It’s Better to be a Pirate than Join the Navy

With all the hullabaloo about the sales numbers for Apple’s iPhone 6 over the weekend (10 million phones!), here’s a reminder of what’s behind Apple’s success:

Leading Apple with Steve Jobs details the management principles Jay Elliot learned from Jobs – and what every manager can learn about motivating people to do the best work of their lives.

Elliot was personally hired by Jobs just in time to accompany him on the last of his historic visits to Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center – visits that changed the course of computing (the graphic user interface and the mouse, among others). Elliot was Senior VP of Apple, overseeing all company procedures and strategic planning, as well as software development and HR.

First, an image:

Recognize it? This is the flag designed by a couple of the original Macintosh team and flown over the building that housed the small but outspoken crew that was responsible for bringing Jobs’ vision of the personal computer to the masses. It reflected a phrase that Jobs used at a team retreat:

It’s better to be a pirate than join the navy

Those with a cursory knowledge of the Apple story might think that this is a reference to Apple against the rest of the computer world – which it has been for all of its existence. But the real origin of this phrase and the accompanying image comes from Jobs’ insistence of creating a visionary team within Apple – a team that would band together and fight against the corporate bureaucracy that Apple had become in just a few short years.

To protect innovation, Jobs created a company within a company, gave them their own identity, and turned them loose. He didn’t want the Macintosh group to be dragged into the same mess (Jobs used a more earthy term) and lose their entrepreneurial focus – the ability to see and be motivated by an inspiring vision of the future. Jobs’ achieved this by

…building an environment that makes people feel they are surrounded by equally talented people and their work is bigger than they are. The feeling that the work will have tremendous influence and is part of a strong, clear vision.

The rest is history…

Application for ChurchWorld:

Churches don’t have a product like Apple, but then again Apple has always been more than just a product. It’s about creativity and innovation and experience and passion and people – terms which certainly have application to the church – or should. One thing that the church (no matter what its size) has in common with Apple or any large business is a tendency to gravitate toward institutionalism and bureaucracy. Leaders need to resist this, and one way to do this is to create a “pirate” crew that has the qualities of entrepreneurship, risk-taking, and an absolute passion and commitment to the vision of the church.

Choose your crew wisely, and they will challenge your thinking, fuel your ideas, pump up your momentum, sharpen your creative edge, and accomplish great things.

With a 14 for 14 Record, Pixar’s Ed Catmull Has Some Advice Your Organization Needs to Hear

A 14 for 14 record would be an impressive statistic for a baseball player batting in spring training, but when you apply that stat to Pixar’s box office hits, it becomes simply astounding.

With the release of Toy Story in 1995, culminating in last year’s Monsters University, Pixar has released 14 movies – and all 14 became No. 1 box office hits.

Interestingly enough, though, the president of Pixar says they all were not good – at first.

There’s got to be a lesson for ChurchWorld leaders in there!

A 2014 best-seller entitle Creativity, Inc. by Pixar President Ed Catmull was excerpted in the April 2014 issue of Fast Company magazine (online version). It is a fascinating read, and I’m eagerly awaiting the book’s release.

Till then, here is Catmull giving 8 lessons on how to lead a creative organization:

Protect Creatives from the Organization – Accidentally, and without intending to, organizations smother creativity. The central problem is the stuff organizations put in place that blocks the natural abilities that are already there.

Cherish Your Defining Moment – and Then Find a New One – The work we did to turn around Toy Story 2 was a defining moment in Pixar history. But the bulk of people working at Pixar now didn’t live through that. Solving our newest problem today – these newer people are a part of it, and they will own that solution when they solve it right.

Save the Ugly Baby from the Hungry Beast – Every movie starts out as an ugly baby. A new thing is hard to define; it’s not attractive and requires protection. Pixar is set up to protect our director’s ugly baby. At some point, it will have to grow up and change into something, because the beast is still there.

How to Balance Art and Commerce – With certain ideas, you can predict commercial success. So with a Toy Story 3 or a Cars 2 you know the idea is more likely to have financial success. But it you go down that path too far, you become creatively bankrupt because you’re trying to repeat yourself. So we also want to do things that are unlikely, that are harder to solve – like WALL-E, Ratatouille, and Up.

Getting to Frozen: How the Disney Brain Trust Grew Up – When I became the head of Disney Animation, my starting point was to assume that the animation team already there intended to do the right thing, and it was my job to help them understand the Pixar process. It took over two years, but the Disney team learned they weren’t in competition with one another, but that their successes were built on each other’s. Frozen wasn’t an instant hit, but was built on the groundwork laid by Tangled and Wreck-It-Ralph.

Why Things Will Always Go Wrong, Even at Pixar – It would be wrong to say that Disney is on the way up (with Frozen) and Pixar is on the way down (with the restart of Good Dinosaur). Just a few years ago the situations were reversed. Whenever we miss something, we analyze it to see what we missed. So we rethink the process and we change some things.

