Tomorrow will be my first day in my new home office. For the last year and a half, I have been working from the couch, coffee shops, and the occasional co-working facility. As I picture how I will keep track of all of my projects in a visual representation on my wall, I thought about utilizing Agile, Scrum, Waterfall or Kanban. Kanban, which is Japanese for “visual sign” or “card,” won out of the four as a base for how I wanted to set up the board in my office. The change that I decided to make to traditional Kanban is that I will set up the board with the swim lanes matching my good friend Jason Scott Montoya’s IDEMA system.

The following paragraphs in burgundy are taken directly from the Medium channel for IDEMA.

An Introduction To IDEMA

IDEMA (Ideate > Discover > Execute > Maintain > Audit) is a problem-solving structure that helps organize business and life. It guides the creation process for making a living blueprint for your project, department, company or life.
It was conceived by Jason Montoya, Len Wikberg and Beth Coetzee in a desperate attempt to keep a good project manager at Noodlehead Marketing as we explored the lifecycle of projects.

The Benefits Of IDEMA

  • Operating within the IDEMA framework gives us context for ideas and activities.
  • It causes us to think about how to sustain ideas before bringing them to life.
  • IDEMA adds enough tension to refine ideas and projects, but minimizes friction for moving it forward.
  • It helps us get the right people in the right places doing the right actions.
  • IDEMA is a framework to organize life & business in a spreadsheet, Trello, Airtable, Basecamp, or any other preferred tool.

With the provided framework as creative commons, we encourage you take the system and add more details, steps, & sub-processes.
Keep it simple or make it complex, the decision is yours.

So What Is The IDEMA Framework?

Every idea has a place. Where does it now belong?

  1. Ideate. Capture Our Idea.
  2. Discover. Establish Intentions & Plan to Sustain.
  3. Execute. Start, Finish & Prepare to Maintain.
  4. Maintain. Sustain Our Idea.
  5. Audit. Determine Our Assessed Idea’s Fate.

Challenge & Commit To Our Idea Before Moving From One Stage To The Next.

I decided to use IDEMA because:

  1. It was created by someone I know, love, and support.
  2. My entire world is nothing but ideas. I don’t develop software, I deal in ideas.
  3. It follows a cycle that allows for the final phase of Audit to generate new ideas
  4. My weakness in the stages is #4 – Maintain. I want to get stronger at this and I want to make maintain the focus of my new habits as I move into my new home office.

I will post a part two to this post when I have the Kanban board with the IDEMA swim lanes set up and running. Until then, wish me luck!

 IDEMA image by Jason Montoya

As I was watching my five-year-old today, I saw him react with surprise at his own success during an outdoor activity. We had driven 30-minutes to a state park in Georgia where volunteers had set up lots of outdoor stations. Canoe rides, archery, BB guns, rock climbing, fishing, and more.

For my son, there seem to be three possibilities for any challenge he was faced with:

  1. He is fully confident in the task and would be surprised if the did not succeed
  2. He lacks full confidence, proceeds anyway and is happily surprised when he succeeds
  3. He wants nothing to do with the activity to start with and cannot be convinced to proceed

I watched in curiosity as he had these reactions and as I failed to predict which activities he would be confident in and which he would have no interest.

Paddle boat and canoe riding both called to him, involved no anticipation or nerves and resulted in an amazing time from start to finish. His confidence in himself and in the activity was absolute and there was no room or time for deliberation.

Big kid archery with compound bows got his attention but he was far too small to be able to pull the arrow back enough to make it fly. We headed over to find the little kid’s archery where he gathered his courage, calmed his nerves, and succeeded on the first try at shooting the arrow into the target area. He was surprised at his accomplishment and excited to try again. If he had walked away at this point he would have been on cloud nine, but he had two more arrows, each of which failed to launch. The second arrow fell out of the notch on the ground and the third arrow slapped him on the arm, upsetting him a bit. We praised him for his attempt and reminded him that he succeeded on the first arrow. I wondered afterward how this would all play out in his future if he were ever offered a bow and arrow again. Would it be his surprise at his success he would remember or the pain of being slapped by the arrow?

Rock climbing he wanted nothing to do with. He saw the activity and decided immediately that he did not want to participate. I was a little stumped on this one because of his reactions to other activities. What made him not want to proceed? Fear of heights? The long line of kids watching? The amount of time it had been since breakfast?

