One of my business partners at New Kind, David Burney, is an exceptional facilitator of design thinking sessions. David introduced me to design thinking and the work of IDEO (where many of the concepts behind design thinking were developed and applied to the business world). David taught me everything I know about facilitating projects and sessions using a design thinking approach.
At the beginning of any design thinking project, David shares a set of rules that help get every participant on the same page. The rules apply to everyone (including executives) and help create an optimal environment for creativity. If you are planning to run a project using a design thinking approach, you might want to consider sharing these rules with your group before you get started. I’ve used this list many times, and I promise, it really helps keep things on track.
1. Avoid the devil’s advocate: The devil’s advocate is someone who (purposely or accidentally) shoots down the ideas of others without taking any personal responsibility for his actions. The devil’s advocate often begins his objection with the phrase “Let me be the devil’s advocate for a second…”. The devil’s advocate often intends to be helpful by pointing out flaws in an idea, but ultimately this focuses people’s attention on what won’t work rather than exploring unexpected ways that it might work.
2. Make agendas transparent: Every participant should make their personal agendas as clear as possible.
3. Leave titles at the door: No one person’s ideas are worth more than anyone else’s.
4. Generate as many ideas as possible: During ideation, you are not trying to generate the best ideas; you are trying to generate the most ideas.
5. Build on the ideas of others rather than judging them: If someone else has an idea you like, build on it. If you don’t like an idea, share another one rather than critiquing.
6. Stay on time: Don’t let your ideation session spiral out of control. Each ideation session should be timed and should have a clear ending point.
7. State the obvious: Sometimes things that can seem obvious reveal great insight from their simplicity.
8. Don’t sell or debate ideas: Selling and debating ideas takes time away from generating new ideas.
9. Stupid and wild ideas are good: Sometimes the craziest ideas lead to the best ideas.
10. DTA stands for death to acronyms: Avoid acronyms—they are exclusionary because people who don’t know what they stand for will quickly be lost. If you must use an acronym, write what it stands for somewhere everyone can see it. Keep a running list of all acronyms used during the project or session.
11. Always understand in which stage of the process you are: When you are ideating, you are not critiquing ideas. But when ideation is over and you begin the process of selecting the best ideas, you’ll need to discuss the merits of each idea in a more traditional, analytical way.
12. Play is good, have fun: The more fun you are having as a group, the more creative ideas you’ll generate.
If you’d like to learn more about design thinking and how you can use it in your projects, I recommend any of the following books.
From the amazing team at IDEO:
– The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley
– Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelley
– Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation by Tim Brown
Other great books to consider:
– The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage by Roger Martin
– Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience, and Brand Value by Thomas Lockwood
If so, you can find more tips about how to employ a collaborative approach to building brands in my book, The Ad-Free Brand (not an advertisement, mind you, just a friendly suggestion:).
It might be a better world if we all worked in open, collaborative organizations where the best ideas win. But unfortunately, the reality is that bureaucracy still rules in all but the most progressive companies. We have a long way to go. The reality doesn’t always match the dream.
In the real world, we generate great ideas, propose elegant solutions, and then force them to run the bureaucratic gauntlet. “the best ideas win” becomes “the safest ideas win” (and then lose eventually) as they travel through the bureaucracy and its meetings.
These meetings are the favorite hiding place of two species of people I dread encountering. Learn to identify, manage, or avoid these bureaucrats, as they are the enemies of meritocracy.
The devil’s advocate was wonderfully defined by Tom Kelley in his book The Ten Faces of Innovation. Devil’s advocates make a habit of shooting down the ideas of others or offering critiques by starting with the phrase “Let me play devil’s advocate” (or something similar).
This phrase allows the bureaucrat to avoid taking personal accountability for the comments they are about to make. Because they are speaking for the devil rather than themselves, they can crush someone else’s idea without feeling guilty about it.
Professional Meeting Attendees
It is easy to spot the professional meeting attendee because they usually look or sound hurried and exhausted, complaining about how many meetings they have that day and how much they have to get done. Woe is them, for sure.
The reality is they often don’t actually do the hard work of creating and building, but instead sit in meetings all day long. They are happy to offer sage advice and wisdom, but usually avoid taking on work.
