ProtoStorming to Fail as Fast as Possible!

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image courtesy of

Any organization or company that is dependent on product development for survival, needs to embrace ProtoStorming to fail as fast as possible. This proposed immediate failure is actually the key to a long term positive in product development. Rich Gildersleeve, Chief Technology Officer at DJO Global, coined the term ProtoStorming in the early 2000’s, and has helped DJO evolve and refine the process.

His initial concern was that DJO would conduct a brainstorming session and nothing would come from it. He recognized the need to integrate brainstorming with prototyping to initiate a workable solution to the initial problem.

At a recent innovation conference presentation, Rich described the ProtoStorming process to an audience including Dick Rutan, the first person to fly non-stop around the world. Rutan commented that it was “a great idea” that he would be stealing and using in the future to describe the acceleration of the “concept development phase.”

Anyone who has tinkered in their garage to fix something without an owner’s manual what ProtoStorming means.  Additionally, anyone who has participated in a LEAN manufacturing workshop where an immediate idea was implemented to resolve a high risk problem or increase productivity is engaged in ProtoStorming. They just did not have a word for it.

In the mid 1980’s, a super secret agent named MacGyver was popularized on TV who worked for a fictitious government agency. His specialty talent was in his being able to solve complex problems with everyday materials he found at hand, along with his ever-present duct tape and Swiss Army Knife. He was incredibly resourceful and possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of the physical sciences which allowed him to come up with immediate solutions to complex problems or situations referred to as Macgyverisms. These solutions were ultimately developed using the process of ProtoStorming.

According to R. Gildersleeve, ProtoStorming is based on playfulness, building and creativity combined. This mixture is a Kaizen-like brainstorming combined with rapid prototyping by small passionate teams where as many ideas as possible are investigated in a short period of time. A critical key component to the process is an ethnographic study of the customer’s use of the product. They examine what works and what does not work to focus on the correct design parameters to challenge and change.

The first step in ProtoStorming is a focused brainstorming session to identify potential solutions to a design challenge. The main materials used include easy to find items such as cardboard, duct tape and components from existing products and widgets. The prototype constructed typically has minimal design specifications and it lacks the typical constraints found inherently in a manufacturing environment. What it does have is the ability to quickly design and create a functionally working solution.  Sometimes there are multiple design sketches or concepts that can be ProtoStormed to find out what new ideas or solutions work best.

These new ideas and solutions are not to be confused with “Rube Goldbergs”, which are defined as the accomplishment of something simple through complicated means.  The focus of ProtoStorming is to provide a LEAN manufacturing perspective on your product identifying areas where you can increase value. Identifying immediate solutions to potential problems or design issues gets you back on track faster and headed in the right direction.  The ProtoStorming design process can also include Rapid Prototyping of parts and assemblies through 3-D printing.

There are companies, like IDEO; an international design firm and innovation consultancy founded in Palo Alto, California, which specialize in a human centered & design based approach to help organizations in all sectors innovate and grow. They have thrived by embracing ProtoStorming. Their success relies on thinking forward, and working beyond other companies deep entrenchments in old, outdated processes and design philosophies, which are taken as facts that simply cannot change. By working with these companies, IDEO is able to help them discover entire markets they would have otherwise missed; markets that their competitors might have found.

New flavors of ProtoStorming have evolved at the Sunny Delight Beverage Company where they have created “Customer” ProtoStorming and “Holistic” ProtoStorming. Eric Meyer is using it at Sunny Delight to remove the fuzziness from the front end of innovation. Your customer does not always know the next direction you should pursue, but they can sure tell you where you’re falling flat on your face. A little ethnographic observation of your customer’s problems with your products followed by a ProtoStroming event can double or triple the positive impact to your financial bottom line.


  1. Macgyverism’s –
  2. Rube Goldburg’s –
  3. The Mastery of Innovation: A Field Guide to Lean Product Development
  4. SDBC Holistic ProtoStorming

Innovation Process

Without an Innovation Process you are Searching for Gold without a Map or Compass!

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Every opportunity I have, I ask business leaders if they have an official and documented process for innovation. The typical response I get leads me to a clear understanding that most people don’t!