Do we allow room to surprise ourselves?

I started thinking about the different activities that I am absolutely confident in and the ones I am certain I will fail at. I tried to think of things that I might put in a category of “I’m not sure. I’ll try and see.”

Everything I could think of was either something I was excited to try and confident in or the polar opposite and wanted nothing to do with.

So where have I left room to surprise myself? On the drive home I tried to place things I have done that fit into a place of unsureness followed by surprise at success.

Generally, the things I want to do are all directly related to what I am powerfully confident in. The types of risks I am taking these days are big but they are calculated.

Over the 30 minute drive back home I realized that if I am going to change things and show my son what it looks like to try something that you are not sure you will succeed at, I will have to be intentional. So I started a new list.

Activities I am not confident in but am allowing room to surprise myself by trying.

  1. Learning to throw and catch a football correctly.
  2. Grilling steaks over charcoal that do not turn into charcoal.
  3. Learning to beatbox.
  4. Learning to play the piano.

That’s all I could come up with today, but I will make sure that the list continues to grow.

So what about you? Where are you allowing room to surprise yourself?

 Photo by Justin Young on Unsplash

Have you ever become hyper-aware of a particular muscle group in your body? I have. Around 8:00 pm last night I started being acutely aware of my forearms.

Here’s what I have been doing differently for the last week:

  • Typing more and using my mouse in weird positions until my office is set up again
  • Started driving a stick shift again after years of driving automatic
  • Waving  a leaf blower around my yard
  • Moving lots and lots of medium-sized, medium weighted boxes
  • Playing a new game with my son where he chases a large teddy bear around the house and I animate the teddy bear
  • Playing guitar for the first time in years

It was today when I was blowing leaves around my yard that I got a distracting burn in my flexor digitorum superficialis. All of a sudden I realized that the discomfort was just enough to pull me out of my flow state. Prior to this, I hadn’t realized I was in a flow state because I wasn’t doing anything creative that needed it. It bothered me that my flow state would be fragile enough to be defeated by forearm pain but it was exciting to know that I might have another avenue into the state of flow.

So what did I do? That’s right. I continued to push through the discomfort, not so that I could get the leaves into a pile but so that I could experiment with my flow state.

What is flow?

If you aren’t familiar with flow state, here is a quick definition:

In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time. – Wikipedia

Purposeful Discomfort

So why would I continue to do the activity for the sake of re-attaining my flow? Because I couldn’t believe that blowing leaves around the yard would allow me to enter flow in the first place. I did not realize that I enjoyed blowing leaves because today was the first time I have ever done it.

If we compare leaf blowing with leaf raking, they are for me two entirely different beasts. Apparently, leaf blowing puts me in flow, where leaf raking puts me in the opposite state of flow where I can do nothing but be overly aware of the flow of time and have a mild displeasure about the activity overall. I call this being “in my head.”

Why does this matter?

For an improviser who is also a writer, flow state is heavily sought after and deeply prized. Getting myself to the right place for flow mentally and physically can at times be easy, and at other times elusive. To find an activity that achieves this while simultaneously discovering that my forearm pain pulled me out of it was both exciting and frustrating.

I turned the leaf blower back on and began again. Boom… right back into the flow, then, bam, forearm pain, and back out again.

It wasn’t until about 15 minutes into this practice that I found I had accepted the pain as a warmth instead of a warning sign. This time I slipped into the flow and stayed there until my wife let me know it was time to greet our son home from his first day of riding the bus.

I headed to the street to watch for the bus feeling oddly in tune with an activity I would have assumed I would detest. I love happy accidents.

So, what sorts of activities get you into a state of flow? What pulls you out again?

 Photo by Jack van Tricht on Unsplash

If we are focusing on intentional interactions with others, it is necessary for us to know what it would look like to succeed at intentionality and what it would look like were we to fail.

Today we add the concept of The Crab Mentality.

