Performance Management Company Blog

Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Category: Thinking

Innovation and Thinking – Cognitive Dissonance and Creativity

There are plenty of good tools out there for generating new ideas and momentum about innovating in the workplace. And I would like to think that our Square Wheels approach is one of the good ones. We set the situation that the people are pushing the wagon with Square Wheels but the cargo represent better ideas for improving the journey. There are all sorts of linkages and it is really easy to facilitate a discussion of real workplace issues and opportunities.

The main illustration has evolved to look like this:

Square Wheels Facilitationand we are implementing our training program to teach supervisors and managers how to facilitate discussions and to involve and engage people for workplace improvement purposes. That all comes together at The Square Wheels Project, which will also have a social media back-end to allow people to share their experiences as well as coach each other to roll forward #MoreBetterFaster.

My newest thought for how to illustrate the benefits looks like this:

Brains, Square Wheels and Round Wheels, an image by Scott SimmermanMy goal is to get people to step back from their wagons and look for new or different or better ideas to make improvements. Perspective is a key to choosing to do things differently.

Your thoughts on this would be great! You can also check us out at TSWP to see how we are rolling all this forward. It is new and pretty thumpy at the moment but your ideas and feedback will be helpful in smoothing all things out and making this truly effective as a tool for organizational improvement, coaching and simple innovation,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

 

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

 

 

 

 

Challengers: People to play Devil's Advocate and Contrarians

Everyday news is awash with examples of bad corporate decisions, the ones that make you wonder, “How could they do that?” There are huge corporate decision-making failures such as witnessed with GM and the ignition issues or Bridgestone and the flipping Ford Explorers where problems were covered up. There are others, like the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan where backup generators to run the cooling systems were located in an area subject to flooding, a decision which caused 150,000 to flee and the eventual loss of many lives and livelihoods. And then, there is Duke Power’s very delayed decision to clean up 70 miles of the Dan River which they contaminated with 140,000 tons of toxic coal ash sludge that may never get cleaned up.

And there must be a zillion similar small examples happening every day in every organization, decisions that could be greatly improved if someone’s role was to challenge the thinking rather than to simply go along (often referred to now as The GM Shrug). GM people knew of the safety problem early — it was detected even before the first of these cars came on the market, according to an internal investigation about their handling of this issue. But nothing was done and the cars were manufactured and sold, resulting in some deaths and other problems.

A blog by Dan Rockwell on seven secrets to success, referenced in another post of mine, suggest this decision-supporting idea as one of the key secrets:

#6.  Embrace forward facing contrarians.

Conformists don’t build the future, but forward facing contrarians pull you forward. Protect them from the frustrations of others, as much as possible.

Personally, I do not think of the label of Contrarian as being much of a positive one, nor its alternative, The Devil’s Advocate. Contrarian sounds too “centennial” and angry – I mentally image some Roman guy in a toga with a sword standing on a pedestal or something. The Devil’s Advocate role was thought to originate with the Roman Catholic Church in 1587 to challenge against canonization of a person, “to take a skeptical view of the candidate’s character, to look for holes in the evidence, to argue that any miracles attributed to the candidate were fraudulent, and so on. The Devil’s advocate opposed God’s advocate.” (from wikipedia)

But what do we label this person?? What do we call that role? How can we frame this challenging job for teams in a positive way with our language?

– Divergent Repostulator?
– Anti-Advocate?
– Challenger?
– Re-Conceiver / Re-Conceptualizer
– Reverse Thinker?
– Polymorpheus Recapitulator?

I’m thinking Contrarian has a nicer ring than Devil’s Advocate but that Challenger has an even better framework for organizational improvement than Contrarian… I’m going with Challenger as that positive role for helping groups make better decisions. Appoint a temporary one today for your groups.

Square Wheels LEGO Poster of Challenger to decisions

I will build that concept into some of my debriefing tools for my team building games. With six people on a team in The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, for example, one of those people can certainly operate in a way to positively challenge the “group-think” and help drive out better strategic and tactical thinking.

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

 

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Thoughts on Change and Choice – a Square Wheels LEGO cartoon

I was thinking about a discussion about climate change and decision-making and “considered alternatives” and things like that and I just happened to see one of the illustrations I did for my Susan and Courage slideshare package the other day.

And the whole idea of decision-making and information gathering popped into my head so I adjusted that original cartoon to look like this:

LEGO Politics Brain in a Box

You can see lots more cartoons on my poems blog – click the image!

My thought is that you need to at least get people to STOP doing what they have always done in order to look for possibilities for improvement or change. Ideas are just not implemented, they first need consideration…

If you have not seen these before, my main cartoon in LEGO that sets up the above theme looks like this one:

How things really work in most organizations...