What’s even more troublesome is that over half of them say they don’t really need an Innovation process…that they just “do it” when they need it and that’s perfectly fine. What these business leaders are really describing is probably just problem solving, not true innovation. Both are required in your organization but they are two entirely different mindsets requiring different thinking.

The difference is subtle and can make the difference between moving forward in a positive direction…or remaining mediocre and stagnate. Some background into the difference between problem solving and innovation is required to illustrate the point, so I will provide a quick comparison for you.



Problem Solving                             True Innovation
Reactive                                                              Proactive
Defensive approach                        Offensive approach
Based on Stability                               Based on Change
Risk reductions                                 New Opportunities
Operational Efficiency                    Leadership Strategy


adapted from figures in “The Innovation Formula” by M. Robert, & A. Weiss

The list and figures above show clear distinctions between the two processes. The biggest difference is the change in performance level. So you can see that Innovation requires a different, and unique process, which may also include interconnected process elements or components.

Innovation is a repeatable business practice containing specific skills and thinking mindsets. It is not a homemade soup where you add a pinch of this and a pinch of that.  Innovation requires a structured and disciplined sequence of steps that contains tools that can be used in each step.

Divergence ——–> Transformation ——-> Convergence

The above steps are interconnected and flow forward from a starting point using divergent thinking to a finish point using convergent thinking.  Inside the flow between these two thinking elements, you must have a creativity step allowing a series of new ideas to evolve providing a transformation. Any Innovation process requires as a minimum these three steps.

Many Innovation processes contain 4 to 8 steps depending on their design thinking logic. The NOVATE process contains 6 steps with an interconnected flow that allows you to think forward, think backward and then continue to think forward again.


NOVATE Innovation Process

  • Recognize – Identify a deficiency or problem.
  • Discover – Explore previous design ideas or solutions to your problem.
  • Pattern – Recognize and match similarities, commonalities or dis-similarities.
  • Novate – Replace something with positive deconstruction and reconstruction.
  • Evaluate – Combine idea solutions to create integrated design solutions.
  • Implement – Create the proposed system containing all of the functionality.
  • Linked Connections – Interconnected flow paths that illustrate a topographical view diagramming the flexibility of an innovation thinking network.

Too often business leaders use the term innovation as a path to the future for their companies. These same leaders don’t provide the tools, training and resources required to create a culture of innovation thinking. The people in these companies can only use the tools they have available.

The statement that opportunity only knocks once is wrong.  Opportunity is always knocking, but you must understand what it looks like…feels like, sounds like, smells like and tastes like! So if you think you need to be in the right place at the right time, you are in trouble. You need to be in the right place all the time.

Innovation requires all of your senses and takes time for valuable ideas. Instant ideas take no practice, strategy or purpose. Innovation is occurring all around you on a daily basis, because change is happening around you constantly. True Innovation requires original thinking followed by measurement of the opportunities by pragmatic evaluation. This type of innovation process must have a filtering process to make intelligent choices about which opportunities to pursue. True Innovation processes check for strategic fits and are many times hard to implement. It requires both qualitative and quantitative evaluations blending subjective and objective thinking styles.

Leaders who embrace a True Innovation process are creating a roadmap to success one idea at a time. They have created a repeatable trail that leads from business survival to organizational preparedness for accelerating change. These Leaders recognize the role of true innovation, they have their people learn the process and skills of innovating, and apply innovative abilities on a regular, disciplined basis.

The next question is always so where do I start and HOW?  The answer is a tough one because “It Depends” on where your organization and leadership team is starting at. As a minimum you must:

  • Start the “Journey” – Get the word out that you are starting to identify an Innovation Process that will be used to create new business opportunities. Tell everyone!
  • Obtain Executive sponsorship
  • Establish and provide a dedicated budget for “Innovation”
  • Identify an “Innovation Process” that fits
  • Establish a Quantitative and Qualitative Measurement of ideas
  • Create an Innovation Business Scorecard with “KPI’s”
  • Identify and embrace a set of creativity and new thinking tools
  • Train your employees on the use of these tools
  • Measure the “ROI’s” for Innovation
  • Share & Recognize the Successes and Failures
  • Verify & Validate Stakeholder Innovation Expectations
  • Continue Innovation Process Improvements

For many organizations to start the Process of Innovation, it will require them to create an ‘Enterprise” wide Innovation initiative that establishes an Idea Management System. In this system, you will need to break your organization apart into multiple systems and create multiple Innovation Process efforts for different areas.  The advantage of a “Process” is that it can be mapped, measured, optimized and continuously improved.

