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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.


What Could Possibly Go Worng? Using Pre-Mortems to Reduce Risk of Future Failures

Though there’s no shortage of management gurus extolling the benefits of learning from failure, a harsh truth remains: failure sucks. It’s hard to fail even when the stakes are modest — and when you’re working on a “bet the farm” project, it seems unthinkable.

So, how might your team learn from failure before it happens? The answer is simple: do a Pre-Mortem.

A pre-mortem is a managerial strategy in which a project team imagines that a project or organization has failed, and then works backward to determine what potentially could lead to the failure of the project or organization. The technique breaks possible groupthinking by facilitating a positive discussion on threats, increasing the likelihood the main threats are identified. Management can then reduce the chances of failure due to heuristics and biases such as overconfidence and planning fallacy by analyzing the magnitude and likelihood of each threat, and take preventative actions to protect the project or organization from suffering an untimely "death".

According to this Harvard Business Review, "unlike a typical critiquing session, in which project team members are asked what might go wrong, the premortem operates on the assumption that the 'patient' has died, and so asks what did go wrong.”

We’ve built a worksheet (which you can download here) that prompts your team to imagine your project was “a miserable failure” and to answer the following questions, as if you’re remembering what happened instead of predicting it:

  • What are ten things that went wrong?

  • What were we most nervous about before we began?

  • What were our blind spots?

  • What should have been our back-up plan?

  • Who was our biggest detractor, and what might we have done to get them on board?

  • What are at least three things we’ll never do again?

Use the worksheet before you kick-off your next project, and it will help you ensure your reality turns out way better than your imaginations.

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!

Monday Morning Meeting #45
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Welcome to Filament’s Monday Morning Meeting: a mix of innovation news, the tools we use, and the interesting ideas to help you think differently about your week ahead.


Check out these great whiteboard sketches from Todd that pay tribute to a certain HBO series that returned last night. Apparently, meetings are pretty bad in Westeros, too!

Last week, we began mapping our customer journey at Filament as we prepare to roll out a few more changes. Here’s our first draft. If you see anything you’d improve, let us know!


In Utopia is Creepy, Nicholas Carr writes about why “connecting” with people online isn’t really connecting at all: “Being online means being alone, and being in an online community means being alone together.”

I found a few words in this list of 30 Words You’re Probably Using Wrong that I’ve misused for years. I’ll be you might find one or two as well.

Is your brain getting enough idle time? If you’ve got a thorny problem to solve, here’s why you probably need more.

When your brain is bombarded with novel stimuli or information, she says, it can struggle to generate purposefulness and meaning. Mental idle time, meanwhile, seems to facilitate creativity and problem-solving. “Our research has found that mind-wandering may foster a particular kind of productivity,” says Jonathan Schooler, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara who has studied mind-wandering extensively. He says overcoming impasses — including what he calls “a-ha!” moments — often happen when people’s minds are free to roam.

Speaking of idle time, this is your brain off Facebook:

So what happens if you actually do quit? Expect the consequences to be fairly immediate: More in-person time with friends and family. Less political knowledge, but also less partisan fever. A small bump in one’s daily moods and life satisfaction. And, for the average Facebook user, an extra hour a day of downtime.

Want to uncover some hidden biases on your team? This is a great exercise that can lead to profound insights: Draw Yourself a Leader:

[T]he process of drawing a leader allows you to tap into what you really think of leadership. Your assumptions may be obvious to you, or they may reveal cognitive biases of which you are unaware — another plus.

[M}ost people who were asked to draw an effective leader drew a male. Even women drew men. The implications are significant if not surprising: “Getting noticed as a leader in the workplace is more difficult for women than for men,” the article noted. This doesn’t end with gender. In the images, white was the predominant skin color.

Another reason to avoid “one size fits all” advice: making jokes in presentations (and at work) can help men, but might hurt women.

We find that when men add humor to a business presentation, observers view them as having higher levels of status (that is, respect or prestige) within the organization, and give them higher performance ratings and leadership capability assessments compared to when they do not include humor. However, when women add the same humor to the same presentation, people view them as having lower levels of status, rate their performance as lower, and consider them less capable as leaders.

How to market yourself without marketing yourself.

Finally, check out this incredible Rube Goldberg Machine built using kitchen utensils (and food).


“A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.” — Sir Francis Bacon

“The power to question is the basis of all human progress.” — Indira Gandhi

“When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.” — Buckminster Fuller.

“Make an enemy of certainty and befriend doubt. When you can change your mind, you can change anything.” — Kevin Ashton

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?

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 #43
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Welcome to another edition of The Monday Morning Meeting from Filament — a mix of news, the tools we use, and a handful of interesting things that will help you think differently about your week ahead.


