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

Tag: innovation

Facilitation, Square Wheels and #MoreBetterFaster

We are just about ready to launch our new LMS, The Square Wheels Project, that will feature our Square Wheels® LEGO images and teach anyone how to facilitate a discussion about improving things in the workplace. The basic approach will be simple and straightforward and the links to themes of engagement, innovation, motivation and teamwork will be really clear.

Dan Stones and I have been working to bring all this together for the past few months and Dan does this seamlessly. For me, it is a much more difficult learning practice, it seems. He quickly gets the technology side of this so I mostly support the effort with my LEGO people and my ideas around turning Square Wheels into Round Ones.

So, as this all comes together, I started cranking up production of my “posters,” a little one page shot of some thought or a poem or similar. So, here are a three of the ones I thought you might find of interest.

Square Wheels stupidly simple reality posterSquare Wheels hands-on senseWorkplace Happiness and Square Wheels

It has been nearly 25 years since I started using Square Wheels as a metaphor for organizational improvement themes and it has been an interesting journey forward. I hope you like the approach we take, and that you will take a look at our actual learning tools,

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:
Scott’s blog on themes of People and Performance is here.

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


#squarewheels #morebetterfaster #innovation #engagement #motivation



The Blame Frame, Innovation and Intrinsic Motivation

In one of my LinkedIn groups, this question was posed:

Any advice on how to wisely handle the coaching of a team where the senior figures in it never get tired of playing the ‘blame game’?
So I chimed in with:

I’ve been using Square Wheels cartoons as discussion tools for 20 years now. Two come to mind for this situation and “illustrate” the issues to everyone pretty neatly.

The first illustration shows a horse pushing the Square Wheel wagon with the people on the hill in the background. I show the cartoon and ask tabletops to discuss what is going on and to generate as many ideas as they can. I allow them 5 minutes or so to brainstorm and then I go around to the different tables asking them for one thought.

Trial and Error yellow

You can easily get 20 reactions projected onto the illustration, with prominent ones like “cart before the horse” and a number of comments about what they should have done better or differently. People also project thoughts like, “the four people are about to run away over the hill” and “the people all feel pretty stupid.”

I then reframe the illustration around things like innovation and trial and error and the need for perspective and reflection. A common theme of mine with the cartoons is, “Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!” Look from a distance. Keep trying.

What I then do is overlay a “Blame Frame” over the illustration and allow the group to discuss the impacts of focusing on errors as opposed to focusing on opportunities.

Square Wheels Trial and Error with Blame Frame

We get about 5 or 6 negative reactions to each positive one during the idea sharing. Very few people will put a positive spin on what they are seeing. So, we actually catch them being negative and talk about those impacts, the real impacts of negativity and blame, on the issues of innovation, engagement, and motivation.

I don’t have to tell anyone much of anything; they figure it out all on their own as they reflect on what they just did and even how the response of others then reinforced their own negativity. Sometimes, they even reject the positive spins that someone might put on it.

For me, the kinesthetic and the self-induced awareness are keys in generating the cognitive dissonance they need, individually and collectively, to change their future choices. The reality and reframing is really something along these lines:

Trial and Error Murphy's Law words
The key is perspective. The key is to look and consider possibilities for continuous continuous improvement. Simple. Step back from the wagon!

Oh:  “Boss spelled backwards is self-explanatory.” That is also a useful dynamic to anchor. We get a lot more with intrinsic motivation that comes from success. Blame only makes the Boss feel better.


If you like this overall approach, please note that I did a similar but differently-focused blog along similare themes back in 2012 that you might find interesting. Click on the image link below to see those writings:

Elegant Solutions

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:
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 – — I think it is a good example of a good story, and one where the ACTUAL story is just as good as the myth.


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 (, 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

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


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Murphy's Law, Reframed

Murphy’s Law is pretty basic and to the point:

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

As to its origins go back to Capt. Edward Murphy and his work at Edwards Air Force Base back in 1949. (You can read more about this on another post of mine.) The story goes that one day, after finding that an electronics component was wired wrong, he cursed the technician responsible and said, “If there is any way to do it wrong, he’ll find it.”  The contractor’s project manager who was keeping a list of similar “laws” added that one to his list, which he called Murphy’s Law. It then appeared in that contractor’s advertisement and the rest is history.

We’ve been playing with this basic concept for 20+ years, but just in a slightly different and more actionable context. It looks like this:

SWs One - Murphy and RWs

Recently, I posted up a couple of cartoons and one in particular merited a bit of discussion, I think, since it links up so well to the real world application of Murphy’s Law and how it impacts people and performance in the workplace.

Consider this illustration and caption for a moment:

Trial and Error Murphy's Law words

Note that I said Maybe. And DO think about the illustration itself for more than a minute – otherwise you will miss the key learning point.

The illustration is one that I call, “Trial and Error” and I have written extensively on the issues surrounding the common view of this by most managers and organizational leadership. You can find more on this theme here.

Murphy’s Law states that things will go wrong. That seems to be a pretty common occurrence. Tightly linked corollaries to The Law include:

  • Nothing is as easy as it looks.
  • Everything takes longer than you think.
  • If there is a worse time for something to go wrong, it will happen then.
  • Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse.
  • Nothing is ever so bad that it cannot get worse.
  • Whenever you set out to do something, something else must be done first.

Viewed in the context of the above, many people looking at the illustration above will see all the problems and issues. They will point out the negative and what should have been done differently. But there is most certainly another side of this. There is the issue of continuous continuous improvement and the reality of how innovation really works.

Sure, the team might have done things perfectly the first time. And we can probably generate another four or five things that they could have accomplished in this iteration of the problem solving. They could have already put on some Round Wheels and they probably could have put the horse at the front. But consider the reality that they are now using a horse and that they have stepped back far enough from their wagon to see that the Round Wheels do already exist!

Now, they need to invent some device or some approach to actually mount those round wheels and maybe fill them with air and maybe adapt the axles to the tire rims. The Reality of Change is not that simple and elegant model that you think might work; change tends to actually operate more like this:

Reality of Change round yellow

Maybe they can find a different way to involve the horse and they can implement a way to thus steer the direction that the wagon goes. One broken Square Wheel can find one Round Wheel as a replacement and that may lead to other things as time goes on. Heck, maybe they can eventually hook up another wagon to the back and invent the train!

Innovation and invention is full of Trial and Error and probably many cycles of it. Understand that some people put a LOT of effort into helping to try or implement new things and make workplace changes and improvement. In many organizations, though, the reality of change is one of risk-taking and opening oneself up to criticism, disdain and derision.

Note that two other Murphy’s Law Corollaries are:

  • Any  problem can be overcome given enough time and money. But you are never given enough time or money.
  • All truth passes through three stages: first it is ridiculed, then violently opposed and eventually, accepted as self-evident. (Schopenhauer)

Improvement is about perspective, continuous ideation, constant trial and re-invention. It is about team support and celebration. It is also about getting the support of leadership, which often really requires money and time. It is about the celebration of all of the improvements made to generate momentum for future improvements.

Celebration key to involving me

So, that simple cartoon that we started with is chock full of a wide variety of different themes and messages. I’ll end with an old quote from the NLP literature:

If we always do what we have always done,
we will always get what we have always gotten.

As leaders, parents and managers, we need to support innovation and improvement, and sometimes that just happens when things break and we are forced to do things differently. It is much easier to criticise new ideas because we are sure that the old way works pretty much okay. And a desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world!


For the FUN of It!

Elegant Solutions

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

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What are The Square Wheels Toolkits and why do they work so well?

Since 1993, we have been working with interactive “cartoons” and sharing the related tools as worksheets in seminars and powerpoint-based toolkits downloadable from our websites. My conference presentations most often include a free set of these materials that the participants can use back on the job. My focus has been on the themes of continuous continuous improvement and the active involvement and engagement of people in workplace performance.

