Artist Spotlight: Amy Poehler on Improv

The Rules of Engagement for Improv are useful for facilitating trust, creativity, and risk-taking within teams. Love this bit from comic genius, Amy Poehler.

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Toggling between 2D and 3D

Artists and inventors transform dimension. They make a 2D sketch, then build a model of that sketch in 3D. They build a 3D environment, take pictures of it to use in 2D images. Autodesk 123D had a feature that took your 3D model, sliced it up into 2D pieces that you would then cut from a flat sheet of material and reassemble in 3D.

This toggling between 2D and 3D gets even more interesting when you introduce soft materials. In the example above from Prosthetic Knowledge, they are making 3D models in CAD, processing them to generate a one-piece cut pattern for fabric, then using a jig (of that same cut pattern) to attach zippers to the patterns’ curvy edges so that it can be reassembled in 3D. The result has a topographic quality that is really beautiful.

Another take on this process was explored by Josh Jakus, a textile designer and fabricator, who used a similar approach to create some gorgeous felt bags a few years back. His bags employ “simpler” cut patterns and the results are less topographical and more sculptural.

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Storyboards are Customer Centered

Early in the design process of your product, service, or system, you want to use tools that reflect what stage of the process you are in. At the start of your process, low fidelity tools like storyboards and paper-prototyping let you create and test out a bunch of ideas really quickly. This rapid iteration helps you figure out where your product needs to go.

Storyboards are especially helpful because they help you create stories about your customers’ problems and their journey to solve them through a series of tasks. Storyboards help you empathize with your customer and they help your team get on the same page about the problems you are solving and for whom. Storyboards also help keep you from drilling down too quickly on features and product details that may seem cool to your team but may not be relevant to your customers.

Want to learn more about storyboards? Check out this fantastic video from HCI prof, Scott Klemmer.

Friday’s Printable: Open Oranges

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On Fridays, I post a pair of printable cards made from shots that I snap on my phone.

Print them out, keep them for yourself, or share with friends. Enjoy! Download this week’s cards here

A few production tips

  • PRINTING. Use cardstock to print these out and make sure the print settings are set to “actual size.”
  • CUTTING. I included a little mark halfway down the page so that you know where to cut. The best way to cut this in half is with a metal straight edge and an x-acto knife.
  • FOLDING. The best way to fold these is to line up the corners, then use a long flat edge, like the side of a marker, to make the crease.
  • MAILING. You’ll need some envelopes. Something like this should do the trick.

You can find more printables here

Thinking with your hands

In the design and product development world, there is a debate. Some folks believe that you shouldn’t build anything until you’ve done your research. Because once you do your research, you’ll likely discover that you have built the wrong thing and all of that building that you have done will have been a waste.

Other folks believe that they have to build things in order to think. It’s just how their mind works. They think with their hands and through trial and error, they answer a lot of questions that they didn’t even know they had, questions that they couldn’t find any other way.

Thinking with your hands only gets you into trouble if you fall into these traps: you fall in love with what you have built OR you’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time and money building something that is super detailed and refined before you’ve validated it. Both of these traps are traps that beginners fall into. Yes, it’s a waste of time and money. But on the other hand, some things you have to learn the hard way.

It’s common for a professional writer to write a thousand pages only to edit them down to three hundred for a book. It’s common for documentary filmmakers to shoot sixty hours of film only to edit it down to two hours for a movie. The generative process is part of the creative process. The pro knows that they need to think with their hands, that they will build a lot of ideas, and throw most of them out. And it won’t feel like a waste at all.

 

 

 

 

Creating a team that trusts each other

It’s not that hard to do once you decide to do it

STEP 1. Know Yourself, Especially Your Fears. Know what triggers you. Know what scares you. See how that influences the decisions that you make, the things that you say to other people without thinking, the control that you insist on keeping.

STEP 2. Be Vulnerable. Be transparent about your fears. Not all of the time. But when they get in the driver’s seat and mess things up, it’s ok to say to your peers, “Hey. This could have been smoother. I was driven by X. Next time I might try Y.” Be honest with your team in a way that invites them to be honest with you and with each other.

STEP 3. To Change Habits, Use the Pause Button. Recognize patterns of behavior that show other people that you don’t trust them. Then commit to changing those patterns. You don’t have to know what the new pattern will be right away. You just have to teach yourself to press the pause button. Instead of reacting when you are triggered, press pause. Give yourself time to think about the best way forward. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, you will eff it up sometimes. You’re human. The important part is that you recommit and that you keep trying.

STEP 4. See and Hear the People Around You. Know what their priorities are. Know what fears they have. Don’t assume that you know them or can read them without really talking to them. And don’t assume that you know them through gossip. (Btw — don’t engage in gossip. Shut that sh*t down)

To get to know people’s priorities and fears, you might ask, “What’s on your mind?” and follow that with, “And What Else?” These questions* help people dig deep and they help people feel seen and heard.

