Viewing entries tagged
design thinking

Comment

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.

Why?

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”


Comment

Comment

Welcome to Campando Maryknoll

Original art: Tucker Nichols Hack: Tena Watts (Think Wrong Master Class grad)

Original art: Tucker Nichols
Hack: Tena Watts (Think Wrong Master Class grad)


A report from Eugene Shirley, a recently certified Wrong Thinker from last week’s Think Wrong Master Class.


I had a great meeting today with our favorite nuns and we’re confirmed for Campando, Jan. 20, 21 and 22 at the Maryknoll Sisters compound in Monrovia, at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. (bears included). They will provide food and lodging, targeting LA County millennial leaders from social justice and environmental communities who feel in need of rejuvenation (a small group at first, to experiment). We will Make Stuff and Bet Small—prototyping a program they hope to replicate multiple times throughout the year.

I took the Make Stuff: Name It Poster (see photo with three of the sisters pictured), used it to catch them up on our ideas from last week, and then they took it from there. I took along two extra blank posters and they wanted me to leave them so they could think wrong on their own.  

Eugene lead the sisters in the Make Stuff: Name It Drill

Eugene lead the sisters in the Make Stuff: Name It Drill

They loved the name of Campando, only suggesting we call this specific event “Campando Maryknoll” in order to make it their own. One sister in particular loved “Pandonista.” She had just returned from El Paso helping to settle a recent influx of emigres from Mexico who have aimed to get back across the border and with their families before the presidency changes (these nuns are fierce). “Just live it” seemed to them exactly right as a tagline. Of course, everyone LOVED the hack of Tucker Nichol's wonderful image of the Pando trees.  

The sisters started working on the program. They were very focused on reflection and rejuvenation. They thought the idea of this being an oasis of reflection—an idea inspired by the Get Out: That's Odd Drill (Virgin Tub) seemed exactly right. The sisters suggested we start on Friday night with a wine and beer Happy Hour, and end the weekend with a hike in the mountains and brunch at a waterfall with a ritual focused on giving Pandonistas strength for their social justice and environmental missions. The sisters have served in the most dangerous places all over the world and will share their stories on Saturday. We’ll use the Think Wrong Lab to design the program.

They brilliantly suggested this be declared a cellphone-free zone (I remember seeing photos of Tucker’s images around FB on that) and that Pandonistas place their cellphones in a box on a common table during orientation on Friday night. They can give their significant others the convent’s switchboard number in case of emergency. I absolutely fell in love with this idea. 


Eugene B. Shirley, Jr. is founding president and CEO of Pando Populus and a long-time entrepreneur. For twenty-five years, he produced prime-time programming for PBS and some 30 countries under Pacem Productions. He was founding CEO of a text analytics firm.  He is a former Jennings Randolph Fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace.


Sign up for the next Think Wrong Master Class here.

Learn, apply, and master Solve Next’s radical problem-solving system to reliably produce surprising, ingenious, and sometimes magical solutions to your most wicked questions and opportunities.


Comment

Comment

Culture of Innovation Fail

GasLanterns.png

(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.


www.tahmahlah.com

www.tahmahlah.com

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.


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.