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Be Bold

Think Outside the Box (At Your Own Peril).


Think Outside the Box (At Your Own Peril).

Artists, like many founders of startups, are bootstrapping their artistic lives. They are raising funds through their in-the-box-jobs and putting that money directly into their art—uncertain if there will be financial returns, yet compelled to do their work.  

So, how might leaders tap into the passion and transformative power of artists rather than alienate and run them off?



Challenge the Challenge

Use when you want to encourage, build, and grow a culture that questions the way things are.

Think Right
Accept challenge as given.

Think Wrong
Push back and challenge.


  • Multiple entry points for addressing a challenge or opportunity that matters to you and your people
  • Identification of the people that you wish to serve


Step 1
Introduce the Challenge the Challenge Drill.

Step 2
Based Deflection Point Drill (see 17 Nov 16 Free Brains) and Moonshoot Drills (see 22 Nov 16 Free Brains), have Wrong Thinkers reframe the challenge statement to reflect the greatest impact they might hope to have.

Step 3
Ask each team to share their new challenge statement with the group.

Invite teams to edit, hack, or toss the existing challenge statement and start again.


Free Think Wrong Resources

Try our Challenge Framing tool—it's available in Free Resources on the Think Wrong Book website.

Get it here.

When to use the Drill

Introducing the Drill

Running the Drill

Want to run more Think Wrong Drills?

Buy the book here.

Sign up for FREE online resources to help run the 18 drills featured in Think Wrong here.

Sign up for our next Think Wrong Master Class here. Enter promo code: FREE BRAINS for a 20% discount.



Fail Fast. F*&k That!

How often do you hear platitudes about failing fast, failing forward, celebrating failure, embracing failure, feeling free to fail?

Well I’m here to say—f*&k that.

I’m here to say failing is not good, whether it’s done fast, forward, or by high fiving each other in an end of year celebration.

If you are a Chief Innovation Officer you know the truth: People don’t like failure. Failing is scary. Failing hurts. Failing is something to be avoided.


Because failure is what happens when you try, things don’t turn out as you expected, and don’t learn from it.

When we appropriate cool sounding glib alliterations, they cover up and excuse failure—they invite ignorance, laziness, incuriosity, and poor performance. Who wants to celebrate that?

So here’s what I invite you to do instead: Hypothesize, explore, experiment, invite the unexpected, observe, be surprised, learn fast, change your hypothesis. 

And do it all again.
And again.
And again.

That’s not failing.
That’s learning.  

Failing and learning are not the same thing, they are antithetical. They shouldn’t be clumsily exchanged with one another.

Buckminster Fuller said: “There is no such thing as a failed experiment, only experiments with unexpected outcomes.”

Too often in business, when things don’t turn out as expected, it is labeled a failure. The brakes are put on. Someone gets a black mark. And attention and resources are shifted elsewhere.

That’s what real failure looks like.

A failure to recognize the unexpected as a promising window into a breakthrough.

A failure to stop and say, “Wow, I never imagined that would happen! What did we learn? And how does it change what we should do?”

F*&k failure. It should be  feared and avoided at all costs.

So, if there’s a need for a pithy platitude, here’s one I just made up: “Learn without fail.”

Or here’s another: “Fail to learn or learn to fail.”

At Solve Next we’ve developed six Think Wrong Practices and over 150 Think Wrong Drills that we use to help organizations create a Culture of Learning not a Festival of Failure.


If you want to learn how to do this yourself, we have a handbook that will help you do just that.

“The founders of Solve Next take readers on a wonderful first hand journey of disruptive innovation. Think Wrong is as inviting as a cookbook by Jamie Oliver and as instructive as a business book by Clayton Christensen. The authors show us how to unlock human ingenuity to build and grow clever, practical, original, and viable solutions to our biggest challenges and most exciting opportunities.”

Rita Gunther McGrath
Professor at Columbia School of Business, Best-selling author of The End of Competitive Advantage

And if you’re already in love with the prospect of thinking wrong you can learn about our cloud based problem solving system and in-person service here.

“Branson can’t afford his pilots to fail again or fail better or fail forward or, frankly, fail at all. Ever. Pretending to embrace failure when you don’t is disingenuous and potentially dangerous.”

Rob Ashgar pulls back the curtain on Silicon Valley’s Fail Fast lie in this Forbes article from July 2014. “Why Silicon Valley’s ‘Fail Fast’ Mantra is Just Hype”



Our Thanksgiving Think Wrong Heroes

At this time of giving thanks, we are grateful for the Wrong Thinkers at Patagonia.

While retailers across the land have been gearing up for months for the windfall of a contrived shopping frenzy called Black Friday, Patagonia has been busy thinking wrong about how they might use all that pent up shopping gusto for good. 

We've long admired their counter-consumerism culture. In recent years their "Don't Buy This Jacket" ad has brought a smile to our mouths and tears of appreciation to our eyes. 


How can they be so damned smart, do damned right, and so damned good? 
Patagonia, you are officially our Thanksgiving Think Wrong Heroes!

Keep kicking the status quo where it counts!

Worn Wear: a Film About the Stories We Wear Presented by Patagonia Directed by Keith, Lauren, Chris, and Dan Malloy.

Worn Wear is an exploration of quality—in the things we own and the lives we live.

Check out this CNN Money Holiday Shopping article to learn more about Patagonia's bold move on behalf of our planet.

"The threats facing our planet affect people of every political stripe, of every demographic, in every part of the country," Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario, wrote in a company blogpost detailing the Black Friday effort. "We all stand to benefit from a healthy environment." 



Build a Rocket

Be Bold: Moonshot Drill

Use when you need to escape the biases, orthodoxies, and assumptions that define the status quo—and that limit the impact you might have.

Think Right
Operate within the status quo pursuing incremental improvement and risk mitigation tactics such as market research and adoption of best practices.

Think Wrong
Boldly seek challenges and opportunities that exist beyond the limitations of the status quo. Imagine impact others would never dare to.


  • Elevated impact
  • Shared vision of impact
  • Aspirational goals
  • Reasons to believe


Step 1
Introduce the Moonshot Drill.

Step 2
Have Blitzers generate ideas for the most astounding thing we might do to address the Blitz Challenge.

Step 3
Give three dots to each Blitzer. Have Blitzers dot vote on the three moonshots that they find most compelling.

Step 4
Have Blitzers move their top vote-getting moonshot to the “Why people will think that is crazy?” portion of the Moonshot Poster.

Step 5
Have Blitzers identify why people with think that they are crazy for pursing the promoted moonshot.

Step 6
Give Blitzers three more dots. Have Blitzers dot vote on the three most compelling reasons people will think their moonshot is crazy.

Step 7
Have Blitzers move their top vote-getting reason people will think their moonshot is crazy to the “What we know that they don’t” portion of the Moonshot Poster.

Step 8
Have Blitzers identify what we know that no one else knows—why we believe the moonshot is possible.

Tip: It can be challenging for teams to push away from the status quo to set goals and imagine moonshots. Visit each team as they’re generating moonshot ideas and encourage them to be as aspirational as possible—“Imagine achieving something that your grand children’s peers might be amazed to learn you were a part of.”


When to use the Drill

Introduce the Drill

Run the Drill

The Origins of Moonshot

Astro Teller is the inspiration for the Be Bold: Moonshot Drill. Watch his recent TED talk about the role of moonshots at X (formerly Google X).

Want to use more Think Wrong Drills to generate status-quo busting solutions?

Buy Think Wrong, the book here.

Get the Moonshot Poster and other FREE online resources to help you run the 18 drills featured in Think Wrong here.

Sign up for our next Think Wrong Master Class here. Enter promo code: FREE BRAINS for an additional 10% discount.



Innovators Start Your Engines

(Or, Design Thinking’s Fatal Flaw)

If I asked you to choose between two machines that could determine how your organization might compete, create value, grow market share, increase revenues, and deliver impact in the future how would you know which one to pick?

Chief Innovation Officers have been kicking the tires on design thinking’s engine for more than a few years now. But Think Wrong is not just this year’s model.

What’s the difference?

Design thinking and thinking wrong are both problem solving systems. Like a machine, each requires certain inputs, performs specific functions, and generates outputs that produce value.

Design thinking is defined by IDEO (the driving force behind popularizing design thinking) as: “A human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

At Solve Next, we define thinking wrong as: “The ability to conquer biology and culture to change things from how they are to how they might be.”

Picture design thinking as a machine that puts the the person for whom you are solving at its center.

Picture thinking wrong as a machine that puts the impact your organization wants to have and the people to whom that impact matters at its center.

Design thinking produces simpler, more intuitive solutions than what existed before—solutions that reflect the users’ environments, ways of operating, and their cultures.

Thinking wrong produces unexpected, disruptive solutions that break the biases, orthodoxies, and assumptions that form that status quo and have the ability to drive the positive change their champions aspire to create in the world.

