your next meeting along with a handy-dandy infographic.

These Eleven Innovation-Killing Bad Habits are worthwhile to keep in mind every time you're doing some strategic planning.  We've seen nearly every one of these in our work, but the three that are the most pernicious are:

Bad Habit #10: Innovation is siloed from Execution
Companies struggle to get the “execution engine” and “innovation engine” to collaborate, rather than to compete. Rather than realizing that managing the present and inventing the future are equally important and should be equally resourced, they often fight for the same resources. Often the execution engine deprives the innovators from access to valuable resources like customers, brand, or skills. That means the innovators end up competing without any competitive advantage against the more nimble and agile startups.

Remedy: Create a culture where executors and innovators collaborate because they understand each other’s value to the organization. Create processes and incentives that grant innovators access to customers, brands, and skills so they can outcompete the more nimble and agile startup ventures.

Bad Habit #8: Focus on technology risk at the expense of other risks
New business ideas face many different risks. The California design firm IDEO distinguishes between three types of risk when they assess prototypes: desirability, feasibility, viability. Desirability is about the risk of your customers not being attracted by your new value proposition. Feasibility is about technology and infrastructure risks. Viability is about financial risks. We added a fourth risk, adaptability. Adaptability is about the risk of a business model and value proposition not being fit for evolving external factors, like competition, technology change, or regulation (risk: external threats).

Remedy: Make sure you test all four types of risks: desirability, feasibility, viability, and adaptability.
Bad Habit #9: Innovation is career limiting
In many companies being an innovator is not an attractive career path. First, in most organizations any type of failure is seen as a negative for your career. Yet good innovation processes require rapid experimentation and failure to gain insights, adapt, and ultimately succeed. Second, corporate incentives are geared to rewarding execution, where failure is not an option. Third, in most companies, innovation is still seen as a department for pirates and “the crazy ones” who really add no value to revenue and profit. And finally, prestige in companies is measured by who commands the largest budget and staff. But great innovation programs always start small.

Remedy: Create different incentive systems for the people focused on execution, and the people focused on innovation. Make innovation a prestigious job in your company. After all, the innovators are ensuring your organization’s survival in an age of constant change.

We've been doing some big-picture, strategic-shift work for a few clients who's industries are changing rapidly.  One lens that's worthwhile using is this one: What is Your Organization's Massive Transformative Purpose?  A Massive Transformative Purpose (MTP) is a hugely audacious aspirational goal focused on creating a completely different future for your organization:

Having an MTP can trigger incredible outcomes, which is why high-growth organizations all tend to have them.

The aspirational quality of an MTP pushes teams to prioritize big thinking, rapid growth strategies, and organizational agility—and these behaviors all have substantial payoffs in the long term.

As an MTP harnesses passion within an organization, it also galvanizes a community to form outside the company that shares the purpose. This sparks an incredible secondary impact by helping organizations attract and retain top qualified talent who want to find mission-driven work and remain motivated by the cause.

Additionally, when people are aligned on purpose, it creates a positive feedback loop by channeling intrinsic motivation towards that shared purpose.

Finally, like a north star, an MTP keeps all efforts focused and aligned, which helps organizations grow cohesively. As the organization evolves and scales, the MTP becomes a stabilizer for employees as they transition into new territory.

Our MTP here at Filament is to Change Every Meeting.  What's yours?

See you next week!


Filament Links #9

We've been saving up a bunch of cool things to share with you in this edition of Filamental Links.  Enjoy!

As usual, Hugh nails it.

When Inbox Zero isn't enough:  Task Box Zero (my new aspirational goal).

Steve Pavlina is visiting Disneyland thirty days in a row.

Beautiful Star Wars fan film:


Tired of calling everything "good?" Here's 200 other words you can use.

This Thanksgiving, try a Mad-Libs-style placemat.

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” – Maya Angelou

Of course there's a Museum of Rocks that Look Like Faces.


1I love Mike Brown's new version of a "SWOT" analysis. Instead of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threads, he asks instead:

What are important things we avoid doing (that we should do) because they are Scary for our brand?

