wrapping paper.png


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.


Elephant, Squirrel, Zombie, Porcupine.
Screen Shot 2019-07-07 at 8.44.41 AM.png

Inspired by an exercise called Elephant, Dead Fish, Vomit invented by Airbnb (and shared in the wonderful book Rituals for Work), Elephant, Squirrel, Zombie, Porcupine is a group conversation “tool” designed to nurture more honest dialog among people who work together. Here’s how to use it:

During every all-hands meeting, carve out time to discuss the following:

  • Elephants: Big things people are worried about but not talking about.

  • Squirrels: Things that might be distracting the organization or team from focusing on the work that matters most.

  • Zombies: Old issues, projects, or ways or working that never seem to go away.

  • Porcupines: Touchy subjects that might feel too hard to handle.

We’re in the process of turning each of these into a card people might hold up during our meetings when they feel the group has encountered an elephant, squirrel, porcupine, or zombie. We expect they’ll help our groups have deeper conversations to help them get past the barrier each one of these entities poses.

What are the elephants, squirrels, porcupines, and zombies in your organization?

Monday Morning Meeting #56
Monday Morning Meeting.png

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


Filament will be featured on FOX2 Monday morning between 9 and 10:30 am today. We’re not sure we’ll get a video to post, but if you’re reading this super-early on Monday, tune in to see Todd and I talk about better meetings.

Come join us for Happy Hour on Wednesday, as we head across the street to welcome The Last Hotel to the neighborhood!


We’ll be doing another Filament Friday on July 19th. If you’d like to work with us, share a challenge you’re working on, and/or offer a bit of help to others who might appreciate a hand. RSVP here.


Seth Godin explains how great presentations are a series of stories:

Don’t memorize your talk. Memorize your stories. Ten stories make a talk. Write yourself a simple cue card to remember each story’s name. Then tell us ten stories.

Though we also do a lot of purpose-driven nonprofit work at Filament, we agree with the sentiment that helping large companies innovate matters.

Here are ten ways to brainstorm ideas when your brain is fried. An interesting one is “Ignore your Superpower:

Whatever our unique skill set is (e.g., writer or designer), it’s easy for us to rely on those superpowers when trying to overcome a creative block. But sometimes it helps to challenge yourself to try a different (or totally opposite) approach.

For example, if a copywriter needs to beat out a story but doesn’t know what to say, messy storyboarding with stick figures can help them visualize it. Conversely, when a designer needs to communicate something visually but can’t think of an image, looking up the root definition of a word can inspire an idea.

A useful primer: The Difference Between Tylenol, Aspirin, Advil, and Aleve.

Forget the “Minimally Viable Product” to validate your startup. Use the Riskiest Assumption Test instead:

A Riskiest Assumption Test is explicit. There is no need to build more than what’s required to test your largest unknown. No expectation of perfect code or design. No danger it will prematurely become a product.

A Riskiest Assumption Test puts the focus on learning. It is a candle in the darkness that allows us to move forward one step at a time. Once you’ve validated the riskiest assumption you can move on to the next largest one. Gradually building confidence in the viability of your idea.

The key to this is rapid, small tests. What’s the smallest experiment you can do to test your biggest assumption?

Heres something from The Stanford D School I couldn’t wait to share this week: Their Design Question Library with resources and answers to questions like “Where do new ideas come from?” and “Why do building, sharing, and testing a work in progress help you get to a good solution?

What might be even better? This Library of Ambiguity.

Looking for ways to reimagine your status meetings? Here are some solid tips.

These Google Art Zoom talks are super interesting!

I loved these mini-documentaries on Muppets creator Jim Henson.


"We should indeed keep calm in the face of difference, and live our lives in a state of inclusion and wonder at the diversity of humanity."— George Takei

“The most talented, thought-provoking, game-changing people are never normal.” — Richard Branson

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” — Dorothy Parker

“When you can do a common thing in an uncommon way; you will command the attention of the world.” — George Washington Carver

“An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.” — Oscar Wilde

“Perfection is no small thing, but it is made up of small things.” — Michelangelo


If you’d like to subscribe to the Monday Morning Meeting or check out older issues, you can do so here.

