Friday, October 21, 2016

A Breath of Fresh Air

Aesop's Lions and Oxes

In a recent article from TheStreet, Brad Hall described the eight things Google's Project Oxygen discovered about truly effective management; He wrote:

"As a young PhD student, I read thousands of academic articles on leadership. But one day a friend asked me a simple question on how to coach a struggling manager. I was baffled. I could compare and contrast almost any prominent leadership theory, but I had no idea how to fix the simplest management problem. I realized that I was lost in a sea of knowledge. The more I learned, the less I knew."

Google's Project Oxygen was designed to identify what successful Google managers do. Too often, training departments try to help managers improve their "skills" or "traits." But changing traits is very difficult. Instead, Google chose to teach managers what to do - after doing a lot of very disciplined research.

"The team spent one year data-­mining performance appraisals, employee surveys, nominations for top manager awards and other sources. The result was more than 10,000 observations of manager behaviors. The research complemented the quantitative data with qualitative information from interviews. The interviews produced more than 400 pages of notes, which were coded using standard behavioral science methodologies."

The final result was eight behaviors great managers do that make them great. (I broke one of them apart into two, so now there are nine. -df)

They are, in order of importance:
  1. Be a good coach
  2. Empower (don't micromanage)
  3. Be interested in direct reports, personal and work success and wellbeing
  4. Be productive and results ­oriented
  5. Listen to your team
  6. Be a good communicator
  7. Help your employees with career development
  8. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team
  9. Have key technical skills, so you can advise the team. 

Interestingly enough, these correlate with another list, complied by Professor Jeffrey Pfeiffer in his 1998 book The Human Equation - Building Profits by Putting People First, which he called Seven Practices of Successful Organizations. These are not in any order of priority. Pfeiffer is known for his steadfast commitment to data backed recommendations, not fluffy leadership advice backed by guesses.

  • Extensive training
  • Employment Security
  • Selective hiring of new personnel
  • Reduced status distinctions and barriers across levels
  • Self managed Teams and decentralized decision making
  • Extensive sharing of financial and performance information
  • High performance driven compensation compared to your competition

Sheryl McMillan took it one step further in her July 8, 2016 posting, which began with a re-telling of Aesop's tale of the Lion and the Oxen;

"A Lion used to prowl about a field in which Four Oxen used to dwell. Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to one another, so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they fell a-quarrelling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field. Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four."

United we stand, divided we fall."

Cheryl wrote of how she was once part of a leadership group formed from two merged organizations. Headcount reductions ("right sizing") followed, and all leadership jobs, including her new boss’s, were under scrutiny. The new boss only liked ideas that supported his position. many felt that he didn’t care about others' opinions. As a result, instead of being encouraged to work together for the good of the organization, everyone felt pitted against one another and found themselves protecting their own “corners of the pasture”.

Cheryl observed that in every interaction with your employees, you are either creating a psychologically safe or unsafe environment and gave three concrete suggestions to help build what Simon Sinek calls a "Circle of Safety:"

Actively Seek and Take Feedback

Understand that as the leader, you hold position power and can directly impact the livelihood of your employees. You must make it safe for your employees to challenge you and to give you candid feedback. Share some examples of your own past bad ideas and decisions, and explain the dangers of future one’s going unchallenged. Frequently request feedback and grateful to receive it. Never rebuke what is offered. Instead, restate what you heard and thank the giver for the feedback.

Learn to Listen with Empathy

Learn how to really listen so that your employees feel your empathy. Restrain yourself from reacting and responding before the other person acknowledges that you understand their position. Be curious about their perspective and ask open questions when you need clarification. Having empathy means you understand and respect the other person's point of view even if you end up not initially agreeing with it.

Work is About Relationships

As social beings, we are wired with a strong need to connect and belong. Only when employees feel safe will they pull together as a unified team.

According to a research study published in Harvard Business Review about key leadership competencies, “Making sure that people feel safe on a deep level should be job #1 for leaders.”

Note that none of these points say anything about using your position or authority to direct or order the other person to do anything. Quite the opposite; Your role as a leader is to figure out how to bring the best out in your employees and make a safe space for them to discover and do what needs to be done. (Even the Norwegian Bachelor Farmers.)

Now, go out and ask your people some open ended questions. Listen. Take notes. Thank them for sharing and encourage them to tackle the problem as a team.

You'll be amazed at the results.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Contingent Workforce Contradiction

Why are these Contingent Workers smiling?

In a recent article entitled "No Longer Just A ‘Temp’: The Rise Of The Contingent Worker,: Maria Wood quotes some interesting statistics about the "Contingent labor" workforce.

"In 2014, the average share of contingent labor was 18 percent, up from 12 percent in 2009."

"Elance-oDesk and the Freelancer Union report that 53 million people — or 34 percent of the workforce — did freelance work in 2014."

"By 2017, contingent workers, including independent contractors, statement-of-work-based labor and freelancers, will account for nearly 45 percent of the world’s total workforce."

"MBO Partners’ most recent “State of Independence in America” workforce report revealed 30 million classify themselves as independent workers, either as “solopreneurs” who work independently as their only source of earnings, or “side-giggers” — those picking up outside assignments for extra income. That number is projected to grow to nearly 40 million by 2019."

"Ardent’s found that 92 percent of enterprises indicated non-traditional staffing was a vital to moderate facet of their overall corporate strategy."

At the same time one of the most popular speakers on TED is Simon Sinek. His message is almost the polar opposite;

"The best organizations foster trust and cooperation because their leaders build a Circle of Safety. 
This safe culture leads to stable, adaptive, confident teams, where everyone feels they belong."

If a contingent workforce is "a provisional group of workers who work for an organization on a non-permanent basis, also known as freelancers, independent professionals, temporary contract workers, independent contractors or consultants." there is something seriously wrong.

Do you see the conflict?

For some insight into this, take a look at Benno Bos' EDSO in Action.

Please note, this isn't touchy-feely, guru-speak, munmo-jumbo. We're talking neuro-biology. The type of human neuro-biology at the heart of all the web chatter about Emotional Intelligence, Empathy, and Design Thinking. The neuro-biology that your most basic actions and thoughts are built on.

Quoting from EDSO in action;

"When we are in an environment where we feel safe, with the people around us, we naturally protect them and look out for their interests. Our leaders protect us and we protect our leaders. We hope to make our leaders proud, showing them that their sacrifice to protect us and help us grow has been worth it. We are more capable of overcoming the constant dangers from the outside and creating a Circle of Safety on the inside."