What are Wild and creative ideas our competitors or other relevant companies are doing that we need to consider?

What can we do next year that would be Outrageous and bold?

What can we do in the marketplace that will be the most Threatening to our competitors?

A noisy alphabet from Tom Gauld

And finally, everyone needs an Office Buddy.

That's all for this edition of Filamental Links. See you again soon!

Links, CreativityMatthew Homann
Monday Morning Meeting

Happy Monday, everyone!  It is time for our Monday Morning Meeting.  

Hard to disagree with this:

Do you know your meeting math?  The first lesson: there’s no such thing as a one-hour meeting.

Basic meeting math applies to all meetings: The time blocked off doesn’t equal actual time spent. The time spent is the time blocked off multiplied by the number of people in the meeting. So, a one hour meeting with 6 people is a six hour meeting. A 15 minute meeting with 9 people is a two-and-a-quarter-hour meeting. Even a 15 minute meeting with 4 people costs an hour of collective work time.

Factor in salaries and hourly rates, and meetings get expensive quick. Add in attention diverted and the cost goes up even more. Was that last meeting you had worth it? I’d almost certainly bet it wasn’t. Still not convinced? How would you feel if you had to regularly expense $1200 so you could “tell a few teammates something”. Think that would go over well?

If you're looking for a new approach to business strategy, think about what action will move the needles.

Of course, if you'd rather just come up with a tagline instead of a strategy, you can try this instead.

Looking for a great icebreaker question?  How about, "What's the one thing you want to do before you die?"


At Filament, we love this idea:  Hold Conversations, Not Meetings:

The best way to energise thinking is to hold conversations rather than meetings. In our personal lives, we are used to talking openly with one another, but most organisations have failed to capitalize on the power of conversation in a business setting. So how does a conversation differ from a meeting?

A conversation is informal. As the great German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer said, you only have a conversation when you don’t know the outcome at the beginning. Think about a conversation you have with a friend over a cup of coffee. It flows from one topic to another; ideas spark spontaneously. A conversation is alive and interesting, and sometimes even a little dangerous.

A conversation is a creative process. A conversation is not about walking through an agenda. It is a journey that takes people through the full range of thinking, not just a problem at hand. In a conversation, people explore issues, invent solutions, and find ways forward through messy circumstances. (The broad scope of a conversation differentiates it from “brainstorming,” which only focuses on generating solutions. Brainstorming can’t help you address wicked problems like a military engagement in Afghanistan or a messy merger.)

A conversation is democratic. In a conversation, no single person holds forth while everyone else nods sleepily. Instead, the dialogue bounces around the room as participants design a new idea together.

That's it for this MMM. We'll see you next week.

Filamental Links #8

Welcome to another edition of Filamental Links. We hope you enjoy this collection of interesting and cool things we've found on the web.

Here's something we should all do more: take ourself on a weekly "Artist Date."

At Filament, we want to be great citizens of our community.  A wonderful place to start is with this list of 101 small ways to improve your city.


Some interesting thinking on why big companies can't invent anymore that compares BigCo's reluctance to adopt new ideas to the stages of grieving:

Denial. “This new technology won’t work (or is dangerous or doesn’t conform to standards), and our customers don’t want it!”

Anger. “How dare our good customers (friends, fellow members of the club) give even a little of their business to these interlopers! Don’t they appreciate the great service and support we’ve been giving them?”

Reluctant acceptance. “Okay, there is some merit to the technology. So let’s make it available -- but only to those customers who want it and whom we might lose anyway. And let’s tell them why they really don’t want it, even though they think they do -- and keep trying to sell as much of the older, more profitable product as possible.”

Capitulation. “Look-the market is moving away from us faster than we thought! Our own R&D is horribly late again; when they finally get the product ready it will be so hobbled as to be worthless. So let’s invest in (or buy) the damn competition now before they get too big.”

Movie posters with the text removed are pretty cool.