It’s hard to do this right, but if you really believe that Innovation is your path to the future, you need an Innovation Process to get there.


  1. TOP 10 Reasons Why We Need INNOVATION by Lorraine Yapps Cohen
  2. NOVATE –
  3. The Innovation Formula –


“Structured Brainstorming” through the use of Idea Provocations

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Realize it or not, Brilliant Ideas require a Provocation to start the idea generation process. Everyone has their own opinion about brainstorming. Some think it’s a powerful creativity tool. Others think it’s simply our brains playing around. It’s based on the concept that “two heads are better than one” to come up with new ideas that are Brilliant.

The current term “Brainstorming” has become easily confused with any creativity or innovation method. Many people use it as a way to describe the activity of coming up with any new idea, and very few understand the history of the term or its true intent.

Alex F. Osborn authored the original term “Brainstorming” in the 1953 book Applied Imagination. He used it to describe his early 1939 group-thinking efforts using the “brain to storm” a creative problem, and to do so in commando fashion, with each stormer attacking the same objective. Osborn additionally identified nine principles to manipulate a subject. The first two principles contribute to “ideative efficacy,” these being:

  1. Defer judgment
  2. Reach for quantity
  3. Reduce social inhibitions among the group members
  4. Stimulate idea generation
  5. Increase the overall creativity of the group
  6. Focus on quantity
  7. Withhold criticism
  8. Welcome unusual ideas
  9. Combine and improve ideas

Almost all current innovation and creativity processes use these same principles and goals as the objectives to create new ideas. One new area of idea exploration is the development of a “Provocation” challenge or statement which can take you into a non-traditional thinking direction. Bob Eberle developed the mnemonic. SCAMPER from Osborn’s original work and it was popularized in the “Thinker Toys” book by Michael Michalko.

  • Substitute
  • Combine
  • Adapt
  • Modify/Magnify
  • Put to another use
  • Eliminate
  • Reverse/Rearrange

“It is easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one.”- Alex Osborn

The solution, as suggested by the above quote, is to think up as many ideas as possible regardless of how ridiculous they may seem at first. Since it is very unlikely to think up the best solution immediately, we recommend getting every idea out of your head and then going back to examine them afterwards. An idea that may have initially sounded off-the-wall may actually turn out to be a potentially possible idea with some fine tuning or modification. Osborn’s technique of deferred judgment increases the individual’s synthesis capabilities by releasing the human mind from the analysis mode of thinking.

The most important step in brainstorming is formulating or creating the problem or challenge statement. This initial step leads idea creating participants into areas they may not traditionally go to.  An “Idea Provocation” is a statement which challenges participants to immediately think differently. It can allow you to challenge or eliminate your assumptions. There are 4 categories of Provocations that can revolutionize your thinking which are based on:

  • Timing – Time domains that can be challenged are to think into the future or the past for ways to stimulate new ideas or solve problems. You can slow down, stop, speed up or start over creating new situations, or logical mindsets. Time travel can exist and you can let it lead your thinking forward and into an outrageous direction.
  • Arrangement – The logical flow for how things are joined together, connected, interconnected or placed is challenged. You can eliminate, rearrange, substitute or add something extra to stimulate new ideas or solve problems. The addition of splitting or fracturing the sequencing of your new thinking can lead to different, amazing new discoveries that naturally unveil themselves.
  • Positional – Space domains are based on a logical position which can be challenged by working from the back to the front, turning things inside out and changing the direction to stimulate new ideas or solve problems. The starting point and ending points can be changed in the design or idea creation. When you think backward moving towards the initial starting point you can optimize your efficiency and maximize your effectiveness.
  • Exploration – Breaking apart the basic assumptions, mental models and paradigms that structure the problem to your solutions is key to creating new idea mindsets. You can add abstract statements or elements together to create new thinking. Additionally, you can continue to question the thinking logic by repeatedly asking “Why” or “What’s stopping you.” Wicked problems are based on contradictions where two opposing elements are needed at the same time. True exploration looks to all areas that may contain new ideas or solve problems.   

