Tag Archives: BIF

What if Your Job Was Focused on Play?

james-siegal

James Siegal (picture from his Twitter profile, @jsiegal at http://twitter.com/jsiegal)

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to talk to James Siegal, the President of KaBOOM! – a non-profit whose mission is lighthearted, but certainly not frivolous: to bring balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids! James is another new Business Innovation Factory (BIF) storyteller for 2015… and I wanted to find out how I could learn from his experiences to bring a sense of play into the work environment. (For me, that’s at a university, interacting with students on a daily basis.)

Over the past 20 years, KaBOOM! has built thousands of playgrounds, focusing on children growing up in poverty. By enlisting the help of over a million volunteers, James and his organization have mobilized communities using a model that starts with kids designing their dream playgrounds. It’s a form of crowdsourced placemaking.

Now, KaBOOM! is thinking about a vision that’s a little broader: driving social change at the city level. Doing this, they’ve found, requires answering one key question: How can you integrate play into the daily routine for kids and families? If play is a destination, there are “hassle factors” that must be overcome: safety, travel time, good lighting, and restroom facilities, for starters. So, in addition to building playgrounds, KaBOOM! is challenging cities to think about integrating play everywhere — on the sidewalk, at the bus stop, and beyond.

How can this same logic apply to organizations integrating play into their cultures? Although KaBOOM! focuses on kids, he had some more generalizable advice:

  • The desire for play has to be authentic, not forced. “We truly value kids, and we truly value families. Our policies and our culture strive to reflect that.” What does your organization value at its core? Seek to amplify the enjoyment of that.
  • We take our work really seriously,” he said. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously. You have to leave your ego at the door.” Can your organization engage in more playful collaboration?
  • We drive creativity out of kids as they grow older, he noted. “Kids expect to play everywhere,” and so even ordinary elements like sidewalks can turn into experiences. (This reminded me of how people decorate the Porta-Potties at Burning Man with lights and music… although I wouldn’t necessarily do the same thing to the restrooms at my university, it did make me think about how we might make ordinary places or situations more fun for our students.)

KaBOOM! is such a unique organization that I had to ask James: what’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever observed in your role as President? He says it’s something that hasn’t just happened once… but happens every time KaBOOM! organizes a new playground build. When people from diverse backgrounds come together with a strong shared mission, vision, and purpose, you foster intense community engagement that yields powerful, tangible results — and this is something that so many organizations strive to achieve.

If you haven’t made plans already to hear James and the other storytellers at BIF, there may be a few tickets left — but this event always sells out! Check the BIF registration page and share a memorable experience with the BIF community this year: http://www.businessinnovationfactory.com/summit/register

A Chat with Jaime Casap, Google’s Chief Education Evangelist

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“The classroom of the future does not exist!”

That’s the word from Jaime Casap (@jcasap), Google’s Chief Education Evangelist — and a highly anticipated new Business Innovation Factory (BIF) storyteller for 2015.  In advance of the summit which takes place on September 16 and 17, Morgan and I had the opportunity to chat with Jaime about a form of business model innovation that’s close to our hearts – improving education. He’s a native New Yorker, so he’s naturally outspoken and direct. But his caring and considerate tone makes it clear he’s got everyone’s best interests at heart.

At Google, he’s the connector and boundary spanner… the guy the organization trusts to “predict the future” where education is concerned. He makes sure that the channels of communication are open between everyone working on education-related projects. Outside of Google, he advocates smart and innovative applications of technology in education that will open up educational opportunities for everyone.  Most recently, he visited the White House on this mission.

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The current system educational system is not broken, he says. It’s doing exactly what it was designed to do: prepare workers for a hierarchical, industrialized production economy. The problem is that the system cannot be high-performing because it’s not doing what we need it to for the upcoming decades, which requires leveraging the skills and capabilities of everyone.

He points out that low-income minorities now have a 9% chance of graduating from college… whereas a couple decades ago, they had a 6% chance. This startling statistic reflects an underlying deficiency in how education is designed and delivered in this country today.

So how do we fix it?

“Technology gives us the ability to question everything,” he says.  As we shift to performance-based assessments, we can create educational experiences that are practical, iterative, and focused on continuous improvement — where we measure iteration, innovation, and sustained incremental progress.

Measuring these, he says, will be a lot more interesting than what we tend to measure now: whether a learner gets something right the first time — or how long it took for a competency to emerge. From this new perspective, we’ll finally be able to answer questions like: What is an excellent school? What does a high-performing educational system look (and feel) like?

Jaime’s opportunity-driven vision for inclusiveness  is an integral part of Google’s future. And you can hear more about his personal story and how it shaped this vision next month at BIF.

If you haven’t made plans already to hear Jaime and the other storytellers at BIF, there may be a few tickets left — but this event always sells out! Check the BIF registration page and share a memorable experience with the BIF community this year: http://www.businessinnovationfactory.com/summit/register

Value Proposition Design: A Fun and Engaging (New!) Guidebook

Alex Osterwalder's "Value Proposition Design" toolkit is now available

Alex Osterwalder’s “Value Proposition Design” toolkit is now available on Amazon

I just finished reviewing Alex Osterwalder‘s new book, Value Proposition Design, for ASQ’s Quality Management Journal. Although my review won’t be published until January 2015, this is such a refreshing and exciting book that I wanted to make sure all of you know about it now: because it will be available on Amazon tomorrow (Monday, October 20th)!

I met Alex this past September at BIF10 in Providence, Rhode Island, which (if you haven’t heard of it yet… or attended) is an inspiring and intimate two-day gathering of dynamic storytellers and equally dynamic participants. Everyone at BIF is engaged in some kind of social, civic, or business innovation — and many of the projects and ideas you hear about challenge outmoded assumptions in refreshing ways.

Alex is a little different… he’s a catalyst for other innovators. His company aims to provide individuals and teams with the tools they need to create new ventures, or improve existing projects and organizations, by critically examining the entire process of value creation and delivery. And this new release doesn’t disappoint — in large part, because the tools, techniques, and approaches that he promotes are consistent and aligned with various quality bodies of knowledge.

“The authors have created a fun and engaging text, full of cartoon-like pictures and exercises, that will be easily accessible to any member of a business development or quality improvement team. There are practical examples and stories provided throughout, which illuminate the concepts effectively and can help teams expand, refine, enhance, and articulate their visions by applying best practices through successful templates. The only weakness of this book is that it does not tie any of its assertions or practices to the academic literature. However, the Value Proposition Design canvas that this book describes in detail has demonstrated clear value already for many practitioners, and may provide researchers with ideas for making additional connections between established quality tools, principles, and practices.” — Me, in my January 2015 review of this book for the Quality Management Journal

Wherever you flip open the book, it’s organized so you’re presented with a complete idea that spans the left and right pages. This makes it very browsable and engaging, and an effective form for interlacing new ideas with repackaged perspectives on older techniques. For example, the “Find your Earlyvangelist” page reminds me of a new, more agile take on the 3M Lead User process, which many organizations have used over the past two decades to fine-tune their product characteristics and service delivery before wider release. I also like how several of the left page-right page idea blocks are aligned with broader concepts. The picture below shows one such example, where “learning” is the unifying concepts, and the pages that follow describe each of the techniques on the right in details:

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Overall, this was a really fun book to read and review. Are you looking for a way to get teams with diverse backgrounds on the same page for value creation? If so, this would be an excellent guidebook to help make it happen.

“[Alex’s new book] is a strong new contribution to the practitioner literature in quality management, and outlines many new approaches for value creation.” — Me, in my January 2015 review of this book for the Quality Management Journal

What #BIF9 and Burning Man Taught Me About Transformation – Part II (via Deming!)

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Even the phones at Burning Man tell you that you’re in Black Rock City, NV

In Part I, I described some observations from my experiences at BIF and Burning Man, and alluded to the notion that I might have uncovered a very simple “secret sauce” they share. Here are the observations:

  • Both communities consist of active and engaged participants who could be considered “innovation junkies”. Whereas the BIF crowd focuses on more traditional organizational and social innovation, the Burning Man crowd spans the extremes of experiential innovation (through art, technology, interactions with other people, or even just figuring out how to navigate life in the Black Rock Desert).
  • “Random Collisions of Unusual Suspects” (#RCUS) is the norm in both environments. First, the “unusual suspects” seem to be attracted to opportunities to be inspired and get their brains re-wired; second, the participants in both environments seem predisposed to the notion that serendipity is working on their behalf — and they let it happen.
  • People at both BIF and Burning Man tend towards non-judgment, seeking to appreciate and learn from their differences (rather than to resist, deny, or challenge those differences).

The common thread is that both environments have something magical designed into them, and this is the secret sauce: the push to drive out fear. Many of the BIF storytellers have been through Campbell’s Hero’s Journey and make themselves vulnerable so that the audience can vicariously (and often emotionally!) experience their transformation; at Burning Man, you’re stripped of your usual identity and thus unburdened from the fear you might carry as a result of having developed that identity over so many years.

