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.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Is Themed Entertainment Ready for Design Thinking?

Disney's Beauty and the Beast

If you've been following the media you've probably noticed that news coverage of Design Thinking has taken off. A recent search of Google News returned several stories mentioning organizations from Apple to Whirlpool and fields from Medical to Offshore Oil and Gas turning to Design Thinking to solve all types of "wicked" complex, ambiguous problems and open new markets.  With all that hot press, you'd think that the most uniquely American enterprise; Themed Entertainment would take to DT like a duck to water.

Design Thinkers at Innovation Powerhouse IDEO
Consider the requirements of an attraction like an E-Ticket dark ride or roller coaster; It is designed for an expected service life of 20 years. Accelerations can rival those of a dragster. Passengers can be twisted and turned, heaved, pitched, swung, rolled and yawed in any direction, synchronized to audio and video within the duration of a single image frame, all while carrying everyone from babes in arms to octogenarians, some weighing over 235 pounds, launching repeatedly, dozens of times per hour, 18 hours per day, 365 days per year, with only a few hours per night for maintenance and typically without injury beyond a sore throat from screaming too much. No other venture, public, or private, civilian or military, from deep sea to deep space has that demanding a set of requirements, and by the way, theming can be anything from a Screaming Dinosaur to a Baby Buggy.

Six Flags Justice League
And, relatively speaking, they do it on a shoestring. Not even the biggest Themed Entertainment in-house design staffs have even 1/10 the manpower or analytical resources of NASA or the DoD and don't forget, commercial aviation also has the FAA and DOT to support them domestically and IATA to represent them globally.

When the US Navy launches an F-18 fighter off an aircraft carrier, there are dozens of young men and women at the ready, making sure everything is good to go before launch. It's a precise dance, choreographed and triple checked to the last detail, which costs millions of dollars per hour. Maybe thats why so many seasoned ride system designers are also veteran aerospace engineers.

USS John C Stennis Flight Deck Operations
But its the Themed piece which really brings the challenge.  Classically trained electrical and mechanical designers and engineers aren't taught empathy or art appreciation along with physics, calculus and thermodynamics. They may laugh and cry at the movies, but typically don't have the "soft skills" to tell an emotionally loaded story. Trust me, their wives know this. Their men can fix a toaster or flat tire in three minutes flat, but are tongue tied on anniversaries.  Engineers make things out of stuff. Creating memorable experiences from dreams is something very different.

Which is all the more reason that Design Thinkers are perfectly suited for the Themed attraction industry. They have the analytical skills to build the ride and the emotional skills to know why a ride makes kids laugh and cry.

The good news is, over the past ten years, several colleges and universities have added classes in Design Thinking to their curriculum. Once the exclusive product of Stanford's, classes in DT are now offered at MIT, Smith, Washington University, UVA (Darden) and the University of Minnesota.

Darden's Jeanne Liedtka

That being said, many of the courses are hosted by Business schools, but given DT's three point power stance, finding the viable intersection of Business, Humanity and Technology, it may not matter what major your next hire at Disney, Universal, 20th Century Fox, or one of the 150 other member companies of TEA, had as an undergraduate major. Asking what they know about Design Thinking might be a very good interview question.

Gatekeeper at Cedar Point

Theory X and Asking How

Five Guys Who Ask HOW
Since you are following this blog you already know about the power of Storytelling and the Five Whys and One H.  There is another Five; the Five Steps of the Engineering Design Process;
  • ASK: What is the problem? How have others approached it? What are the constraints?
  • IMAGINE: What are some solutions? Brainstorm ideas. Choose the best one.
  • PLAN: Draw a diagram. Make lists of materials
  • CREATE: Follow your plan and create something.
  • IMPROVE: What works or doesn't? Modify your design to make it better.
Notice that all these are about some-thing. They are What statements.

Compare these with the six phases of the Design Thinking process;
  • UNDERSTAND: Immerse yourself in learning. Talk to experts and conduct research.
  • OBSERVE: Become keen people watchers. Observe spaces and places. 
  • DEFINE: Become aware of peoples’ needs and insights. Ask “How might we....”
  • IDEATE: Brainstorm a myriad of ideas and suspend judgment. Become savvy risk takers.
  • PROTOTYPE: Sketches, models and cardboard boxes. Express ideas quickly and fail early.
  • TEST: Learn what works and what doesn’t and iterate and modify it based on feedback.
Looking at these you can see that they are HOW to do something.
While there are a lot of similarities. Ask/Understand/Observe, Ideate/Imagine, Prototype/Create and Test/Improve do line up pretty well in terms of subject matter This is probably why some people have argued that Design Thinking is nothing new.

Let's take a closer look at the steps of both processes as if they were a recipe for baking cookies;
In particular, the steps before and after brainstorming;

The Engineering Design Process says we should;
  • Ask what the problem is. 
  • Ask how others have approached it.
  • Ask what are the constraints.

The Design Thinking process says we should;
  • Immerse yourself in learning. 
  • Talk to experts.
  • Conduct research.
  • Become keen people watchers. 
  • Observe spaces and places.
  • Become aware of peoples' needs.
  • Become aware of peoples' insights. 
  • Ask “How might we....”

The difference isn't in what is being done but How you do it.  In both models there is a clear focus on asking questions and getting answers. The difference is in how those questions are asked and the way the answers are interpreted.