And the above is based on the Square Wheels illustrations that we have been selling in a variety of toolkits that anchor to these line-art drawings, this one with one of my poems embedded into the main idea:

Square Wheels One poem Always Do Pretty Rotten

Square Wheels represent the things that work, but that do not work smoothly. Round Wheels are already IN the wagon, but getting the leadership and the team to consider these as possibilities for improvement represents the real challenge. From there, implementation of these ideas is often pretty straightforward. We KNOW how to implement things; choosing to do so is often the real issue of teams, organizations, and societies.

You can find lots of articles within the blog posts on this blog — there are over 400 of them now and searching is pretty easy since I keyword them. Click here to go to the main home page.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, creator of the Square Wheels images and toolsDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of the The LEGO Group

 

Learning – What it really is, illustrated

I was reading an article about education and the thought struck me that I can illustrate and define learning a bit, at least how I see it through the lens of my Square Wheels illustration.

Square Wheels One Learning definition words green

After all, what good is learning if you simply choose to continue to do the same things the same way over and over. I think learning has to do with having more choices about options and ideas. But it is really all about implementation, and stopping and stepping back from the wagon long enough to consider them.

After all, continuing to do the same things when you could be doing something more better faster is simply silly at best and dumb when it negatively impacts the world around you.

Square Wheels One Don't Just DO Stand red border(click on the image above for a really funny post on perspective.)

Seriously!

Facilitate involvement and engagement:

SWs Facilitation Guide $50

Yeah, Seriously!

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

Business Haiku – Square Wheels thoughts and ideas

It is well known that images add to imagination and that poems and quips often anchor ideas to make things more memorable. I have a lot of Square Wheels and Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine images and have done a LOT of poems, quips and similar with the image as a visual anchor.

More recently, I started playing with Haiku and the images and will paste up a few of them here and lots more on my poem blog. To spring over there, click on any of the Haiku below and you will go over to the main poems on the workplace blog of mine.

Here is one on continuous continuous improvement:

Square Wheels One Haiku working together

and this one on possibilities for improvement:

Square Wheels One Haiku Boss views the path

and this one on being frustrated with nothing changing:

Square Wheels One Haiku tender resignation

Sometimes you feel like you are just getting nowhere with all your efforts.

Rat Cage Haiku work hard

Yeah, frustration with nothing improving and no one listening is a real problem generating un-engagement and other reactions:

Pin Balloon Haiku Mad Pin hit balloon

So, eventually we reach a point where we can play with ideas. Often, a new good ideas really prevents one from going back and doing things the same old way. We make personal improvements.

Square Wheels Twaining Haiku wagon on blocks

I hope you like reading these as much as I like doing them. I want them to be reflective, to generate some alternative thinking about possibilities for organizational and personal improvement. Inspiration!

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

Innovation, Space Pens and Myths – an interesting article

I saw this online today and thought to repost, because I think it is a good story and one that relates to how we look at things like innovation and functionality in our organizations. It is the case of a myth, a Square Wheel (graphite dust) and the design of a round wheel solution.

The story comes from this Jason Kottke’s blog / website – Kottke.org — I think it is a good example of a good story, and one where the ACTUAL story is just as good as the myth.

space-pen

There’s a story about NASA’s incredibly expensive space pen and Russia’s simpler solution that gets trotted out every time some large organization introduces some complex, bloated, over-engineered product or process. The story (Snopes.com, with details on the design of the pen) goes like this:

During the space race back in the 1960’s, NASA was faced with a major problem. The astronaut needed a pen that would write in the vacuum of space. NASA went to work. At a cost of $1.5 million they developed the “Astronaut Pen”. Some of you may remember. It enjoyed minor success on the commercial market.

The Russians were faced with the same dilemma.

They used a pencil.

Fantastic story, right? Except that’s not what happened. NASA originally used pencils in space but pencils tend to give off things that float in zero-g (broken leads, graphite dust, shavings) and are flammable. So they looked for another solution. Independent of NASA, the Fisher Pen Company began development of a pen that could be used under extreme conditions:

Paul C. Fisher and his company, the Fisher Pen Company, reportedly invested $1 million to create what is now commonly known as the space pen. None of this investment money came from NASA’s coffers — the agency only became involved after the pen was dreamed into existence. In 1965 Fisher patented a pen that could write upside-down, in frigid or roasting conditions (down to minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit or up to 400 degrees F), and even underwater or in other liquids. If too hot, though, the ink turned green instead of its normal blue.

After testing, NASA ordered 400 Fisher pens for use on space missions at a cost of under $1000. Russia switched to using the pens a year later. Fisher still sells the original Space Pen and you can get it on Amazon for about $32.

Actually, you can get it for $26, just in case you need to write upside down!

