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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
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.

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 #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

Pre-Innovation Meeting Questions

Mitch Ditkoff at Idea Champions shares a great list of questions to ask senior leaders before hiring an innovation consultant. Because so many of them also apply to the work we do at Filament I thought I'd share a few that will be added to our client assessment toolkit:

1. Do you have a clear, compelling vision of our organization's future? If not, are you willing to create one?

2. Are you personally committed to fostering a culture of innovation? Are other senior leaders on the same page with you? If not, are you and your colleagues willing to get on the same page within the next few weeks?

4. Are you willing to challenge the status quo?

5. Are you open to receiving new ideas from the workforce -- and are you willing to establish a process that will make it easy for them to do so?

9. Are you willing to go beyond "command and control", empower people, and push decision making further down the food chain?

Brainstorming for Introverts
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Over on the Ideo Blog, there's a great post on brainstorming methods that work particularly well for introverts.  Lots of good ideas here, and you should incorporate at least one of these methods every time you brainstorm because there are always introverts in your group.  Here are our two favorites:

The Silent Circuit:  Ask each person to write a “how might we” question on a sticky note (IDEO’s standard brainstorm kickoff question) and post it around the room. For about 15 minutes, everyone walks around, silently adding as many ideas as they can to each prompt. When time’s up, everyone returns to their question and discovers a bounty of new ideas that their colleagues have given them. This approach works well for keeping large groups engaged, while providing quiet, focused time to those who want it.

Musical Chairs:  Breaking up a big group helps encourage quieter voices. To limit the number of people in a brainstorm, split into groups of three or four and play musical chairs. Post a handful of "how might we" questions around the room, assign a group to each one, and start the music. When it stops, rotate to the next station with your team. That way, there are never too many voices to contend with, but a lot of ideas are shared. Leave time at the end for people to wander around the room and add any remaining ideas.

Use I like, I wish & I wonder to start meetings better
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We've been kicking off our meetings lately with a simple exercise called "I like, I wish, I wonder" that helps participants share the things they'd like to get out of our day(s) together.  On a half-page card, we ask everyone in the room to complete these three prompts:

I'd like if we did ...

I wish we might ...

I wonder if we could ...

After everyone captures their thoughts on their cards, we go around the room and share -- often asking the person who volunteers first to select the next person to share.

It is a wonderful way to identify expected outcomes and amazing possibilities from a room full of people in about 15 minutes.

Give it a try to open your next meeting and let us know how it works for you!

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.