If you want to make your to-do lists better, add a few things that will make your day great:

[E]very morning write down three things that would make the day great. This could include going to the gym, filling out that company report, or taking your wife on a date. Focus on the things that will be in your control. By focusing on just the three things will make the day great, you give yourself a much higher chance of feeling accomplished by the time you go to bed.

Think you're tired of hearing business jargon?  Then maybe it is time to see it instead. Here are some "next steps" for that "big idea."



I love this quote from Brenda Laurel about design:

"Design isn't finished until somebody is using it."

Here are some solid tips on how to disagree.  The best reminder:  Don't import energy from elsewhere into your disagreements, which happens when:

"the fuel for a disagreement is not coming purely from the topic under debate. The intensity comes from things that are going on elsewhere in your life. At the time we don’t realise that this is what is going on – which makes it very hard to calm a disagreement."


I know we're not through fall just yet, but if you're ready for a snowball fight, check out these indoor snowballs. Fun!

Tired of TED talks, here are ten alternatives that offer some great ideas and inspiration.

That's it for this edition. See you again soon!

LinksMatthew Homann
Filamental Links # 7

Welcome to another edition of Filamental Links.

Five minutes early is on time, on time is late and late is unacceptable:

"I have a magic pill to sell you. It will help you make more money, be happier, look thinner, and have better relationships. It’s a revolutionary new pharmaceutical product called Late-No-More. Just one dose every day will allow you to show up on time, greatly enhancing your life and the lives of those around you."

How'd you like to have felt dolls of everyone in your company? Great job, Moo!


I'm no hunter, but I'd love to hang a few of these polygon paper big-game "trophies" on our walls at Filament.


If you're ever wondering if you should work for free, here's your answer.

I can't wait to pair this cool problem-solving technique with one of our storytelling exercises at Filament soon!

Kio Stark tells us why we should talk to strangers.

Beautiful history of stop-motion video.


It's time for a new "innovational" poster for Filament:  "Logic will get you from A-Z: Imagination will get you everywhere." - Albert Einstein

Such fun: this Reddit user will create a movie poster from your post.

Are you among the last generation to remember life before the internet?

"If we’re the last people in history to know life before the internet, we are also the only ones who will ever speak, as it were, both languages. We are the only fluent translators of Before and After.”

A great resource for facilitators (and anyone who works with groups of strangers): The Conscious Style Guide.

See you in September!

Filamental Links 6

It is time for another dose of Filamental Links: the cool, creative things we found on the Internet last month.


We really need a few of these marshmallow crossbows for Filament.

We ask this question a lot: "What about _____ annoys you?" It gets people to identify things they might miss if you ask about processes that don't work or are broken. Here's a way to keep an Annoyance Journal at home that you could use with your team at the office as well:

"Keep a mindfulness journal for a few days of all the little slip-ups you experience at home... As you start to write down these incidents, you’ll likely become more aware of how you move within and feel about your space. You may find yourself noticing things you would typically gloss over, or you may realize how much time you spend avoiding an issue."


"I think one of the great arts of facilitation is to keep things simple. The pitfall for many facilitators is that they try to embed in their work all the lessons they learn as they go, so that they create more elaborate processes. In theory, these build in useful lessons from the past, but in practice it often results in ways of working that take a long time to explain.  The facilitator thus has a big role to play in explaining things, something they may secretly rather like."

Need to do some prototypin'? Here's a great primer on how to build architecture models.

Should you read an epic twitter rant on "Precrastination" and productivity from two years ago? Yes!

Vanessa Friedman is talking about why "sustainable" high fashion is an oxymoron, but she might as well be talking about many creative industries:

“There are now new fashion collections coming out four times a year instead of two, and sometimes even more than four, if you throw in special holiday or store opening collections, so designers are effectively running on a creative treadmill that is—c’mon, you know where I am going with this, say it with me—unsustainable,” she said. “No one can have that many new ideas. At least not ideas that are any good, or remotely original, or, frankly, worth buying.”