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

 

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Thoughts on thinking about decision-making

Decision-making and motivation, two related but pretty complex issues. If you read some blogs, you might think that there is some silver bullet to get a grip on these thing. But in my thinking,

It is Dangerous to Know The Answer.

Dangerous only because once you think you know, then you will stop looking… (You can see a lot more about this paradox in my article on managing and leading change, along with a joke and a surprising set of punchlines. Click here to see that article on change and thinking.

And sometimes, it is simply hard-headeness and stubbornness that gets in the way of making better decisions about things. We select ideas from “considered options” and if we already know the answer to something, we are not often willing to spend the time and energy looking for alternatives.

A blog I read recently said,

Over fifty years of scientific research has revealed that there are three distinct styles of decision-making. Each of us can make decisions in all three ways, but we tend to develop a preference for one more than the other two. This preference becomes a subconscious force, affecting the decisions we make on a daily basis and shaping how we perceive the world around us and ourselves. The three decisional styles are personal, practical, and analytical.

Well, that sure seems like a simple answer. Gee, only three styles… And there may be some truth in that. (You can find the blog post here.)

My experience lends me to believe that things are a bit more complicated than that. In a LinkedIn thread on this subject, I responded with this:

There are a variety of patterns of decision-making and I will take a position that no one assessment would possibly cover them all, but that it might give some clues as to patterns and preferences.

From the NLP literature, there are different “convincer systems” that operate to confirm a decision prior to action. I am a kinesthetic decision maker — I gotta feel that it is right “in my gut” before doing things. But I am also an auditory processor of information, so that my self-talk about it is good.

We all have different sorting styles for dealing with information, which is another thing I like from the NLP literature. I prefer fast, big-chunk, random possibilities sorting, which others would prefer to sort things in a slower, smaller unit, sequential way looking for outcomes. (There are 7 other patterns that are used, like sorting for I, You or Us, for example.)

From the old Kepner-Tregoe literature, there is a flow chart for decision making. (It is now called something else) but there is a logical and “scientific” framework for dealing with information.

From the work of Ned Herrmann is the HBDI tool, which gets into how individuals and teams think.

You have the Six Thinking Hats of Ed DeBono, which is really easy to teach and to do and which generates a variety of different teams.

LD Thumbs Up teamwork poem

Some organizations, like the Nuclear Power Institute, teach their teams to always appoint someone who functions as Devil’s Advocate, whose role is to ALWAYS challenge every decision from different viewpoints and positions, to insure that people have thought about it from all sides.

Gene Calvert wrote a book called High Wire Management years ago that looked at decision-making from a risk management viewpoint, and how most really successful managers look at and deal with risk (with some surprising findings, actually).

It is a rich literature about how individuals and teams make decisions, one that will insure that you will want to use a team process for so many complex decisions about things. And that is just the decision-making side of all this.

The “motivational” side of things gets even wilder. I have a doctorate degree in that kind of stuff but will basically say that if anyone give you, “The Answer” to all this, run yelling…

Dan Pink’s stuff is pretty good. You can see a great video, one that animates the key points and is 10 minutes long, by clicking here.

Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow, is absolutely the best thing I have read in a long time. I will be writing a lot more about his work and how it impacts performance in other blogs – I exchanged my library copy and purchased one for myself.

Lastly, don’t get confused. Just understand that you don’t know how all this really works and that you don’t need to. Work to involve and engage other people, give the process some time, and realize that you do not need to be either a Hero or a Victim in all this!

SWs One - things you will see border

Yeah, there are a LOT of models out there and they all serve different purposes. As that statistician George Box (who was repeatedly quoted by Deming) said,

All models are wrong.
Some models are useful.

And I like the Kahneman model, which I adapted as follows about “What I see is all there is.”

SWs One - Things I need to do more celebrate 100

I think any framework can be useful as a way of understanding the things that operate around us. I will just repeat myself and say that when it comes to people and brain functioning, it gets a bit more complex…

Thinking Hats green

We’re made up of a lot of different individuals and there will soon be FIVE different generations of workers in the workplace, as I write about in this post. You can rest assured that decision-making and motivation will continue to increase in complexity.

What I see is a continuing need in the workplace is for simulations like The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and the different Square Wheels games like Collaboration Journey, tools that get people into a decision-making mode and where teamwork and interactions lead to opportunities to discuss decisions and thinking and collaboration and all those things that are necessary for top performance.

Find out more about our simple Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit at this link:

SWs Facilitation Guide $50

People perform better when they are aligned to shared goals and common visions and where they have some trust in each other. Our programs are designed as tools for that kind of team improvement process,

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

 

The Illusions of Management and Leadership

Over the years, I have led many sessions on involving and engaging people and I have had a continued interest in brain function and thus the whole issue of illusions and how they work.