This is why Design Thinking calls its first Phase Interview with Empathy. (I call it Empathic Inquiry.) No matter what you call it, the ability to recognize and appreciate the client/user's emotional state in the situation is a key differentiator. This ability, which some call emotional intelligence, isn't something they teach in college engineering courses, although they should. It is taught at the

The next differentiator is in the Create and Improve stages. Design Thinking is a team sport. Its about Radical Collaboration. In DT it's not your plan, or your design, its the team's plan and the team's design. This shift away from the Designer as the Brilliant Lone Wolf Inventor to a team is also reflects a shift in philosophy in management theory over the past 50 years.

Two models of management 'Theory X' and 'Theory Y' were created and developed by Douglas McGregor at the MIT Sloan School of Management in the 1960s. Your current boss may have been taught, or has unknowingly adopted, one of them.

Wikipedia describes the differences in Theory X and Theory Y in these words:

Theory X is based on pessimistic assumptions about the average worker. This management style assumes that the average employee has little to no ambition, shies away from work and responsibility, and is selfishly-goal oriented. Theory X style managers believe their employees are less intelligent than management, lazier and work solely for the pay. The 'Theory X' manager believes that all actions should be traced and the responsible individual is given a direct reward or a reprimand according to the results. 

This managerial style is more effective when used to motivate a workforce which is not inherently motivated to perform. It is usually exercised in professions where promotion is infrequent, unlikely or even impossible, and where workers perform repetitive tasks.

Theory Y managers are optimistic. They beieve that people in the work force are internally motivated, enjoy their work and try to better themselves without a direct "reward" in return. Theory Y employees are considered to be one of the most valuable assets to the company, and drive the internal workings of the corporation. 

Theory Y assumes employees thrive on challenges and seek to improve their performance. Workers tend to take full responsibility for their work and do not require constant supervision in order to create quality and hold to a higher standard of product.

Because of the differences compared to"Theory X", "Theory Y" managers gravitate towards relating to the worker on a more personal and relatable level, as opposed to a more conductive and teaching based relationship. As a result, Theory Y  workers may have a better relationship with their superiors, as well as potentially having a healthier atmosphere in the work place.

With its focus on optimism, emotional intelligence, collaboration and embrace of ambiguity, Design Thinking is squarely in Theory Y territory. These traits also present a challenge to Theory X managers, who are likely to view Theory Y employees with suspicion and mistrust.  (BTW - Theory X is poison to a Design Thinking effort.)

So, why does someone ask you Who, What, Why, Where, When and How?

Maybe its because they are a Design Thinker.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Optimism, Brains, Heart and Courage

Off to see the Wizard
At the core of Design Thinking is a fundamental realty about humans; Our perceptions of and responses to the world are shaped by our physical and psychological natures and memories. This plays out every day in a variety of ways. Our three part brains interpret and respond to our external environment, but we also imagine things in the past, present or future and create new ideas from the feelings, thoughts, words and images stored in our memories and then act on them in ways that depend on how fearful we are about the outcome.

Back in July of 2013, Tom and David Kelley spoke about Design Thinking at the MIT Media Lab. Two and a half minutes into the clip (below) David Kelley says something fascinating.  You have to listen carefully, because Dave moves from a reference to barriers that block, to fear of being judged by other people, very quickly;

Here is David's statement with the verbal side slip edited out;

"We thought we'd have to teach them things and we don't. We only have to remove the... fear of being judged by other people. As we take that down, this wild creativity emerges."

Remove fear to enable wild creativity. Is it really just that simple?

Dr. Bruce Perry explains that when people are frightened, the "intelligent" thinking parts of their brains cease to dominate out actions. When faced with a threat, the brain areas responsible for risk assessment and planned action cease to function. Logical thinking is overwhelmed by emotion and, as your sense of time collapses, you shift to short-term solutions and quick reactions. That's not a prescription for creative thought and action.

This has tremendous implications regarding understanding the power of Design Thinking and leads us to a mashup between your 3Part Brain and the Wizard of Oz.

Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.

The story of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz chronicles the adventures of an optimistic young farm girl named Dorothy in the magical utopian Land of Oz, after she and her pet dog Toto are swept away from their peaceful Kansas home and thrown into ambiguity by the chaos of a cyclone.  In a later book in the Oz series the author, L. Frank Baum, wrote;

"Imaginations and dreams are likely to lead to the betterment of the world. The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to create, to invent and, therefore, to foster civilization."

The Straw Man, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion and Dorothy were seeking a brain, a heart, courage and a family (team). Combining what we know about how your three brains work with Baum & Kelley's observations about imagination, having courage (overcoming fear) and collaboration and you have the key ingredients for the problem solving recipe taught at Stanford's (Design Thinking) a problem solving approach being widely adopted for its ability to deliver results which border on utopian magic.
Bringing it all together

There is one more aspect to this which shouldn't be overlooked. Successful recipes are more than just a list of ingredients, they are descriptions of what to do but more importantly, how to do it. This is where storytelling comes in. Knowing Who, What, Why, When and Where sets the stage. Knowing and showing HOW makes the difference between delivering the results of a novice and an expert, differentiates theory and practice and distinguishes the Monday Morning quarterbacks from the pros.

And that will be the starting point of our next post.