How things roll in most organizations and most workplaces

How things roll in most organizations and most workplaces

What makes our toolkits unique:

If you purchase one of our toolkits, you get a complete training package, with ideas and instructions for facilitating discussions and generate the necessary involvement to help implement change. I firmly believe that,

Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car

and that if people are not involved, they cannot be expected to have any commitment for success. Often and commonly, people will resist things done to them when it comes to change and improvement. So, our unique illustrations get people involved and engaged in discussing issues and opportunities.

With a one-time cost, you get slides around the package theme along with handouts that help capture attention and ideas. Most things are designed for small group facilitation, to generate teamwork and shared ideas. Everything is based on the tools and approach that I have personally used to address some issue. And each toolkit has plenty of ideas and instructional support — plus you can connect directly with me, for free!

I sell facilitation; you generate engagement.

And all this for a one-time cost = Cheap! You get the tools and the materials gain exposure  to future managers and prospects. After 20 years, the nature of the referrals we get are surprising and rewarding; it’s nice to create materials that can be remembered for improving effectiveness.

Why should you take a chance on using the illustrations?

Because they work. You can easily develop an interactive training program focused on team-based problem identification and problem solving. They generate involvement and teamwork. They get people thinking about issues and opportunities.

Because they are easy to use. There is really not much downside to showing the illustration and asking for ideas. They do not generate any defensiveness (they actually spark some humor) and do get everyone contributing when done as small-group discussions. They are easily used by new supervisors and grizzled senior managers. They work tops-down and bottoms-up as good communications tools.

Because they are complete. Most people get the tools, use the tools and then sometimes contact me, not with questions about using them but to talk about how well they worked. These are complete toolkits, with all sorts of facilitation ideas and potential uses explained.

Because they are bombproof. Their nature is engaging and they are shown as a general framework of how things really work in most organizations. They start as silent contemplation followed by group discussions followed by room insights and ideas. They frame issues as Square Wheels and possibilities as Round ones. There is never any defensiveness, since they are telling you their ideas.

Because they are flexible. There is no underlying specific or rigid model; it is just a cartoon or a series of cartoons. You use these to ASK people for their thoughts and ideas. They anchor to your organization’s key issues and opportunities.

And because of their general nature, people will project their ideas onto the illustrations. They will see what they see and think about the organizational realities. They give you their ideas and you can generate their commitment and involvement. They can help you link lots of issues to commitments to improvements.

Square Wheels are Really Good Stuff.
Easy to use. Highly effective.

I’ve used them with thousands of people in hundreds of venues on dozens of different organizational issues, in 38 countries so far. But that is simply for testing. You can do this yourself.

Lastly, we completely guarantee your satisfaction. 

You are buying simple to  use materials from me, personally, and I take pride in their effectiveness. Call me if you would like to chat – 864-292-8700 or chat with me on Skype – SquareWheelsGuy

And if you need a new and different approach or toolkit, let’s develop one,

For the FUN of It!

Elegant Solutions

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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Spring into Innovation – Some Thoughts about Involvement and Motivation

There are a lot of blogs and groups focused on the themes of innovation, and so many know so much that it continues to be mind boggling.

There appear to be two main camps, one that says that Innovation Occurs in Big Leaps and one that focuses more on what I have been calling Continuous Continuous Improvement for many years (that label from the Department of Redundancy Department!).

The Big Leaps People tend to use a specific set of creativity and structured innovation tools and an “outsider’s approach” and look for huge quantum jumps in things. These kinds of innovators get most of the attention from Fast Company and Wired and the venture capitalists and represent the Heros of the Universe. For people with this viewpoint, creativity is a learned skill and one that often takes on a very structured approach to opportunity identification. Think of the creative meetings at advertising agencies that push for the Big Idea on TV and reward those extravagantly.

