What’s Your Mindset for Prototyping Ideas?

When you need to quickly evaluate whether or not an idea is worthwhile (or will even work), that’s where prototyping comes in. Over at The Amsterdam School of Leadership (or THNK), they’ve broken down the advantages and mindsets required for serious prototyping:

It is virtually impossible to develop creative solutions to complex challenges and get this perfectly right the first time around. Hence prototyping…we have noticed that true innovation leadership means adopting a number of mindsets when prototyping…

Think with your hands. Building a concrete and tangible prototype taps a different source of creativity…When the creator moves his energy from his head to his hands, the idea often improves…Building the prototype surfaces potential misunderstandings, different interpretations or assumptions, and then resolves them.

Bias towards action. …Stop talking about it and do it, build it! One of the big insights from data about prototyping contests is that teams that start building immediately end up with better results than teams that analyze and plan before they start building.

Celebrate Failure. …If the prototype runs smoothly, nothing new will be learned. And prototyping is all about learning! So failures are to be expected and innovation leadership even seeks them out, as long as you get feedback on what went wrong.

Quick and dirty. Rapid prototyping is about churning out one prototype after another. This means resisting the tendency to improve and perfect things before testing them….For a new variation to be born, an old one must die.

Of course, to get the absolute best benefits from prototyping your ideas or solutions, you have to go into the process with the right mindset (and tools). Thankfully THNK covers these mindsets in detail, plus a few tools to help you with your prototypes, over on their website.

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Molly Crabapple: Make a Career That Fits You

crabapple black

In a time when old institutions are restructuring or collapsing, artist and writer Molly Crabapple urges individuals not to change who they are to be “professionally viable.” There is no longer a system you can enter and be set until retirement. Instead, she suggests creating a career unique to you.

…focus in on your weirdness, your passions, and your f***ed-up damage, and be yourself as truly as you can. Express that with as much craft, discipline, and rigor as you can; work as hard as you can to build a career out of that, and then you’ll create a career that you love and that’s true to yourself, as opposed to doing what you think other people want and burning yourself out when you’re older.

Don’t change who you are to fit the work out there — find that work that fits you.

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Public Speaking 101: Focus on Your Topic & the Words Will Come

Icon by Martin Smith from The Noun Project

Icon by Martin Smith from The Noun Project

A study from last year confirmed that many people find public speaking to be more anxiety-inducing than death.  As such, when practicing for client pitches, boardrooms and the stage, we often nervously prioritize style over substance by focusing on how to say things (your tone, pace, gestures, etc.) rather than what to say.

John Coleman suggests that we reverse our approach by focusing on what to say, not how to say it:

Focus on memorizing key stories and statistics, rather than practicing our delivery. If you spend your time on how to say something perfectly, you’ll stumble through those phrasings, and you’ll forget all the details that can make them come alive. Or worse, you’ll slavishly read from a PowerPoint or document rather than hitting the high points fluidly with your audience. If you know your topic, the words will come.

Trust your knowledge of the subject matter. Pick your key points and let the words find themselves.

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What Do You Measure Your Productivity By?

Measure designed by Ryan Beck from the Noun Project

Measure designed by Ryan Beck from the Noun Project

If you want to get more done in your day, venture capitalist Sam Altman says it’s all about figuring out your main priorities. After all, what you measure by is what you execute on:

Value gets captured by execution. . . I used to make a list of everything I got done at the end of the day. It was remarkable how I could feel like I had a really busy day and realize that night I got nothing done. . .

You build what you measure—if you measure your productivity by the number of meetings you have in a day, you will have a lot of meetings.  If you measure yourself by revenue growth or number of investments closed or something like that, you will probably have fewer meetings.

If you believe that going to space is the most important project for humanity, then work on it.  If you can’t figure out how to raise hundreds of millions of dollars, go work for SpaceX (joining a great company is a much better plan than starting a mediocre one).  If enterprise software is what you really love, then work on that.

And if, at the end of the day, you find that your list isn’t as long or doesn’t contain what you thought it would, Altman reminds us that it’s easy to change course tomorrow: all you have to do is re-direct your aim.

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How Do Well-Meaning People End up Making Poor Decisions?

Confusion designed by Kelcey Benne from the Noun Project

Confusion designed by Kelcey Benne from the Noun Project

Over at Harvard Business Review, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman delve into a study they conducted with over 50,000 leaders to determine what guides some of us to making poor decisions. Their research concludes with nine key habits to avoid:

1. Laziness. This showed up as a failure to check facts, to take the initiative, to confirm assumptions, or to gather additional input. Basically, such people were perceived to be sloppy in their work and unwilling to put themselves out. They relied on past experience and expected results simply to be an extrapolation of the past.

2. Not anticipating unexpected events. It is discouraging to consistently consider the possibility of negative events in our lives, and so most people assume the worst will not happen. Unfortunately, bad things happen fairly often. People die, get divorced, and have accidents. Markets crash, house prices go down, and friends are unreliable.

3. Indecisiveness. At the other end of the scale, when faced with a complex decision that will be based on constantly changing data, it’s easy to continue to study the data, ask for one more report, or perform yet one more analysis before a decision gets made. When the reports and the analysis take much longer than expected, poor decision makers delay, and the opportunity is missed.

Zenger and Folkman go on to describe the other six, less powerful, habits that lead us to making poor choices. Do yourself a favor and read the full list of habits over on HBR, then take some time to see which of them you might need to overcome.

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The Science Behind Being Cool

 

Cool Designed by SuperAtic LABS for the Noun Project

Cool Designed by SuperAtic LABS for the Noun Project

Being cool means straying from the norm, but recent studies have shown that if you stray too far, your brand or design may be strongly disliked. Unconventionality alone is not enough (for example, Segways are far from conventional, but not necessarily cool). Marketing scholar Caleb Warren explains that cool designs need to challenge norms, but not be too extreme.  

Being cool requires a very delicate balance of doing something that shows that you go your own way and do your own thing, but you do it in a way that is socially desirable or at least acceptable.

The problem with being cool is that soon others will begin to imitate you. Slowly this will shift what was once cool to conventional, and you’re back at being uncool. As Warren says, “if you’re really doing something right, the chances are the coolness isn’t going to last because you’re going to shift what is the norm.” Our advice? Forget the fleetingness of cool and focus on creating things you enjoy, no matter where they fall on the spectrum.

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What’s Better Than Coffee Or Naps? Coffee Naps.

Coffee by Maximilian Becker from The Noun Project

Coffee by Maximilian Becker from The Noun Project

Scientists agree: when it comes to maximizing alertness, coffee naps (drinking a cup of coffee and then taking a quick nap) are better than coffee or naps alone.

Joseph Stromberg shares how to use this method:

Taking a coffee nap is pretty straightforward. First, drink coffee…You need to drink it quickly, to give yourself a decently long window of time to sleep as it’s going through your gastrointestinal tract and entering your bloodstream. Right after you’re finished, immediately try to go to sleep. Finally, make sure to wake up within 20 minutes, so you don’t enter the deeper stages of sleep, and you’re awake when the caffeine is just starting to hit your brain.

From our own past experience and the throat-burns to prove it, this might be best done with cold brew or iced coffee.

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