Viewing entries in
Bet Small


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”


Slankets& Moonshots& Pizzas& Crayons.


Slankets& Moonshots& Pizzas& Crayons.

Last November, before Game of Thrones' prophecy of "Winter's coming" became an all too chilly reality for the North East states, we partnered with the phenomenal Charles River School in Dover, MA. Their new head of school Gretchen Larkin invited us to help their school community—made up of faculty, parents and the board— to imagine the Charles River School of the future.

In a gymnasium over 100 community members convened—we explored the school to discover the odd, profound and amusing (of which there was a trove); we were inspired by speakers such as Warren Berger author of A More Beautiful Question; the community discovered what was truly special about the school—beyond their engaging theme taught curriculum (for instance, the kids get to learn all their subjects by using the context of the Olympics or Marco Polo—it is fantastic).

It became apparent that people fell in love with school when they visited or when they met the engaging and engaged students—we certainly did. Together, they came up with a series of small bets to get the word out about their amazing school and community (they even opened their homes for us to crash in their spare rooms!).

One of their small bets was a mini camp over the Massachusetts "ski week" vacation—which we suspect was in late May—it was fully subscribed.

Check out our video of the Blitz, it was a hoot! We really love this school.

To add further intrigue to our relationship with Charles River School, frequent Blitz participant and talented fine artist Tucker Nichols saw the Blitz Report at our studio and said "I went there—it's an amazing place, it had a huge influence on me", although a shocking coincidence it was far from surprising.



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.





Have you ever wondered “How long would it take for security to show up if you were to pull into Facebook’s corporate headquarters in Menlo Park with a Cricket Trailer, unhitch it, push it into a parking spot, start popping the roof, and wind down the steadies?”

Well, we have an answer.

It’s a little less than two minutes.

But to give the security guy credit he was on a bike, someone had to see us on CCTV, wonder what the bloody hell we were up to, communicate it to him, and then he had to find us. Two minutes in that context is a pretty rapid response. Kudos to Facebook security!

Once we explained to him that we were there to see Tim Campos the CIO, and yes we were planning on meeting him in the parking lot—in the Cricket, that had transformed into a mobile-blitzing-lab-come-conference-center he was mightily impressed, and as the Cricket is now a giant dry erase board Greg wrote “Approved by FB security” on the front and we were good to go (that apparently is all it takes!).

We then had to convince Tim’s executive assistant that we were not going to kidnap one of the most influential CIO’s in the world, we're pretty sure he was only 22% joking about that.  Upon inspection, he agreed that our conference room was far superior to any on their campus* and he went inside to return with Tim.

*He may not have said that, but it was pretty obvious what he was thinking!

Greg had used his illustrative talents to draw, amongst many things, a picture of Tim on the side of the Cricket along with his quote: 

“Technology matters, but talent matters more”. 

Some people, like John Bielenberg for instance ;), might have thought such a thing creepy, weird and slightly stalker-esq… conversely we thought it mildly sidesplitting and with John being in Maine at the time, what was he going to do about it?

Mercifully, Tim’s team saw the hilarity, and he himself was impressed that he’d said such wise words.

Tim Campos and the Cricket Trailer

To the meeting itself, is there a better environment in which to describe a Blitz than a hacked Cricket, that was born from a Blitz, out in a parking lot, sipping delightfully chilled REBBL tonic (born from another Blitz), from the onboard refrigerator? Let’s examine:

  • Be Bold: We think showing up in a Cricket adorned with the CIO’s face on the side is pretty bold.
  • Get Out: Well yeah—not only did we get out, but we gave the Facebook team the opportunity to get out of their environment too, to be receptive and invite serendipity.
  • Let Go: This was most definitely not the same old same old meeting!
  • Make Stuff: We were sitting in a space that was living testament to making, and the Facebook team engaged having fun with the physical space, playing with the writable surfaces and the Cricket itself.
  • Bet Small: The worse thing that could have happened is thinking it was a little weird and having the meeting in a conference room instead.
  • Move Fast: The Cricket was still a Cricket until a week before, and we had no way of moving it. Plus, it is a conference room that can go about 70mph—that’s a pretty fast conference room.