Sometimes, that One Big Idea just appears out of nowhere and is so enticing that people can raise millions of dollars from others who see the potential. That is why some of the big software companies spend bazillions on some new idea from some small company long before it shows that it generates a cent of profits or is worth even a tiny portion of a bazillion dollars.

Celebration plane color green

Sometimes, we can be focused on our wagons while only the horse sees the idea of the cargo plane. (So, the solution is to hire the horse?)

But there is another kind of innovation that gets my interests, since it has so many impacts on people, performance and the workplace. It has links to leadership and motivation and organizational development.

Me, I like the writings of people like Sidney D’Mello, my new professor friend who focuses on confusion as a key to learning and retention. People learn more when they are placed in a situation where some problem solving is required. I like the literature on facilitation and collaboration that enable people from different viewpoints and backgrounds to get together to consider possibilities of doing things differently. In those kinds of workshop sessions, we get an occasional Big Leap, but more often, it is framed around the improvement of existing work processes.

Intrinsic Motivation color green

Improving existing work processes can have BIG impacts on motivation, performance results and innovation, however. That one small, implemented improvement can make a BIG positive impact on one person who has been frustrated in dealing with that issue, and it can be the first step forward of many more. Seeing that idea implemented by one person can help reassure the other people that the organization is willing to consider doing things differently, which can then involve and engage the others in rolling forward.

So, now that Spring has Sprung here in South Carolina, we are enthused by a new addition to our games and toolkits.


This interesting new development is the completion of our team building and creativity game, Innovate & Implement. This is a fun, fast-playing board game designed to enable innovation and get ideas implemented into the workplace. We get players into a problem-solving framework whereby they need to work together and deal with different kinds of common organizational roadblocks.

Take a narrative pictorial tour of Innovate & Implement by clicking on the link. It is a fully-packaged organizational intervention designed to involve and engage people in generating new ideas for doing things better and faster.

Good ideas exist but to implement them, people need motivation to overcome barriers and issues. This is why I&I is more than just a game–it works to engage and enlist people and teams in improvement initiatives.

Open a window for innovation and implementation in order to impact your employees and organization with positive, refreshing improvements. And have more FUN out there!

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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Collaboration and Teamwork and dealing with Mud

People and Performance — Here are some simple poems and frameworks to get people thinking about issues and opportunities. The goal is to generate one good thought or insight into doing things differently.

Let’s start this with a simple poem to embellish the theme with a bit of my thinking about how things often work. So, here is an image / poem which stimulated the overall design of an illustrated article. Isn’t that how innovation really works for all of us? Anyway, here we go:

Mud Jeep yellow poemThis cartoon image comes from our team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and is an integral part of our debriefing package. Players must deal with all sorts of mud to generate their successes.

In the game, mud on one of the selected routes to the mine causes teams to use extra resources and energy, just as it does in the real world. They know that it will cost that extra Fuel, but they are surprised by that nevertheless. Mud is the glop that people have to deal with so often in the workplace, taking the form of bureaucracy, politics, culture and the other things that do not support innovation and improvement. Mud simply bogs one down and costs extra energy to deal with it.

Mud also occurs when people choose to compete rather than collaborate, since one group will often create problems for another group that shares the same overall goal. This happens clearly in the Dutchman game. It also happens all the time in organizations — we call it Interdepartmental Collaboration! Mud is a pain to deal with — some might find it to be cement while others find it to work more like grinding paste, that grit that wears things out.

So, that first poem then got me working on the next few little ditties:

Alligators and sharks totally wired poem

They are out there too, like Spectator Sheep:

Spectator Sheep poem

So, things can then look something like this when it all comes together:

Mud Jeep RWs Alligator Sheep poemWe can make improvements. We must make improvements. Solutions abound. Ideas are everywhere. We just need people to consider other alternatives and choose to collaborate and cooperate and look to do things differently.

But progress forward requires employee engagement and involvement, leadership perspective and a team effort. We simply have to get the conversation rolling forward smoothly, along with shared goals and teamwork:

Spring of improvement and change poem

(Yeah, I do have fun with this stuff!)

