Trust and Growth

I remember picking the white, puffy dandelion off of its stem as a kid and blowing as hard as I could. I heard that if you could get all the puff off with one breath, your wish would come true.

Little did I know that I was sending seeds off into the wind. Their own wishes were hopefully carrying them to fertile soil. A place to put down roots and start growing on their own.

And really, employment is similar to that seed floating on the breeze. Job seekers are in search of a landing spot. A place where they can build trust and grow professionally and personally.


The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer surveyed over 33,000 people and revealed that when an employer met more of an employee’s expectations, the more trust was built… and that trust grew in strength.

But what are those expectations? The top three were:

  • Job Opportunity – Chances for growth, promotion, and learning that is fulfilling.
  • Personal Empowerment – The culture is inclusive and employees have a voice.
  • Shared Action – There is a greater purpose and a societal impact is possible.
In the graph above, the lighter grey pie slice represents the percentage of respondents that saw this topic as a strong expectation. The red represents the “deal-breaker” group.

With Job Opportunity being the highest ranked expectation, what opportunities should be available?


There’s no reason that this cant be a win-win situation for employers. If they need to build trust by creating growth opportunities, they should focus on growth that is mutually beneficial with a high ROI.

PricewaterhouseCoopers released their 22nd annual CEO survey in 2019, in which they spoke with over 1,300 CEO’s. They asked what soft skills are the most critical. They also asked which skills are getting the hardest to find.

In the top right quadrant (the most critical and the hardest to find) are Leadership, Creativity and Innovation, Problem Solving, and Adaptability. All four of those skills speak to the future of work and the need to keep valued employees nimble and agile to the rapidly changing markets.

As the labor market gets more competitive each month, the winner will be the employers that create growth opportunities. But not just any opportunities, the ones with mutual benefits that meet employee expectations. This will ultimately build trust and drive retention… which has its own cascading affect on the bottom line.

So stop wishing for a more engaged workforce and start creating a place for seeds to land and grow.

Looking for a growth opportunity?

Are you looking for a chance to level-up yourself with or without your employer? Want to build those soft skills that 1,300 plus CEO’s say are the most critical and the hardest to find?

Then consider the altMBA.

As an alumni, I can not speak highly enough of the intense and rewarding experience. You’ll get the most out of it if you commit to it and the ruckus it’s going to make in your life for 30 days. It’s not for everyone, but chances are if you are reading my blog, it’s probably for you. People like us do things like the altMBA.

Go forth and be awesome!

– TD


The Climate and The Seeds

I’ve been beating myself up a bit lately over some work.

I had a client that I was doing some significant work for each month, and it was a long-running engagement. However, with the new year came a new direction, and that working relationship was paused.

I know it was not a reflection on my work. I know that businesses change directions. I know an element of it was beyond my control. But still I am struggling with the shift from a well-oiled machine with significant success one minute, and then a shut door the next minute… and to be honest it makes me doubt that what I had accomplished was special.

I keep thinking of what I could’ve done differently to try to save it. Should I have pronounced the progress more publicly? Should I have found more efficiency within the program? Should I have established more communication points… or maybe less? It’s a difficult feeling to rumble with.

All this leads to Seth Godin’s post today about Skill vs Planning.

Basically, if you’re planting orange trees in Ottawa, they aren’t easy to grow and thrive. So when they die (which they most likely will) you can either beat yourself up, burn yourself out and say “I’m a bad gardener” or you can plant a crop that grows well in Ottawa, or move to a place where oranges do well. Seth closes with this:

“But don’t beat yourself up just because the climate doesn’t match your seeds.”

And that helps.

The legend of Johnny Appleseed says that he traversed America, spreading apple seeds everywhere. Now I’m sure some took root and grew and produced fruit for generations. But I have to believe that some did not. Regardless, it didn’t stop Johnny Appleseed from moving forward, walking on, and planting more seeds.

So that’s what’s next for me. Realize that the climate wasn’t right for the seeds that I was planting, and to keep going forth, and planting more awesome.


Igniting Fire

A match is a great tool for starting a fire, and a fire is something we all want burning inside us. So when we find ourselves frozen in place, whether it’s fear, doubting ourselves, or just feeling stuck, the simple solution is to get some matches. But matches alone won’t fix it.

Matches are your knowledge, skills, and beliefs. They can ignite a roaring blaze inside you. But like other tools, they’re really just taking up space in your house if you aren’t using them. Tools need to be used to be effective.

Matches need something to ignite the end before they can light a fire. There has to be action, specifically friction, to cause a spark. It takes movement and grit for your match to light your fire. It takes a bias towards action.

