Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lessons From a Team Exercise

I came across a set of notes from a training session in which I had the good fortune of participating, where a specific breakout session spurred nice observations. The list will not look remarkable - - it could have come from a standard Fast Company magazine article. Of note was the sheer degree of improvement witnessed from the team task: from 28 seconds the first time we tried, down to 2.4 seconds after about 12 minutes of iterating, brainstorming, etc.

Here are lessons we jotted down regarding what spurred such terrific progress.

  • Everyone is "heard"
  • Provide coaching / take the feedback
  • Ensure everyone contributed
  • Maintain constant communication
  • Incremental goals were perceived as realistic (as opposed to stretch goals that are viewed as unreachable)
  • Continuous innovation
  • Continual improvement
  • Okay to ask "what if"
  • Have permission to fail
  • Truly challenge the norms
  • Closely review of the rules
  • Continually challenge the assumptions
  • Make sure the trial and error is manifested in actual physical actions (and not "stuck in people's heads")
  • Have a healthy awareness of the competition - not so little that you are aloof but not so much as to distract you
  • Clear, measurable metrics that could be directly associated to each person
  • Always know and try to beat your personal best
  • Make it fun & interesting
  • Ensure all are equal peers in people's minds (no politics and hierarchy to obstruct the collaboration)
  • Laptops down - be a single-minded "kundun" in our discussions

Monday, August 18, 2008

"I Head Up Product Management"

"And what do you do?"

It's a question that people wind up asking one another at some point in an initial conversation. I have heard my dear wife Molly (and others in her position) answer, "I'm a stay at home mom" or something to that extent. This never sat well with me. While a true statement, well, it lacks the nuance, heft or breadth her role carries. I think a full-time mom or dad is one of the grander, elusive, frustrating and rewarding assignments one can have. Particularly those that go "whole hog" and home school their child or children. (As for those who juggle a career and raise children, that's sure looks like yet a different, intricate and at times nutty ballgame.)

Back to the original answer stated up front - it is too simplistic. Perhaps due to my days in advertising, I pondered how to re-craft it in today's language. If it was an advertising strategy, it would be something like this:
Convince: Friends and acquaintances (particularly those who don't have children)
That: A "full time" parent's responsibilities can be more challenging than meets the eye
Because: The role has many facets, similar to their own day job
The response that emerged is much different, "I head up product management at our place. That includes leading up design, development, build, test, pilot, launch, choosing the raw materials, more recalls than I care for, retooling, and re-deploying. Those are our 2 models, and I'm their mom."

Product Lead, and Her Works-in-Progress
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

"Seeing" More

Take a look at the following two creations. How would you describe them?

Most adults will say the one the right is a pretty cool vehicle perhaps out of Star Wars, or similar Sci Fi movie. The on on the left, well, it is some simple car.

When I ask this to our boys, I get the opposite answer. That is, the one on the right is a space ship, with many features, but nothing more. The one on the left is bundled details, laden with history and is actually pretty high in the current pecking order of all their toys. Both were created by Lego but the "simple car" has much of its details embedded far into their imaginations.

As such, I have gained a deep respect for what your average Lego brick unleashes in a child. What's dismaying is how this energy seems less evident as we get older, too much detail is handed to us, gets in the way of our own visions, and we see less of what is possible, and more often, only see what is here now.

To that end, I wonder if a serial entrepreneur is a child at heart (or in mind) packaged inside the shape of an adult. And how we can nurture this ability through their childhoods. One person who appears to have taken this to heart is Leonardo da Vinci. For a view into some of his practices refer to an interesting book called How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci.