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The Future of Quality is Revolutionary

Image Credit: Dave Herod Photography (c) 2014

Image Credit: Dave Herod Photography (c) 2014

In his August post, ASQ CEO Bill Troy asks “Is the future of quality evolutionary or revolutionary?

My answer is unequivocal: it’s revolutionary. We’re going to need new models for business, new models for education, and new models for living if we are to satisfy the stated and implied needs of an increasingly interconnected Internet of people and things, where the need for sustainability will (in many cases) trump the desire for growth.

“Quality is the totality of characteristics of an entity that bear upon its ability to satisfy stated and implied needs.” — ISO 9000, para 3.1.5

New models, however, aren’t always necessary. We can continuously improve elements of old models to increase quality, and the need for this won’t disappear. The future of quality includes evolutionary advancements, but won’t be defined by it, as we emerge into new collective paradigms for management. We’ve already experienced this once (in the late 1980’s and 1990’s), and we’re about to feel the reverberations of another shift.

A Harvard Business Review blog post from July 30 (“Management’s Three Eras: A Brief History”) explains why. The first two eras that we’ve had experience with are organization as machine (the era of Taylorism), and organization as knowledge and knowledge flows (as popularized by people like Peter Senge and Tom Davenport). Methods for establishing and improving quality have been defined, refined, and flourished in these two eras.

But the third and emerging era, according to this article, is the age of empathyorganization as a vehicle for creating complete and meaningful experiences:

“Today, we are in the midst of another fundamental rethinking of what organizations are and for what purpose they exist. If organizations existed in the execution era to create scale and in the expertise era to provide advanced services, today many are looking to organizations to create complete and meaningful experiences. I would argue that management has entered a new era of empathy.”

Although we have some available approaches for quality improvement in this kind of era, they are incomplete: Voice of the Customer tools, for example, may make our experiences with products and services efficient, effective, and satisfying — but possibly neither complete or meaningful. How do we, for example, create mechanisms to assess and improve quality in the sharing economy? In decommodified environments? In our own personal lives?

What do you think? Share your ideas in the comments.

What is Innovation? Towards a Universal Definition

In 2013 the ASQ Innovation Think Tank defined innovation as "Quality for Tomorrow"

In 2013 the ASQ Innovation Think Tank defined innovation as “Quality for Tomorrow”

What is innovation? It’s become such an overused management buzzword over the past couple decades that, when I told my very esteemed executive woman friend that I was planning to write a book on innovation, she groaned. “Don’t do that,” she said. “Everybody does that.”

Just today, Fast Company published an article asserting that we really need a commonly accepted definition for innovation to “weed out the truly innovative from the rest”. Its author, Stephen Uban, goes on to explain that the solution to this dilemma is the (apparently new) Innovation Standard that has been developed by the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA).

Is innovation a new product line? Does it represent an improved process for efficiency? Is it a great idea?

The answer, simply, is yes.

Stephen Uban in Fast Company, 8/1/2014

I went to the PDMA web site and found that you can purchase this standard, along with all the models necessary to build your “innovation management system”, for $749. I’m not a fan of high-priced “standards” in general, especially when they don’t have an established track record, but many of the elements are extremely well captured by traditional quality management systems (e.g. reducing waste, understanding current capabilities, improving against benchmarks).

We’ve been through this before.

I agree with Uban’s quote, above, but I also strongly believe that we can all get on the same page regarding what innovation is all about without obfuscating things further.

In 2008, I proposed that we should just extend the ISO 9000 (3.1.5) definition of quality to define innovation as the “totality of characteristics of an entity that bear upon its ability to satisfy future stated and implied needs.”

This is perfectly aligned with the 2013 report from the ASQ Innovation Think Tank that establishes innovation as “quality for tomorrow”, and also with Max McKeown‘s definition of innovation as “a new idea made useful (by whatever means)” — which includes the creative practice of combining and recombining ideas and information to yield new value.

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.

