Culture, Going Forth, Uncategorized

Culture Exploration: The Maps

Culture is hard

The culture of a group can be a tricky thing to architect. Behind every dysfunctional company culture lay the shreds of good intentions. Sometimes a good culture comes together with heavy doses of luck and serendipity. That’s when you get too scared to make any changes because you don’t know how it came together. One false move will unravel it all. Think Indiana Jones and the stepping stones in the Temple of Doom. At least there aren’t any snakes.

Maybe there is a way forward

Mental models seem like they can be a good tool for building a company or team culture. They serve as your map for an explored territory. You have some squiggles and loose direction, but you have to constantly make interpretations of what you’re seeing in the real-world, and if it is getting you where you want to go on the map.

“Begin to look at maps with the narcotic tingle of possibility” -Rolf Potts

But what if we start falling off the path

As with any rough map, the real-world changes. There are just too many factors, too many variables in the real… and a map’s legend is limited. I once learned that your map for life can be misleading. Say for example that you grow up near a river. Your map’s legend indicates that squiggles are river water. But what happens when you encounter the ocean? You interpret those on your map as a river, and you’re wrong. You need a more refined legend. Or what about these slightly different squiggles? Are they a different type of water? Nope, those are trees.

The point is, like a map, a mental model is a great starting point but it’s your leadership, your interpretation of life and interpersonal signals, that evolve it and make successful navigation possible.

Establish guardrails as triggers to re-evaluate

Even if our map, our mental model, has a couple items in the legend, we can set up guardrails to bounce us back on the path. Without any guardrails, we go careening off the side of the path and into danger. So we can set up guardrails on the edges of our mental models by doing a pre-mortem.

A pre-mortem would be evaluating our mental model and looking for what failure will look like. How can it all fall apart? There are some hilarious and extreme answers here, but the closer to likely or probable signs of failure we can stick, the tighter our guardrail sits to the path. And that means we can correct our direction sooner.

Maybe it’s worth a shot

So over the next few posts, I’m going to explore mental models for crafting a company and team culture. I’m going to look for other lenses and frameworks to bring into to some tried and true culture models and see if we can’t reinvent a new map to explore.

Advertisements
Uncategorized

Laying Down on the Job – Smallifying to Gain Momentum

Do you ever feel like the harder you push yourself, the less movement you actually create? Or maybe you have an amazing, innovative and creative idea that just never seems to pick up momentum? You may have physics to blame.

Take a minute and 21 seconds to watch this video of Michael Guerra.

It feels counterintuitive that taking his feet off the pedals would allow him to go faster, so how is he able to zoom past the other bikers?

Screen Shot 2018-03-23 at 10.56.53 PM
Notice that the object doesn’t change its overall size, it just presents itself in a smaller way in the direction of movement to reduce resistance.

It’s the resistance. The resistance fights against all things, but big things make it easier for resistance to put up a good fight. You can pedal harder and make some progress, but resistance will keep you from moving your fastest. Instead of his vertical body size, Michael Guerra challenges resistance to slow him down by presenting the smallest version of himself, the surface area of his face.

What’s this mean for us? We’re pushing ideas, products, ourselves…

We need to smallify. So let’s figure out how to do that together.

Smallify the Next Steps

Sometimes it is the steps ahead that feel big, and we know the resistance pushes back well on big things. If we can take a bunch of tiny steps, we can pick up speed and momentum for later, bigger steps.

Question that I need your answers on:

How do you make your next steps smaller, easier to tackle, easier to accomplish?

Smallify Your Idea

Big ideas let all kinds of resistance push against them. The main ones tend to be the resistance of other people and your own fear that you aren’t worthy of making such a large dent in the universe. You are. We just need to trick resistance until you believe.

Question that I need your answers on:

How do you make your idea smaller to make adoption easier without sacrificing the real bigness of it?

Smallify you

You’re burning the candle at three ends. That’s how hard you’re pedaling… you’ve invented a candle with three ends. But it just doesn’t seem to be getting you where you want to be or producing the kind of impact you want to make. Is there a fourth end to the candle? Or can we smallify?

Question that I need your answers on:

How do you make yourself smaller and more focused into a compact surface area of awesome?

I’m looking for your answers, or even your questions to push this further. Let me know your thoughts.