Illusions are interesting and they take many forms and operate in a variety of ways. Some simply trick the brain into looking for common and obvious patterns or they hide patterns in the background noise. The brain is wired to find meaning in things:

dog spot

and the brain makes assumptions that can change:

Good Evil

We also get the brain’s visual centers involved, those areas that process information. Those can be fooled because of “eye fatigue” and such to create motion from stationary images. You can find a lot of these online:

worms

If you stare at any of these long enough, there appears to real movement, which we might think of as progress… (If you do not see movement, move closer or farther away and the illusion will start.)

spinner

smiley spinner

All of these lead me to my Learning Point. A lot of organizational behavior can simply appear to be an illusion. We might think that progress is being made, or that people understand our thinking. We might think that people are involved and engaged or that they do not need any training or that they are not interested in personal development or leadership training for their futures.

Consider this next image as a possibility:

SWs One Illusion of Workplace Improvement

Yep. Illusions are not real.

So here are 8 ideas about what you might choose to do differently:

SWs One - Things I need to do more celebrate 100

We have toolkits that can support your organizational improvement initiatives, things that are simple to use and really effective for you in involving and engaging people for improved work performance.

Have more fun out there!

scott tiny casual

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

 Note on copyright: I got these illustrations off a Bing search of optical illusions. They were not attributed. I do not assume “public domain” on these so if they are yours, please let me know and I will add the attribution or remove them if you prefer. Thanks. Good stuff!

Meat. A really funny framework on perspective and humanity

I posted this up on my Square Wheels website 12 years ago and a funny comment in a LinkedIn discussion reminded me of it, so I repost it here:

Imagine if you will …

The leader of the fifth invader force speaking to the commander in chief … reporting what was found upon visiting the planet Earth.

meat

“They’re made out of meat.”

“Meat?”

“Meat. They’re made out of meat.”

“Meat?”

“There’s no doubt about it. We picked several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, probed them all the way through. They’re completely meat.”

“That’s impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars.”

“They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don’t come from them. The signals come from machines.”

“So who made the machines? That’s who we want to contact.”

“They made the machines. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. Meat made the machines.”

“That’s ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You’re asking me to believe in sentient meat.”

“I’m not asking you, I’m telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in the sector and they’re made out of meat.”

“Maybe they’re like the Orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that goes through a meat stage.”

“Nope. They’re born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of their life spans, which didn’t take too long. Do you have any idea the life span of meat?”

“Spare me. Okay, maybe they’re only part meat. You know, like the Weddilei. A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside.”

“Nope. We thought of that, since they do have meat heads like the Weddilei. But I told you, we probed them. They’re meat all the way through.”

“No brain?”

“Oh, there is a brain all right. It’s just that the brain is made out of meat!”

“So… what does the thinking?”

“You’re not understanding, are you? The brain does the thinking. The meat.”

“Thinking meat! You’re asking me to believe in thinking meat!”

“Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you getting the picture?”

“Omigod. You’re serious then. They’re made out of meat.”

“Finally, Yes. They are indeed made out meat. And they’ve been trying to get in touch with us for almost a hundred of their years.”

“So what does the meat have in mind?”

“First it wants to talk to us. Then I imagine it wants to explore the universe, contact other sentients, swap ideas and information. The usual.”

“We’re supposed to talk to meat?”

“That’s the idea. That’s the message they’re sending out by radio. ‘Hello. Anyone out there? Anyone home?’ That sort of thing.”

“They actually do talk, then. They use words, ideas, concepts?”

“Oh, yes. Except they do it with meat.”

“I thought you just told me they used radio.”

“They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds. You know how when you slap or flap meat it makes a noise? They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat.”

“Omigod. Singing meat. This is altogether too much. So what do you advise?”

“Officially or unofficially?”

“Both.”

“Officially, we are required to contact, welcome, and log in any and all sentient races or multibeings in the quadrant, without prejudice, fear, or favor. Unofficially, I advise that we erase the records and forget the whole thing.”

“I was hoping you would say that.”

“It seems harsh, but there is a limit. Do we really want to make contact with meat?”

“I agree one hundred percent. What’s there to say?” `Hello, meat. How’s it going?’ But will this work? How many planets are we dealing with here?”

“Just one. They can travel to other planets in special meat containers, but they can’t live on them. And being meat, they only travel through C space. Which limits them to the speed of light and makes the possibility of their ever making contact pretty slim. Infinitesimal, in fact.”

“So we just pretend there’s no one home in the universe.”

“That’s it.”

“Cruel. But you said it yourself, who wants to meet meat? And the ones who have been aboard our vessels, the ones you have probed? You’re sure they won’t remember?”