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 easily at


My associates in Mumbai sent me a bunch of videos, and a week ago, Solomon Salvis mentioned that Amit Suvarna had put together a new video on Square Wheels.

It is always neat to see someone else pick up on my themes and put their ideas together. They spin things differently than I would sometimes, which always gets me to think of alternatives and frameworks. Guess that is how creativity works…

They put it on YouTube at
and they strung together some good illustrations, including The View at The Front and The View at The Back, two of the persistent audience favorites. The basic  idea is that the Round Wheels are already in the wagon, but the Square Wheels represent how things really work in most organizations. Companies are so invested in how they do things — now — that they cannot seem to make the simple changes to involve and engage their own people in the issues and opportunities that represent small incremental improvements for the future.

"The View at the Front" IS different than "The View at the Back"of the wagon. Wouldn't you agree?

Everyone says that these initiatives of getting people involved are not Rocket Science and I would agree. Seems pretty simple to me and this worked pretty darn well when I managed 126 retail stores a long time ago. People had lots of good ideas and the key was to identify, evaluate and implement.

Guess this would be my only “rocket science” cartoon:

Couldn't help myself, but Square Wheels on the Starship Enterprise actually make sense...

Funny, but people have always said that Square Wheels are great for cooking hot dogs, for controlling on very steep downhills and for helicopters. The Starship Enterprise and its sister ships could also benefit with them, I guess. Ya think?

4 Hours for Innovation. What to do to optimize results…

As a consultant or trainer, let’s say you only have 4 hours to help a group of managers or executives become more innovative, what would you present and how would you present it to involve and engage them in the act of involving and engaging others? How would you rattle their cages enough to actually generate some behavior change? How could you influence them to do some things differently with their subordinates?

I would start by showing them a cartoon illustration of a wooden wagon being pulled by a leader and being pushed by others. It is rolling along on wooden Square Wheels. Ironically, the cargo are round rubber tires…

The key is to start thing off by asking them to consider an illustration, “How might this illustrate how things really work in most organizations?”

SWs One green color thin

After giving each person a minute or two to write their ideas on a worksheet, I would then ask them to pair up or group up and discuss their ideas, with a goal of generating a lot of different thoughts. Tabletops of 5 to 6 people are best at pulling ideas together and generating a lot of different anchor points to a wide variety of issues and themes. Then, one can allow the sharing of these different tabletop ideas with the entire group, either by allowing them to take 2 minutes to verbally share them or to spend a couple of minutes capturing them on sheets of paper and posting on the walls.

Either way, the goal is to generate some ownership and involvement and to get people thinking about all the things that don’t work smoothly and might be improved.

Starting with your general question about, “How this is like most organizations…”, one greatly reduces any possible defensiveness, while the very general nature of the illustration is such that people will project their ideas onto the illustration, much like they would do with a Rorschach or an Inkblot Test. People see themselves in the cartoon and they also see their organizations represented, as well.

The Round Wheels ARE already in most organizations — they represent Best Practices of Top Performers in many cases — and a key to innovation is to simply identify what these exemplary performers are already doing. Most systems and processes thump and bump along, working okay when something different might work much better. And the goals are set based on the organization’s history of work, which is often just like the picture above.

Another key to innovation is to dissociate from the reality of pushing and pulling and to “Step back from the wagon” to look for different ways of getting things done. Dissociation is a very common and powerful tool for counseling troubled relationships (and so many workplaces are troubled!).

People DO have ideas, but often those ideas are not elicited by the average manager (so says survey after survey of workplaces!).  People with some general idea as to what might be done can evolve and polish that idea in a discussion with others: synergistic ideationfrom Star Trek, The Borg (the collective consciousness of the entire group).

Most people in most departments in most organizations tend to do the same thing repetitively because the goals are set on the Square Wheel model of how things have been working and will be working in the future. By working together to identify issues and opportunities, you get the benefit of the divergent thinking of the participants, allow them to flesh-out some ideas that they might already have, and put it into the context of play.

