What Next?

What Next?

Tools like the Mission/Vision Canvas, the Problem Framing Canvas, and the Premortem tool all help teams develop a brief statement of some sort. It’s a pretty good feeling when the group comes up with a formulation or a phrase that they all agree on, and the statement itself can be a really helpful foundation and guide as the project or effort moves forward.

However, the work isn’t necessarily complete once the session ends and consensus has been reached. The group may have a pretty good version of a Vision Statement or a Problem Statement, but what they do next will determine how effective that statement is. I recommend a three-step process that looks something like this.

  1. Sleep on it. Set the statement aside and come back in a day or two with fresh eyes. You may discover it’s not as clear and clever as it seemed at the time. You may uncover a gap or a friction point, an opportunity to improve it… or you may confirm that it’s exactly what you hoped it would be.
  2. Socialize it. Share it with some colleagues who were not in the session and get their perspectives. Ask if it resonates with them – is it clear, accurate, actionable, etc? Testing it out and validating / refining the statement doesn’t have to take long or be super formal. In fact, it’s probably best if it’s quick and informal.
  3. Wordsmith it. Continue to play around with word choice and word order. Might the statement make more sense if you shuffled some parts around, swapped in a synonym, or made other changes? Sleeping on it and socializing it may unlock some new ideas you didn’t come up with in the original session.

As much as an ITK session aims to develop “clarity and consensus” on topics, keep in mind most of this work is actually iterative. We hardly ever follow the one-and-done path, and we like to remind people that there is a zero percent chance we got it one hundred percent correct on the first try. As a general rule, we get the most of out ITK sessions when we think about them as the beginning of a conversation rather than the end of one.

Why ITK Works For Me…And Hopefully For You

Why ITK Works For Me…And Hopefully For You

Today’s blog post is from Jeffrey Hammer, one of ITK’s new trainees

If you’ve seen the ITK tools, some of them may look familiar. Lotus Blossom? That’s brainstorming. Stormdraining? Organizing a brainstorm. Mission and Vision Canvas? Companies have been defining their vision and mission for years, with one of the earliest known mission statements going back to 1941 in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology. So why ITK?

The answer for me lay in two areas. First, the tools facilitate these common processes in a different way. I thought I was an experienced brainstorming facilitator, even integrating mind maps in my sessions as far back as 2000. Lotus Blossom upended that thinking and gave me an entirely different way to approach a brainstorming session. The design of the tool itself, combined with the facilitation guide, invigorates fresh thinking. Mission-Vision uses plain language questions and leads a team down a path that eventually culminates in a mission or vision statement without you even realizing it.

Second is the ITK philosophy. There is an energy and culture behind these tools that its creators have infused into their design and use. It’s a positive, experimental, nurturing culture that encourages the novel thinking needed for innovation. That philosophy radiates from the founders and ITK evangelists, and is infused not only in the tools themselves but also how they can be applied to maximum effectiveness. And they are fun! Every tool I have used with a team has been met with enthusiasm and satisfaction.

As newbie and (hopefully) soon to be minted ITK Certified, I continue to learn and grow with each new experience. If you can embrace the novel approach these tools offer to scoping, designing, understanding, generating, and evaluating problems and ideas, it will take you and your team’s thinking to a whole new level.

ITK’s Website Refresh!

ITK’s Website Refresh!

As you’ve probably noticed, the ITK website has a whole new look and layout! We’ve redesigned all the tools, added lots of new content and material, and even made it easier to filter through the tools to find just the one you need.

We hope this refresh makes the site easier to navigate and use. As with any design effort, it’s an iterative process so we’d love to hear your feedback and suggestions!

Should We Be Muting Our Sneezes?

Should We Be Muting Our Sneezes?

This week’s post is by Allison Khaw. Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash.

I was sitting at my desk recently, participating in a virtual work meeting, when I sneezed.

