Great Innovator – Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin is one of America’s famous inventors. He is credited with many innovative ideas including (electricity, bifocals, Franklin Stove, glass armonica, lightning rod)[] and several other ideas. Of course he didn’t invent electricity, but did make many discoveries regarding it.

But that is just the new devices, designs, or products that he created and popularized. He also was a life hacker – design-thinker of life. He incorporated his curiosity, openness to ideas, and bias toward action into his whole life.

Up, sluggard, and waste not life; in the grave will be sleeping enough.
– Benjamin Franklin

Leather Apron Club

Franklin started a secret club called the Leather Apron Club. It was secret not in its existence but in its membership for fear that if people knew they would want to join also and it would become to big. A key element were that each of the members were from distinctly different backgrounds and brought their own perspectives to the discussions.

The Leather Apron Club was called Junto which is a mistaken variation of the Spanish word Junta or “joined”- how fitting that mistakes were baked into the name of this innovative idea.

The Junto met to discuss ideas, problems, business, society and worked together to bring their perspectives together and solve the problems. This is the basis of collaborative problem solving and design thinking.

Defining your Junto

Who is in your Junto? Who are your life-collaborators? Who do you bring together to help solve problems and chew on solutions?

These were the questions that came to my mind as I heard about Franklin’s club. I get to define and decide on the answers to these questions – how great is that?

Franklin didn’t file for patents, he published his ideas (like the Franklin Stove) and shared them with the world so people to adopt them and make the world a better place. Adopt his Junto idea today and you are following in the steps of a great innovator and who knows, maybe someday you can invent electricity yourself!

Experimental Life

How do you change? What would you change if you could? If you changed one thing, what else would change with it?

In his article Successfully Integrate Your Work Life, Stew Friedman looks at rebalancing life, work and self by changing how you integrate them together.

If you are like me, you would love to make some changes in your life – but how? We each are like massive planets in orbit in our lives. When we try to move a little bit from where we are – the other planets in the solar system tend to pull us back to our nice safe gravity well of status quo.

Stew suggest that you start with some small experiments – life experiments. In design thinking this we might call them prototypes. But why not prototype changes to your life.

Small changes, that you spend little time on are easy to abandon, transform, or take the next small step.

Big changes, where you make a radical change, gear up, spend time and money pressure us to “make it work” or “succeed” and failure comes with huge stopping power.

Try it now

  1. Choose anything you would like to change in your life.
  2. What is the minimal step you could take that moves it a little bit – maybe even right now as you sit there reading this.
  3. Try it a few times and hold these questions in your mind while you try – “how is this working? what else would make this a little better?”

The main idea here is when you want to change – Don’t try to boil the ocean! make small tests, steps, changes and see how it works.

What can you start changing today with a small change? What is a big change you are trying to make that you can simplify? What have you tried that didn’t work so far?

Life Work Balance

Do you keep work life and personal life distinct? Do you struggle with the boundaries? Can you reframe it?

In his article Successfully Integrate Your Work Life, Stew Friedman reframes the definition of work and personal life, and an alternative that gives you more satisfaction, less stress, and can actually improve your relationships in both places.

Just like in Design Thinking – it’s starting with the right question that makes all the difference.

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”
― Albert Einstein

It starts with self-definition in this case instead of empathy. Although a case could be made that self-empathy, as a objective observer of your self, is really what is going on here.

He suggests starting with a good understanding clearly what you want (or need) from each area and the expectations of the relationships in each of those areas.

The next piece is to leave your assumptions at the door. Set aside what work is supposed to be. The plethora of advise about keeping work and personal separate – much of which goes back 60 years or more. What is true today?

If you take a look at what you want things to work like, you can start to make that happen. In fact – sometimes that’s the only critical step – to be aware.

What is important for you today? What would the world look like if you could change anything? Who could benefit from changes?