When Simon Sinek asks what it would be like to have a job where you are in a Circle of Safety does working for an organization on a "non-permanent basis" immediately spring to mind? How about being in a family on a "non-permanent basis"?

This isn't about that availability of insurance benefits, or equal pay for equal work, or protection from discrimination of any flavor. It's about belonging to a group with common goals and beliefs.

To get a feel for what Americans are worried about Chapman College publishes an annual survey called America's Top Fears. The group area with running out of money and unemployment ranked #5 in 2015, just behind Man-made disasters, Technology, Government and the Environment.

Its part of the reason 70% of workers report they are disengaged in the workplace and a thinly veiled disguise for lack of commitment, even infidelity in the workplace. Staffing agencies love it. Selfish management loves it. Stopping it should be in the platform of any viable political candidate or party.

Its time to call foul on the Contingent Workforce Revolution for the baldfaced lie it really is.

(End of political rant. We now return you to our regular programming. -df)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

This Truly Changes Everything

An article by Bryan Kolb, Robbin Gibb and Terry E. Robinson of the Canadian Centre for Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Lethbridge could literally change your-self perception, enough that you might change your world.

 Yes, you read that right. I said the information in the article could change your world.

The abstract states;

"Although the brain was once seen as a rather static organ, it is now clear that the organization of brain circuitry is constantly changing as a function of experience. These changes are associated with functional changes which include memory, addiction and recovery of function. Behavior can be influenced by a myriad of factors including both pre and post natal experience, drugs, hormones, maturation, aging, diet, disease, and stress. 

Understanding how these factors influence brain organization and function is important not only for understanding both normal and abnormal behavior, but also for designing treatments for behavioral and psychological disorders ranging from addiction to stroke."

The popular term for this phenomenon is brain plasticity and the implications are huge.

Generations were taught that the brain grew until we reached adulthood, stopped growing, and that was that. By the time you reached your mid-twenties, the die was cast, the organic computer between your ears was built and the rest was just about applying the information that was stuffed into it at school. That idea was a pillar of education and the law, what we taught and how we taught it, our ideas and definition of crime and punishment, treatment of disease and who you could become in your career and family.

There have been a few who thought about this differently - Carol Dweck and Albert Bandura, for example - scientists and sociologists who dared to suggest that what we teach our children can have a dramatic effect on their success and that even the most primal fears can be overcome. But this confirmation that our brains and behaviors are plastic from cradle to grave, even to the point of recovery from massive loss of function, is more than ground breaking - its game changing.

And it couldn't have come at a better time. The challenges we face in our families and at work are literally tearing the fabric of our society apart. As long as we believed that there was some immutable, organic reason why we couldn't change there was an excuse not to change.

That excuse has been blown away and what is left opens a range of possibilities which could literally change the world.

Don't take my word for it. Read the article

Think about it. Do something about it.

Stop making excuses.

Be the change.

Design it.

Do it.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Bottoms Up Plus Top Down Equals Design Thinking?

A Modern Topsy Turvy Doll
One of the hottest topics in one of the online Design Thinking discussion groups has to do with the nature of DT; Is it an authentically valid problem identification and resolution approach or a fraudulent repackaging of old ideas in an effort to drive more money into the pockets of consultants?

One aspect of this question which I haven't seen discussed much relates to the differences in the Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up approaches to design, problem solving and learning. These were discussed very nicely in two articles; one by Dipwal Dessai,  Director of Product at Samsung VR and the other by Allison Toepperwein and Vince Penman on the Product Design Show;

Dipwal tells a story about discussing a new feature that involved building functionality which had never been done before. In order to design it, they relied on a few assumptions that were difficult to validate without actually building the product. He wrote;

"This reminded me of the fundamental differences between bottom-up vs top-down product development, and two companies that follow them: Google and Apple, and how this approach defines how products are built.

Google believes in being extensively data driven. All the products that are built at Google go through extensive number-crunching and analysis before (well, for the most part). It is very difficult for someone to justify a brand new product as there might not exist enough existing data to validate it.

Apple, on the other hand, is driven by vision. There is, of course, a lot of user research which drives the vision, but Apple has repeatedly built new products which create a new market which never existed before. They have changed the company focus multiple times in major ways that affects more than 50% of their revenue or users. It usually involves the high level teams defining a clear product vision for the company, and everyone working towards executing on that path.

Creating something that is truly groundbreaking is extremely difficult to validate using existing data, so it relies on having clear vision of what is going to be useful. It is also very difficult to create something using iterative, data driven techniques to change people’s behavior significantly. It is, however, a great way to do incremental improvements to an existing product and get big results and can work quite well until someone ‘changes the game’. A top-down, vision driven strategy can refute the existing mindset to create something truly revolutionary, but it relies on a ‘leader’ being able to analyze the data they have and define the new 'vision’ clearly.

Having a clear overall vision for the company also helps the project teams know what’s good and bad, because they have a clear path which they can follow to be successful. The vision has to be broad enough to consider global trends, but also sharp enough that it can be followed, This is absolutely the most critical thing for the long term success of a company.

One can also argue that the difference is similar to a democracy vs dictatorship. On paper, under the ideal conditions, dictatorship based governance can be more efficient. However, its more prone to ‘rogue dictators’ which leads us to the belief that democracy is better in the long term.

In the end, getting the right vision is extremely difficult, but is arguably the biggest factor in determining long-term success of a company. As someone building new products, I always strive to have a very clear direction for where the product should go in the long term, and if that vision is right, the pieces will fit in as its executed."

Vince and Allison discuss the same subject in this video from the web page. 

To summarize;

Which design method will work best for your project? Consider the following:

1. Will your Product Concept Phase be heavily experimental? Are you trying to make something completely new? If so, a Bottom-Up iterative approach might be best for your project.

2. Is your project constrained by a tight budget? If so, a Top-Down approach can help you maximize savings by thoroughly planning budgets at the beginning of your product concept design cycle.

3. Are you building a large, complex system? Complex systems and machines benefit from a Top-Down approach because it breaks down a project’s goals into smaller problems that are more easily solved.

4. For your project to be successful will you need everyone’s voice to be heard? If the problem you’re trying to solve is going to require a lot of creativity a Bottom-Up approach can help leverage all of the creativity in your group by letting them experiment and voice their opinions.

Of course, that raises the question; What do you do when you are trying to design a completely new, large, complex system, on a tight budget and need everyone's voice to be heard? In the video they don't give that process a name, but they do on the website;

"While some insist that one approach is better than the other, those who are invested in the Design Thinking methodology know that a blend of the two approaches often produces the best results."