IDEO and design thinking found their way into the popular vernacular in 1999, when ABC’s Nightline ran a story on them. That segment included IDEO’s redesign of the shopping cart. It featured their user-centered observations in supermarkets and what they revealed about shoppers’ behaviors. It showcased IDEO’s futuristic cart with a detachable basket—IDEO had noted that shoppers repeatedly parked their carts and walked down aisles for specific items. They designed a cart that had the potential to improve things for shoppers. Disappointingly, 17 years later, shopping carts remain largely unchanged and unimproved.

Think Wrong problem solving machine would not have started with observations of shoppers. Instead, it would begin by exploring what the client (grocers in this case) most aspired to accomplish. Thinking wrong would challenge the grocers to be bold and to imagine the greatest impact they might have. It would ask: “What value are they seeking to produce for the communities they serve, their stakeholders, society at large, the environment, and future generations?” It would invite shoppers into the process, to ensure their wants, needs, and ideas were central solutions that might create that positive change. It would enable grocer and shopper to imagine, prototype, and implement new ways of shopping that might lead to that impact together.

Like design thinking clients, think wrong clients need help putting their customers, beneficiaries, constituents, members, partners, and people at the center of their design efforts. But they also want to have impact that is not just marginally better than others. They want to change the game. They want what John and I have for years had called “Big D” design. Not the decorative stuff that gets applied after the strategic thinking has been done, but the kind that has the power to change the course of markets, nations, society, and future generations.

So, choose design thinking when you want to make a significant improvement to the way things are. But if you’re aim is to change the way things are to how you think they should be, choose thinking wrong.

“REBBL has $1 billion opportunity ahead of it. That’s quite a market for a company that currently has annual sales of less than $10 million, and just six employees.” Mark Rampolla, co-founder of PowerPlant Ventures, in a recent Fortune Magazine article.

REBBL is a wonderful example of what the Think Wrong engine can produce. It was born at Not For Sale’s Montara Circle, where Solve Next helped more than 50 leaders from across the private and public sectors take on the challenge of ending the exploitation of villagers and their environment in the Peruvian Amazon. The result, a refreshing tonic made, in part, from ingredients purchased from those villagers, economically inoculating them from exploitation. “We love launching products that have the power to change culture, start conversations, and challenge the status quo” says Palo Hawken, co-founder of REBBL in this recent BEVNET release.



Culture of Innovation Fail


(Or, Why People Build New Homes with Fake Gas Lanterns by the Front Door)

If, as the leader of a multi-billion dollar corporation, the director of modest non-profit, the president of a university—or whatever your position—you are responsible for building a culture of innovation you’re probably frustrated with the results.

My home state gives you a pretty good hint why.

Maine is a place nostalgic in nature, evoking lighthouses, Andrew Wyeth paintings, sailboats, colonial architecture, and lobster dinners on the beach at sunset. It all fits comfortably and appealingly into our collective consciousness.

“Maine, the way life should be” is our official state slogan.

Most homes in Maine (with the exception of double-wide trailers, worthy of a later blog post) are old or built to look old. I live in a large, old house built in 1863. So, “What’s wrong with that?” you might ask. Nothing. Except that it costs a fortune to heat with oil, the rooms are relatively small, and maintenance is high. In 1863, they were building houses using 1863 technology and aesthetics. Building has come a long way in 153 years.

Or has it?

I was recently in Carrabassett Valley, Maine, home to the Sugarloaf ski area, and noticed a relatively new “ski” house. It wasn’t built in the traditional ski house vernacular. Instead, it was built to resemble a colonial home from the 1800’s. Complete with fake gas lanterns, non-moveable shutters, and ornamental columns by the front door.

So, what’s going on here—and in innovation resistant organizations? Why do people keep putting fake gas lanterns on your front doors?

Well, it’s biological and cultural. A specific idea of “home” gets hard-wired into our brains at an early age. Images of cozy cottages with white picket fences universally represent comfort, safety and stability. Over time, we connect those images to those feelings through synaptic connections that forge enduring neural pathways. A superhighway is built connecting what we experience and feel to what we believe. The result? We build 2016 houses on a 1863 blueprint. Anything that varies from the norm is actively discouraged or outright rejected.

What’s true for our homes is true for our organizations. We think that we’re making rational, well-reasoned decisions when we are following pre-determined pathways in our brains. We're building on old plans. We do this even when making big decisions with big financial ramifications, such as building a new office or plant, inventing and funding a new business, or adopting potentially life altering policies (think how hard it is for us to move at scale from our oil dependency to renewable energy—even when confronted with overwhelming evidence of the impact climate change on our planet).

The gravity of the status quo seems inescapable. Culture change is tough. It means overcoming the way our brains and cultures conspire against innovations that threaten the way things are.

But breaking the grips of our orthodoxies is not impossible. When our friends and collaborators Linda Yates and Paul Holland decided to build a new home in Portola Valley, they didn’t hesitate to let go of conventions about what a house is or is not. They were boldly set out to build the greenest home in America.

“We've always been passionate about environmental causes,” says Holland. “We wanted to take our family out of the oil-based economy, so there are no oil-based products associated with the house: there is no natural gas, no plastic, no PVC. Everything is powered by renewable energy sources, either solar or ground-source heat exchange.”

Take a peek at this    recent Style magazine article    featuring the Yates-Holland home. No fake gas lanterns there.

Take a peek at this recent Style magazine article featuring the Yates-Holland home. No fake gas lanterns there.

If you really want to lead a culture of innovation, give your people the permission, language, frameworks, tools, and training they’ll need to conquer the current orthodoxies, beliefs, and assumptions responsible for the status quo—and to do work that matters.

In the spirit of Think Wrong’s Move Fast Practice, Yates and Holland are not proprietary about their home. They’ve created this website to share what they have learned and the resources required to build greener more sustainable homes.


Steve Jobs’ dent in the universe—the shocking truth revealed!


Steve Jobs’ dent in the universe—the shocking truth revealed!

Steve Jobs is a poster child for our Be Bold practice, and we’ve used the oft attributed Steve Jobs quote “we’re here to make a dent in the universe”, but caveated it with our inability to find the source.

We decided to research it.

The search screen for "Dent in the universe"

It turns out they’re not Steve Jobs' words after all, they’re Noah Wyle’s while playing Steve Jobs in the 1999 made for television movie Pirates of Silicon Valley.  

But that’s not where the story ends—we dug deeper, much deeper. We unearthed, what we believe to be, the inspiration for the fictional quote.

To put the matter to bed once and for all, we sought verification using the source document containing the quote, and low-and-behold Amazon had the source, a magazine article—and on Prime no less (way to go Amazon!).

Please understand that we only bought this magazine for the article—buried deep in an extensive, and rather good, interview with Steve Jobs (the bottom right corner of page 59) is this quote:

“We attract a different type of person—a person who doesn’t want to wait five or ten years to have someone take a giant risk on him or her. Someone who really wants to get in a little over his head and make a little dent in the universe.”
Steve Jobs Dent In Universe Playboy

And the storied publication that had captured this for posterity?

Playboy, February 1985.

Playboy with Steve Jobs Interview

So now you know. The shocking truth has been revealed.


Thinking Wrong + Agile = True Love?


Thinking Wrong + Agile = True Love?

We were recently asked (again) if the Think Wrong Practices were inspired by Agile and Scrum methodologies.

The simple answer is “No.”

End of blog?


Since we keep getting asked, it’s probably worth taking a closer look at how they’re related.

Agile has its roots in software development, but today you can find people across organizations using it to run projects. Why has Agile taken hold? Because the big bets and risk-filled assumptions of traditional waterfall project management too often failed to deliver products and projects. Agile wins because it works.

Rapid Ingenuity has its roots in how designers are taught to solve problems—what has been coined as design thinking by IDEO and Stanford founder David M. Kelly. So, today you can find people across sectors and industries embracing design thinking to solve challenges where MBA thinking has failed to do so. Design thinking produces solutions—and results—that business problem solving orthodoxies cannot.

Many of the organizations who pioneered the broader use of Agile have stumbled upon a new challenge: “We’ve mastered the development and delivery of solutions, but we’re not where we want to be when it comes to conceiving game-changing innovations.”

To address this, engineering, product management, strategy, and innovation leaders have turned to design. They’ve spotted a useful overlap in the Agile/Design Thinking Venn diagram. One accelerates conception. The other accelerates execution.

And Thinking Wrong is next-generation design thinking.

Building on the foundation of design thinking, we’ve added a critical definition and three distinct practices:

Thinking Wrong
A key component of thinking wrong is ingenuity—Ingenuity is the clever, original, and practical use of existing resources to solve a challenge—fast.