Why Real Risk Means Real Failures – People say they want to be in risky environments and do all kinds of exciting stuff. But they don’t actually know what risk means, that risk actually does bring failures and mistakes. We only lose from this if we don’t respond to the failures.

Your Best Tool is a Genius – or a Disaster – There are only two tools that work almost all the time for effecting real change. The first is the presence of a visionary leader, but there just isn’t a large number of these folks. The second is an organization undergoing the right kind of crisis. Everything in between is people trying to do their best.

Excerpted from Fast Company’s April 2014 cover story and related articles about Pixar President Ed Catmull.

jacket illustration: © Disney • Pixar

If you liked this post about Pixar, you’ll probably like these:

Want a Truly Innovative Organization? Think INSIDE the Box…

Stuck in a rut? Facing a deadline to a particularly vexing problem with no solution in sight? Maybe you just want to mix things up to get some new momentum, but you don’t know where or how to start…

Are you tempted to think outside the box?

A very traditional view of innovation and creativity is that it should be unstructured and not follow any patterns or rules. Leaders everywhere are encouraged to “think outside the box.” The problem facing you should be a launching pad for brainstorming ideas, no matter how wild or far-fetched they are. The theory is that moving as far from your problem will help you come up with a breakthrough idea.

Maybe it’s time to think inside the box instead.

I first heard the term “think inside the box” when I became a part of Elevation Church in Charlotte NC over 4 years ago. Elevation’s core values are expressed in what we call The Code – here’s the definition:

We understand what God has done in and through our church is not normal. The only explanation is God’s hand of favor and mercy over a group of people willing to follow Him faithfully. To help maintain our unity, tone, and trajectory, we developed 12 core values as a church that make us unique. We call it The Code.

One of those values is “We think inside the box.”

The Code 6I’ve seen it demonstrated time and time again – from a choreographed dance step illustrating the battle of Elijah and the prophets of Baal to creative videos for worship to innovative partnerships with local groups who serve our community.

Thinking inside the box is now the norm at Elevation.

For many organizations, though, the concept is unknown. Fortunately, that’s about to change.

Authors Jacob Goldenberg and Drew Boyd recently released their new book, Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results. It is the first book to detail their innovation method called Systematic Inventive Thinking – inside the box thinking.

Here’s a quick overview of five techniques Goldenberg and Boyd have discovered after studies of innovation-related phenomena in a variety of contexts.

  • Subtraction: Innovative products and services tend to have had something removed, usually something that was previously thought to be essential to use the product or service. The original Sony Walkman had the recording function subtracted, defying all logic to the idea of a “recorder.” Even Sony’s chairman and inventor of the Walkman, Akio Morita, was surprised by the market’s enthusiastic response.
  • Task Unification: Innovative products and services tend to have had certain tasks brought together and “unified” within one component of the product or service, usually a component that was previously thought to be unrelated to that task. Crowdsourcing, for example, leverages large groups of people by tasking them to generate insights or tasks, sometimes without even realizing it.
  • Multiplication: Innovative products and services tend to have had a component copied but changed in some way, usually in a way that initially seemed unnecessary or redundant. Many innovations in cameras, including the basis of photography itself, are based on copying a component and then changing it. For example, a double flash when snapping a photo reduces the likelihood of “red-eye.”
  • Division: Innovative products and services tend to have had a component divided out of the product or service and placed back somewhere into the usage situation, usually in a way that initially seemed unproductive or unworkable. Dividing out the function of a refrigerator drawer and placing it somewhere else in the kitchen creates a cooling drawer.
  • Attribute Dependency: Innovative products and services tend to have had two attributes correlated with each other, usually attributes that previously seemed unrelated. As one attribute changes, another changes. Transition sunglasses, for example, get darker as the outside light gets brighter.

The authors have found that the key to using these five techniques is the starting point. It is an idea called they call “The Closed World.”

We tend to be most surprised with those ideas “right under noses,” that are connected in some way to our current reality or view of the world. This is counterintuitive because most people think you need to get way outside their current domain to be innovative. Methods like brainstorming use random stimulus to push you “outside the box” for new and inventive ideas. Just the opposite is true. The most surprising ideas are right nearby. We have a nickname for The Closed World…we call it Inside the Box.

Are you ready to do some thinking – inside the box?

inspired by Inside the Box, by Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg
Inside the Box

Start with a Question, Then Challenge Your Assumptions

Start with a question to discover if there is an opportunity for creativity.

Questions start the creative process by asking how, why, and in what other way can something be done. The answers you get will explore options that kick off creativity.

The most unrealistic options inspire tangent ideas that take you to new places you would never have considered.

Once you have the basic questions to ask, it’s time to add questions that are specific to your challenge. Review your list of questions with others and ask them to help develop additional questions.

Now for a critical step in the creative process:

Challenge your assumptions.

As you continue to develop your ideas, you need to constantly question and challenge your assumptions.

As you answer the questions and narrow down your assumptions, it’s most likely that you are ready to solve the problem.