What #BIF9 and Burning Man Taught Me About Transformation – Part I

reg-desk-830-small

Registration Desk for our “Transform Learning” Unconference at Burning Man 2013

I spent the last week of August at Burning Man, and two days in September at Saul Kaplan‘s Business Innovation Factory Summit (BIF-9). On the surface, these two events couldn’t seem more different – the former is a counterculture festival of art and technology and spirit in the middle of the barren Nevada desert, whereas the latter is a traditional conference with TED-style talks punctuated by opportunities for business-card networking — in metropolitan Providence, Rhode Island. 

So why did I emerge from each of these vastly different experiences with the exact same, buoyant, intellectually inspired feeling? I’ve been curious ever since my plane touched the ground at DCA last week, and I emerged from the jetway with the same bittersweet resignation that I’d need to return to the “default world” in the morning. Granted, there’s a little bit of overlap… Peter Hirshberg, one of my 2013 neighbors from Playaskool, gave a great BIF talk about “retribalizing the city” and specifically cited Black Rock City as the kind of vision for the future that might have been celebrated at a World’s Fair of the past. Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, also briefly noted the shared vibe of the Maker movement, Burning Man, and BIF when he was on stage — a vibe he aims to capture in his Downtown Project in Las Vegas.

But what’s the overlap? Why did both events inspire similar feelings in me?

Thanks to BIF-9 (and @AngelaMaiers), I remembered that I am a genius and the (default) world needs my contribution! And when Matt Murrie of What If? published his article yesterday on the Huffington Post, he provided another clue:  He reminded me that the spirit of BIF is easily captured by the phrases on those giant yellow slides that stay up on the screen in between BIF talks: think transformation, and try more stuff.

Think transformation! Try more stuff! And I’m needed… I’m an important part of all this!

That’s precisely how I felt as a resident of Black Rock City… and as a member of the BIF community sitting in the Trinity Rep theater. But the real secret sauce is… well, I’ll save that reveal for the end 🙂

First, some observations about the shared vibe between Burning Man and BIF:

  • Burners and BIFfers are, by their nature, “innovation junkies”. At a Burn, you are released into an environment where the normal rules and societal standards of engagement are temporarily suspended. The playa provides experiences that will snap you out of the way you thought life was, is, or should be. Want to send a postcard at the Post Office? OK, but you might have to do some cartwheels or tell the entire post office staff a good joke before they’ll take your mail. Nothing is impossible. At BIF, the same spirit prevails in the storytellers’ presentations and the conversations that happen over breaks and at dinner. I don’t have to be afraid of sharing crazy ideas with anyone in either group. I’m not shunned, looked at weird, or talked down. If anything, recommended refinements to my ideas will come with authenticity, insight, and a genuine feeling of support.
  • “Random Collisions of Unusual Suspects” (#RCUS using the tweetable parlance of Deb Mills-Scofield) is the norm in both environments. It is very difficult to wander around Burning Man without stumbling into unusual suspects (the guy who stopped traffic to give out hugs; the guy in the Superman costume who sprayed people with water so they could cool down; the people dancing with the giant jellyfish at White Ocean). BIF welcomes, with open arms, the same type of crowd but in different clothing (quite literally): the inspiring techno-matriarch, Deb Mills-Scofield (what I imagine Jane McGonigal will be like when she’s a grandmother — or as @sandymaxey beautifully observed, Deb is more like a “Fairy Godmother”), Amelia Friedman (who’s trying to help westerners learn widely used languages like Bengali), Evan Ratliff (who decided to create a story for Wired by “disappearing” – and then have people hunt for him), Jonathan Katz (who had a traumatic brain injury that wiped out his sense of taste and smell, and yet he works in a lab making new artificial flavors and scents!) and the girl who’s going to give me a numerology reading soon! OH!! And the guy wearing the nested alien suits at BIF. (Yeah, he would fit in well at Burning Man.)
  • At BIF and Burning Man, people tend towards non-judgment. In the “default world” it’s common to be criticized, ostracized, “tolerated” for your behaviors or beliefs, or (the worst case) expressly demonized, shunned, or outright excluded. At Burning Man, the principle of radical inclusion is honored as a core value of the community:

