Cliff Atkinson interviews Steve Denning, former director of knowledge management at the World Bank. Steve answers the intriguing question: "What is a springboard story and how can it ignite action?"
Have you ever wondered how to cross the stream of knowledge that rushes through your company? Storytellers offer us some insights. Jack Maguire, author of The Power Of Personal StoryTelling, writes about Donald Davis who uses a metaphor of crossing a stream on stones to describe navigating one’s way through story.
In explaining his sense of metaphor, Davis points out that it’s not just a matter of the teller not needing a full-scale bridge (completely plotted text) to negotiate the stream (story). It’s also a matter of the trip being more natural and lively for both teller and listener if the teller uses a few well-placed stones rather than a bridge.While jumping from stone to metaphorical stone, the storyteller assures the story remains dynamic with each telling. What’s more, you exercise mental muscles that would atrophy by using the full-scale bridge.
I’ve read that people who use dumbbells receive physical and mental benefits that would otherwise escape them if they were to use a weight machine, since the motion is grooved by the structure of the machine.
Wikis provide the stepping stones to take a project from beginning to end. Two months ago, I didn’t even know that “wiki” means “quick” in the Hawaiian language. Then, I used Socialtext’s collaboration software; it combines a wiki with a blog. What did I learn?
In computer science terms: wikis are highly orthogonal constructs. Plain English, please. Wikis are easy to use, since they can be used independently or in any combination. Wikis are not hierarchical structures, they are organic structures. While a hierarchy turns a stream to a trickle, organic models keep information flowing, since their structure matches the needs of information-based projects -- parallel structures are powerful structures.
Seth Godin is working on a new secret project, and he’s using a wiki to make it happen. Now, he sees a wiki as part of the fabric of any collaboration.
This week, the Product Development and Management Association of Dallas held a panel discussion. The topic: New Product Development in Start-up Settings. The panel included executives from four companies based in Dallas--their products ranged from imaging systems for dental crowns to virtual identities for Internet users.
During the panel discussion, one of the executives suggested that engineers should interact with customers. That benefits flow when engineers understand your customers.
After the panel discussion, the executives entertained questions. Here’s what I found interesting. One audience member raised his hand and said, “You know, I really have a problem with engineers talking to customers. Engineers don’t have the communication skills to talk with customers. How do you overcome this limitation?”
Let’s skip past this basement view and listen to the answer given by Tom Allen, CIO of Privacy Inc.
Once a week, we have our software developers give a presentation to the rest of our company. This prepares them to present the benefits of our product to customers and venture capital investors.We didn’t have time to go into the details of their presentation methods, so here’s a couple ideas you may find yourself using during lunch and learn sessions.
During your presentation, use the pull of visual and metaphor to describe the benefits of your product. Your customers will remember your product (metaphor is at the core of memory), and your engineers will start to think visually and create edges for your products.
What do I think of engineers talking with customers? I’m glad you asked. How could they not talk with your customers? If you allow narrow thinking to limit your employees, wouldn’t that create a danger for your company--and a life-threating environment for start-ups? For narrow thinking is a broken-winged bird that can’t fly past the first round of financing.
Google has published a technical paper describing the Google File System (GFS). GFS is a distributed, scalable file system for Google applications. Consider this paragraph at the conclusion of the report:GFS has successfully met our storage needs and is widely used within Google as the storage platform for research and development as well as production data processing. It is an important tool that enables us to continue to innovate and attack problems on the scale of the entire web. You can think of GFS as a product platform -- it has a structure that would carry the Eiffel Tower.
In Revolutionizing Product Development, author Steven Wheelwright states that Steinway uses a product platform and has introduced only one major new piano model between 1970 and 1990. "Steinway customizes each piano, however, making it a handmade work of art. Steinway offers no two identical pianos, yet produces only a handful of core models."
Here's a secret: Product platforms make your life easier. It's hard work, however, once the platform is in place you can focus on craftsmanship and your customers.
When done correctly, product platforms lead to fast-cycle development, which in turn accelerates learning about technology, customer needs, and customer groups. For product platforms are sharp, two-edged swords, cutting costs with one edge and increasing revenues with the other. If two companies are at swords' points over market share, and only one uses a product platform, it's likely the one with a product platform will win market share. When you redirect your resources from single products to platforms, you'll be able to improvise and adjust to the needs of your market.