“They’ll be considered crackpots if they do. We went into their heads and smoothed out their meat so that we’re just a dream to them.”

“A dream to meat! How strangely appropriate, that we should be meat’s dream.”

“And we can mark this sector unoccupied.”

“Good. Agreed, officially and unofficially. Case closed. Any others? Anyone interesting on that side of the galaxy?”

“Yes, a rather shy but sweet hydrogen core cluster intelligence in a class nine star in G445 zone. Was in contact two galactic rotation ago, wants to be friendly again.”

“They always come around.”  alien-energy-drink-6810

“And why not? Imagine how unbearably, how utterly, cold this galaxy would be if one were all alone with no-one to talk to but meat.”

copyright Terry Bisson reprinted from OMNI, 1990
see http://www.terrybisson.com/page6/page6.html

Please note that Terry ends his post with this:

(Thanks for your interest in my work.
If you enjoyed this little piece, give a dollar to a homeless person.)
 

Note that you can find a hundred pages of jokes, funny quotes, articles and all that on this page on my old site:  Quotes, Jokes And Other Funnies

For the FUN of It!

Scott small pic

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Simplicity – Thoughts of Da Vinci, Einstein, Rockwell and Simmerman

In a blog post “Simple Isn’t Simple” by Dan Rockwell, he said:

Any fool can create complex. Complexity leads to confusion. Confusion leads to uncertainty. Uncertainty produces cowardice. Cowards never take meaningful action. Simplicity: Longfellow said, “… in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.” John Maxwell said, “The leaders job is reducing rather than adding to complexity.” (Chick-fil-A Leadercast 2013) Lousy leaders confuse – exceptional leaders clarify.

Dan’s posts often inspire lots of reader comments, mine included. So, it all got me thinking about organizational behavior, teamwork and intrinsic motivation. (Most things get me thinking of those things, actually!)

So, my posted response aligned pretty well:

My approach is to view pretty much everything through a simple lens: my Square Wheels One wagon.

Guy pulls with rope.
People push from back.
Wagon “rolls” on wooden Square Wheels.
Cargo of wagon: round rubber tires.

Most everywhere one looks, things thump and bump along. Most customer service transactions. Most company call directories. Most systems and processes.

Perception of how things work SWs One

Pretty much everywhere, there exists an Exceptional Performer, someone who simply does things better. They use Round Wheels in this Square Wheel World.

So, identify and clarify. Discuss. Share. Support. Implement more broadly if that make sense.

CONTINUOUS continuous improvement of best practices that already exist, which applies to personal leadership practices (modeling) and organizational performance improvement (team building, engagement, intrinsic motivation, etc.).

Issue: You will / should never be truly satisfied with anything. Get over it.

Have FUN out there!

——————————————

The research I started on quotes led me to Leonardo da Vinci, who had a couple of good ones about people and performance:

The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.

It vexes me greatly that having to earn my living has forced me to interrupt the work and to attend to small matters.

Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.

But the one that was attributed to da Vinci in Dan’s blog is one that is disputed: Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. (There is apparently no source for that…)

And all that got me looking for one Albert Einstein quote I remembered and turned up a whole lot of different ideas that he had on the organization of all things. So, I thought to repeat some of them herein.

It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience. (from “On the Method of Theoretical Physics” The Herbert Spencer Lecture, delivered at Oxford (10 June 1933).

This is the quote attributed to Einstein that may have arisen as a paraphrase of the above, commonly given as Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler. or “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.”  The latter one is apparently not Albert’s; it is normally taken to be a warning against too much simplicity which is useful. DubbedEinstein’s razor, it is used when an appeal to Occam’s razor results in an over-simplified explanation that leads to a false conclusion.

I believe in intuition and inspiration. … At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason. When the eclipse of 1919 confirmed my intuition, I was not in the least surprised. In fact I would have been astonished had it turned out otherwise. 

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research. (from Cosmic Religion: With Other Opinions and Aphorisms (1931))

Everyone sits in the prison of his own ideas; he must burst it open, and that in his youth, and so try to test his ideas on reality.
(ibid Cosmic Religion)

If A is success in life, then A = x + y + z. Work is x, play is y and z is keeping your mouth shut. (Said to Samuel J Woolf, Berlin, Summer 1929.)

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. (Said in a letter to his son Eduard , 5 February 1930.)

Yep. Have FUN out there and certainly keep things rolling!

SWs bicycle

Better yet, involve and engage a whole group to get rolling along in some other direction,

Bicycle Racers

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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The Illusion of Innovation – Some ideas about creative thinking

Like everyone I know, I love to see those different illusions and to see how people so cleverly trick my brain. There are a lot of different styles and frameworks, not including the really neat stuff about how magic works and how the brain can only process one thing at a time because of its hardwiring. We have the different “gorilla walking by” and all sorts of slights of hand that are truly amazing.

But for me, it gets more pragmatic. How can we use our knowledge of how the brain works to improve the workplace, generate more intrinsic motivation and impact people and creativity. These things are all related, after all.

First, a bit of trickery and eye-foolery, since our world is often not how it seems:

circle and dot 1

Focus on the dot.
Then. move your head forwards and backwards.

I mean, we get movement in the above from what cannot be moving. (Maybe this is what is preventing senior managers from doing things, since they think things are moving, ya think?) Or maybe we can continue to do the same thing but have others think that we are actually making progress as we show both above as well as below!

Circles not spiral

And, similarly, take a good look at this one, above. Think things are spiraling forward toward the center? Think that things are getting closer and closer to The Singularity? Well, things aren’t. Those spirals are actually circles and it is the alignment of them that makes things appear differently. It is the same kind of paradox that happens when we set up Divisions and then expect collaboration. Ya think?

And here is one on headcount. The black dots represent people performing!

count the black dots

Yeah, those darn things just keep appearing and disappearing. Some things are just not easy, and HR often seems to have a hard time with this one. If performance is counting the black dots, go ahead and perform!

We can have some really good performers in our workplaces. And we can also have a lot of people who simply disappear. Finding and motivating people to perform is often a tough task, as shown below:

dalmation

or

mottled horses

It is often the case that motivating and engaging people to perform is a pretty tough task, even though the boss says it is pretty straightforward, like eating an elephant, you know that old, “One bite at a time” one-liner. But finding that elephant and making sense of things just isn’t all that easy… Take a look and see what I mean:

elephant legs

And it is even tougher figuring things out if you have more than one elephant to manage:

elephant legs - multiple

Let HR do all that stuff. But, I digress:

What is that old joke, Managing things  here is a lot like mating elephants:

— It is accomplished only at high levels.
— It is accompanied by a great deal of stomping around, trumpeting and other noise.
— It takes two years to produce any results.
—   And then you have a baby elephant to take care of…

(Elephants, by the way, are the only mammal that cannot jump. Do not ask me why that is important, but it just is…)

Sometimes, we just think or simply hope that we can sail away from the problems of the workplace…

escher boat arch

A look back would indicate that we are pretty solidly anchored to the past. But, if only we could build our workplace world to be more circular:

escher ring

Yeah, just go ahead and build it! We can focus on doing the following, though when it comes to people and performance,  it takes some perspective and coaching to really accomplish:

LIFT black white

But for Me?

In reality, I use a very simple illusion to get people talking about what they perceive is happening in their workplace. I use this inkblot kind of reflection about how things really seem to be working and ask them to generate their ideas and thoughts about how things work and what Round Wheels might exist that might be implemented. It looks like this:

SWs One - How Things Work

The human brain is an amazing tool, one that can be incredibly creative and innovative if we allow ideas to flow and provide an environment of support and encouragement.

You can find another blog of my thinking on thinking here.

If I can get them thinking and talking and involved and engaged in creatively thinking about how things work and what might be done differently, I can generate the cognitive dissonance and the motivational thrust to push things forward more effectively.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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How Gullible are we? Why education is important for our society.

My inclination is to make this a political post, one that focuses on the importance of education and information. And I am really pleased to note that I read that the State of SC’s Ways and Means Committee just agreed to increase funding by $149 million for next year, what everyone thought was an impossible task.

Over 1600 emails and 500 phone calls caused those on this committee to consider this refunding. South Carolina has “led the nation” in cuts to education over the past two years (even exceeding Mississippi, supposedly!). We need to educate people so that they can make better decisions and contribute more to our society, their work, and those around us.

Anyway, I came across this work in some old files, went and researched it, and it stands up. So here is the Study on Gullibility, along with the proof that we need to educate more people on more things to allow us to make better decisions on things like climate change, genetic engineering, and environmental science in general:

A freshman at Eagle Rock Junior High won first prize at the Greater Idaho Falls Science Fair in 1997.  He was attempting to show how conditioned we have become to alarmists practicing junk science and spreading fear of everything in our environment. 

In his project he urged people to sign a petition demanding strict control or total elimination of the chemical DHMO or “dihydrogen monoxide.”  And for plenty of good reasons, since it can:

  1. cause excessive sweating and vomiting
  2. it is a major component in acid rain
  3. it can cause severe burns in its gaseous state
  4. accidental inhalation can kill you
  5. it contributes to erosion
  6. it decreases effectiveness of automobile brakes
  7. it has been found in tumors of terminal cancer patients

 Google ChromeScreenSnapz001

DHMO is used as an industrial coolant and solvent, it is found in nuclear power plants, it is used in producing Styrofoam cups, it is a fire retardant, it is often used in animal research and drug production, it is used for distribution of pesticides and it is additive in many junk food products.

Nathan Zohner, then 14, asked fifty 9th grade students if they supported a ban of the chemical after describing the above conditions.  Forty-three said yes, six were undecided, and only one knew that the chemical was water.  The title of his prize winning project was, “How Gullible Are We?”  He feels the conclusion is obvious.

In March, 2004, the California municipality of Aliso Vieho (a suburb of LA in Orange County) nearly fell for this hoax after a paralegal there convinced city officials of the danger posed by this chemical – it got so far as to having a vote be scheduled for City Council for a proposed law that would have banned the use of foam containers at City-sponsored events because they contained DHMO, this substance that could threaten human health and safety.

(Check it out for truth at http://www.snopes.com/science/dhmo.asp)

If you haven’t quite figured this one out, DHMO or dihydrogen monoxide is also known as H2O or something we commonly call water!

And it surely does all those things listed above and many many more. It IS one of most powerful solvents known, since it is able to dissolve so many things, many more than chemical solvents like gasoline or alcohol. It is one of the very few substances that expands when frozen (converted into its solid state) and it is also one of the few solids that will float.

We also commonly see it in all three of its chemical states, a solid (ice), a liquid (water) and a gas (water vapor or steam). Life as we know it could not exist without water (although we are just now discovering some life that does not require oxygen to survive, all need water).

We can convince people that water is dangerous by telling them SOME of the information and presenting it in a particular fashion. It is the same way we can rally people around being against gun control legislation or being for “clean coal” or for objection to more available healthcare for people.

We can share data that says that Social Security or the Post Office are damaging our country’s existence. The list goes on and on. Only education and critical thinking will help us battle those who have their secret agendas or their claims that Austerity or tax reductions for the rich will boost the economy.

 Get all the facts. Make good decisions for yourself, your family and your people.

rushmore

Scott’s image is not up there yet!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Extrovert, Introvert, and the Power of Quiet

Brian Remer sent me an email with a connection to his online newsletter and I thought to kind of reprint that here with some of my own comments, ideas, and resources. He starts out discussing the Susan Cain book called, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” He abstracts the contents and then goes on to add a few perspectives and productive frameworks and exercises.

Pretty interesting concept and one that seemingly applies to all of our leadership communications activitites as well as our team building work.

The basic idea is that everyone has ideas and perspectives and something to add, but that the dynamics of a group may be such that people appear to be uninvolved or non-contributory when they have great ideas that would be beneficial. I work on some of these themes in my article, “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…” that focuses on the benefits of better engaging the 50% of the middle of any organization. (Click here to download that article.)

I Quit Article Icon

Brian’s work, seen on his newsletter page at http://www.thefirefly.org/Firefly/html/News%20Flash/2013/February%202013.htm, focuses on generating the more active involvement of the more quiet people in the workplace. He reviews Susan Cain’s concepts of introverts in the workplace. What I somewhat disagree with are these comments:

Cain criticizes what she sees as an excessive use of teams in education and business saying it puts introverts at a disadvantage and reduces the number of creative ideas. She recommends giving people time to work alone, providing private space for contemplation, and using online brainstorming in which sharing ideas by text slows everyone’s thinking to a more thoughtful rate.

Is there really an excessive use of teamwork in education and business? Wow. I did not see that coming. What I would say is more of a reality is that many of the “teambuilding” and “Icebreakers” are simply delivered with a lot less focus on “team” such that the more dominent extraverts tend to overpower the others.

My approach has always been smaller groups of 5 to 6 people and we often give “quiet contemplation time” to the tabletops to consider ideas before they are discussed. We also use facilitated exercises such as, “What are some Square Wheels that our organization needs to address” as templates for these small group discussions.

In my view, not everyone wants to be the Stand-Up Presenter of the tabletop’s ideas. But I do find, and my observations support, that everyone in one of these small groups will participate and it is natural for everyone to contribute. There is some new research on collaboration that I observed on TV that supports the reality that everyone with part of the task will participate to contribute to the group’s successes.

In our Lost Dutchman game, we have assigned roles and tasks and, with these small groups, it is impossible for people to not be involved and engaged. They do feel that they contribute to the tabletop’s efforts. We simply need more of this in our organizations.

Check out Brian’s writings and read some of his suggestions about how to approach the issues and generate some productive silence. Solid stuff, for sure.

And, you can see our newly created pictorial overview of how The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine works to involve and engage everyone in the effort to Mine as much Gold as WE can! Find that Pictorial here.

Muscles slide in backgroundDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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Decision-Making – Research shows Worker Bees get it Right

One of my favorite quotes and anchor points for my presentations is adapted from a quote from a John Le Carre book, something from which I generated two different cartoons. Now, I have solid research to back this up.

