Monday, November 26, 2012

Five Crucial Rules To Brainstorming

Brainstorming is considered one of the tools of prototyping and innovation however it needs to be done carefully. Earlier in the semester, I posted a blog about  key elements that Tom Kelley found to be part of a perfect brainstorm such as sharpening the focus to remember what you’re trying to achieve, write things down because you are mentally able to return to that thought once you see it again and create playful rules. (Check out  On that note, there are five rules of brainstorming that were discussed in the recent lecture that I will breakdown.

First, you need to “defer judgment” and set aside a time for constructive criticism later in the game. During a brainstorming session it is important to acknowledge everyone’s ideas and respectful to keep the ideas flowing. By putting down an idea, it can kill the motivation buzz and limit the amount of ideas you receive. 

Second, know how to “build upon the idea of others” and learn not to hold on to personal ownership. When a team member suggests a new idea or solution, it can trigger other ideas you had in mind that you may not have been able to convey. In a recent facilitator course I took, we had to right down at least 10 (I think) uses for a paperclip in a span of 8 minutes or so. It felt like time flew by. Then the instructor said to share your inputs with the person next to you and come up with an additional 5 in two minutes. Surprisingly enough, we came up with more than double that because each use gave us another idea for what the paperclip can be used for.

The third rule of brainstorming is to keep one conversation going at a time. As the concept of “build and jump” where you gradually move from one concept to another is helpful to expanding the session, ensure that everyone is aligned to where the conversation is going and keeping one. It can be distracting and momentum can be lost as you break up in smaller groups. 

With that, the fourth rule is to stay focused on the topic. By getting off course, you can find yourself analyzing too much on other ideas that may be non-value added to your overall solution. 

Finally, the fifth rule that connects with the first is to encourage wild ideas. It’s amazing when you remove all barriers (especially cost) when trying  to come up with solution. The intent is find the solution and later we can bring it back to reality with what we have practically to design a new service or product. 

For example, on the manufacturing floor, my area leader keeps suggesting that all area leaders get roller blades to be able to respond more quickly to issues and be everywhere at once. As roller blades are not cleanroom safe and not a practical solution, I asked her to tell me why she was suggesting that and how can bring that idea to a more practical resolution. She then came up with a way for her team to keep tabs on her and ensured there were multiple copies of the contact numbers, out of control procedures and escalation flow handy at each process. Although she was still responding to the problem at the same walking rate, the communication to and from her, was done more effectively.

Adding A Fun Twist To Your Goal

In Tom Kelley’s Art of Innovation, he discusses on how important it is for companies to go from “zero to sixty” in order to break free from the competition and stay on top. Every year, Silicon Valley venture capitalists put on a race for designing the next best innovation and the proceeds for the cause go to a charity which funds safe rides after a night out with drinking involved. After reading the chapter, my recommendation coincides with his – put a fun twist to your goal.

Quality is everything. As a technical manufacturing supervisor for Medtronic, you cannot skimp out on Quality no matter how dire the situation is with meeting commitments. However, meeting your customer commitments on-time is a requirement that falls just under Quality. As a leader ensuring compliance is met day-in and day out, I’ve learned that you need to be creative to achieve the goal on-time. For example, I’ve challenged the team members to recruit as many people as possible or to maximize the capacity for certain equipment in order to meet a goal by a certain time. This drives them to come up with new ways of letting the product flow through the line without missing a step and impacting Quality. From what I read in Tom Kelley’s book, competition can turn up the speed on some innovative ideas. 

By making something interesting, it can be a driving factor to getting things done. Sometimes you need to change things up in order to be innovative within a given time. Personally, with multiple assignments due for both of my classes on top of work, I have learned to challenge myself and have incentives waiting on the opposite end. If I complete an assignment at least three days in advance, I will be able to spend an extra hour or two doing something where I don’t need to worry about studying such as spending extra time at the gym or tweeting. Try to turn everything you do into a game, without forgetting the goal in mind and the consequences of not achieving certain tasks. It’ll be more fun, drive competition and may be that extra nudge you’ve been needing all along.  