What would you call that? Apparently Bottom Up + Top Down = Design Thinking.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Zachman Framework and Design Thinking

I've posted previously about TRIZ, the method of resolving conflicting requirements and we've explored how similar Design Thinking and Boom's Taxonomy are, but I was introduced to something today that I'd never seen before.  It's called the Zachman Framework;

John Zachman's Architecture of Everything
It's a matix which maps the artifacts of storytelling against the points of view of of everyone involved in the product development process - except the customer/user.

Product Development Swim Lanes

According to John Zachman the framework is; "a theory of, the existence of, a structured set of, essential components of, an object, for which explicit expressions is necessary and perhaps even mandatory for creating, operating, and changing the object (the object being an Enterprise, a department, a value chain, a "sliver," a solution, a project, an airplane, a building, a product, a profession of whatever)".

In other words; a way to describe something completely enough to be able to understand and change it, and therefore be able to control, the process of its creation/manufacturing.

Zachman said; "this ontology was derived from analogous structures that are found in the older disciplines of Architecture/Construction and Engineering/Manufacturing that classify and organize the design artifacts created in the process of designing and producing complex physical products (e.g. buildings or airplanes).

It uses a two dimensional classification model based on the six elements of storytelling; What, How, Where, Who, When, and Why, intersecting six distinct perspectives, which relate to stakeholder groups (Planner, (Business) Owner, Designer, Builder, Implementer and Worker). The intersecting cells of the Framework correspond to models which, if documented, can provide a holistic view of the (business) enterprise".

Apparently Zachman's framework didn't take the world by storm. In 2004, twenty years after it's creation, he admitted that the framework was theoretical and had never been fully implemented, saying; "If you ask who is successfully implementing the whole framework, the answer is; nobody that we know of yet."

Perhaps it would be interesting to add a row, at the top of the matrix, for the end user's "story"?

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Doing the Spectrum Dance - Autism in the Workplace

Listen... Up!
Working with someone with autism (including Asperger syndrome), can be an interesting and challenging experience for managers, colleagues and employees.What follows are some suggestions to avoid or overcome any difficulties, in order to ensure enjoyable and effective working relationships.

It's important to understand what is going on for both parties in the interaction. Here are some ideas, collected from reputable sources, that may be helpful on both sides of the conversations;

Social Communication

People with autism have difficulty using and understanding verbal and non-verbal language, such as gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice, as well as jokes and sarcasm. Autists tend to be quite literal and may not understand analogies. They might also have very specific meanings in their personal vocabularies. They may understand what others say to them but prefer to use alternative forms of communication, like e-mail.

Social interaction

People with autism have difficulty recognizing and understanding others’s feelings and managing their own. They may, for example, stand too close to another person, prefer to be alone, behave inappropriately and may not seek comfort or help from other people. This can make it hard for them to make friends.

Social Imagination

Those with autism have difficulty understanding and predicting other people’s intentions and behavior, and imagining situations that are outside their own routine. This can mean they carry out a narrow, repetitive range of activities. A lack of social imagination should not be confused with lack of imagination. Many people with autism are very creative, but typically in a narrow range of expression.


On occasions when problems do arise  – particularly in social interactions where communication can break down, try to deal with them promptly and tactfully.
If the person seems aloof or uninterested in talking you or colleagues, or says the 'wrong' thing,
remember that this is probably unintentional and is likely to be due to the person's communication difficulties.

If the person irritates colleagues by seeming to 'muscle in' on a conversations or other's jobs, be patient, and explain the boundaries. Remember that reinforcing the boundaries may not just be necessary for the person with autism – other staff may also need reminding that their attitudes may have a strong impact on the job performance of their autistic colleague.

If the person becomes anxious try to find out what is causing the problem. One-on-one is probably the best way for doing this. You may need to think laterally. For example, the stress may not be caused by a difficulty in the job but by a colleague not being explicit in their instructions, by things not working efficiently. Trying to think around the immediate issue may help, as well as supportively asking the employee specific (though not invasive) questions to try to get to the root of the problem.


The following approaches may help companies with employees on the autism spectrum;
  • Having clear unambiguous codes of conduct, job descriptions and competency frameworks;
  • Using direct and unambiguous communications;
  • Creating documents, including agendas containing standard and specific points for discussion, and timetables.
  • A consistent schedules/shifts/manager(s);
  • A defined set of job responsibilities;
  • Use of organizers to structure jobs;
  • A reduction of idle or unstructured time;
  • Clear reminders;
  • Feedback and reassurances;
  • Working arrangements and responsibilities of Occupational Health, line managers, HR;
  • Positive behavior feedback and support.


Reasonable adjustments are a fair and robust way managing health-related performance and attendance issues in the workplace. Employers should consider any request on its individual case merits rather than worrying about setting a precedent.

      An assessment should explore:
  • Social interaction deficits;
  • Cognitive inflexibility;
  • Sensory abnormalities.
Individual Needs
  • Equipment;
  • Training;
  • Mentorship;
  • Supervision;
  • Time off or flex-time to attend a health improvement programs to improve performance performance or attendance, for example cognitive behavioural therapy;
  • Temporary redeployment or alternative work activities or promote skills or rehabilitation after an acute episode.

The process should have clearly defined objectives and success criteria to ensure that employment decisions can be made in a timely and appropriate manner.

On Being Shellfish

Social Skills?
Engineers, artists and actors are usually thought of as being very different and somewhat mutually exclusive. Although there are exceptions, like Boston's guitarist Tom Scholz, NFL Coach Tom Landry, President Jimmy Carter, Jazz Musician Herbie Hancock and Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert. Inventive engineers are usually known for their persistence and multidisciplinary thinking rather than their social skills. Exceptions are few and far between. It seems that for every Walt Disney there are ten Tomas Edison's.

When you think about it, that shouldn't be so surprising. Engineers prefer to interact with things, artists and actors prefer to interact with people. The primary difference between people and things has historically been that people are alive, dynamic, emotional and somewhat unpredictable. Things are static and predictable, at least when their structure is open and observable. But it wasn't always this way. Many of the big names in the history of invention were decidedly trans-disciplinary and even social creatures;  Eratosthenes, Benjamin Franklin, Galileo, Leonardo daVinci and James Lovelock were all polymaths. 

The other very recent change has to do with the nature of the things we design and engineer. With the invention of the programmable micro-controller and the software which runs them, we began to create things with personalities. Not emotions, but personalities. Repeatable, but not always responsive.