-tdh

Uncategorized

A (Slightly) Different Way Forward

I can’t imagine anyone who drives and has not gotten lost at some point. We’re headed down a road and suddenly it becomes unfamiliar and we get that twinge in our gut. We’re headed the wrong way.

And this leaves us with two options: turn around to where we thought we lost the path, or to keep moving forward with an eye to getting to a familiar landmark. I’m one of the “Let’s keep going because I think this road connects up ahead” types… and if you’re reading a blog called Go Forth and Be Awesome… you may be too.

Sometimes, the obstacle in front of us, is the way we should go.

The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” – Marcus Aurelius

I recently finished taking Seth Godin’s altMBA*, which is a super intense 30-day workshop… no, LIFEshop that has caused me to reflect and redirect with intention.

I started GoForthandBeAwesome.com as a place to house things I was uncovering, discovering, and developing tool-wise for innovation. And I think, as loose of a mission that is, I accomplished it. It’s that drawer in your kitchen that has batteries, like 4 allen wrenches from Ikea, a couple soy sauce packets and the key that doesn’t unlock anything… except this drawer was full of innovation tools. Certainly useful, just jumbled.

But also infrequent.

I’ll be painfully vulnerable here. I wanted to bring big ideas to you. And so I would get caught in my own head and not write because my idea wasn’t big enough, or so I thought. However, after reflecting on the altMBA and reflecting honestly and candidly on my assets… it’s not about the big ideas.

It’s about talking with you. So that’s what I’m going to do.

Each week, there will be a new post, still focused on processes for innovation, inspiration, and imagination, directly from my head to yours. But it’s going to be a conversation between us, and less lecture from me. There will be more questions than answers, because I feel that’s how most of us are anyways. And if you have answers, I ask you to reach out and let’s talk. I’d love for your voice to be as featured on here as my own.

So I’m hoping you’ll join me as we head down unfamiliar paths, together. I look forward to getting lost with you.

-tdh

Uncategorized

A Little Pause to Learn

Hey everyone!

I wanted to drop a quick note to say thank you for even finding me! Thank you for spending time reading, commenting, and following. I’m going to take a little pause to shift some energy in order to come back stronger.

I enrolled in Seth Godin’s altMBA and it promises to be an enormously impactful experience. One that will add to what I bring here, what I share with, and what you will share with me.

I will be touching base but look for a better Go Forth and Be Awesome in the coming weeks.

Thank you.

Go forth and be awesome! – TD

Innovation, Innovation Mindsets, Pre-Mortem, Systems, Uncategorized

7 Mechanics of Innovation

A game is a series of interesting choices. – Sid Meier

A common game design framework is called MDA, or Mechanics – Dynamics – Aesthetics. Players experience it back to front; from feelings (Aesthetics) through how they interact with the game (Dynamics) due to the rules (Mechanics). Game designers, however, create the game by starting with the basic moves that build how the player interacts and leaves them with feelings.

It’s said that good mechanics are instinctual and invisible to the player. And yet they are still designed first. As an innovative leader, you are the game designer. So I’ve compiled 7 of the top mechanics you’ll need.

Process

Having structure and templates for innovation feels oxymoronic, but a well-defined process means people don’t have to waste mental muscle figuring out HOW to innovate. Constraints often spur on change and growth, similar to pressure on a tube of toothpaste. Your clearly communicated innovation process will have people pushing more ideas forward and allows others to jump on the idea because they’re all familiar with the process that it graduated from.

Metrics

As a business analyst, this one is true to my heart! You wouldn’t think that something as amorphous as “innovation” would have measurable KPI’s, but that makes them even more important in your culture. Some sample metrics would be “process efficiencies”, “prototypes developed”, and “hypotheses validated”. It is important to not lose sight that the key byproduct of innovation is knowledge gained.

Problem-sourcing

Many places picture their innovation process as a funnel, with disruptive products exiting out the narrow end of the funnel. Unfortunately, we can’t guarantee that. But what we can control is having enough raw material coming into the wide end of the funnel to work with. There are multiple channels for sourcing problems. Check your social media channels to see what your users are saying online. Set-up focus groups at regular intervals. Go to where your users are and experience it through their eyes. Open it up to internal communication channels. The more sources you can use, the clearer your understanding of the problems becomes.