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pick The Right State of Mind

Day in and day out, we make decisions on what to communicate and what to not. In some cases we don’t know the consequences of words until it’s too late. Recently, I was introduced to the concepts of the Wise Mind, Emotional Mind and Reasonable Mind. It's not the answer to everything but it helped me understand the logic behind my after-thought process for certain situations.

By recognizing which state of mind you are in, (either during or after) it can help you make better decisions or actively listen to your environment rather than jumping into a danger zone.

"Sometimes though, what we think is the right decision turns out to be the right one because it makes us realize we were wrong; which in turn causes us to change our minds, making the right decision the wrong decision, and the wrong decision the right one" ~JDQ

I've been contemplating a lot about my next move. It's easier to move the pawns because it's simple and can get the job done. But at some point, you have to kick up your offense or else there won't be enough pawns left to protect the King and Queen. 

This blog is a short one but ultimately I realized that sometimes the decision you need to make was there all along but the fuzziness and the noise ( inhibits you from making it at that moment. 

So go with your original gut feeling. From reading Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, he discusses that most decisions and realizations happen within a blink of an eye. So why over analyze? Whether at work, at home or at the gym, try to stay within the Wise Mind and don't let emotions take over. Use them as weapons or shields, but not as anchors. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Cross Pollinating: How And Why

The In the Art of Innovation, Tom Kelley discusses how a company can increase cross-pollination in the workplace. The following is a summary of these seven tips:

1.     Subscribe & Surf: have magazine subscriptions either in person or online; By going through other ideas, you can learn and it opens your mind for further innovation ideas.
2.     Play director: Cut your world or environment into different sections and watch it from a different lens. With another perspective it heightens your senses to actions and ideas that you don’t normally pick up on.
3.     Hold an Open House: Showcase what you do; Display a few prototyping ideas and get people networking and talking in a room about what the company does
4.     Inspire advocates: bring in others with different views as the constructive criticism an help resolve barriers or flourish ideas to an entirely different level.
5.     Hire outsiders: outside influence can introduce new ideas and invigorate the company
6.     Change hats: aka Role Playing; Step into someone else’s shoes to understand what they go through or how they will experience a new product or service
7.     Cross train: ensure that each team member can do a set of activities; this creates flexibility and also helps drive an open mind to different processes or activities.

By not cross pollinating in any one of the elements above, it can set up a company and or product for failure. There are three examples that Kelley points as to why cross pollination is critical for survival.

First is DuPont’s Kevlar which was originally set up for new material for radial tires to replace steel. It wasn't until the military and other security forces used the light-weight material to protect against bullets, that it was picked up for use on tires. Second example is Zelco’s “itty bitty book light.” The demand for the product didn’t pick up until a rap artist was seen on MTV wearing it around his neck. The company took a new approach for marketing and what the product could be used for. Third and final example is that of Hush Puppies who was struggling to make sales in the 1950s. It wasn’t until the company that actual manufacturers the shoes, Wolverine Worldwide, stepped in to support a new branding effort for the products. The sales have increased and been stable ever since and Hush Puppies is a trust name for casual and comfortable shoes. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Implanting the Right Impression

I used to think first impressions were everything. I would meet someone and give them a week, a day or even an hour to create a name for themselves. Then I realized that people grow, and second chances can be new beginnings.

As a leader, I'm driven to evaluate individuals day in and day out. I have become pretty decent at figuring out what kind of contribution he or she will make, in a matter minutes. But then, things change. Their environment changes and their world comes crashing down on them.

When that happens, we as their supervisor have two choices of words when approaching him or her:

1) perform better or get out
2) something's distracting you, what can we do to make this right.

I've learned in a short period of time that the latter can make or break someone's career.

When you stop and recognize that your team are a set of humans, you realize that there are more important things happening at that given moment than the goal they were working on.
Okay- you're rolling your eyes. As a leader within a medical device industry I learned you can't stop if someone isn't feeling well, or else our pacemakers won't get out the door. But when we recognize the human element, the goal shifts into someone else's hands and it's okay.

It doesn't make you weaker or less of a leader to identify the human in your team. However, you need to recognize when enough is enough. How long do you use the human element? Well, for starters, there will be a point you recognize this individual isn't improving and other performance measures need to be taken.