Plus, you are adding a new language of continuous continuous improvement” into the workplace, a concept that says that change is a continuous process and that new ideas already exist and merely need to be identified and implemented. By a leader using the cartoon and the approach and asking for ideas, it helps to communicate to everyone that new ideas are needed / required and that discussing these ideas is an important part of long-term organizational success. And this approach will also help generate the required intrinsic motivation to make improvements.

Another reality is that,

“Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car”

People who do not have a degree of ownership of ideas will often tend to resist them. By leaders working and engaging people in discussions of ideas and allowing input and consideration, resistance is often minimized and the likelihood of implementation is increased.

One must generate some level of discomfort with the way things are now, get a group of people together to add peer support and some perceived success to the discussions, and to build on what already works — I call that “continuous continuous improvement.”

Innovation is a process of, well, innovating. There are tons of different ideas that are already available for improvement. And when I work a group, I can often generate 10 or more pages of ideas and potential improvements in that 4 hours of play time.

One must also address implementation, since so many of those ideas for improvement just disappear… Most ideas cascaded down from the top will be resisted or ignored — most leader-led improvement and innovation initiatives fail because people are not involved or engaged.

So, give me 4 hours and let me involve and engage any group of people in the framework of “organizational improvement and innovative ideas” and I will guarantee a ton of ideas as well as ideas for implementation. But better yet, get one of the Square Wheels toolkits and do it yourself.

Active involvement and engagement and problem solving generates a commitment to make improvements, even with senior managers of global multinationals.

The beauty of using the illustrations is that they are really simple and bombproof. Once you see how the flow of the discussion works, you can use it easily with other groups or redesign it for different time constraints.

And that concept of Rental Car Care is a real one. People need ownership to generate involvement and motivation and the toolkits just use cartoons, anyway.

If it is to beit is up to me.

If not you, who? If not now, when? 

Just Do It, for The FUN of It!

Another simple elegant solution and organizational development framework…

Elegant Solutions

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

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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The Paradox of Resistance to Innovation – Risk and Choice

The global recession pushes more leaders and managers to think about failure and its prevention in many organizations, and not about new possibilities. And innovation becomes more difficult throughout an organization as risk takes on more politically difficult characteristics.

The 2009 Boston Consulting Group Innovation Report observed a “hardening” of innovation difficulty for the third consecutive year. Companies had an increasingly defensive sense of “hanging on and things will be alright,” which is somewhat alarming when viewed competitively in increasingly global markets.

 “Fear is the Mind Killer.”
(from The Dune Trilogy books of Frank Herbert)

A LOT of people feel that they cannot implement workplace improvement ideas

Present innovation thinking is constrained by old histories of implementation and the successes achieved. Often, this anchor to “the good old days,” makes risk taking and innovation even more difficult. Old models of performance management are not sufficient. Given the lag in implementing new strategies in most organizations, it can be years before changes can be accomplished in many of them, if they occur at all. Research by one of my associates shows that executives feel that 90% of their strategy improvement initiatives fail to be successful.

The Boston Consulting Group Innovation 2009 report showed these results:

  • Although a majority of companies rate innovation as a key strategic priority, 21% of North American companies expect to spend less this year.
  • There is widespread dissatisfaction with the ROI in innovation processes. Only 63% of top level executives and 50% of managers / VPs expressed satisfaction with their innovation results.
  • Senior executives are not consistently providing the support that innovation needs. 79% of CEOs believe they do an excellent or above average job, while only 64% of others agree with them!
  • There is no shortage of good ideas – only 17% cited this as a barrier to innovation.
  • The main barriers to increased spending were a risk-averse culture and concern over long development times.
  • Time to Market was very seldom used as a metric to examine the success of innovation, customer satisfaction and overall revenue growth being dominant measures.

Doing nothing is quite hard to do, because of the stress of knowing that you are not yet finished nor are you making progress. Is not moving forward any easier than doing something badly? Isn’t accomplishment a motivator for continuous improvement?