We used to complain about not being able to set the digital clocks on our VCRs. Over time that grew into complaints about user interfaces on other devices and into a whole new area of specialty we now call usability. The importance of UX, user experience, has similarly grown to become the foundation of its own college major and job descriptions at companies around the world and impacts from toothbrushes to themed entertainment.

But, what is it? What is the significance of User Experience? Let's go back to the penguins and take a closer look.

Leap of Faith

There are dozens of penguin videos on YouTube with good reason. They are funny, cute, clumsy and entertaining creatures. They are soft and fuzzy outside and remind us of ourselves.

Scallop Seashell

I know what you are thinking. I'm not playing fair. That's just an ordinary scallop shell. Nobody expects it to do Vaudeville. It does what shells do; sit there, don't talk and don't move.

O.K. Here's another image.

Sundial Shell
Yes, it has a beautiful exponential spiral and has a lovely, warm glow, but when it comes to making us laugh or cry or want to pick it up and hug it, its a no-show. That's the problem with being shellfish; they are hard on the outside and aren't very responsive. (By the way, that image is backlit and posed.)

For many years our technology was the same. Hard, emotionless boxes with minds of their own. Then came Apple's iRevolution and the user moved into the driver's seat. With that shift, the balance of power changed for the first time since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

More recently some interesting social changes have happened.  According to a study by the University of Michigan over 140,000 students who entered college since 2000 have empathy levels 40% lower than previous years.

Research by psychologist Jean Twenge found what she called a"narcissism epidemic," with more students showing increases in traits associated with narcissistic personality disorder - a condition in which people are so self-absorbed that others are simply objects to reflect their glory.

One explanation is that children's free with others declined by at least a third between 1981 and 2003, right when the students who entered college in 2000 were growing up. Without unstructured play time children don't learn to know each other very well. And connecting and caring takes practice.

In addition, time that used to be spent playing outdoors is now being spent in front of screens. Television - a one way medium - doesn't teach empathy, let alone reflect reality. Even "nonviolent" children’s TV is filled with indirect aggression which has been linked to real-world bullying, which has been reported in other studies as already being experienced by 1/3 of the workforce.

It's a difficult squeeze. At the same time that empathy is declining, customer service and user experience expectations are rising, leaving greater and greater numbers of dissatisfied customers with unmet expectations.

In this midst of all this, how do you want to appear to your clients? Shellfish or penguin?  

The Neurobiology of Courage and Faith

I came across this TED talk by Kelly McGonigal and was wowed at several points. The implications of this in science, sociology and religion are profound. Her concluding statements offer great cause for hope and explain why this talk received a standing ovation and has over 11 million views on TED.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Persnickety Penguins and Shellfish

Two engineers were discussing their company's relationship with a long time customer and one of them compared it to how penguins select a mate; The story goes that male Gentoo penguins will search through piles of pebbles looking for ones to present to their intended companion. If she approves, the stone is placed in the nest and the pair bonds and breeds. The engineer explained that the problem was that there didn't seem to be any way to know in advance if the customer was going to accept the pebble.

We've all heard stories of clients which were difficult to please and on the surface the penguin story appears to be an appropriate analogy. The problem is that the story leaves out some critical pieces of information; According to some online sources female penguins have a selection criteria; the rocks need to be very smooth. I suppose that would make sense. The gestation process lasts for weeks and sitting on rough stones would be a real pain, both for the mother and the baby.

But then I came across this video on YouTube;

Penguin Nest Building

After having viewed this a number of times, I can't tell if the stones are smooth or rough, just that they need to be small enough to pick up and carry to the nest. I also didn't see the female rejecting any rocks.

It struck me that the story was analogous to design as a consulting process; Customers have needs, which are obvious to them. As designers it's our job to figure out what those needs are and come up with a way to fill them.  This is where things start to get very interesting.

Disagreements and misunderstandings are funny things, particularly when you are getting paid for having them. If you don't believe that, take a look at this classic Monte Python sketch;

The Argument Clinic

The key takeaway from both of these stories is that when you or the customer don't understand what is wanted, things don't go well. So, what can be done to fix that? In the engineer's version of the penguin story, the female rejects some of the rocks, which is the equivalent of being told "That's not what I asked for." or Python's mirror image; "That's not what you came here for."

There is a book which describes how a large government agency does product development. It is over an inch thick and details every step of a highly organized and co-ordinated process intended to anticipate and mitigate every possible way something could go wrong in advance of situations where accidents almost always result in serious injury or death. The design process is thorough, repeatable, highly structured and predictable. Analytical minds love it. The problem is that its not particularly reliable or dependable in the face of the unknown.

Duct tape has been on board every NASA mission since early in the Gemini program and as you may recall, it saved the lives of the crew of Apollo XIII when their carefully planned mission hit a little snag. Ed Smylie's Tiger Team had 24 hours to solve that problem, or the crew would die. “My recollection of the threat,” said Jerry Woodfill, “was Don Aabian's voice bellowing from the mission evaluation room; "I need those guys to come up with an answer on the CO2 thing and do it fast!" 

Using only the equipment and tools the crew had on board, including plastic bags, cardboard, suit hoses, and duct tape, Smylie and his team conceived a unique and totally unplanned solution;

“The concept seemed to evolve as all looked on. It was to attach a suit hose into a port which blew air through the hose into an astronaut’s space suit. If the space suit was eliminated and the output of the hose somehow attached to the square CO2 filter perhaps the crew could be saved. The air blown through the filter by the suit fan would have no carbon dioxide as it reentered the cabin atmosphere.”

Jack Swigert working on Apollo 13's  LiOH canister.

"The biggest challenge was adapting from a small round hose to a much larger square filter. A funnel would most likely leak. Added to that problem was that the hose and plastic bags tended to collapse, restricting the air flow through the filter.

Then the thought came, ‘Use cardboard log book covers to support the plastic. It worked! But more importantly, they had to figure out how the funnel adapter could be fashioned to prevent leaking. Of course… the solution to every conceivable knotty problem has got to be duct tape! And so it was.”
I haven't read every word in the NASA Systems Engineering Handbook, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't mention using Duct Tape. Maybe it shouldn't. Handbooks are written to deal with situations which can be anticipated and predicted. They codify the tribal knowledge which we turn to when the complexity, ambiguity and risk threaten to overwhelm us. What Handbooks don't do is inspire the kind of ah-ha! moments which saved the crew of Apollo XIII.

How do you codify having a blinding moment of insight so it can be called up on demand?