STEP 5. Value Your Team’s Diversity. Acknowledge Tension. You have a diverse team because you value multiple points of view. But the cost of that diversity is that it sometimes creates tension. Don’t avoid the tension. Don’t pretend it doesn’t happen. Lean into it. It may very well be a sign that your team is about to make a breakthrough or solve an important problem.

STEP 6. Don’t Rush to Solutions. Each problem has multiple solutions. Before you make a decision, articulate the problem you are trying to solve, and if you have a solution in mind, share it along with the rationale behind it. From there your team has the information they need to offer you alternative solutions. Spending a little time in this process creates buy-in, gains trust, helps people be seen, makes them feel included. It seems like a lot of work, but taking the time to build trust is worth it. A trusting team works better than a team that is distracted by fear.

STEP 7. Give Feedback. As a rule, criticism in private, praise in public. When you give criticism, be sure to share your rationale and your high-level thinking. This will make the criticism less personal and more inclusive. As for giving praise, be sure that it’s more than, ”Great job!” Let people know that you see their process and that process is something you value. “I like how you did X. I can tell you really thought about Y,” is useful and meaningful feedback.

A trusting team is free to redirect the energy that they used to spend on protecting themselves to helping make your organization great. Because they believe in it. Because they have buy-in. Because they feel seen and heard and trusted.

When Women Lead in Technology

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When women lead in technology, they scale amazing things. But there are a lot of obstacles for women in tech. It’s not easy for them to find, let alone stay on, that path.

If you google the phrase “famous inventors” one of the first images you’ll get back is an image of “The Famous Inventors Jigsaw Puzzle.” This is a large format puzzle that pictures the faces of over 50 inventors. Each face is white and each face is male.

We’ve all seen the numbers about women in tech.

  • Only 5 percent of startups are owned by women
  • In 2016 only  2.4% of 59 billion VC dollars was invested in women-led companies
  • The quit rate for women in high tech is double the quit rate of men

Quite a puzzle, indeed.

So WHY does this matter? It matters because technology scales really well. And when it’s in the hands of more women, it can scale amazing things.

When women lead in technology:

  • We get inventions like Supa, a smart system that enables your athletic wear to monitor your health, invented by Sabine Seymour 

  • We get people like Elisa Miller-Out who sold her first tech company and turned around to start Chloe Capital, an angel fund for female founders

  • And we get Danielle Applestone, the CEO of Bantam Tools who is using her position to help manufacturers hire and train women for new tech jobs 


There is no doubt. When women lead in technology, they lift people up. When women lead, they make the world better.

This lack of women in tech is a systemic problem. What’s puzzling is that 75% of young girls express an interest in STEM. But when you look at the low numbers in industry, it’s clear that something breaks down along the way.

Growing up, I loved lego as a kid and I excelled at shop class and mechanical drawing in high school. But I didn’t see anyone who looked liked me doing this stuff. Every image I had of an engineer or inventor looked like the faces on the inventors puzzle.

Since I liked making stuff with my hands, I studied art in college. It took me ten years after I graduated to find industrial design and to finally discover who I was meant to be.

So what can we do to help girls and women find a technology path and stay on it?

  • If you’re a teacher or a parent, encourage and support girls in STEM. Help them find role models.
  • If you run a tech company, ask the women who you work with what they need to succeed and don’t shut down if their answers make you feel uncomfortable.
  • If you are an investor, invest in women. They won’t let you down.
  • If you are a woman yourself who likes tech but feels too afraid to get into it, do it anyway. Find people to support you either in your company or outside of it. Become the role model that young women need to see.

We get to decide who invents the future by who we choose to see and support and lift up. Let’s solve “The Famous Inventors Puzzle” together.

 

The stats in this post are pulled from http://observer.com/2017/06/women-in-tech-statistics/

 

 

Leverage Point: Root Causes

It’s easy to get distracted by the symptoms of a problem. It’s easy to trick ourselves into believing that if we address those symptoms, the underlying problem will go away. Why is that? Sometimes we just don’t see the underlying problem. And other times we do see it but the thought of addressing it scares or overwhelms us. So we whack-a-mole our way along never really addressing the root cause of a problem (Why are we at this carnival in the first place??). What a waste.

What if we felt empowered to address root causes? And what if our peers were interested in that too? The work would be harder, but more effective and more rewarding. Root causes of problems are powerful leverage points. Identify them, generate multiple ideas for how to address them, use criteria to choose the best idea, implement it and observe and learn from feedback. You’ll be glad you did.

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

Donelle Meadows, Places to Intervene in a System

Friday’s Printable: Coney Isle and The Lake

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On Fridays, I post a pair of printable cards made from shots that I snap on my phone.

Print them out, keep them for yourself, or share with friends. Enjoy! Download this week’s cards here

A few production tips

  • PRINTING. Use cardstock to print these out and make sure the print settings are set to “actual size.”
  • CUTTING. I included a little mark halfway down the page so that you know where to cut. The best way to cut this in half is with a metal straight edge and an x-acto knife.
  • FOLDING. The best way to fold these is to line up the corners, then use a long flat edge, like the side of a marker, to make the crease.
  • MAILING. You’ll need some envelopes. Something like this should do the trick.

You can find more printables here