In small organizations and startups, the professional meeting attendee species is rare. But it breeds rapidly in large organizations where meetings are plentiful and there is always someone else to do the work.
So what should good open source-minded workers do to improve things when they can’t escape these meeting bureaucrats? A few tips from me:
[Read the rest of this post on opensource.com]
Last week, my friend Greg DeKoenigsberg posted an article about Jaron Lanier’s negative comments regarding open textbooks. At almost very same time, I happened to stumble upon an article Jaron wrote back in 2006 criticizing Wikipedia.
The common theme is Jaron taking issue with what he calls “online collectivism,” “the hive mind,” and even “digital Maoism” (ouch!). You might call this same concept “crowdsourcing” or “the wisdom of crowds.” It’s all in the eye of the beholder, but the guy clearly does not have much love for wikis or the works of collective wisdom they create.
So I had to ask myself: Why so negative, Jaron?
Is Jaron really a hater of free culture, as Greg claims in his article? Is he an enemy of the open source way? Or is he just a smart dude warning us about the risks of taking the wisdom-of-crowds concept too far?
Fortunately for us, Jaron published a book earlier this year entitled You Are Not A Gadget. So I took a few hours and read it last week to see if I could answer some of these questions.
At times, the book is scary smart, with precise analysis from a man who clearly questions everything, and is in a better intellectual position to do so than most (the section on social media and its redefinition of friendship is especially interesting).
At other times it read like a college philosophy term paper. And occassionally, especially toward then end, it devolved into nearly unintelligeble (at least by me) ravings about things like “postsymbolic communication” and “bachelardian neoteny” (Michael Agger’s review in Slate calls him out for this too).
But wait! Right near the beginning of the book, I found this paragraph:
“Emphasizing the crowd means deemphasizing individual humans in the design of society, and when you ask people not to be people, they revert to bad, moblike behaviors.”
Hey… I kinda agree with that…
[Read the rest of this post on opensource.com]
If you’ve ever watched a road bike race like the Tour de France, you know the peloton is the big group of riders that cluster together during the race to reduce drag. It’s a great example of collaboration in action. But let’s face it: the people in the middle of the peloton may go faster than they would otherwise, but they don’t win the race.
When it comes to creating and innovating, most companies (and employees) are in the peloton. They are doing enough to survive, but they are stuck in the pack. And if they stay in the pack too long, they lose.
Escaping the peloton is tough. Often, you see a cyclist break away, sprint for a while, only to get sucked back into the main group over time as the pressures of making a go independently prove too much.
You’ve probably felt this way at work. You come up with an amazing idea, one that will change the company forever. But little by little, people—even the well-meaning ones—chip away at its soul, until the idea goes from being amazing to, well, average. You end up being sucked back into the peloton.
After this happens one too many times, you may feel like you want to stop collaborating and try to make things happen on your own. Don’t do it. Even Lance Armstrong could rarely break away from the peloton without his teammates’ help.
Instead, here are three tips to help you escape the creativity peloton without giving up on collaboration.
[Read the rest of this post on opensource.com]
There was an interesting article in the New York Times Magazine this weekend about the metamorphosis of the word fail from verb to interjection. I know, I know, most of the computer-y world has been using the word in this way for quite some time (need some examples? go check out FailBlog). It’s old news.
Anil Dash wrote an interesting post called The End of Fail a few months ago where he articulated some of the reasons why FAIL is such an ummm… FAIL for collaborative cultures.
Fail is over. Fail is dead. Because it marks a lack of human empathy, and signifies an absence of intellectual curiosity, it is an unacceptable response to creative efforts in our culture. “Fail!” is the cry of someone who doesn’t create, doesn’t ship, doesn’t launch, who doesn’t make things. And because these people don’t make things, they don’t understand the context of those who do. They can’t understand that nobody is more self-critical or more aware of the shortcomings of a creation than the person or people who made it.
When attempting to build a collaborative culture where innovation flourishes, the biggest enemy, as Tom Kelly has pointed out, is the Devil’s Advocate. I almost feel like the person who shouts FAIL is a worse member of the same species. At least the Devil’s Advocate brings some opposing ideas to the table. The FAILman delivers only judgment.