Scamper-Duttton TRIZ Matrix
There is someone who tried to do exactly that. In 1945, after studying thousands of patents, Genrich Altshuller concluded that similar technical problems had been solved by resolving similar technical conflicts.  His Theory of Inventive Problem Solving, (TRIZ) got a big boost in the 1970's with the invention of the desktop computer, which enabled working thru TRIZ's 39x39 conflict matrix more easily.

That is one way of shortening the problem solving process; knowing how someone else resolved a similar conflict and reframing your problem to look like theirs. But it's not creative or innovative in the traditional sense. It does bring a certain predictability to the situation, which gives the illusion of being prepared and in control to the project managers. It's also technical.

Are you listening to me?
Which takes us back to our persnickety penguin. How can you know what rocks won't be rejected before you bring them? The answer is pretty simple; You have to understand penguins The pebble gathering isn't directed at the female, its directed at building a nest, which the male often begins before a willing female even arrives.  That is the message for the analysts and engineers; Your persnickety customer isn't being difficult, you simply don't understand their behavior.

The reason you don't is because you are shellfish and they are penguins.

We'll explore that in the next post.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Do you want to be led or managed?

Today, I present for your consideration two TED talks.

The first is Bob Davids at TEDxESCP on Leadership without ego.  It's 12 minutes long.

The second is Simon Sinek on What Leaders Eat Last really means. It only runs 4 minutes.

Find the time to watch them today. One on a break, the other over lunch.

Bob Davids

Simon Sinek

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Four Thee Birds

Chipper, Bully, Snob & Neurotic
I recently had the opportunity to see an old friend thru new eyes. The object of my affection is the Pixar short film For the Birds and the new vision came as a result of seeing it in 3D. What I wasn't expecting was the change in perspective which resulted from having written a post about workplace bullying and mobbing.

Disney has been reminding us that there are many sides to any story and villains are sometimes heroes in disguise.  So, it was with some retrospection that I began to consider a story behind the story of the primary characters in For the Birds.

If you aren't aware of their names, don't be surprised. They're not mentioned anywhere in the credits. Although you might infer them from their behaviors.

(Pixar stories usually have a detailed backstory. Parts of this one can be found on the Pixar animation website, but I must acknowledge that I'm pushing the storyline a bit further in this posting.)

A bird called Bully arrives first and starts to settle in. Chipper lands and stretches, bumping into Bully, who becomes annoyed, pecks at Chipper and starts an argument. Snob lands next, sees what is happening, moves away, while looking up and rolling his eyes in disgust, until Bully bumps into him, at which point Snob starts to argue with Bully, who gestures at Chipper as if to place the blame there.

In the mean time, Neurotic has landed. Snob bumps into Neurotic and gives him a peck. Four other birds arrive and soon everyone is involved in their own personal squabbles. All this takes a mere 20 seconds. It's just another day at the office.

The small birds' similarity and familiarity would seem to indicate that they are all members of the same, long established, flock. They may not like each other exactly, but they do know how to function in a group. They have their order and places and don't even object to the occasional outbreak of pecking. It's all normal behavior. No one specifically encourages it, but neither does anyone cry foul or try to stop it when one bird argues with or attacks another.

It isn't until something unusual happens that things start to turn in a different direction.

Under Attack or Paranoid?

The arrival of the Big Blue bird causes a moment of concern. This intruder isn't like the members of the flock. The corners of Bully's beak are not raised in a welcoming smile and the rest of the birds stare in wonder. What is this huge blue creature? What are its intentions? Is it friend or foe? Are we soon to be its lunch? What are we to do?

With a bully at the head of the group, the next move is fairly predictable; Big Blue's friendly gesture is met with derision and soon everyone is on board and fully engaged in the critical pantomime repl . This fluffy foe is no threat, quite the contrary, he's crazy, ineffectual and to be ignored.

Hi Five

 This is a pivotal moment in the story. With odds of 15 to 1 and no advocate inside the flock, Big Blue doesn't stand a chance of inclusion. In spite of Big Blue's wiggled pen feathers, Bully and Snob poke fun and then snub him. The group joins in and soon everyone is poking fun at their huge, although now less threatening, interloper. The group gags have reduced him to a fluffy blue target of derision.

Poking Fun

Undaunted, Big Blue continues to attempt a connection. Another High Five makes no difference.  The group, again led by Bully, turns their collective backs, moves away on the wire and begins to gossip. Leaning in to hear the chatter, Big Blue almost seems to stumble, then recovers and flies over to try and join the group. Landing on the wire, he gets the Evil Eye from Bully, although everyone else just looks shocked and bug-eyed.

The Evil Eye
At this point physics intervenes as Blue's weight stretches the wire and gravity forces everyone together. Blue seems pleased at this turn of events, although it's clear that no one else is. This may be where we realize that in spite of being birds, they aren't speaking the same dialect. The little birds are probably all yelling Get off the wire! but Big Blue doesn't understand.

Time to get nasty

Next, Bully goes on the offensive, driving his beak deep into Blue's side, causing him to jump and fall, although still holding onto the wire, which drags the whole group back down. The little birds still aren't happy and Bully decides to try and finish the job of getting Blue off the wire by pecking at Blue's toes. Soon the group joins in and the effort to kick Big Blue off the wire and out of the group kicks into high gear.

On the verge of reality
While this arguably leads to the funniest part of the story, it is also where the fantasy kicks in, as Blue will eventually end up laughing and OK. The moment when the last toe slips and the wire launches the flock skyward, simultaneously exposing Bully, Chipper, Snob, Neurotic and the rest of the flock for the selfish, naked cowards that they are, doesn't typically happen in real life. More often than not, and at an earlier stage of the gradually increasing processes of harassment, the Big Blues of the world sense that they are not wanted and leave. Of course, history is written by the victors, so Blue gets painted as an irregular outcast, or worse, a monster, invader, and unwelcome past guest.

On the surface, For the Birds may not seem like a tale of bullying and discrimination, but once you peel back the veneer, its' all about how we abandon, marginalize and minimize others out of existence, or at least out of a job or school or club.

It's a sad and funny at the same time, which makes it all the sadder.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Adizes + Briggs & Myers

Several months ago I stumbled across the work of Dr. Ichak Adizes and was intrigued by his proposition that creativity is born out of conflict resolution. He has a method of categorizing management styles which was reminiscent of the Myers-Briggs personality assessment, but frames things a bit differently.

Rather than using Introversion, Extroversion, Thinking and Feeling Adizes uses Approach, Focus, Pace and Perspective as his axes. I was interested in the correlation between how the human mind tolerates and responds to ambiguity and complexity and the temporal and spatial effects of stress, which we've discussed in other postings. Adize's model also correlates well to the me-you, past-present-future (storytelling) and optimist-pessimist pairings of Design Thinking and Imagineering's philosophical frameworks. It also lines up nicely with the four basic human responses to threat; Fight, Flight, Faint and Fawn.