Burning Man is for absolutely everyone. Everyone. That’s what Radical Inclusion means. If you’re a starving artist, you should go. (if you want to, of course!) If you’re a plumber, you should go. If you’re a billionaire, you should go. If you’re a Saudi Prince that can only go if a turnkey camp is provided for you, please, please come. I’ll make you a sandwich. If you believe you’re a member of the class of people who actually deserve to be there, well then I definitely want you to keep going. One day, you’ll get it. Elitism in all forms distracts us from the truth of our common humanity.
— Dustin Moskovitz, inRadical Inclusion vs. Radical Self-Reliance at Burning Man

At BIF, I noticed that people tend to just naturally accept and honor differences – to get excited about differences, in fact – because if we’re different, we’ve got unique perspectives to share with one another! I met Jeffrey Sparr and Matthew Kaplan, for example, from PeaceLove Studios. They want to remove the stigma associated with mental illness so that people who need help are more receptive to getting it – and with support, can contribute their own gifts to society.

As a personal example, after having a rather open and vulnerable conversation with Greg Satell and his wife Liliana over beer and oysters (where I shared some things about myself that I ordinarily would be completely hesistant to admit to anyone) — Greg’s body language told me he was clearly a little bit uncomfortable. For a moment, I thought I’d misjudged the openness of the BIF crowd. I started to feel hesitant, weak, as if I’d miscalculated and really shouldn’t be making myself vulnerable. But then he spoke up: “Well, I can’t say I feel the same way for me, but if that’s what works for YOU – I’m glad you’ve figured out a way to make it happen.”

Greg’s response, for me, encapsulated the secret sauce of BIF, of Burning Man, and of transformation in general… which I’ll talk more about in a day or two in Part II.

(Ahhhhhhh… the anticipation! Yes, I’m doing this on purpose.)

Continue to Part II —->

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).

Innovation, Lakota Style

doug-feb1(Image Credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to)

Right now, I’m reading Archie Fire Lame Deer‘s personal history in Gift of Power. I lived in Rapid City for a short time in the late 1990’s, and I’m particularly attracted to the Lakota culture, and the Black Hills and Badlands that are so integral to it. Archie, who died in 2001, became a Lakota spiritual leader after a wild and checkered early life as a hellraiser and Hollywood stuntman. He says:

When a young man learning to be a pejuta wichasa [one type of medicine man] asks my advice, I tell him “Be humble. Accept failure. This is part of being a medicine man. Be aware of the negative and positive in everything. Don’t trust in your own little power, but try to unite many powers into one. And have patience. When you pick one herb among a clump of its own kind, don’t be hasty. Feel. Listen. Then pick the herb that responds to you and gives you a good feeling. If you don’t have the sixth sense to communicate with that one herb, stop right there. Stop trying to be a healer. Become a car salesman or a lawyer.”

To me, this reads like an ancient guidebook for being an innovator:

  • Be humble. Accept failure. You don’t know all the answers. You don’t need to.
  • Be aware of the negative and positive in everything. There is no black and white… your job is to recognize as many of the shades of the spectrum in between… without judgment. And to help others see those possibilities too.
  • Don’t trust in your own power. True innovation, that connects ideas with a context of use where value can be realized, is the product of an interconnected network of people, their thoughts, and their ideas – and the network might even stretch back into history.
  • Try to unite many powers into one. Combine and recombine ideas. Bring the powers together in new ways.
  • Have patience. Everyone knows how great ideas and solutions emerge when you’re in the shower, or relaxing, or doing something other than pushing forward really hard.
  • Feel. Listen. To things people say, and things they don’t say. Data is important, but so is intuition. (Don’t believe me? Just check out some of the academic research on intuition in management, or Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink.)
  • Pick the herb that responds to you and gives you a good feeling. Today’s modern herbs are thoughts, tools, technologies, concepts, and disciplines. Find the tools that you resonate with… the ones that make sense to you, the ones that give you a good feeling. Spend time learning what appeals to you.
  • If you don’t have the sixth sense to communicate with a modern herb, stop right there. Do something else. Moving on is not a failure, but a powerful recognition that you’re on a path to connect with the tools and technologies and ideas that YOU are most powerfully connected with… that you can do something truly magical with.

The more I read this book, the more I can see that the path of the medicine man is one of lifelong learning, one that’s centered around learning how to add value to one’s community — and helping others connect with themselves so that they can accomplish the same.