Ultimately, when we tap into our human element and listen to what's not being said, you are able to more effectively performance manage your team.

First impressions can easily cause us to write someone off without truly looking at the bigger picture. Next time you go manage someone's newly negative performance, stop and ask: what changed? Second chances are warranted. So rather than creating and referring to that first impression, find the right impression this individual is trying to make.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Paper Or Plastic?

The three definitions all include environmental, economic and social concerns. The first was from the Brundtland Report stating how sustainable development meets today’s needs without compromising the ability of the future. The Global Institute of sustainability says how Sustainable Development considers “environmental, economical, and social systems.” The third is similar by saying how it’s “economic prosperity, environmental quality and social justice” by John Elkington.

Paper vs. Plastic: From the table below, the verdict is that plastic is better because it’s less harm to the environment and lighter. But if you had to choose, the ultimate winner is to have re-usable cloth bags that you can bring with you each time you go grocery shopping.

Light Weight, Made Energy Efficiently, less air and water pollution
non-biodegradable, not commonly recycled, takes more to do the same task (bagging groceries)
degradable (in certain environments), because it's heavier it can do the job with less (bagging groceries)
can destroy the eco-system when the wood comes from unsustainable forests, the pulping process can lead to air and water pollution from all of the chemicals, heavier in weight which creates more transportation costs

Monday, November 5, 2012

What Fuels Me Most

Medtronic’s Vice President of Research & Technology, Becky Bergman, visited the Tempe Campus on Friday and gave an hour lecture to the SWEnet* chapter on “Strategic Road-map For Technical Women To Excel in the Executive Field.” One of the lists she had created in her presentation was a slide titled “What Fuels Me The Most” and stated how she needed to stick to those principles in order to feel accomplished and happy at the end of the work day. That thought was challenging to say the least. We all say we know what motivates us and what gets us out of bed (umm – annoying alarm clock getting us up to earn a paycheck) but do we really know? And are we really living up to those motivating fuels? I think not.

Along with that question, it helped me align to a question I was posed with a few weeks back – what my values are and how are they ranked. All this time I thought work was everything to me. Excelling to be the next Becky Bergman by the time I’m 30, with my free time consisting of a harsh workout at LA Fitness. But when I was asked to rank my values- work was number 6 on a scale of 1-10! Astonishing to say the least. So as I personally answer what fuels me, I now recognize how they link to my core values.

Healthy Family
Family is and has always been everything to me. I know of no one else really. My core family consists of my mommy, my four brothers, one nephew, three nieces, our desert turtle and three best friends. And I realized this past year (better late than never) that when one of those amazing people aren't at their best, I am not at my best; although I don’t admit it right away. Therefore, a healthy family fuels me because if their feeling well both physically and emotionally then I am confident they’ll continue to be there for me to fall back on.

Confident Self
This was harder said than done – honestly, you don’t hear that phrase often. Being confident is about knowing what the next move is and not only knowing it by owning it. It also means I am reliable to my family and peers and will be looked upon because I can deliver. (Key Competency of Trust “Get Results) Whether I’m wearing my three inch heels or flats, standing with my head up straight only means that I can conquer the world and do it standing by my values. When I wake up in the morning with the cliche thought in my mind of “I can do this” it really does get me out of bed and that positive attitude only creates a snowball effect of greater things to come. So remember to cherish yourself and put the confidence back in yourself to drive only the best results!

Motivating Team
Nothing sparks success more within your organization like a motivating team. As a technical supervisor, one of my key tasks day in and day out is to ensure my team is motivated and empowered to take on the world. I never thought I’d have thirty (yes 30!) direct reports before I was 26 but I’ve grown so much by asking them the right questions and pushing them to take on their passion. Honestly, when their motivated to close the next big project or solve the lurking problem, a successful rush runs through me that I cannot even describe. Along with that annoying alarm clock at 4:30AM, knowing that there is a team waiting to see their smiley, caffeinated supervisor, I cannot second guess hitting that alarm clock more than twice ;)

So the next time your alarm clock goes off at 4:30AM or you badge out of your company’s alarm clock at 5:50PM, think about what you accomplished and how it made you feel. Think about how closely it was linked to the gasoline of your life. 