This definition provides a helpful checklist for evaluating innovations:
Does your innovation make clever use of existing resources?
Does your innovation make original use of existing resources?
Does your innovation make practical use of existing resources?

The Be Bold Practice.
Be Bold focuses everyone on your challenge and how to make the most from taking it on. It helps you not only take users into account, but also the strategic aspirations of your organization and the people who show up every day to achieve those. Ultimately Be Bold challenges everyone to raise the bar on what’s possible. It’s a unifying practice that inspires and energizes your people, your partners, and the communities you serve through shared purpose and a compelling vision of impact.

The Let Go Practice.
Let Go deliberately breaks the heuristic biases and synaptic connections that result in the status quo and stand in the way of ingenious solutions. The Let Go Practice forces you to solve from a place you would never consider, ensuring solutions you could otherwise never imagine.

The Bet Small Practice.
Bet Small, inspired through our work with best-selling author Peter Sim’s (Little Bets), counters the fear that too often snuffs out new born ideas by applying Sim’s concept of affordable loss. So, rather than placing a massive bet on an unknown and untested idea (what the waterfall methodology was developed to manage), this practice generates a portfolio of small bets from which ingenious solutions can quickly learn, adapt, and evolve.

With its scrums, sprints, and frequent deliverables Agile offers a management approach ideally suited to producing the LFI (Learning From Investment) that Think Wrong’s Make Stuff, Bet Small, and Move Fast Practices are designed to produce.

So, while the honest answer to whether or not the Think Wrong Practices were inspired by Agile remains, “No.” It’s equally true that Agile and Thinking Wrong are kissing cousins.

If you use Agile—of any flavor—you might consider giving the Think Wrong Practices a try the next time you have a challenge that demands a game-changing solution.

Likewise, if you use the Think Wrong Practices and want to adopt an equally reliable set of practices to manage the execution of your portfolio of small bets you might consider bringing in an Agile pro or Scrum Master, regardless of whether your ingenious solutions demand software development.

When used together Agile and the next generation of design thinking yield even more ingenious outcomes.

Even faster.





The not so Secret Project.

For the past 11 years we’ve been running an experimental program called Project M. M was inspired by the work of Samuel Mockbee, what he called an “architecture of decency,” and the Rural Studio, the off-campus design build program he co-founded with D.K. Ruth in Hale County on behalf of Auburn University.

Like the Rural Studio, Project M operates in the communities it serves. M inspires and empowers young creative people to identify needs and come up with ingenious solutions to challenges facing the people living in those communities.

While Project M’s spiritual roots are in rural Alabama, we've run sessions in Baltimore, Connecticut, Detroit, Kansas, Maine, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and Oklahoma—and internationally in Costa Rica, Germany, Ghana, Iceland.

Project M sessions always produce ingenious small bets. Some have been short-lived, while others have gained momentum—producing learning, insight, and impact over time. That momentum has generated sustainable impact locally—as well as international interest, news coverage, and acclaim. One of our most notable projects is PieLab, covered here in the New York Times Magazine

The good news.

Project M has produced hundreds of alumni out in the world who are using rapid ingenuity to take on some pretty daunting challenges. Take +Pool, a floating, water-cleaning pool for the rivers of New York City, by M alums Archie Lee Cotes and Jeffrey Franklin. (Go PlayLab!) 

The bad news.

Given our day jobs running Think Wrong Blitzes for corporations, start-ups, foundations, non-profits, and government agencies we can only run so many two-week Project M sessions in a given year.

The better news.

We've found a way to increase the number of young people we can introduce to rapid ingenuity. We call them 48-hour Blitzes. To date we’ve run dozens of them at universities across the U.S., in the U.K., and in Australia. 

Check out how some students used the Make Stuff Practice to take on the challenge of changing the eating habits of Americans during their 48hr Blitz at the University of Kansas. 

The best news.

For the past 5 years, we’ve been searching for the right academic partner to extend the reach of Project M—and rapid ingenuity. Surprisingly that partner was right in Future’s own backyard. When Steve Beal, President of the California College of the Arts (CCA), approached me and said “We’ve been thinking of doing something like M.” I knew we had found a partner who was not afraid to experiment and who shared our passion for eduction and our zeal for driving positive change in the world.

So, now the cat's now partially out of the bag. This Fall CCA is launching a new program called Secret Project, that I will have the honor of leading. Soon the secret will not be so secret. Stay tuned for updates and announcements about Challenge Blitzes, partnerships, and an ingenious building that might just pop-up on CCA’s back lot in San Francisco.