Robots may not be taking over (yet), but they can kick our butts at foosball.


Why you should turn off all the lights when you sleep.

I'd never heard of Parkinson's Law of Triviality, but regularly see teams place a disproportionate focus on trivial projects. Here's why:

At work, you’re expected to have intelligent opinions and propose smart solutions to problems. But, when you’re working on something that is very complex, it’s intimidating and exhausting to have opinions on the biggest challenges. It’s so easy to focus your attention on the issues that are easy to grok and which won’t (literally) blow up in your face if you’re wrong. So, it’s understandable that people schedule meetings about the roof of the bike shed so that they can voice their opinions and feel useful and heard.

“The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.” – Charles Bukowski

Jason Fried refuses to fight the talent war:

"So how do find undiscovered talent? Ask around — but ask specific questions, like: “Do you happen to know anyone who’s cramped in his or her job? Someone who’s great but hasn’t been given the opportunity to do great work? Someone who’s stuck in a situation that feels like a job instead of a career?” If you post ads on job sites or your own site, cast your language specifically to catch these kinds of people."

In case you didn't suspect it, for some companies (think cable television providers) Tech Support is Purposefully Unbearable.

And finally this quote from Ikea's design manager:

“We are world champions in making mistakes, but we’re really good at correcting them.”


Filamental Links 5

It is time for another dose of Filamental Links: the cool, creative things we found on the Internet last month.

When thinking about the future, we should think exponentially:

"It’s clear that our brains tend to anticipate the future linearly instead of exponentially, and now we also know that the law of accelerating returns will bring more powerful technologies sooner than we imagine."

Credit: Alison Berman

And while we may be ready for the future, the rest of society may not be:

the true challenge with advancing technologies isn’t the threats they impose, but more that society is sluggish at absorbing and making use of the technology at its current pace. Says Singularity University's Salim Ismail:

"In the 1500s, we had the Gutenberg moment when the printing press changed everything,” he said. “We have about 30 of those happening at the same time, whether its autonomous cars or drones or neurosciences or whatever."

Want to brainstorm better, build your process to generate questions instead of answers:

In terms of similarities, both brainstorming and question-storming start with quantity—the objective is to generate lots of questions or ideas on a subject, initially withholding judgment. Then, in both cases, the goal is to converge around questions/ideas deemed most promising.

But there are big differences. When participants are generating questions, they tend to dig into a problem and challenge assumptions. For example, they may inquire about why the problem exists, why it’s even considered a problem (maybe it really isn’t one), whether there’s a bigger problem behind that problem, and so on. The process gives people permission to ask fundamental questions that often don’t get asked; not just "how can we do it better?" but also "why are we doing this in the first place?"

Is it too late to begin writing our Christmas list? If not, add a few of these Toys for Design Lovers to it.


I really like what our friend Johnnie Moore is doing with his Unhurried Conversations:

When things are unhurried, we don’t necessarily go slow, but we create enough space for connection to happen. So our aim with our series of unhurried conversations has been to do that. We’ve hosted a dozen or so in Cambridge, and a couple in London.

We invite up to 12 people via MeetUp. We don’t specify a topic, rather letting people talk about whatever they want. Apart from briefly describing our idea, we use one very simple device to support the conversation.

It’s a talking piece. We pick an object and whoever holds it gets to talk. And everyone else listens. Which means the speaker won’t get interrupted. (And I add that you can hold the object and not speak… you can hold silence until you’re ready to speak.)

Juan Enriquez nails it: 

“There is so much extraordinary opportunity if you’re curious.”

Mind Blowing:


Finally, after a weekend of grilling, these lessons from a BBQ pitmaster seemed a good way to close out this edition of Filamental Links.  Like great BBQ, amazing businesses need Consistency and Texture:

So what’s consistency in a business? Customers simply want to know someone is there, consistently caring for them.

How many businesses do you deal with that all feel the same? Similar website designs, stock photos of professional models, emails that sound like a group committee picked out the language. That feel of a business is its texture.

See you again soon!