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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Where There are Two or More...

I believe in team. I have my own spiritual reasons why this works and I have seen it in action.

I had an incredible experience this morning. I was part of a presentation to two MBA classes taught by Fred Collopy. Fred is the Professor and Chair of Information Systems and a Professor of Cognitive Science at the Weatherhead School of Management. The program he delivers is entitled: Managing as Design and explores the design process as a foundation for new ways of thinking, teaming and delivering solutions in business.

I was teamed with Peter Zale, a colleague of mine from a "previous employer" when I was facilitating New Product Development Sessions for early stage product development. Peter is a marketing professional and cartoonist. He has illustrated and authored a comic called "Helen", about a woman professional who graduated from MIT at age fifteen. She is young, attractive and clever. Her area of expertise is technology and he has woven a storyline that has gained the attention of the New York Times. Click here to see Helen.

The other side of Peter (which would make him three sided, though he appears normal) is his work as part of his MBA program where his team won the award for developing a product picked up by a notable design firm. A version of the product will be going to market in early 2009. Our objective was to provide an experience for the class using the tools, and explaining the process and principles that support product design.

In his presentation, Peter focused on:

  • Sketching, visualization and ideation
  • Iteration
  • Project and team management

Peter used previously sketched designs in PowerPoint and I with graphic facilitation skills captured his learnings. Having never done this before in tandem, but both being familiar with the creative process and product design, it was very cool ( I didn't want to say serendipitous, but it was that too!). Some principles he brought out in his presentation were:
  • Start with a raw sketch as a neutral field for collaboration
  • Iterate, iterate, iterate
  • When working on a design team (or any team), use open language to encourage continuous contribution through iterations ("and", "I like that AND let me add another element")
  • Don't be afraid to break it and learn from the experience
  • Self impose certain constraints on your design to promote creative tension
  • It takes confidence and humility - knowing you add value and knowing that others do too
Afterward Peter and I talked about doing more of this as our host Fred got feedback that it was the best class they have had. Thanks to Fred for the opportunity and for moderating our presentation.

If you are interested in having a presentation on product design and its principles in your organization, please let me know at

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Finding the Similar in the Dissimilar

I had an interesting experience this morning while presenting to a small group of executives about the power of adding graphics to the facilitation process. One person was explaining how there are two types of customers or clients that are favorable: Large profit companies and any company whose profit as a percent of revenue is healthy. I asked if there were any similarities there. This is one of my showstopper questions that I need to work on when I am facilitating. I know my "going fishing" sometimes paints me into a corner. I can always tell s I see vocal chords lock up and eyes begin to glaze over. Any advice would help.

My intention though was to find the common amongst the uncommon because what lies there is gold. Innovation is two ideas coming together that have never met before and when we can find that cross section this is where disruptive products, services, process and models lie. I welcome your comments.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mission Over Money

I am out of town today providing graphic facilitation at a very successful enterprise. In their 120 year history they have stressed a mission dedicated to serving their customers and have stayed ahead by taking the road less traveled. Today they are gathering to recommit to their mission and to stay ahead of the curve. Yes there are people out there that actually not only read the books...they practice them. If you're interested in some of my observations of a group dedicated to a mission, let me know:

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Curse No More

My last post talked about the great opportunity my daughter and I had to bond in a productive way when the power went out and we were forced to work on her homework by candlelight without any modern tools (computer, music, lights...).

Well, it happened again last night. However, this time it was by choice. Trying to decipher the meaning behind Greek mythology and answer critical thinking questions AND finding that neither one of us had the mental fortitude to quickly access our critical brains, we decided to turn off everything in sight and light candles.

I was impressed by my daughter's ability to access some profound thinking on the symbolism and metaphor behind the stories and the connection to human emotion and human nature. Mind you this is MY daughter who typically spends her time IMing with friends, watching Oprah and redecorating her room with teen magazine posters. Not a person dedicated to literary interpretation. Very cool!

As a result of this happy accident and follow on opportunity, I am in a blogging collaboration with a business colleague and friend of mine. Dave Crain ( posted a response entry to his blog in respones to my first entry. Give it a look:

In his post, Dave encourages us to make more effort in the realm, by consciously turning off, tuning out and dropping into a way of being that we have slowly given up. I know Dave. And I only hope to have his discipline and will to consciously do that. You will remember, I came upon this as a course of happy accidents and not by choice. So read Dave's post and if you can meet his challenge, let him know, and if you're more like me answer the question:

Is there some happy accident in your work or personal life that has shed light on a better way to live your life or improve some lot that you were able to consciously practice?

I welcome your thoughts and comments.