*Medtronic Tempe Campus recently kicked off a SWEnet chapter, at which I am currently serving on the committee as Chairperson for On-Boarding.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Benefits & Flaws of Industrial Design

The profession of Industrial Design focuses on the creation of new products. There are several benefits of this practice, but what industrial designers do has also led to a host of problems. Explain two benefits and two problems with examples.

Industrial design is about industrial manufacturing products. At the start of product development process, there is ambiguity around what the product may be about. Therefore, research is undergone in order to understand the problem to know which solution will best address the problems and customer needs of the market. Characteristics of an industrially designed product include its aesthetics. Function is critical but how beautiful the product is designed is important in today’s world. With that, the user interface design is a major output to ensure the relationship between the user and the product is easy to maximize the usage of the product. There are a few benefits that are brought up in class such as how industrially designed products aid in continuous improvement efforts, improve the lives of people everyday, humanizing technology and usability. The last two are the ones I will focus on this paper.

Humanizing technology relates to not what the product can do or how it does it, rather what it can do for a particular user-me. The intent of the technology is to be able to link directly with the human touch, in a flawless manner. A great example of this is the Apple iPad. Last year, I won the iPad in a company raffle and had no idea what I was going to use it for. My brothers all wanted to take it from me stating how they’re going to do work on it, read, play games, keep track of their appointments and keep up with their social networks. I didn’t give in as I wanted to cherish my prize. So I picked it up and started using it as a tool for easy access to my social networks while listening to my iTunes playlist. Then one day, I came across an easy blogging app and between that and the note pad function, it became easy for me to get back into writing. The touch keys made it easy to type with one or two hands and it’s weight didn’t make me have any sore hands. In between my breaks, I was able to watch my favorite shows on Netflix or find the latest foreign film. When my brother asked for it again, I was attached and he was surprised at my answer for what I use it for with a response “that’s it?” I guess I’m a pretty good example of an overserved consumer.

Usability is defined as how a product does a specific job. Products may have the design and capabilities to live up to its function, as the example of the hammer in class can be used to put support nails into a new painting on the wall. However, if you’re using nails 50 mils in diameter and 1 inch in length, you may not want to use a large hammer designed for creating the framing of a new house. Another example is how there adult size and child size cuffs for testing blood pressure in the medical industry. There was a time I was admitted into the ER and when the nurse took my blood pressure, she had this confused look on her face. After asking me a few questions, the readings displayed didn’t match how I was feeling. (Note: I was about 22 going in for abdominal pain, not heart issues.) She stood there and then had a smile on her face as a light bulb turned on above her head. She walked out of the room and came back with a bright colored cuff and wrapped it around my arm. She laughed when reading the display stating “now that’s better.” Not feeling well, I was trying to make out the difference of what she did. She held up both cuffs up in the air and that is when I realized one was the adult size cuff (the first one) and the brightly colored one was the child one.

Some of the problems stated in class about industrial design are profit without value products, objective fetishization, conspicuous consumption and elitism and exclusively. As the last two relate to each other in some extent, I will focus on these two and provides examples of these issues. Conspicuous consumption are attract consumers who are always looking for the next best thing to show off to their peers. They waste time and money such as much as they consume. Most of the time these type of consumers purchase these particular items to exemplify their status in the nation. Celebrities are a great example of conspicuous consumers where they have so much money they don’t know what to do with- no wonder the paparazzi follow them! The example I’m going to share is the short fling of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries. The engagement ring presented to the superficial actress was a 20 carat diamond worth $2 million; which was a discounted price from what I was told. Every woman loves diamonds, but honestly that’s too much. I don’t know if I’d be able to handle a 2 carat diamond when I get engaged.

For elitism and exclusive purchasing, the relates more to individual groups purchasing key sets of products that will ultimately move the entire market in that direction eliminating the option of low cost alternatives. With everyone being obsessed with the best health and fad diets, the examples I think of here are items purchased at Trader Joe’s or like organic health markets. The items are run on average 60% higher cost compared to your local Fry’s Marketplace store and most of the time if you actually read the label, what you get at Fry’s is healthier!