Crab mentality, sometimes referred to as crabs in the bucket (also barrel, basket or pot), is a way of thinking best described by the phrase, “if I can’t have it, neither can you.”[1] The metaphor refers to a bucket of crabs. Individually, the crabs in the story could easily escape from the bucket, but instead they are described as grabbing at each other in a useless “king of the hill” competition which prevents any from escaping and ensures their collective demise.[2][3][4][5] The analogy in human behavior is claimed to be that members of a group will attempt to negate or diminish the importance of any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of envyspiteconspiracy, or competitive feelings, to halt their progress. – Wikipedia

Pushing and Pulling Down

So if I am someone who wishes to, at best, lift up someone else within an interaction, I must also know that at the very least my goal is not to pull/push down.

Pushing down happens when we are in a better state than the person in an interaction and we choose to put them in a worse position than when we encountered them.

Pulling down indicates that we are either in the same position or worse than the person in an interaction and we choose to put them in an even worse position than when we encountered them.

Pulling Down is where the crab mentality kicks in.

If I am in the same position as someone else, I can do something that helps them up to another level, but it will leave me in the same position as before. I may decide that I do not want to use my opportunity, talents, or network to lift the other person up. I may think to myself that if I cannot have this thing, then why should I lift them up to reach it?

However, If my basic needs are provided for and my situation will not be made worse by helping someone else, then Lower the Ladder and Only Lift Up pushes me to do it and to be genuinely happy for the person who got the ladder and the lift.

What causes us to want to Pull Down?

At the end of the Wikipedia introduction, it mentions envy, spite, conspiracy, or competitive feelings. I like this break-down a lot because it covers the darker side of our motivation fairly well.

Envy – a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.

Spite – a desire to hurt, annoy, or offend someone.

Conspiracy – a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.

Competitive Feelings – having a strong desire to win or to be the best.

Recap

So when I am in the middle of an intentional interaction I must remind myself of my goals:

  1. Ensure that I will not be put in a bad position by lifting the other person up.
  2. Ensure the other person will not be enabled or pushed down by my well-intended lift up.
  3. Lower the Ladder to them so that they can help themselves out under their own power.
  4. Empower the other person to rise up a level even if it means they will now be higher than myself.

What situations can you see yourself hesitating to help out of envy, spite, conspiracy, or competition? What can be done to prepare yourself to ignore these instincts and follow through with lifting up?

Shoulders of Giants (what does this mean?)

 Jason Scott Montoya’s blog post called Push or Pull? An Insight To Leading People inspired me to add The Crab Mentality to my philosophy of Lower the Ladder and Only Lift Up.

 Image courtesy Half Size Me

My wife and I were finishing up the last of our move from living with family to our new rental home just five minutes down the road. We ran out of boxes and were getting the last items by shoving them into black plastic garbage bags. On one of the trips out to the car, I had a rather emotional moment. I was placing a few of my possessions into a garbage bag and rose, lifting two bags, one in each hand. As I started to walk to my car, I thought about how it felt to be carrying my favorite items in a trash bag. It felt awful. Even though it was me who came up with the idea to use the bags instead of buying more boxes, and even though I was going to a new home of my own choosing just a few minutes down the road, it really felt terrible.

Then I remembered something I had seen on facebook, that made me feel a lot of apples-to-apples-empathy with how foster children enter the system. I did a quick search and found the non-profit that was dealing directly with this issue:

When most children enter foster care, they receive two trash bags to carry their belongings to their foster home.

About Sweet Cases

Sweet Cases consist of duffel bags filled with hygiene kits, blankets, coloring books, crayons and miscellaneous toys.  These duffel bags are given to some of the 500,000 children newly brought into the foster care system each year, many of whom were previously forced to carry their belongings in trash bags when being shifted from one home to another—sometimes multiple times each year.  By taking the place of a black trash bag, sweet cases help a foster child keep their belongings—and their self-worth—intact.

About Together We Rise

In 2008, TWR was founded by Danny Mendoza after he discovered that his 9 year-old cousin was living in a car. He wanted to help but ran into obstacles because he was under the age of 21. Danny became disheartened after he was denied the ability to help his cousin and youth like his cousin.

Danny then had a vision to create ways to help youth in foster care without becoming a foster parent.  After telling others about his vision, he was inspired by encouragement from friends and colleagues to use his ambition to help others and start a new organization.  Danny’s vision turned reality when he created, Together We Rise,  now a nation-wide organization changing the way youth experience foster care.

Why I Believe in This

If you have ever heard me talk about my philosophy for intentional encounters, you know that I always attempt to Lower the Ladder and Only Lift Up. This is how I live life and is now the working title for a book I am writing.

Lowering the ladder means to help someone out of a hole they are in by adding a tool or knowledge that allows them to get out of that hole under their own power. I believe this is an important part of helping people not become enabled into defeatist behaviors and allows them to feel a sense of accomplishment even though they did receive help getting there.

Only Lifting Up means that in every encounter where a need is discovered you are helping that person reach a new level in their life in a way that does not put you in a bad place yourself. If you cannot help the person, then the alternative is to avoid pushing them down by instilling in the conversation a sense of hope and retained dignity.

I believe that this non-profit is doing exactly the right thing by providing these children something that both Lowers the Ladder and Only Lifts Up.

1.) The duffel bag acts as the ladder which allows the child experience a very difficult time without also experiencing an unintentional message that they or their belongings are garbage. Because the child carries their own belongings under their own power, altering HOW they carry their belongings can change how the process the entire encounter. If this is the first time they have been in foster care, it may also be the first time they have to put their belongings in a plastic bag and may be the first time they do not have things that comfort them and make them feel human.

2.) The bags Only Lift Up. I can see no way in which this project inadvertently pushes the child down.  They are filled with items that are useful, connecting, and healthy for the children. They do not fill the bags with candy and treats.

The bags include:

  • Teddy bear(s)
  • Fleece blanket(s)
  • Hygiene kit(s), including tooth brush, dental floss and small hour glass shaped timer
  • Crayons
  • Coloring book(s)
  • Duffle bag(s) (provided by Together We Rise)

 If you would like to contribute you can do so at this site 

As I was searching for a way to trade services or barter with those in my community, I found a site called Simbi.

The name is a reference to Symbiotic Relationships:

Symbiotic relationships are a special type of interaction between species. Sometimes beneficial, sometimes harmful, these relationships are essential to many organisms and ecosystems, and they provide a balance that can only be achieved by working together. – Sarah Friedl

Here is their video:

From the Simbi Website:

Choose from over 100,000 services
On Simbi, you can exchange services with other members or offer to “pay” them for their time using your credits

Offer what you love
By offering services that bring you joy, our community gives you the opportunity to share your hobbies, skills, and talents in a whole new way.

Find symbiosis!
Members get to start conversations and propose exchanges. Don’t want their service? Ask to be paid in simbi “” and choose another service you want later. Every deal is a win-win!

So I decided to search for my original need, guitar lessons in exchange for something I am good at. I chose the third listing on my screen because the user was in my time zone.

In the section where she is looking for services she lists, music & audio, and Art & Design. Because I can offer art and design help I would now be able to trade my time for her time and no money would exchange hands.

 

So what services could I trade for something in my area that would help out my wife?

After a quick search in my zip code, I find Chip who is a licensed massage therapist and lives not far from me.

Just like Tehila, Chip is also looking for Art and Design services. So in both cases, I could do something in my spare time to trade for something I want to have or learn.

A while back, I was a member of Paperbackswap.com where I would frequently get a rather nice book for about a dollar and a book I was done with. I liked this because paying full price for books doesn’t work well for me and borrowing books to read for leisure from the library almost always results in renewing twice and then paying fines when I don’t have it back on time.

Now there is a way to trade exactly what I am good at for exactly what another person is good at. Wish me luck. I will write another blog post as a follow up after I give it a try.

If you join with this link, I get some credit on Simbi.

 

There I stood, electric hedge trimmers in one hand and a ninety-nine-foot extension cord in the other. On the ground in front of me lay a one-foot extension cord.

At this moment I had three items that were essentially useless. There was the hedge trimmer which now had no power, and two wildly different links of perfectly non-functioning cord.

Moments before this I was happily chopping away at a holly bush and then when I wasn’t paying attention, I cut into the thing that you should never cut into… the thing that powers you.

So let us take a moment and name our players in this tale:

We have the Electric Hedge Trimmers which work on the front lines, are aggressive and are seen as being risky and a little dangerous. They see themselves as the only one who really does anything real work around here. If you take an electric hedge trimmer and really look at its design, the cord is not long enough for the trimmer to cut it off. You cannot physically get the cord into the teeth of the trimmer, even if you really pulled it and tried. Without electricity, even if you stuck your finger into the blades, they really won’t do much damage. By itself the trimmer can plug into an outlet, work perfectly, and never cause damage to itself or the outlet. But how many holly bushes are there within the six-inch reach of an electrical outlet?

Next, we have a ninety-nine-foot electric cord who works seamlessly with the one-foot electric cord. They work together so well that no one even knew there were two extension cords there. Most of the time, the trimmers see the ninety-nine-foot cord as something that is holding things back and frustrating to have to drag along behind you. The ninety-nine-foot cord has to get the power a really long distance, something that the one-foot cord cannot do. But the ninety-nine-foot cord cannot work with the outlet. There is no interface. Without the one-foot cord, the others cannot do their jobs.

Lastly, we have the one-foot extension cord. This guy understands how the outlet works and how to get power from it. He works great with the ninety-nine-foot cord, and for the most part, just tries to stay away from the hedge trimmers. They have been around each other before a few times at parties but the trimmers always seem to forget they even exist. When others do take the time to notice the one-foot-cord they see something that is a little sad and hard to understand.

When everything was functioning correctly, it was a perfect line of transport. The ninety-nine foot and the one-foot extension cords were of one mind and the hedge trimmers were getting what they needed to do the client facing action. Then… nothing. No work is getting done. The trimmer is furious. The Gardner is frustrated.

Let’s recap the metaphor, shall we?

  1. The only thing that actually USES the electricity are the trimmers.
  2. The trimmers think they do all of the work and tend to get most of the gardener’s attention.
  3. Without the other components, the trimmers can accomplish nothing.
  4. If the trimmer lashes out, everyone loses, including the Gardener.
  5. We sometimes resent the ninety-nine-foot cord for slowing us down or holding us back
  6. We tend to only notice the one-foot cord when it is no longer doing its job.

So let us consider our varied roles in our organizations and in our systems.

When are you the hedge trimmer?
The ninety-nine-foot cord?
The one-foot-cord?
How does it feel to be in each role?
When you are a cord, what makes you feel appreciated?
When you are the hedge trimmer how do you approach that role?
What behaviors make the system work well from each of the three perspectives?

A huge thank you to my friend Erica Marx for helping me crawl through the finish line on this one. She proofed the ending and thought it wasn’t my best work. The new ending reflects her thoughtfulness.

For this week’s Sunday Improv Experiment I will be taking sets of three random words from creativitygames.net, saying what it makes me think of, and then writing a bit of the story behind it.

I will state word 1 + word 2 + word 3 from the generator and then = my first thought.

Wish me luck!

monkey + vitamins + decorator = the statue of willie b at the atlanta zoo
When I was a kid, my parents would take me to the zoo. At the time, the most captivating part of the trip was always getting to see Willie B, the Silverback Gorilla. The first time I saw him he was in a cage with only a television and a tire swing. The next time I clearly remember visiting him, he was out in an open exhibit outdoors. I remember thinking how much happier he must be now and why on earth they thought a TV and a tire swing were what a gorilla would want 24 hours a day. The last time I saw Willie B he was a statue as the real Willie B died in the year 2000 at the age of 41. More about Willie B here.

knife + teacher + barber = watching sweeny todd for the first time
When I first started studying theatre in high school, I got very confused between the play The Barber of Seville and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street  by Sondheim. In my mind they were combined into one story. Now keep in mind I didn’t have an internet to go and check and listening to Sweeney Todd songs, while we read excerpts from The Barber of Seville, only perpetuated the problem. I am fairly certain that my drama teacher could have corrected this any time she wished, but far too entertained by my juxtaposition. It wasn’t until college, when I saw a recording of Sweeney Todd all the way through that this was all cleared up but by then I am sure there were countless confused drama majors that were very frustrated with my explanation.

nun + ipad + beast = sally field as the flying nun
I watched Sally Field religiously when I was a kid, both in her role as Gidget and as the Flying Nun. I am hearing from parents and teachers that of a lot of children nowadays that only want to immerse themselves in their tablet computers.  It makes me wonder if they would be enchanted by a flying nun? I mean, I remember waiting and waiting in the show until she would finally have a reason to fly, and then… liftoff! Later in life, I saw Sally Field in the movie Punchline with Tom Hanks. She was amazing. Sally Field is a beast.