Monday Morning Meeting #55
Monday Morning Meeting.png

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


We had a great Filament Friday last week and are going to do it again on July 19th. If you’d like to work with us, share a challenge you’re working on, and/or offer a bit of help to others who might appreciate a hand. RSVP here.

We’re excited to sponsor XDThrowdown this Thursday. It is a series of competitive design thinking matches in front of a live audience at Brennan's Work & Leisure. Come join us — this is going to become a big thing!!


This is a pretty new idea, but check out why you might want to rethink “Change Management” and build a Change Advocacy Team instead.


Tired of the same person playing “Devil’s Advocate” in your meetings? We are too. Tim Sanders nails why:

I’ve never met devil’s advocates with many good ideas. Usually they are compensating for their lack of creativity by being nitpicky. Their negativity isolates them over time, as idea people eventually shun them. They end up with a point of view that’s anti-change, anti-risk, anti-new. Mostly I see “Can I play devil’s advocate for a minute?” as a form of asking permission to put someone on the defensive—a psychological form of bullying.

As someone who finds time for a 23 minute nap (seriously) nearly every day, I’m fully behind this sentiment: Take a Nap! Change Your Life.

We’re with Doulass Ruskhoff on #teamhuman here at Filament. A reason why:

“We have to spend time with each other that is not digital. Civic organizations, libraries and social institutions that pre-date consumerism are all viable alternatives. If we reacquaint ourselves without digital crutches, I believe we’ll be less afraid of each other. Turn off the TV and go outside and start talking to people and then people who are inside will want to come out and see what’s going on. That is a type of influence that is sorely needed. It is peer-to-peer influence and it is an innately human social order.”

Most businesses are not ready for AI.

If you think you’ve got to shake things up, it might be too late. Why? The best time is the hardest because the organizations who can leverage change best are likely suffering from Fat Cat Syndrome:

The evidence suggests that the best time to shake things up is actually when you’re doing well. That’s when you have the time, energy and freedom to innovate. But sadly, research shows that success often makes us complacent. Experts call it the “fat cat syndrome.” Think about a time when you’ve been at the top of your game. Did you really want to embrace something radically different? Of course not. You probably became overconfident in your recipe and resistant to try new things.

Need a quick brainstorming boost? Try the alternative uses exercise.

Finally, we’re nearing the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Here’s a site that lets you follow along in real time if you missed the original version in 1969.


"Every society honors its live conformists and dead troublemakers." — Mignon McLaughlin

“True happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving.” — Mark Manson

"If you risk nothing, then you risk everything." — Geena Davis

"Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary." — Margaret Cousins

"In all affairs, it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted." — Bertrand Russell


If you’d like to subscribe to the Monday Morning Meeting or check out older issues, you can do so here.

Forget Change Management. Build a Change Advocacy Team Instead!

I don’t believe “Change Management” works as well as we expect it to. Organizations spend months (or years) building something, and — when they’re almost finished — hand over the nearly complete project to the change management professionals and ask them to get the entire organization on board. It is a recipe for failure.

What if instead, you built a team that worked alongside the product design / process implementation teams to build a better “story” for the change from the very beginning? What if along with the Product Team, you spun up a “Change Advocacy Team” who’s charge wasn’t designing the product/service, but building a better case for change from the very beginning?

This is a pretty new idea for us, but here’s a set of worksheets you can use to identify the people in your organization who should be on the “ChAT” team from the very beginning. We’ll post an update soon, as a few of our customers have been using this model for several months now and are beginning to see results.

Some questions to answer about those on your ChAT team:

  • Wha value might they bring to the ChAT and are they willing to spend the political capital to help us?

  • What fears and frustrations might they be particularly good at addressing?

  • Whom could they influence most?

  • Who’s least likely to follow their lead?

  • What “story” do we want them to tell about our project?

What would you add to the mix?

ToolsMatthew Homann
Monday Morning Meeting #54
Monday Morning Meeting.png

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


We’re giving Filament Fridays a new look! If you want to come work at Filament this Friday, you’re welcome to join us. We’ll ask that you share a challenge you’re working on and offer a bit of help to others who might appreciate a hand. RSVP here.

I sat down for the Geek in Review podcast last week. If you want to hear why I think “Binders of Strategy” aren’t particularly useful (along with a whole lot of other things) you can listen here.