“What makes a great manager isn’t the problems they solve, but the questions they ask.” Here are 16 great ones to get you started. Some favorites:

  • Is there anything you might be explaining away too quickly?

  • Which part of the issue or scenario seems most uncertain, befuddling, and difficult to predict?

  • What would happen if you didn’t do anything at all?

When you begin to approach a challenge, are you working in a simple, complicated, or complex system?

A Simple system is one that has a single path to a single answer. If you want to get to the solution, there is one, and only one, way to do it.

A Complicated system is one that has multiple paths to a single answer. To get to the answer, you have multiple different choices you can make. However, there is only one correct solution.

A Complex system is one that has multiple paths to multiple answers.

How do you spend the first three hours of each workday? Here’s why the answer might determine your success.

Here’s a better way to ask someone if you can “pick their brain” (as someone who gets asked this a lot, I think this advice is dead-on).

A 100-Podcast Syllabus. I’m going to add a few of these to the rotation.

I keep coming back to these “88 things I’ve learned about life” again and again. So much wisdom here, including:

13. If you never doubt your beliefs, then you’re wrong a lot.

17. Every passing face on the street represents a story every bit as compelling and complicated as yours.

31. If what you’re doing feels perfectly safe, there is probably a better course of action.

33. Blame is the favorite pastime of those who dislike responsibility.

45. High quality is worth any quantity, in possessions, friends and experiences.

58. To write a person off as worthless is an act of great violence.

67. The secret ingredient is usually butter, in obscene amounts.

74. A good nine out of ten bad things I’ve worried about never happened. A good nine out of ten bad things that did happen never occurred to me to worry about.

80. Breaking new ground only takes a small amount more effort than you’re used to giving.

88. Killing time is an atrocity. It’s priceless, and it never grows back.


EQ is hosting their first ever conference, EQ Leadership Labs, on Monday April 15th (Tax Day!) in association with the Midwest Digital Marketing Conference (MDMC) at St. Louis Union Station. During this one-day conference, EQ Leadership Labs will play host to more than 40 speakers presenting solo sessions and panel discussions across four tracks, covering:

  • Sales & Growth

  • Marketing & Influence

  • Culture & Change

  • Leadership & Intention

Friends of Filament can save over $100 by registering via this secret link:


"A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something." - Frank Capra

"Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next." - Jonas Salk

“Who knows what you might learn from taking a chance on conversation with a stranger? Everyone carries a piece of the puzzle. Nobody comes into your life by mere coincidence. Trust your instincts. Do the unexpected. Find the others…” - Timothy Leary

Monday Morning Meeting #42

Welcome to a “Birthday Week” edition of The Monday Morning Meeting from Filament — a mix of news, the tools we use, and a handful of interesting things that help you think differently about work and make your meetings matter.


Please join us for our birthday party this Friday. You can sign up here. We can’t wait to see you!


The NYT shares some fantastic ways to become a better listener. There are a few new tips to me that I’ll put in practice, including treating listening like improv …

The best kind of listening is about being comfortable not knowing what you’re going to say next, or what question you might ask. Trust that you’ll think of something in the moment based on what the other person just said. That will send a powerful signal to the other person that you’re truly listening to them. 

… and remembering to withhold judgment:

Listening, done well, is an act of empathy. You are trying to see the world through another person’s eyes, and to understand their emotions. That’s not going to happen if you are judging the other person as they’re talking. It will dampen the conversation, because you will be sending all sorts of subtle nonverbal cues that you have an opinion about what they’re saying. If you go into the discussion with the main goal of understanding their perspective, free of any judgment, people will open up to you, because they will feel they can trust you to respect what they are saying.   

Want to read more? Quit reading books you don’t like!

Every hour you spend inching through a boring book is an hour you could’ve spent plowing through a brilliant one. When it comes to books, quitters finish more.

Here’s a great question that might help you (or your organization) decide on what idea to pursue: Will pursuing this idea allow us to acquire skills, experience, and build assets regardless of our ultimate success?

Who is in your Minimum Viable Audience?

If you could pick them and needed to delight them because you had no one else available, would your product or service improve? If you had no choice but to ignore the naysayers (they’re not in the group) or the people who don’t think they need you or your work, would that force you to stop compromising and start excelling?

These User Experience (UX) Myths are worth a read, even when you’re designing a physical (vs. web) experience for your customers. Just a few examples:

If you’re a NASA-nerd, you’ve got to check out this collection of Apollo Press Kits from the companies that supplied the space program with everything from the rockets to the cameras, watches, and pens the astronauts used.

Leave it to Ikea to flat-pack a chocolate Easter bunny!

Use Apple’s new screen time and app limits feature to keep you from wasting your time.


“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” — Oprah Winfrey

“Celebrate the idea that you don't fit in. Find your own fit. Stay unique.” —Betsey Johnson

“Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.” — Marie Curie


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