The quote:
A Desk is a Dangerous Place from Which to View The World.

The Cartoon:

Some interesting research on decision-making and teamwork comes from research on worker bees. You know, the ones that get all the work done. The research is done by a biologist named Thomas Seeley and it relates to 20 years of research. The subjects? Worker bees. Yes, real ones. The situation is wonderfully described in the March 2012 issue of Smithsonian and can be viewed at http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/The-Secret-Life-of-Bees.html

But let me digress and come back to my initial quotation. My direct experience with Square Wheels cartoons led me to ask Roy Sabean, my artist, for an illustration that looked like this:

Making a decision by yourself might be fast, but it also might be wrong. Or, it might lack a bit of data or the perspective of others like those in other departments that it impacts of those in the chain of command that it might impact negatively.

 

Yes, there IS a chain of command…

So, this article about how bees make a decision is most fascinating. The situation is that there is a swarm of bees that need a new home — and the optimal hive requires about 10 gallons of space or it will not allow the storage of enough honey for survival plus it needs a small opening that can be defended. It takes from a couple of hours to a few days to make a decision.

Scouts go out and search around and then return. They dance. They dance in a circle, climbing on top of the swarm where the angle of the waggle and time time they spend dancing give direction and distance information to others, who also go out to check the location. So, one bee informs and engages others, who return and repeat.

Enthusiasm also conveys information by engaging more others to check things out — call it recruitment and swarm intelligence. So that scout goes back and forth, communicating each time. But the number of dance repetitions might decrease if the site is not all that good, which helps the swarm to differentiate good sites from mediocre ones. The test found that the swarm will select the optimal site 80% of the time (based on controlled conditions). Think any manager makes isolated decisions that good in your organization?

The research makes some analogies between bees and brain cells. It relates to leadership, since the Queen Bee in a swarm actually supports the swarm but makes no apparent decisions, especially as to selecting a hive that will work to sustain the group. And they all pretty much share the same goal with the same alignment and a high level of engaged enthusiasm, working together. They propose lots of ideas, get lots of involvement and make group decisions that incorporate a great deal of information on their Big Decisions.

Have fun out there! Bee there!!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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Ideas and Images – The Brain Sees New Possibilities

I’ve been interested in illusions and creativity and brain functioning since the 1970s and have collected a lot of images that look like one thing until you look more closely. Consider this image, for example:

Illusions stimulate brain creativity

It appears to be a tree, until you look more closely. And the more you look, the more you see. (How many faces are there in this image?)

Similarly, one can be shown this image and asked, “How many squares are there in this diagram?”

How many squares in this square illustion and answers

Take a minute with both of these illustrations. (My answers are below)

So, your brain can see a lot of things, if it is given the time to process the information and consider possibilities. A quick peek at the square above will NOT show you all that are there — you need to spend a few minutes on it to get an actual count and you need to think, “out of the box” to find all the squares.

The same things occur in the workplace. People that are hands-on and doing the job will spend a lot more time thinking about the tasks and processes that are involved in that job. Their level of analysis can be pretty high, especially if they are motivated by thinking about possible improvements.

And this one is new, as I update this older post:

color-us-confused

What do you see? The parrot? Well, take a really hard look at this painting. The painting and picture are called, “Color us confused.” (Courtesy Johannes Stotter Art) and it came from this website and this article on how illusions confuse the brain.

The parrot is a woman, posing. Her left foot and leg are the tail. Her other leg is raised up and her elbow forms the top of her head, with her hand being the beak! Yeah, it took me a long while to see that one, too! Artists see things differently, and they often understand how to fool the brain. Magicians take it a step farther, even, but that is outside the scope of this writing.

In practice, our Square Wheels One illustration accomplishes many of these same kinds of brain challenges, getting people to consider possibilities and opportunities for improvement. But more than a simple cartoon, our illustrations can provide a context for facilitated discussions about implementation of these ideas. Implementation is the key to getting things done.

Square Wheels One How Things Work ©

Illustrations and illusions are great tools to play with how people think and to generate some creative energy about identifying and implementing improvements. They can generate teamwork, innovation, and intrinsic motivation to improve results.

(Answers – I see ten faces in the first illustration, 5 on each side and you can count forty squares in the second — see this page to see an animation of the answer: http://media-geeks.com/special-features/how-many-squares-indeed/ )

We sell simple to use toolkits to actively involve and engage people in the workplace to use their brains and the collaboration process to generate new ideas. Simple and easy. Bombproof, too!

SWs Facilitation Guide $50

You can find another article that shares other illusions by clicking on the image below:

escher ring

For the FUN of It!

Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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