Improving performance is about making choices and considering alternatives to what is presently occurring.

If not you, who? If not now, when?

Help your people make the improvements they want to make. It’s not that difficult AND it is very motivating for them.

Beware Best Practices, They Can Kill Productivity, Innovation and Growth – Adopt Facebook, Linked-in, Twitter

REALLY?? Best Practices can KILL productivity, innovation and growth?

Someone wrote that as an article in Forbes (online) — it tries to make the point that access at work to Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn will be the kinds of things that will allow organizations to excel. He says, in part, on “The Best Practice myth” that “… companies continue using “best practices” as a tool to stop technology, and productivity improvement, adoption.”

Not using “best practices” is what will save us from poor long–term organizational performance, apparently. It attempts to make the link to the issues of using PCs in the 1980s and that companies that used best practices stayed behind the curve on improvement… The use of “Best Practices” in this article is just so limited and constrained, not at all what most of my peers in our old “behavioral performance management and productivity improvement” groups would even remotely label as such.

When there was that Big Push for ISO 9000 and the like, the drive to document everything was a real impediment to any kind of workplace innovation, since the requirement was viewed as keeping all processes uniform — the irony was that quality was NOT a requirement, just consistency. It was a real dead duck in regards to improvement and innovation and large forces of internal accountants were driven to keep control.

It is like that old ISO 9000 joke about the guy and the dog and the automated factory… The guy’s job was to feed the dog and the dog’s role was to keep the guy from touching anything…

I think that a workforce focused on using real behavioral Best Practices would be continuously and intrinsically motivated to keep looking for new alternatives for improvement. Innovation will come from understanding what the exemplary performers are doing differently than all others and rolling out those behaviors to the rest of the workforce. THAT is a Best Practice, I think. Not resisting innovation. People have always been looking for innovations where they work:

People have always been looking for better ways to do things

People have always been looking for better ways to do things

The old Quality Guys used to talk about having done Continuous Process Improvement.

The irony of that was that they focused on COMPLETING that job. I would rattle their brains by always reminding them to do Continuous Continuous Improvement, that advice from The Department of Redundancy Department.

Continuous improvement of any kind should be a continuous improvement. Using behavioral Best Practices should mean that there are always new Best Practices around for people to integrate into their performance repertoires to improve results.

In my cartoon vernacular, we talk about the reality that the Round Wheels of Today become the Square Wheels of Tomorrow. Ya gotta just keep on putting round wheels on the wagon to keep making progress forward…

See some cartoon stuff and some articles and my Godzilla Meets Bambi animated cartoon on innovation at


For the FUN of It!

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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.

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Simple thoughts on Innovation and Creativity and Change

We can find innovation difficult, especially when we are charged with helping to generate it in training or consulting initatives. To be effective, we need to balance our ideas and the ideas of others to insure that there is some shared ownership.

One of the things we can do: Step back from the Wagon to gain a more objective view about how things work and the issues and opportunities.

Creativity and Innovation are often part of a continuous continuous improvement process, combined with a bit of frustration about how things work and the belief that things can be improved.

And Perspective is another key: The view from within isn’t the same as the view from without, just like the View from the Back is not at all like the View from the Front. The past is generally strongly anchored to the present and thus we have a pre-determined future unless we start to think of things differently.

motivating performance improvement with missions and visions

The View at the Front is different than the View at the Back

As trainers and consultants, unless we help our managers and ourselves look at things from different perspectives, we will never observe those many “round wheel” things that can assist us to improve.

A few basics about how most adults learn:

• it is easier to learn in a non-judgmental environment.
• discovery is better than directives, activity-based learning is retained
and generalized than facts and general models.
• it is easier to take risks in a less-threatening environment.
• metaphors are more transferable back to the job than lecture learning.
• peer support and common, shared experiences are powerful components to
generating commitment and behavioral change
• mistakes and errors are more powerful learning paradigms for many people

And remember,
Have some FUN out there, too

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