I spent some time shuffling the Myers-Briggs framework around until the Extroverts were along the top edge and the Thinkers were along the right edge which revealed a good match-up with Adzies Administrator, Entrepreneur, Integrator, Producer styles.

This is very interesting in the context of a posting on Adzies' personal web site, which I'll quote parts of below. As usual, I've edited the text and blended in some of my own insights into the narrative;

There are many psychological tests to identify someone's personality. The Myers-Briggs is the most recognized that Ichak says he knows. His method is called the MSI (Management Style Indicator).

Watch when people get angry and you can tell their personality style very quickly.

Ichak has been searching for a short cut to identifying a particular style for some time and thinks he has found it in the Jewish Book of the Sages, which says you know a person by kiso, koso and kaaso; the way they spend money, the way they drink (alcohol) and the way they behave when they are angry.

Each of the Adzies MSI styles has a typical back-up behavior which comes into play when someone gets angry. Watch angry people and you will see their basic style. This will enable you to predict how they will behave under calmer conditions.

The Producer (INTP) becomes a little dictator. They become short tempered and won't waste time. They'll just order you around and give you no chance to argue back or explain.  They want you to just do as you're told.

The Administrator (ISFP) will freeze, lock their jaw and say nothing. They may gaze at you with semi closed-eyes and refuse to interact, at least until later when they calm down.

Entrepreneurs (ENTJ) are the most dangerous. They will attack, demean and tear you down, then forget all about the next day, even though they have not apologized, and relate to you as though nothing happened.  (Administrators never forget and will remind you of your "bad" behavior for years to come.

Integrators (ESFJ) yield and try to avoid confrontation. They will say something like “Oh, never mind – it is ok,” but don't really mean it.

Remember that people are not purely one style. They act out a mixture of responses until they find something that gets them what they want. The most frequent responses Adzies has encountered are combinations of the PE and AI styles.

The Productive Entrepreneur will attack AND order you around.

The Administrative Integrator will retreat, freeze and give you the impression that he or she is ok with what happened. But in reality they are recording everything in their “diary” and will never forget whatever it is you did that offended them.

The Administrative Entrepreneur retreats and freezes when confrontation occurs. But later on angrily lashes back and attacks. It is a postponed reaction and the person attacked often does not understand why they are suddenly being criticized.

The Productive Integrator orders you around in a manipulative way. They act nice, but you can feel their aggression, usually in their tone of voice and body language.

To know people well, you have to be present and conscious and have no agenda of your own. That way you can see and evaluate others clearly. Relying on your intuition forces you to feel the person you are evaluating.
Under stress, you aren't able to feel anything but your own response to the attacker and you simply label them. Under those circumstances you don't really know them.

Tests give precise results. But they may be precisely wrong. Intuition is usually "approximately right" because it draws on years of integrated experiences and speaks instantly in an effort to help you survive.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Freshening Your Perspective

Stanford's Tina Seelig
FastCo’s Stephanie Vozza recently wrote:

Everything really comes down to solving problems. To be successful and a leader in your field, you not only have to come up with good solutions; you need to be innovative, which she defines as applying creativity to generate unique solutions. And that can feel like waiting for lightning to strike.

Tina Seelig, author of Insight Out: Get Ideas Out of Your Head And Into the World, has been teaching classes on creativity and innovation at Stanford University School of Engineering for 16 years. She says most people don’t have a clear understanding of what creativity and innovation really are. She’s built a layered set of definitions to address that lack of understanding
  • Imagination is envisioning things that don’t exist.
  • Creativity is envisioning things that don’t exist to address a challenge
  • Innovation is envisioning things that don’t exist to generate unique solutions to address a challenge.
  • Entrepreneurship is envisioning things that don’t exist to generate unique solutions to address a challenge and scaling the ideas, by inspiring others’ imagination.
(It's a bit like I Know an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly, but there's a method to it. -df)

Once you understand this framework, you can put it into action. The key idea is that the way to innovate is to look at situations from a fresh perspective.

Reframing a problem helps you see it as an opportunity, and Seelig offers three techniques for finding innovative solutions:


Start by questioning the question you’re asking in the first place.  Seelig says; "Your answer is baked into your question."

Before you start brainstorming, start "frame-storming": brainstorming around the question you will pose to find solutions. For example, if you’re asking, "How should we plan a birthday party for David?" you’re assuming it’s a party. If you change your question to; "How can we make David’s day memorable?" or "How can we make David’s day special?" you will find different sets of solutions. 

"Refocusing the question changes our lens. Memorable is different than special—memorable might involve a prank, for example. Once you reframe the questions, you might decide to select the best or address them all. Each new question opens up your ability to generate new ideas."


When an individual or group is tasked with being creative, there’s often pressure to only come up with good ideas. Seelig likes to challenge teams to only think of bad ideas as part of the process.

"Stupid or ridiculous ideas open up the frame by allowing you to push past obvious solutions. There is no pressure to come up with ‘good’ ideas. Then, those terrible ideas can be re-evaluated, often turning them into something unique and brilliant."

Once you have a list of bad ideas, brainstorm how they can become good ideas. In one of Seelig’s classes, a bad idea was selling bikinis in Antarctica. A group that was tasked with making this idea a good one came up with the idea to take people who want to get into shape on a trip to Antarctica. By the end of the hard journey, they would be able to fit into their bikinis. Their slogan was "Bikini or Die." Selling bikinis in Antarctica sounds like a really bad idea. But within five seconds, when asked to look at it differently, the team came up with a way to transform it into a really interesting idea.


Another way to reframe a problem is to challenge its perceived limitations or rules. Ask, "What are all of the assumptions of the industry?" Make a list and turn them upside down by thinking about what would happen if you did the opposite. Seelig says this is a hard exercise, because a lot of our assumptions are deeply ingrained. "Cirque du Soleil challenged assumptions about what a circus is. Instead of cheap entertainment for kids, they turned it into a high-end event for adults that competes with the theatre or opera," she says. "In addition, Southwest challenged the assumption that airlines had to have fixed seat assignments. This opened the possibility of having riders line up before each flight—a radically different approach to seating."

If you are interested in more of Tina Seelig's ideas on creativity click HERE.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Leadership; Transformational, Innovative or Both?

Following the Leader
There is a remarkable diversity and variety of opinion regarding leadership and management styles which has been expressed online in equally diverse ways. From the comic strip antics of Dilbert to some of the oldest creation stories, the impact and effects of leadership and management styles loom large.