When quality guru W. Edwards Deming formulated his 14 Points decades ago – principles for managers to transform business effectiveness – he expressed that the purpose of the points was to enable everyone to work with joy. One of the points (my favorite one, in fact) is to drive out fear so that everyone may work effectively.

If you are to fully embrace innovation, there is no room for fear! You must work towards fully being yourself, to push your own boundaries, and by extension, to push the boundaries of others, and to push the boundaries of traditional and accepted ways of doing things (“business models”). You are encouraged to own your own story, to TELL your own story, and to connect with others to help them identify with their own stories – and chase away the fear of being authentic, of being able to contribute to your greatest potential.

Why do we hold back? Why are we fearful? (I do it too, all the time.)

  • I am afraid you won’t accept me. I am afraid you won’t like me.
  • I am afraid you will disagree with my choices or decisions, and struggle with me or reject me as a result.
  • I’m afraid you won’t think I’m smart enough, good enough, worthy enough.
  • I am afraid that if you know who I really am, it might have consequences for my health or well-being (e.g. I could lose job, my reputation, my standing within the organization or community).
  • I’m afraid that what I’m trying to do – or be – just won’t work.

 

FEAR **IS** THE BOX.


To think “out of the box,” you must be living out of the box, and it’s an ongoing (and lifelong) process to do that.

I have not yet achieved healthy fearlessness as my steady state – I’m still awaiting bursts of my own personal transformation.  According to Ignite.me:

Joseph Campbell talked about the ‘Hero’s Journey’ whereby the hero is beckoned to enter an unfamiliar world.  When the hero enters this world, they are met with challenges, hurdles, and eventually a seemingly insurmountable confrontation which is achieved by using skills they picked up along the journey.  By overcoming this obstacle, the hero attains new self-knowledge which they can bring back to their people in the ‘ordinary land’ as their gift to the world.

Common themes of ancient mystery traditions are secrecy, death of the ego, participating with archetypal reality, and a rebirth of a new self.  The Eleusinian Mysteries took place over almost 2000 years and were shrouded in mystery from the uninitiated. Shamanic initiation often comes with the shaman being psychologically and experientially deconstructed and put back together.  Some tribal societies had rites of passage where children are ripped away from the bosom of the mother and left in the bush to learn how to become a warrior.  Rites of passage are transformational experiences where the old you is transformed into a new YOU.  That’s where we want to take you, and we create the container for that transformation.

What that means is that you may come as a journalist, or a chef, or a bike messenger, or a computer programmer but for the duration of our journey, you may choose to leave that behind to lose yourself in the present in workshops, dance, yoga, and celebration.  Transformation is disruptive and disorienting and actually occurs when past beliefs are shattered, habits are broken, and futures are rewritten.

By temporarily suspending fear, you create the space for transformation – the space for new experiences to redefine what you know and feel about yourself, and your interactions with other people and the world around you.

But this concept has been around for thousands of years… more on that tomorrow.

Five Simple Heuristics for Instant Innovation

Photo Credit: http://ecolect.net/blog/studio-news-business-innovation-factory-signage

Photo Credit: http://ecolect.net/blog/studio-news-business-innovation-factory-signage

I just returned from Saul Kaplan’s 9th Business Innovation Factory (BIF-9) Summit in Providence, Rhode Island — where, to my blissful surprise, I had just as much of a transformational experience as I had at Burning Man this year. I love it when so many conscious people gather together and indulge in the realm of possibilities and the certainty of optimism. 

Amidst the hundreds of insights that were shared, one of my favorites came from TED creator Richard Saul Wurman. He shared these 5 simple ways to catalyze idea generation, easily remembered by looking at his face (ANOSE):

Addition: Add something new to your process, product, project, or whatever it is you’re trying to create new value around. (I’ll call it the “entity” from now on.)

Need: Explore the needs of the people who engage with the entity now, or might encounter it in the future.

Opposites: Whatever it is you’re doing, try doing the opposite! He gave the example of peeling a banana. Even though humans tend to peel bananas from the stem part, did you know that monkeys do the exact opposite – and peel from the stumpy bottom part? Apparently it’s a much more efficient way to get to the fruit inside.

Subtraction: Take something away from your process, product, project, or whatever it is you’re trying to create new value around! Too much of a good thing can sometimes inhibit the creation of new value.

Epiphany: Sometimes you just have those explosive “a-HA!” moments — and you should pay attention to them! It was an epiphany that led to the branding of the iconic Trapper Keeper in the mid-80’s… over martinis. (Thanks to Siva Vaidhyanathan for raising my awareness about that story.)

This reminded me a little of TRIZ, but with fewer mental gymnastics required. And easier to remember if you’re stuck on a desert island (or in a conference room without coffee).