 

part of a series of ideas to shape and tone your creative muscles

Inspired and adapted from The Imagineering Workout

The Disney Imagineers

Imagineering logo

Edison’s Four Phases of Collaboration

As noted in yesterday’s post, I’m learning a whole new definition of “collaboration” in my role of Vision Room Curator at Auxano.

Webster’s defines collaboration as “the act or process of collaborating” – meh.

According to Sarah Miller Caldicott, great grandniece of Thomas Edison and author of the book Midnight Lunch, Edison viewed true collaboration as a value creation continuum. If one were to find a single notebook entry capturing Edison’s definition of true collaboration, Caldicott believes it would read something like this:

Applying discovery learning within a context of complexity, inspired by a common goal or a shared purpose.

True collaboration for Edison operated like an invisible glue that fused learning, insight, purpose, complexity and results together in one continuous effort.

Translating Edison’s decades of groundbreaking practices into language for the 21st Century leader, Caldicott has developed a four-phase model of the collaboration process.

 How do we create the foundation for true collaboration to flourish?

Phase 1 – Capacity: Select small, diverse teams of two to eight people who will thrive in an environment of discovery learning and collegiality.

 How can our collaboration team reframe the problem at hand, driving the greatest range of creativity and breakthrough solutions?

Phase 2 – Context: Focus the outlook of the team toward development of new context that broadly frames the problem or challenge under consideration. Use a combination of individual learning plus hands-on activities to drive perspectives for potential solutions.

 Can the collaboration team stay the course and continue forward despite disagreements?

Phase 3 – Coherence: Maintain collaboration momentum, creating frameworks for progress through inspiration, and inspirational leadership even though disagreements may exist. Newly discover, or re-emphasize, the shared purpose that binds the team together.

How can our collaboration team leverage internal and external networked resources nimbly and with speed?

Phase 4 – Complexity: Equip and reskill teams to implement new ideas or new solutions using internally and externally networked resources, rapidly accessing or managing complex data streams the team must navigate. Leave a footprint that contributes to a broader collective intelligence.

Edison leaves us a legacy we can return to over and over again as we newly shape a future that embraces the highest and best of our collaborative spirit.

If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.    –Thomas Edison

Go Aheadastound yourself…

A multi-part series being reposted in honor of Thomas Edison’s birth February 11, 1847

Brainsteering

Part of the “BookNotes” series – highlights from interesting books I’ve recently read

Brainsteering: A Better Approach to Breakthrough Ideas, by Kevin Coyne and Shawn Coyne

Brainsteering – taking all the creative energy normally associated with brainstorming and steering it in a more productive direction

2 Secrets to Brainsteering:

  1. If you ask the right questions, answers and good ideas will follow
  2. The right process for generating breakthrough ideas looks very different from what you’ve been taught

4 Criteria for the Right Question

  1. Forces you to take a perspective you haven’t taken before
  2. Limits the conceptual space you can explore
  3. Must still provide lots of highly attractive possibilities
  4. Just plain succeeds

5 Patterns of Right Questions

  1. Identifying unsolved customer questions
  2. “De-averaging” users and activities
  3. Exporing unexpected successes
  4. Imagining perfection
  5. Discovering unexpected headroom

Brainsteering Workshop

  • Understand the criteria that will be used to make decisions about the workshop ideas
  • Select the right questions
  • Choose the right people
  • Separate the group into small subgroups
  • Match the question to the subgroup
  • Isolate the idea crushers into one group (the Boss, the Bigmouth, the subject matter Expert)
  • Orient the participants
  • Conduct each ideation session according to a strict formula

Speed Reading Week, Day 5

Creative Thinkering, Michael Michalko

Have you ever asked yourself “Why didn’t I think of that?”

 If so, this book is for you. Bestselling creativity expert Michael Michalko shows that in every field of endeavor – from business and science to government, the arts, and even day-to-day life – our natural creativity is limited by the prejudices of logic and the structure of accepted categories and concepts. Through step-by-step exercises, illustrated strategies, and inspiring real-world examples, Creative Thinkering will show you how to synthesize dissimilar subjects, think paradoxically, and enlist the help of your subconscious mind. You will liberate your thinking and literally expand your imagination.

Creative Thinkering is filled with innovative exercises to strengthen your intuition. With every chapter you will learn something new – often from a situation or setting that you encounter every day. The book also contains fascinating stories and examples of how people use the power of creative thinkering. One of my favorites is about Walt Disney:

Using his imagination, Walt Disney uncritically explored fantastical ideas. Afterward, he would engineer these fantasies into feasible ideas and then evaluate them. He would shift his perspective three times by playing three separate and distinct roles in relation to them: those of the dreamer, the realist, and the critic.

On the first day, he would play the dreamer and dream up fantasies and wishful visions. He would let his imagination soar without worrying about how to implement his conceptions. The next day, he would bring his fantasies down to earth by playing the realist. As a realist, he would look for ways to work his conceptions into something practical. On the third day, he would play the part of the critic and poke holes in his ideas, asking, “Is this feasible?”

Got an idea or project coming up? Put the power of creative thinkering to work and you will be amazed at the results.