I recently came across the web page of St. Thomas University (formerly Biscayne College) and was pleasantly surprised at the scope and balance of the material they have posted on leadership and management, particularly since it takes a neutral stance and discusses both the pros and cons of a wide range of styles from Autocrats to Laissez-Faire and nine others falling in-between.

In her article Defining Leadership: Do You Manage … or Do You Lead?, Pamela Spahr says Leadership is a soft skill and Management is a hard skill. Leadership revolves around influence, motivation and drive while management quantifies, creating budgets, determining the tasks and subtasks required to meet a goal and keeping a project on schedule. Put another way, Leadership is relationship focused and Management is task focused.

Two of the articles; What is Transformational Leadership? and What is Innovative Leadership? should be of particular interest to our discussion of life in the creative fast lane of artists, designers and engineers.

Spahr describes Innovative Leadership as characterized by;

  • Being Non-directive
  • Highly collaborative
  • Having a fluid group structure
  • Transparency of communication
  • Creative thinking and problem-solving
  • A work environment conducive to innovation
  • Encouraging the team to implement and evaluate new ideas
  • An abductive thought process conducive to making innovative connections
In addition, Spahr lists the following traits of Innovative Leaders and six abductive reasoning skills used by innovative leaders and offers three examples;
  • Clear strategic vision
  • Strong focus on the end-user
  • Able to build strong two-way trust
  • Strongly committed to doing right for the organization and the individual
  • Trust in the ability to communicate upward in organization
  • Excellent at getting people to go beyond their normal limits
  • Believe in speed and getting ideas and prototypes completed quickly
  • Blunt and straightforward communication style
  • Paying attention: Observing what is happening and keeping the group is collaborating.
  • Personalizing: Developing a rapport with - and paying attention to - individuals in the group.
  • Communicating: Having a clear vision of a goal and being good at communicating it.
  • Serious play: Fostering a playful environment to encourage innovation. They know that pressure - and fear - kills creativity.
  • Collaborative inquiry: Radical collaborators, finding ways to cross-pollinate ideas.
  • Crafting:  Builders and prototypers, fixing the holes in the idea and iterating the results.
Marc Benioff
Founder and CEO of, a cloud-based company started in 1999. Salesforce expanded through a large number of acquisitions. In 2013, its revenue topped $3 billion and topped the Forbes World’s Most Innovative Companies list frin 2011 thru 2013.'s goal is to lead the shift to social enterprise.

Dr. Temple Grandin
Biologist and author Temple Grandin is known both for her expertise in animal science and welfare and as a leader in the autistic community. Grandin revolutionized livestock handling with corral and feedlot designs that alleviated animal anxiety.

Because Dr. Grandin was born with high-functioning autism. Her parents worked tirelessly to find the education, environment and resources that would help their daughter thrive. Today, Dr. Grandin advocates for people on the autism spectrum and has authored books about both animal welfare and autism-friendly education.

Elon Musk
Musk is the CEO and CTO (Chief Technology Officer) of Tesla Motors and CEO and Chief Product Architect of SpaceX. In 2013, SpaceX became the first private company to launch a satellite into geosynchronous orbit.

Transformational leaders are described as:
  • Motivators
  • Quiet leaders
  • Leading by example
  • Working to improve the existing system
  • Maximizing teams’ capability and capacity 
  • Using rapport, inspiration, or empathy to engage others
  • Understanding how to form teams that work well with others
  • Courageous, confident and willing to make sacrifices for the greater good
  • Identifying problems by uncovering old patterns which no longer effective
  • Possessing a single-minded drive to improve the things which no longer work
Spahr gives two examples of transformational leaders; William Edwards Deming and Peter Druker.

Deming is known as the father of statistical quality control. After earning a doctorate in mathematics and physics at Yale in 1928, he spent most of his career working or consulting for the U.S. government. During World War II, Deming taught statistical process control techniques to military production workers.

Drucker was a professor and management consultant who predicted some of the 20th-century’s biggest changes, like the Japanese rise to a world economic power, the "information age" where knowledge is power, and the importance of marketing and innovation.  He coined the term “knowledge worker.”

Regardless of your personal style, there are many positive traits to emulate here.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Battle of the Most Creative Types

The Angry Artist and Angry Engineer
Research indicates that many creative types are close to being INFPs (Healer/Mediator) or INTJs (Mastermind/Architect.) There is one trait common to both; Intuition, the ability to solve problems in an abstract way. But INFPs and INTJs vary in another very important respect. Let's take a closer look at that difference in these these two creative personality types.

Mediators (INFP) are optimists, always looking for even a hint of good in even the worst of times, people and things, always searching for ways to make things better. Comprising just 4% of the population, the risk of feeling misunderstood or unappreciated is high for the Mediator – but when they find like-minded people to collaborate with, the harmony they feel will be a fountain of joy and inspiration.

Coming from their purely rational perspective, the Mastermind/Architect INTJs are equally idealistic but also the bitterest of cynics. This is because INTJs tend to believe on the one hand, that with effort, intelligence and consideration, nothing is impossible, and at the same time they believe that people are too lazy, short-sighted or self-serving to actually achieve fantastic results. Yet, because of their drive, that pessimistic view of reality is unlikely to stop a motivated INTJ from achieving a result they want. INTJs are the autocratic masters of their universe.

That is the primary differentiator; INTJs are task oriented.  Mediators are relationship oriented. This contrast plays out in a multitude of ways and venues, from boardrooms to bedrooms all around the world nearly every day. Its the age old Battle Between The Healers and the Masterminds; aka, the Artists and the Engineers.

When the pressure is on these relationship style differences start to cause problems - the negativity and criticism can begin to wear on everyone, which doesn't bother the object oriented Masterminds but threatens the people oriented Healers who then won't leave the Masterminds alone, which can set up a vicious cycle.

What Stresses the INFP - Healer 

– Being pressured to focus on the details.
– Inauthenticity or shallowness in others and themselves.
– Having their personal values violated, criticized or dismissed.
– Rigidity in rules and timelines, which they see as stifling their creativity.
– Criticism or confrontation and the fear that they might harm a relationship.
– The need for socializing and small talk, which is part of relationship building.

When under stress, an INFP becomes overwhelmed by internal turmoil. They feel caught between pleasing others, maintaining their own integrity, and taking care of their own well-being. Their natural tendency to identify with others, compounded with their self-sacrificial tendencies, can lead to an identity crisis.

