Even the best laid plans will change

Do you plan or fly by the seat of your pants? What happens when the plans go wrong? Are you prepared for the unexpected?


“plans are useless but planning is indispensable” said, Dwight D. Eisenhower when talking about planning for battle. And Helmuth Von Moltke said “No plan survives contact with the enemy”.

Now not every plan is preparing for war, and I certainly don’t think of everyone as the enemy. However, the sentiment of these quotes is about the balance of planning and thinking on your feet – or improvising.

I first really learned this lesson whilst walking from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail – a National Scenic Trail in the US. After a few days I met up with a nice group of other solo hikers and we hiked together for almost 2000 of the 2654 mile trail. Each day plans were discussed, debated and defined with some good amount of data, maps and opinions. What really happened was always a variation of that plan based on the actual situation, flow of the stream, beauty of the lake, view of the valley, or difficulty of the climb.

This is true with prototyping – the idea is to have a rough idea of the goal, and then to see it when you get there. You can’t plan away the work of building or doing.

Once you start building , new ideas will come to you. You need to adapt to what is, not what you thought it would be.

What have you been planning that you need to get into action? Start on it today, let it be an imperfect version and see what you learn by doing.

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Blog NOW!

When you have an idea what do you do? Where do you start? Why do you stop?

Bias toward action is a key principle of design thinking. You need to DO not THINK to be a design thinker.

Step 1: For instance – this blog. I decided to write it and then opened up Drafts on my ipad and started typing. I have enough blogging experience to know that it’s the posts, not the theme that makes a blog a blog.

Step 2: Once I had two of them written – I needed a place to post them. But I was just heading out on another trip. Good thing I had my phone in my car. I created the blog in the cab on the way to the airport.

Step 3: Drafts has a great feature of being able to do “actions” on what you type. So in about 30 seconds I had an action “Send to Design Thinking Life” which sends email to my blog as a post.

Step 4: Post. They were already written – all I had to do was send them while sitting in the lounge eating yogurt peanuts and individually wrapped cheese.

Step 5: Write another post. Realizing how much I use design thinking every day gives an endless set of topics for posting. So while I drink a complementary champagne from my upgrade to business seat – I will reflect on my bias toward action.

As my friend Bernie says – “all reasons are bullshit”, and once you know that – there is no reason not to start. Now!

What is your idea waiting for action?

GO DO IT!

Prototype Yourself

What do you do? What are you as a minimal viable product? How can you get that across in 30 seconds? In 3 minutes? In 30 minutes?

Personal branding has been a buzzy topic for several years now. As you move farther into the Information Age, working with others, collaborating, and communicating who you are and what you has become a critical business skill.

So, in some sense, we all have to sell ourselves to others. We have to sell others on our ideas. We need to get them on board.

As a consultant I need to let people know what I can do to make them more effective, more creative, more… something. And that means explaining to them how experiential activities feel.

The reason Prototyping is part of the design thinking process is that it gives the user a chance to experience the idea in a tangible way and give feedback. Using low-resolution prototyping can be a great way of explaining your idea or yourself.

So I use low resolution versions of what I do to introduce them in a real way. That can be a short user journey story, a quick exercise, or a small group interaction with a few people around a conference room table.

If you can develop low resolution ways to show your idea to others it can help them understand it an a deeper way and get them more engaged. That can make all the difference on getting them on board with you.

Give it a try, try again.

Office Ah Ha!

What is right under your nose? What are you overlooking? What does it take to open your eyes to it?

Looking at the world with beginners eyes sounds easy and is a lifelong pursuit. There are things hiding right in front of you all the time, and all it takes is a slight shift to see things differently.

For the past two years I have been teaching a creativity and innovation class where more than one class is spent looking at how space effects how we think and work.

  • If you set up rows of chairs, people come in, sit down, and wait for the entertainment to happen on stage.
  • If you setup small cafe tables and chairs, they will sit and start chatting.
  • If you have an open space with higher ceilings people generate bigger ideas.

Space matters.

For those same two years, I have had a home office. I moved into a new place and set up my desk, filing cabinets, bookshelves, etc. And I have been in there about 15 times. Where do I work? In my bedroom with vaulted ceilings and big windows that look out on the Pacific Ocean.

On day in class as I heard the words coming out of my mouth – “Don’t default to what space you are given, be intentional and set your space to what you need for the task” it hit me.

I don’t need a desk. I don’t need file cabinets in my “office”. I don’t need and office. I need a creativity chamber. I need a brainstorming parlor. I need open space and whiteboards on every vertical surface.

I saw my life through beginners eyes again to the real need.

So, now I have a new project to prototype and some office furniture to move.

What is sitting right in front of you that needs a new perspective? How will you change your viewpoint? Where can you reframe?