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to make a decision after you sample a product? Without a sample to taste or a model to touch, management may have to make important decisions based solely on PowerPoint slides. Product platforms enable you to create demonstrations, so you don't have to rely on presentations.
Children enter school as question marks and leave as periods.
- Neil Postman
Imagine having a shiny, red Ferrari in your driveway and not knowing how to operate it. Instead, you drive your Ford Pickup Truck to work each day.
This is the way many of us treat creativity--we act as though we’ve lost the keys to the creative side of our mind. We have two options when it comes to work. We can stay locked into our left-brain habits, or break free from learned traditions that constrain us, and learn how to drive the right side of our brains.
I believe that music is key--playing music. For playing a piano, for example, quiets the left side of your brain and readies it to receive answers and insights. What's more, playing piano enhances your ability to solve future problems by expanding your brain’s capabilities.
While attending graduate school, one of my professors told us that many of the great mathematicians--the ones who crafted the earliest theories of mathematics--played the piano. Perhaps they intuitively understood that playing the piano, in concert with their math research, would produce breakthrough results.
Armed with this knowledge, I decided to play my guitar when confronted with computer science problems. What I found was surprising and delightful. While coworkers struggled with problems and relied on brute force, I’d spend a pleasant 30 to 45 minutes playing guitar. And then, like magic, a flood of creative ideas would make my job a breeze. Not scientific proof, but real enough for me.
This week, I chanced upon music research by Dr. Frances Rauscher. In an article about how to think like a genius, Men’s Health magazine refers to 1993 research at the University of California in Irvine, led by Frances Rauscher, Ph. D. In this study, a group of students listened to Mozart’s Piano Sonata K 448. The magazine states: "Immediately afterwards, the students who had listened to the work of Salzbury’s favorite son demonstrated an increase in spatial learning that resulted in eight to nine-point increase in their IQ scores."
Using a little curiosity and a little search engine named Google, I discovered the real story behind Rauscher’s research. What the magazine fails to tell you is that this effect is temporary. Sorry guys! There’s no coach-potato-to-genius methodology. Thinking like a genius, even through music, requires active participation.
Fran Rauscher: The first big finding was the effects of listening to a Mozart piano sonata. We had a group of 36 college students listening to 10 minutes of Mozart, recorded relaxation instructions and silence. After each exercise, we had each do spatial-temporal and other tasks. On average, students scored about 8 to 9 spatial IQ points higher after listening to Mozart. But only their spatial-temporal scores were affected, and the effect was only temporary. Within 15 minutes, the effects dissipated. This suggests the sonata temporarily "primed" neural pathways of the brain that are also used for spatial reasoning.
The findings that are more important are the findings that show improved spatial learning abilities in children who study music...My favorite part of the interview?Fran Rauscher: I have a beautiful quote on my door. "In speaking about his renowned theory of relativity, Einstein said, 'It occurred to me by intuition, and music was the driving force behind that intuition. My discovery was the result of musical perception.'" Einstein played the violin, and the quote tells of a relationship between Einstein's love of science and love of music.
Could companies use music to help develop their intuition and create remarkable products? Several Sundays ago, I watched a morning TV program that profiled Google. The only thing I recall from the show is the white piano that sits in one of Google's offices. Perhaps Google is already using music in business.
I've listened to howling and yowling from executives after they've learned about money wasted on baseless training or bizarre team-building exercises. You've got to wonder, in our nonlinear world, what benefits could music training bring to business? Could musical perception be a driving force in new product development? Is music the key that starts your imagination?
With so many questions, what is certain? We need to escape linear thinking, and see ourselves riding a beam of light to new, imaginative business ideas.
Then why don't more companies make it easy for customers to provide product feedback? At least, that's the question Seth Godin is asking. I know what he’s talking about.
In the last two months, I've worked with several companies in Dallas that offer software products, but don’t offer something as simple as a menu option that would allow customers to send new product suggestions.
Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell provide 10 rules for becoming a feedback machine. They suggest that once you receive customer feedback, tell the customer how you're using their suggestion.
I've submitted a number of suggestions to companies over the years, but I've never been told how they were (or weren't) using my feedback. The exception: Creating Customer Evangelists.
Wouldn't it be amazing if companies pondered Seth's question? If they answer correctly, they can transform their business into a performance machine with a zoom engine. What’s more, in an interview with Cliff Atkinson, Seth provides answers that help you create a remarkable presentation for your product. The concepts discussed in the interview match the benefits of visual thinking presented in How to be Creative.