We use “experiments” in nearly every Filament meeting. In this post, we share our methodology and a few of the new worksheets we’ve designed.


AIQ: How People and Machines Are Smarter Together

Rebel Talent: Why It Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life

Leap: How to Thrive in a World Where Everything Can Be Copied


We’ve been embracing silence more and more in our meetings — especially during the times we’re asking people to think about new ideas. Here’s why you should add more to your meetings:

When we present common knowledge, others reinforce it via social approval. Nods, supportive glances, and smiles are common reactions received when we present information that others share. Unique knowledge, on the other hand, can challenge conventional ideas, which can rock the boat leading to social disapproval. Attendees often hold back in meetings, waiting to hear what others say and what their boss might say out of fear of being perceived as difficult, out of touch, or off the mark.  Silence can be a solution to this problem, allowing space for unique knowledge and novel ideas to emerge.

Does your team have a set of simple “rules” for how you work together? You might find some inspiration (at least from a simplicity standpoint) from Chuck Jones’ Nine Rules for Road Runner Cartoons. My favorite:

Rule #5: The Road Runner must stay on the road — otherwise, logically, he would not be called Road Runner.

Stuck? Maybe you need some help from a 4-year-old.

In an insightful post, the folks at Dropbox share several product-building lessons. Here’s the one that sticks with me: “Evaluate” instead of “validate” your hypotheses:

We have the bad habit of saying we’re going to “validate” things. “We’re going to validate if customers do x” or “let’s validate if that’s true.” The challenge in being able to appropriately gauge our hypotheses and assumptions is that we need to be okay with being wrong (yeah, that whole celebrate failure thing). Constantly saying “validate” sets an expectation for validation or accepting a hypothesis as true and, worse, implies that “invalidating” is the opposite of making progress. So by simply saying “evaluate” instead of “validate” you can help your team adopt the learning mindset necessary for developing products in a way that leads to impact. Plus, “evaluate” is the correct term for studies and experiments. Science!

Such a great sentiment: Make it Anyway!

These Museum Hack tours look so great, I wish we had them here in St. Louis since we have so many amazing museums. Well, at least we’ve got the Cup!

Finally, we’ll share our Change Advocacy Team (ChAT) model next week. Until then, just remember that every idea needs a sponsor.


“If all you did was just looked for things to appreciate, you would live a joyously spectacular life.” ― Esther Abraham Hicks

“You can’t lose either the past or the future; how could you lose what you don’t have?” — Marcus Aurelius

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” — Pablo Picasso

“There is no time for cut-and-dried monotony. There is time for work. And time for love. That leaves no other time.” — Coco Chanel


If you’d like to subscribe to the Monday Morning Meeting or check out older issues, you can do so here.

Thinking in Experiments: Use If/Then (Maybe) To Try New Things

Our customers design “experiments” in nearly every meeting we facilitate at Filament: simple, easy, fast, and cheap things that might help their organization learn something, try something, or build something.*

Experiments are smaller than “pilots” and certainly not as large as “projects” or “initiatives.” They’re just big enough to provide a modicum of proof and direction that might help a team decide what to do next.

Here’s how it works:

  • 15 Minutes: After setting a topic for the experiments (teamwork, meetings, technology, customer service, etc.), we ask everyone to spend some time alone with a handful of small experiment cards and capture a handful of “If we try ___________, I think this might happen…” ideas.

  • 45 Minutes: Next, we group teams into “Labs” of 5-7 people where they’ll listen to everyone’s individual ideas, explore common themes and then develop 2-3 experiments to share with the larger group — using the worksheet you see at the top of this post.

  • 30 Minutes: After the experiment sharing, we’ll do a gallery walk of the experiment sheets, and then a small “pricing team” will assign a “price” to each experiment using the Fibonacci sequence** before the group votes on the experiments they’d like to try next.

At the end of the exercise, the group has at least 2-3 experiments they’ll do next several weeks. More importantly, they’ve learned the value of trying new things quickly without getting bogged down in “Project Paralysis.”

* Experiments work so well that we’re building an entire two-day, deep-dive workshop about how to make experimentation a central part of an organization’s way of working.

** We’ll share our Experiment Pricing Methodology in a future post.