Oh dear. I seem to have gotten addicted to the generator. Here’s what just came out of my brain.

herb + ladder + genius = my relatives growing pot in my grandfather’s amongst the tomato plants.

backpack + tail + wood = my father being sprayed by a skunk on a backpacking trip and thinking everything smelled like skunk for two weeks after.

park + tax + apple pie = as american as apple pie, taxes, and south park. 

toy + submarine + coat = the book tintin and red rackham’s treasure had tintin wear a coat and pilot in a submarine shaped like a shark.

sunburn + fireman + fact = extreme exposure can cause third degree sunburns similar to those suffered in a house fire. fact.

bandit + luggage + junk = stagecoach robbers in 1883 must have hit bust on some of their hijackings, disappointed in the quality of their stolen goods.

Happy Sunday everyone!

 Photo by Willard

I learned about GOTE in my freshman year of college as I was studying theatre. GOTE, which stands for “Goal, Obstacle, Tactics, and Expectation”, is an acronym devised by Robert Cohen and was introduced as a way to approach playing a character and telling great stories. I took that approach and applied it to improvisation, teaching it in my intro to improv class and using it for team coaching. It was around 2003 that I realized that GOTE had become my way to help others in my life to get unstuck.

Goal – What do you want? Do you want to work on Wall Street? Do you want the girl next door to notice you? Do you want to discover a cure for the common cold?

Obstacle – Who stands in your way of getting what you want? What stands in your way? Is there a rule that is stopping you? A lack of funds? A leader with a grudge?

Tactic – What will you do to get past the obstacle that is in your way of getting what you want? What will you say? What will you do?

Expectation – What do you expect to happen if you get what you want? Do you expect to be happy? Do you expect to feel content? Do you expect to feel powerful?

It is this basic framework that I have used to help others discover the things that are out of alignment in their life and are causing them to lack contentment.

When there is clarity, we can find a clear path using GOTE and begin moving towards real results. But what happens when there is no clarity? What happens when we remove our own clarity?

Interestingly enough, getting to your goal is not usually about simply circumventing the obstacles in your life. The biggest eye-opener for those I help usually comes when we get to expectation. Many fail to honestly and rigorously examine their own expectations and decide if they are realistic or if they are perhaps downplayed or heightened.

GOTE is used to craft great stories. It is when we begin to tell stories about our GOTE that the problems arise. 

When we really try to go about getting what we want, we must remove excuses first because they are the obstacles that exist in the most dangerous of places… our own minds. It is in examining our excuses that we discover the stories we have told ourselves about the situation we find ourselves in may not be the most accurate of tales. We may have assigned someone in our mind as a villain as a way to excuse why we have not gotten where we want to get. We may overemphasize the hold our upbringing has on us, or how much money we might really need to accomplish our goals.

When we look at obstacles, people often think they just need to figure out a tactic to get past the villain, but the first step is actually to examine if they really are a villain at all.

When we place strong expectations on an outcome, we change not only the obstacles and tactics but we also change the goal. If our expectation is too unreasonable and our goal is therefore much bigger than it needs to be, we may protect ourselves by convincing ourselves that the obstacle is insurmountable.

It helps to look at GOTE in reverse. Sadly, ETOG is not as fun to say.

Expectation – What is my expectation if I were to get what I want? Is my expectation based in a firm reality? Have I told myself a story that has thrown my expectation completely out of whack?

Tactic – What have I really tried to do to get around the things that I believe are blocking me? Am I really seeking to move forward into action in my life or am I lost in the emotions I have stirred up with the stories I have told myself?

Obstacle – What is the truth about the things that are in my way? If I remove the obstacles that are not as bad as I told myself they were, will I discover that my biggest obstacle is really my own fear of success or failure? Will I discover that I care for my comfort too much to want to do the difficult things achieving my goal would require?

Goal – What is it that I want that I am currently getting in life that is in the way of getting my bigger want? Is my comfort stopping me? Is the fiction I have created in my mind going to dissolve if I attempt to go after it?

These ideas, when combined together, allow us to go through our current stories and then go through again and define our realities.

Take a moment today and ask yourself… What is my REAL GOTE?