Rituals

Don’t confuse rituals with routines. Rituals involve mindful participation towards the desired end state. Routines are practiced behaviors that you can tune out and still accomplish (like making that pot of coffee Monday morning without thinking about it.) Rituals are designed by the leader and are focused events. Maybe it’s a Friday meeting to share team victories from the week, or maybe it’s a weekly challenge using work skills on a non-work challenge. Whatever your rituals are, keep the end in mind.

Showcase

Knowledge doesn’t do well locked up. It needs to spread, grow, and spin-off into new questions and that means you need to connect brains together. Provide a forum and method for the sharing of all knowledge; from failed prototypes to focus group responses. These showcases must include the problem, the audience, the solution, the test plan, and (of course) the metrics. Not only do you need to create mechanics around the creation and sharing of showcases, but you also have to create the mechanic of others reviewing the showcases.

Reflection

As fun as it is to look 3, 5, 10 years ahead, it’s as important to look backward as well. Not through a lens of nostalgic status quo, but through a lens of “what could we do better?” Continuous improvement is needed with your processes, rituals, and all of your mechanics, just like it’s needed for your products. This will become more beneficial as the candor in your innovation culture grows stronger.

Absent-mindedness

Have you ever walked into a room and forgot why you walked in and only remembered once you started doing something else? Creative ideas can strike like that. Sometimes putting focused effort on solving a problem is like being stuck in the mud. You’re just spinning your wheels. What you need is to shift gears. Allowing some time for distracted focus or absent-mindedness gives the brain time to make unique connections. This can be accomplished through challenges or cross-departmental conversations to name a few. The important aspect is to give people time to think of other topics.

By now you’ve noticed that I haven’t given you step-by-step instructions on how to apply these mechanics to your organization. It’s up to you to tailor them to your team, your product, and your problems. You are the game designer. I’ve just given you some mechanics for you to now craft the dynamics and aesthetics around.

What interesting choices will you make?

 


Check out more of Go Forth and Be Awesome‘s Authentic Innovation series

Links

Authenticity, Culture, Innovation, Innovation Mindsets, Uncategorized

Growing a Culture of Innovation

A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust. -Gertrude Jekyll

My dad was a football coach and told me that what you see your team do in the game is either a product of your coaching, or bad habits you let go uncorrected in practice. It’s just as true in gardening. What you see in your flower bed, you either planted or you let it grow.

A company or team culture is just like a football team and a garden. If what you see in your team’s culture is not what you want it to be, then you either have mechanics that reinforce it, or it has taken root and you haven’t weeded it out. It takes a growing a culture of innovation. You must nurture mindsets that are confident in creativity, not afraid to fail, and realize that disruptive innovation is a team sport (not a solo one).

Weeding

I think the trickiest part to understand about creating a culture of innovation is that what you weed out is just as important as what you plant and water. Don’t just decide what to be, also decide what you won’t be. Weeds make an astounding amount of seeds once the start flowering. For example, crabgrass produces around 50,000 seeds per plant. You have to weed your culture early, often, and consistently. Great cultures don’t happen with negligence. It takes effort and intention.

Planting

Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade. -Rudyard Kipling

While each garden can be personalized based on what you want to harvest, they all have some systems in common. In a culture of innovation, how you accomplish these systems should be tailored to make them authentic to your needs, pain points, and products.

A freedom to fail

Innovation and gardening both require you to get your hands dirty. But it needs to go deeper than saying your team has the freedom to fail. This one requires you to go deeper and create a micro-culture within your culture.

  • Candor
    • Innovation demands that people are able to call problems out as they see them. There is no room for false pretense here. Everyone has ideas and everyone needs to have a voice. Friends don’t let friends ship mediocre products.
  • Performance not tied to success
    • Everyone needs goals for the year. But what goals are set as key performance indicators, that’s the type of work they will do. If the KPI’s are around sales and profit, then you won’t get innovation. You get sales optimization. Think about setting a required number of prototypes or a base number of user interviews. Start with the end goal in mind and then set metrics that help people focus on and achieve those goals.
    • Keep in mind that the key by-product of an innovative culture is learning. Learning new things that work, and learning new ways it won’t work. Both can be equally valuable.
  • Little bets
    • Innovative staff have to be able to take those wild chances and chase those crazy ideas. Set up a structure that allows people to pursue those passionate projects, but doesn’t create a big draw on resources. If a prototype is deemed “cheap” to produce, then it minimizes the bottom line impact when it fails. People will be willing to take more chances if they don’t feel like they will negatively impact the organization.
  • Reflection time / resources
    • If you want to grow watermelons, then you have to plant watermelons. If you want to grow innovation, then you have to give your team time and resources to do it. Like… officially. If your team’s week is already packed full with normal tasks, they won’t get to the innovation. Set an organizational expectation that X hours are devoted to passion projects and Y resources are set aside to build them.

A flat conversation hierarchy

  • Anyone can talk to anyone. In an innovative culture, there isn’t time for a corporate version of the telephone game. The more people ideas have to pass through, the more diluted they become.
  • Work to reduce barriers to the sharing of ideas, to the building of camaraderie across job functions. You don’t hire cheers players and then use them as chess pieces. Let them play the game together.

No products or processes are sacred

  • Everything is up for disruption and if it’s good enough for your products, it’s good enough for your internal process.
  • It is possible to create a list of “untouchables”, but for every item on that list, you are leaving the door open in the market for someone to upend you.

Plenty of conversations with clients

  • Everyone should be involved in empathy field trips. Experience the product with clients. Understand what they say and think.
  • The longer your team’s boots are off the ground, you exponentially lose the vision of the user. It’s similar to how strong a light is. The further from the source you are, the more diffused the brightness of the light becomes.

As you build your culture of innovation, remember that is is a combination of two activities: planting what you want to grow and weeding out what you don’t want. And it’s not a passive process. It takes effort and intention. It’s also ok to not get it right the first time because you’re innovating too. You’re innovating with culture. Just keep an eye on where you want to be, establish mechanics that allow that to happen, and keep tweaking the formula. Because when it comes down to a culture of innovation, it’s weed ’em and reap.


Check out more of Go Forth and Be Awesome‘s Authentic Innovation series

Links

Uncategorized

I Learned What’s Wrong with Innovation from Reading Children’s Books

I love reading books to my kids. So many characters and so many fun voices I get to use. My goal is to make these stories come to life and have them feel the drama when Elephant and Piggie trick the reader into saying the word banana out loud. (Mo Willems, if you’re reading this, you are a rock star in our house!)

Even though my voices tend to only have a few variants, it’s vastly better than if I just said each word in my own voice. But why?

Today I heard someone read a passage out loud. While each word was delivered correctly, I could tell they didn’t grasp the meaning of the message. It was if each word lived in its own verbal apartment and had no clue who it’s neighbors were. Just saying the words gives them no life, no pulse, and feels like the reader doesn’t believe what they’re saying. They don’t understand the core message.

This is the problem with corporate innovation initiatives. Innovation becomes a buzzword and a check list item. They recite words without invoking meaning. There is no pulse, there isn’t a deep understanding. It’s like the first time you have to speak in a foreign language. The depth of understanding is around pronunciation, not flow or the heart behind the words.

So if that kind of company innovation is the plain reading of a passage, who is doing the funny voices reading of children’s books?

These are the companies that get innovation as a thing to be actively done, not just checked off a list. Companies that get it and understand it at the core that they can offer their own interpretation of it. It’s not enough to just include “be an innovative leader in the market” in your vision statements if you don’t put heart and muscle behind the objective.

How do we innovate with heart and muscle? We don’t just say “innovation”. We commit to innovation. It takes effort and intention.

  • It takes a growing a culture of innovation. You must nurture mindsets that are confident in creativity, not afraid to fail, and realize that disruptive innovation is a team sport (not a solo one).
  • It takes designing mechanics of innovation. There have to be process and structure in place that sparks innovation, reinforces imaginative spirit, and keeps improvement at the forefront.
  • It takes budgeting resources for innovation. Setting aside time, tasks, and talent that fuel your culture of innovation. Resources that are designated for designing the unmade future.
  • It takes understanding outcomes of innovation. Where the end result is not always what you hope, requires great mental agility, and the minimum ROI is learning (though not the least important).

Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore each piece individually, and layout a minimally viable plan for authentic and actionable innovation.

But for now, go back and read this post out loud. But don’t just SAY it. Bring it to life. Read it in a character’s voice. Make it yours. Make it awesome.


Links