I was already muted, so the meeting continued without pause, but this got me thinking.  As a side effect of our current behavioral norms, we are effectively subduing those idiosyncrasies that make us human.  Returning my gaze to the computer screen, I mused to myself: Should we be muting our sneezes?

I still chuckle at the inexplicable absurdity of this question—muting our sneezes, who would have thought!—but I also ask it with a genuine yearning to understand the answer.  And the true question, as you may have guessed, extends beyond sneezing.  Before COVID-19 upended our work culture, we lived in a time where in-person meetings were more common than hybrid or virtual ones.  The paradigm has shifted so dramatically that the opposite is true today.  Virtual meetings are prevalent out of necessity, and we’ve become more adept at handling them than ever before.

When we participate in these meetings, we possess the incredible ability to mute our voices or disappear from view at the click of a button.  Our current circumstances pose seeming contradictions: our presence can be invisible; our sneezes can be silent!  Ultimately, we now have the freedom to choose when to be seen and heard.

However, as the phrase goes, freedom always comes with a cost.  We’re trying to appear—and be—professional, but what are we losing in return?

Of course, muting is important in many situations, whether you’re minimizing your background noise in a large meeting or finishing your lunch without wanting to moderate the crunch level of your chips.  Thus, we should do our best to maintain this self-awareness in our virtual meetings while finding ways to avoid muting our own humanity in the process.

And how do we do that?  Well, we can take a meaningful first step by performing small experiments, true to the spirit of the Innovation Toolkit.  For instance, try showing your video while speaking for a presentation, using your authentic home office as your meeting background, or eating your lunch with your microphone off but your camera on.  Another idea is to try an “active listening” exercise: pair up with a coworker, listen to them describe their day for two uninterrupted minutes before you paraphrase what you heard them say, and then swap roles.  After doing this exercise in a recent “Yes, And” Innovation Toolkit workshop, I felt rejuvenated by the chance to listen to someone else and be equally heard.  Whatever you decide to try, stretch outside of your comfort zone and then reflect on how it went.

As we look towards the future, we need to remember that no one expects us to be perfect, not even in a virtual setting.  We need to remember that simple visual cues such as nodding, smiling, or laughing can be invaluable in bringing us closer together despite our physical distance.  What’s more, we need to have conversations about these topics, now and often.  In fact, if we don’t, we may find that the sounds of our sneezes are not all that we’ll lose in the end.

Clean Water For Communities in Need

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Today’s post is by guest blogger Riley Fujioka!

Did you know that 2.2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water? Or that globally, 1 in 4 healthcare facilities lack basic water services? You can help bring clean water to these underserved communities.

At MITRE, we have to come together to put a dent in these statistics by partnering with Wine to Water, an international non-profit organization focused on ending the root cause of global poverty. They provide sustainable water solutions in communities around the world, and we’re working with a student-led team at The Madeira School on a volunteer event. Our goal is to reach over 1,000 people with clean water by raising money to build clean water filters and to make a difference through the power of clean water.

Between now and late January, we invite you to join our fundraiser. Your donation will enable Wine to Water to obtain and distribute filter building kits that will be sent to all fundraiser contributors. Then, during our virtual filter building event on World Water Day, March 22, you can build the filters at home. These will be distributed globally to communities in need and also support disaster relief efforts.

Leading up to this event in March, we will host a series of keynote speakers from the Wine to Water team as well as members of communities around the world who will be directly impacted by these filters, so you can learn more about the positive impact you will be making through this effort. We’ll be sharing registration details as the virtual events are scheduled.

According to Shared Justice: ‘Unclean water can cause serious and costly health issues, and studies have found that poor and minority communities across the U.S. are disproportionately affected by polluted waters.’ The issue is much worse outside of the United States, where lack of sanitation and access to basic health care led to millions of deaths each year.”

Each filter costs around $50 in materials to make and distribute. To participate in a virtual hands-on experience to build kits for families around the globe without clean drinking water, contribute to our fundraiser, and register for the event here

Please join us in fundraising and building clean water filters for communities all around the world!

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