 Photo by Michael Kahl on Unsplash

When a company, team, or individual goes about creating a strategy, they like to have as close to a full picture as possible of all the details to give themselves the best chance of heading in the right direction. But what about times when you don’t have a full picture?

When I am working, there will be constant course corrections as I move forward on a given project. What I hope to avoid is not the course corrections, but instead, to avoid missing the vital moment when we need to start moving forward.

To sum up, in most cases I will not have the full picture of the need, the obstacles, and the solution so I will need to make a logical leap using the data I have gathered at that point.

This is where things get tricky because as we mentioned the average person is not comfortable with making decisions without all of the facts. So how do we fill in the gaps in our knowledge enough to know we aren’t jumping blindly to our doom?

The Metaphor

The frog DNA metaphor is taken from the novel and subsequent film Jurrasic Park by Michael Crichton in which he describes a world where scientists have collected enough dinosaur DNA to clone a dinosaur. Their problem is that they are missing sections of the DNA strands and must fill it with bird, lizard, and frog DNA to make a complete picture. Haven’t seen the movie? Shame on you! Want to remind yourself what I’m talking about? Here is a video for a 3 minute refresh.

In all fairness, due to a plot device, the frog DNA turns out to have been a tragic error, but the metaphor is just far too fun to let go just because of the movie’s outcome.

So in this situation I ask myself “what is the most logical data to include that is the most similar to the data I have already collected?”

What I use as frog DNA:

  • My knowledge of the customer or user of the end product.
  • Existing research from another similar field.
  • Existing research from a very different field that aligns with this project.
  • What we know about humans from the fields of psychology, sociology, and neuroscience.
  • What I know about myself and those closest to me.

Applying Improvisation

When I am improvising a scene in front of an audience, I must play characters as close to the reality that we have created so far in the show.  But when I do not know a character would do, I try to envision a version of myself or someone close to me in a situation where I might this choice might be a reality.

I am realistic about myself and how imperfect I am in the right circumstances, so I can usually come up with a scenario that would cause me to act boldly enough in a given scenario to match my character. If not, I try to do the same work with someone that I know that is different from myself but similar to the character.

High Velocity Decision Making

Why would I want to use frog DNA instead of just waiting for the remainder of the information? Why take the risk in order to get moving? Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com recently filled in a great explanation for me in his annual letter to shareholders:

“Most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in his annual letter to shareholders, released Wednesday. “If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably being slow.”  One of the tenets of the Day 1 mentality is to make faster decisions, he said. But it’s not just about speed. Anyone can pick things fast willy-nilly. You have to somehow make high-quality, high-velocity decisions,” Bezos wrote. “Easy for start-ups and very challenging for large organizations.” -Jeff Bezos

In improvisation we defer judgment, accept the ideas presented, and play them out to the best of our abilities. Working with improvisation allows us to make the types of high-velocity decisions that Mr. Bezos speaks of.

Third, use the phrase “disagree and commit.” This phrase will save a lot of time. If you have conviction on a particular direction even though there’s no consensus, it’s helpful to say, “Look, I know we disagree on this but will you gamble with me on it? Disagree and commit?” By the time you’re at this point, no one can know the answer for sure, and you’ll probably get a quick yes. – Jeff Bezos

Beginning improvisers disagree and commit so often that they eventually start skipping the part where they disagree (the judgment) and jump straight to the commit (yes, and.)

So what happens in improv when something we do doesn’t work well right away because of the frog DNA that we use? We course correct and refine. We add in additional data that we learned along the way and use it to make the overall story better and stronger. This is all done without ever pointing at someone and saying “that is a bad idea!”

The steps for using frog DNA

  1. Get as close as you can to the 70% mark on the data that you need.
  2. Examine the gaps in your data and define what you are missing as clearly as possible.
  3. Fill in those gaps with frog DNA. Whatever you have, and as close as you can get to the original source.
  4. Run the strategy as if it were a reality and look for logic issues.
  5. Jump back to #3 again and continue with other frog DNA until the strategy is as stable as possible.
  6. When stable, run the strategy.
  7. Be prepared to course correct, and course correct, and course-correct again.

In conclusion

So what are some high-velocity decisions you made and what was your frog DNA? What decisions that you have been sitting on because you want all the facts first, but you are realizing you might never have in time?