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

Walt Disney

I always seem to stumble when I am designing a boardgame. The ideas come fast and furious, and I have at least six different games laid out in my notebook. Rules, pieces, gameplay… everything. But I get stuck and the game only lives in my notebook. Unlit logs begging for a fire.

I need to strike my match with some action. I can make myself accountable by sharing my idea with others, or scheduling a playtest date with some friends before the first prototype is built.

By making my action external, I get out of my own way and I’m more likely to follow through since others are anticipating my progress. This is the kind of friction I set up to light my matches.

How do you move from idea to action? From match to lit fire? How do you create productive friction? Let me know in the comments!


The problem with Innovation isn’t innovation

(takes a sip of water)… Let me explain.

The problem with Innovation is that the people who decide the direction of the company, don’t always get innovation. And you can’t blame them. There are two different versions.

There is “capital I” Innovation. This is the buzzwordy big brother. The one that gets five minutes in stakeholder meetings and thrown around in boardrooms as a checklist item. “Are we Innovating?” “Oh certainly. I put it right here in the vision doc. Be an innovative leader in the market.”

And there is “lowercase i” innovation. This version is mindsets and action. This is prototypes and hypotheses. This is out-on-a-limb gambles based on user empathy that the normal production evolution would never take us to.

Authentic innovation doesn’t fit neatly into scorecards or forecasting metrics. But Innovation does.

I’ve written this blog post a couple times now and it just doesn’t come out right. So we’re going to try something a little different, and I’m just going to open my mind and let it tumble out.

Look, Innovation is crap. It’s a buzzword, it’s a checklist item. “Did we tell them to Innovate?” “Yes, we added it to the vision doc that we want to be an innovative leader in the market.” The problem with that type of Innovation is that it is cheap and hollow, like the giant chocolate bunnies or Santas that look impressive, but when you bite into them you realize it was made of a sixteenth of an inch of chocolate… and filled with stale factory air. “Mmmm… it has a chalky mouthfeel, with a hint of … warehouse?”

What you drool over are the solid chocolate versions. The ones that are pure 100% innovation with every bite. Solid but smooth. Satisfying and makes the pains go away. The real problem with Innovation is that it’s hollow. Whereas the innovation it emulates is rich and every bite has meaning.

So why are there two different versions? Innovation and innovation? Because Innovation is easy, and innovation is hard.


Culture, Lenses, Systems, Uncategorized

Game Design for Culture Design

The average age of a “gamer” is rising. Current research puts it around 34 years old. That means there is an increasing chance that any team you are part of is made up of self-identifying gamers. They’ve trekked across Skyrim. They’ve launched a blue shell in Mario Kart. They’ve flung an Angry Bird or two.

If this engages them, gets them in the flow state, and keeps them coming back… why would we not look towards game design when designing our team culture? Cody Royle, in his book Where Others Won’t, posits that we can borrow talent acquisition strategies from sports.

“A well-designed game is a guided missle to the motivational heart of the human psyche.” – Kevin Werbach

MDA Framework

We’re going to keep this simple for our analogy. For deep details on the MDA Framework, there are loads of articles on it. But here’s the basics:

90823As you can see, the game designer and the game player approach the game differently.

The designer can only control the mechanics so they build their game by creating mechanics, which impacts the dynamics, which influences the aesthetics.

The player comes at the game in the reverse order. The game is chosen because of the aesthetics they want (looking for “fun”), which they get from the dynamics, which is created by the rules. You never pick up a game because of a rule. You buy, play, and keep playing because of the feeling.

“Many of the traits, habits, beliefs and actions that teenagers and young adults pick up playing electronic games and working with handheld gadgets will help them as they enter the ever-changing global workforce.” – Karl Kapp

As a Lens for Culture

Like the game designer, we can really only control the mechanics of our culture. Mechanics are not your mission statement or your vision, but they are part of it. It’s more the rituals and operationalized mission. But instead of establishing rules we like and force the aesthetics we want, why not start with an end in mind?

We can think of culture design as game design, with a design thinking twist. Backwards by design. We’re going to start in the endzone, and figure out how to get there.

Granted, there are organizations that try to establish culture at the aesthetic level first. But they are trying to control the aesthetics as designers, which can’t be done. This will run in opposition with the established mechanics or clash with the personal narratives of the staff.

We can’t control the end, but we need to start there. If we work backwards, we can increase the likelihood of the aesthetic we want in our culture.

  • What feelings do we want our team to have?
    • Not only when they are “playing the game”, but also when they are at home or in their community.
  • What interactions can our team have to promote these feelings?
    • Interactions within the team, with the work, with the clients. All the interactions.
  • What rules of play can we establish to encourage those interactions?
    • These mechanics need to have boundaries that allow a little wiggle room but includes the interactions.




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.


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.



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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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