They may start feeling lost and perplexed. As that stress builds they can fall back on their inferior function; extraverted thinking. When this happens, they will do things that are out of character. They may become obsessed with fixing perceived problems, and righting wrongs. This can be perceived as threatening and criticism by others.

INFPs may blurt out hostile thoughts or engage in destructive fantasies directed at others. They also can express biting sarcasm and cynicism. They may become aggressively critical of others and themselves, dwelling on all the “facts” necessary to support their overwhelming sense of failure.

What Stresses an INTJ - Mastermind

– Being in unfamiliar environments. (Ambiguity)
– Disregarding their intuition and vision of the future.
– Having their own well-laid plans disrupted or dismissed.
– Having their skills, visions, ideas, or competence criticized.
– Having to pay attention to too many details at once. (Complexity)
– Working with people whom they see as lazy, incompetent, or ignorant.
– Being focused on the here-and-now. Which naturally happens when they are afraid.

When in a state of stress, INTJs can feel an immense amount of time pressure – as if everything is on the line. This raises the specter of loosing their effectiveness at making a difference. They may find themselves feeling overwhelmed, thinking about ideas and options which are impractical or don’t have a productive conclusion.

As their stress increases, the INTJ can become argumentative and disagreeable. Social interaction becomes increasingly difficult, as they may become preoccupied or obsessive about ideas and plans. They may start to spend massive amounts of time doing things in an effort to appear productive and relieve their thoughts and feelings of worthlessness. They may ruminate about their past mistakes, inadequacies and weaknesses and stop working on a project for fear of failure.

In a case of chronic stress, the INTJ may fall into the grip of their inferior functions. When this happens, they may give into self-destructive indulgences, like over-eating, over-exercising, alcoholism, or buying lots of useless items. They may obsessively clean or re-organize the house, office or possessions.

Note that the primary difference is in the area of relationship building and maintenance. Masterminds are focused on results. Healers are focused on the people - who often make the results happen. If you are in an environment which needs people doing creative things, this element should not - must not - be ignored. When the pressure is on the relationship styles of the Masterminds and Healers can become antagonistic.

In either case, before your creatives start to un-wravel;

– Validate their feelings.
– Let them express their thoughts and feelings without judgment.
– Give them some space and time alone to process their thoughts and feelings.

– Remind them of their strengths.
– Forgive them if they’ve been overly critical.
– Understand that they may be irrational at times.

– Let them “get away” from it all.
– Reduce sensory stimulation like noise, TV, radio, or bright lights.
– Let them work on a project they’ve been interested in, but haven't had time for.

– Don’t give them advice. This will only make them feel worse.
– Exercise can help. However, suggest it later, after they've calmed down.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Design Thinkers and Myers-Briggs

The Prototypical INTP?
People are fascinated about what personality types famous designers have, from Steve Jobs (INTP or ENFP or ENTP) to Thomas Edison (ENTP) and Walt Disney (ENTP) to Nicolas Tesla (INTP). Michael Roller persuaded a bunch of graphic designers to take the Myers-Briggs personality test and a research project by Strategic Aesthetics also looked at the personality types of designers. The results were somewhat surprising, but before we reveal them, some background on the sometimes confusing vocabulary of Myers-Briggs is in order;

The Myers-Briggs scale categorizes respondents across paired traits. The introversion - extroversion scale is one. Others are perception - judgment and another is relationships based. Each of these scales has a "dichotomy." Myers-Briggs builds on the work of psychoanalyst Carl Jung and is also similar to Ichak Adizes' model of Management Styles.

Perception goes from "sensing" to "intuition". Those terms may be a bit confusing, because "sensing" literally means relying on your four senses; seeing, hearing, feeling and touching right now. Intuitive people look for patterns and extrapolate into the future. The other traits have scales that go from the concrete to the abstract. On the judgement scale, one end is "thinking" – making decisions based on current “evidence” and “rationally” reaching conclusions. The other end of that scale is "feeling" or gut instinct, which is based on the midbrain pattern matching feelings related to past experiences. 

Design Thinkers are trained to integrate different points of view and translate across time and conceptual frameworks . Where should they end up on the M-B scale? In one study, designers were balanced between Introversion and Extroversion (52/48) and Feeling and Thinking (56/44) but showed preferences for Intuition over Sensing (85/15) and Judging over Perceiving (69/31).

Introversion and Intuition

In both cases "introversion" and “intuition", the ability to look for patterns and solve problems, are at the top of the list. The fact that the other two traits were different suggests that there's no cookie cutter pattern for turning out graphic designers.

Similarly, the "perceiving" designer can be more spontaneous as they work through a project. Their co-workers who may be more prone to "judging" are likely to have an organized, scheduled, world view.

The two most prevalent designerly personality types are INFP (Healer - 6%) and INTJ (Mastermind - 2%). Both have tolerance of chaos, or spontaneity, in the mix, depending on how their creativity is influenced by their place on the judgement scale. Another interesting component is the percentages of each type in the population. Only 8% are INFP’s. INTJs are are 16% of the total.

The envelope, please...

The research indicates that most graphic designers are close to INFPs (Healer/Mediator) or INTJ (Mastermind/Architect.) ENFPs (The Inspirer/Campaigner - 16%) and ENFJs (The Giver/Protagonist - 16%) came in second and third place in both of the main surveys. In either case, extroversion level was moderate, although for many designers, being able to comfortably communicate ideas is very important.

There's one trait that stands out in all the results; Intuition. The ability to solve problems in an abstract way seems key. It would be rare to find a designer without that as part of their make-up. At the same time, designers are less akin to the stereotypical touchy-feely artist and more like Systems Engineers who always keep the big picture in mind.

Under the best of circumstances, a designer is likely to be rare and unusual.The INFP type is only 6% of the population. What follows are a couple of charts and some detailed descriptions of the types and their prevalence. If you know your type, see where you fit in.

One interesting implication of this arrangement is that it illustrates the difference between an external and internal focus in designers. Design Thinking's emphasis on empathy implies being comfortable and conversant with emotions. At the same time it requires fluid, flexible thinking. Perhaps the larger message is that MB style flexibility would be a very powerful skill.

The four descriptions in the center squares form a core; Artistic, Idealistic, Generous and Optimistic. The outer ring traits of the center columns; Loyal, Contemplative, Persuasive and Harmonizing add a nice finish.

This posting is built on material from a variety of sources. I've recently re-tested and discovered that I've have shifted from INTJ to INFP. Both are a designerly type, although time and experience seems to have mellowed me some. ;-) Walt Disney has been ranked an ENFP or ENTP.