There was serendipity of doing all this at Facebook whose culture fosters the traits of blitzing and the Think Wrong Practices themselves, and we're thankful the team was more than willing to return serve with us, how’d the meeting turn out? 

You’ll just have to wait and see.

P.S. If we did it again, we would put beer in the cooler!





What happens when a Cricket Trailer finds itself within sight of a blitz? 


Solve Next friend, founder of Taxa, and inventor of the distinctly awesome Cricket Trailer Garrett Finney lent Project M one of his early Crickets to use in their adventures. Via the M-ers inHALE effort said Cricket ended up at The Think Wrong Lab, where it collided with the Future Mavericks and their Blitz.

One of the moonshots conceived in their Blitzing the Blitz Blitz was Milk—a mobile rapid ingenuity lab.

Huh, what existing resource do we have that’s mobile and already ingenious to make a small bet?

Oooo – a Cricket Trailer!

We had 5 Mavs for 5 days, and Mav Anthony hanging around for a little longer. Sweet. Let’s do it! Let’s hack the Cricket. We had no collective experience in doing this sort of thing—how hard could it be?

Here’s where we started… we gutted the Cricket.

We took out all the seats, rewired it, moved the batteries to provide room to accommodate 10 people, all while not losing utility so that John could use it on “expeditions” (his words, John clearly is  unfamiliar with a hitched Jetta’s ground clearance).

Speaking of hitches, here’s one—you’ll note I wrote Garret lent us the Cricket, but here’s what John had said “Garrett GAVE us the Cricket”— what he meant to say was “Garrett gave us the Cricket TO USE”, five letters, big difference in meaning!

Thankfully, Garrett was beyond agreeable telling us to “go mad” —good, after the fact, given what we’d already done!

 We primed, sanded and finished the exterior turning it into one giant dry erase board using IdeaPaint.

By the time we were done, we’d converted the interior walls and hanging table-come bed into white boards, added a projector screen, storage for our blitzing accouterments, and seating for 10—and John could still be expeditionary. 

So what does this have to do with Facebook?

It’s Tuesday and Anthony added a potted plant as a finishing touch before heading home to Kansas City. We’ve never towed it, the Jetta still doesn’t have a hitch, we don’t know what it takes to get one (it’s more than you think!), and the Cricket looks insane. Greg and I have, what we consider to be, a brilliant idea for an incredibly important meeting with Tim Campos, the CIO of Facebook and his team on Friday.

John’s response to our brilliant idea, “Is that a good idea?”. When John—the conceiver of Think Wrong—verbalizes concern regarding the potential wrongness of our thinking you’d think we’d pause.

We didn’t.

What could possibly go wrong?

Find out what happened next in our next blog post!

*** For a different perspective check out Anthony's blog here — it's where we stole a bunch of pictures from ***


1 Comment

MakeLab and HERObike seeing green

Think Wrong about Bamboo

Bamboo grows like crazy all over the south. Some call it invasive. It makes some people see red. But it has the ingenious teams at MakeLab* and HERObike seeing green. Green as in fresh new jobs. As in a renewable resource. As in dollars flowing back into the local economy of a rural Alabama town.

We define ingenuity as the clever, original, and practical use of existing resources. That’s why we were so inspired when Lance Rake, professor of Industrial Design at the University of Kansas, transformed the much-maligned weed into HexTube technology—a breakthrough in material design that allows bamboo bike frames to be lighter, stronger, standardized, and easily assembled for the first time.

Thanks to their successful Kickstarter campaign, the HexTube will make its commercial debut in February 2014 with release of The Semester Commuter and Semester CityBike.

It’s all part of HERObike’s ingenious plan to build more than a cool bike. They’re building new jobs and brighter futures for—and with—the people of Greensboro, Alabama. And we’re not the only ones who are high on HERO's bamboo bikes:

If this story makes you feel good, pass it on—and don’t Bogart.                                            

*full disclosure, Future is a proud member of MakeLab.

"smokin" © 2013 CC BY-NC-SA Blair Stapp

1 Comment

The Toxic MBA

Think wrong about toxic MBAs

The problem-solving orthodoxies they teach you in business school kill ingenuity. Greg Galle explains why at TEDxGrandRapids.