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Brainstorming tools that can help you create these logical provocations are available from Edward de Bono in his lateral thinking tool PO (provocation operation) which can allow a fantasy idea by stating “wouldn’t it be nice if”. Roger Von Oech has developed a set of 64 cards called the Creative Whack Pack which can stimulate new creative strategies. Finally, Michael Michalko has designed a brainstorming card deck called THINKPAK which can lead to new insights using scamper questions and idea stimulators.

Using Idea Provocations allows a new creative balancing of a problem. The outrageous bold statements allow you to invert your thinking. The process of diverting your patterns of thinking with new problem or challenge statements can change the relationship of elements and flows. Ultimately this can allow you to create new and creative ideas for your business and enterprise challenges in 2014. 


  2. Creative Whack Pack –
  3. PO –


Leading New Thinking for Entrepreneurship



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The current and next generation of engineers that are being educated in colleges and universities are exploring new thinking methods that can allow them to become better entrepreneurs. Traditional thinking methods are being enhanced and micro-cultures of creativity are created by introduction of “Parallel and Lateral Thinking” methods.

At the request of a professor at Cal. State University Northridge (J. Ghandi) for the fall 2013 session, I participated in a series of training sessions for approximately 30 graduate students who were registered for the MSE 602 Entrepreneurship & Innovation Management course.  We provided a strong introduction to Edward de Bono’s Parallel & Lateral Thinking course material. Ultimately, one of the key learning objectives for the course was to allow the learning teams to create a diversity of thinking to produce new ideas, decisions, patterns, and connections.

The students used these thinking methods for their course team project to create an entrepreneurship venture product or process start-up. The 6 unique thinking styles were facilitated for basic understanding and a practice exercise was completed by the students. The understanding was that the students could use these thinking modes for any and all work they needed to complete culminating after 16 weeks with an outbrief presentation as a team to a panel of entrepreneurship judges who would listen, review, advise, and comment on their final product delivery.

Entrepreneurship is the thinking balance of possible risk and opportunity measured against the action of a possible business venture.  For many engineering students this is a new concept that breaks traditional learning models. Almost all traditional thinking methods are based on adversarial & critical thinking exploration of what is wrong. Very few thinking methods are taught that provide the ability to create thinking together synergies among the students and exploration of diversity of thinking for creating collaborative ideas.

The students were challenged to create an “elevator pitch” about their product or process to explain what makes unique and viable new business ventures. These entrepreneurship teams had common goals and objectives but were allowed the freedom to challenge their own assumptions and establish a double-loop learning environment.

Upon completion of the final student presentations, a survey was completed to establish accurate feedback for the use of “Parallel and Lateral Thinking” methods for implementing innovative thinking in entrepreneurship curriculum for engineers. Over 96% of the students responded that the “Six Thinking Hats® was valuable to their learning experience”.  This directly indicates that a cognitive tool was useful in organizing and categorizing their thinking. They were able to cover their thinking from different angles, perspectives, and viewpoints.

Additionally, 89% of the survey respondents agreed that “Lateral Thinking™ was valuable to their learning experience” towards completion of their entrepreneurship business venture. This directly indicates that systemic Green Hat tools, that enable creativity, were valuable in establishing a framework to generate and control innovative projects. Lateral thinking allowed them to work together to be creative instead of working against each other when creating ideas.

Over half of the class indicated when Blue Hat “Thinking about the Thinking” was beneficial.  That Black Hat thinking about the logical negative to understand the risks and what could go wrong, were helpful. Half of the students also felt that Red Hat understanding of intuition and feelings for decision making helped with their project and teams.

Over Three quarters of the class felt that using both White Hat thinking to understand the information they needed and the Yellow Hat, used to understand the benefits and advantages of their system elements, components, or features was helpful for their entrepreneurship projects.

Entrepreneurship is based on identifying the potential risks weighted against the possible opportunities in a new Business Venture. Adding new thinking tools that allow students to become more creative in current engineering and management curriculums will ultimately lead to a new generation of entrepreneurs who are risk savvy and opportunity enlightened.

For more information on Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats visit  and for information on Lateral Thinking techniques visit .

Additional Links:

California State University Northridge California
Ernie Schaeffer Center For Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Rocky Peak Leadership Center CSUN Event


How Leadership Values can Create Synergy or Discord

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For Leaders & Teams, the development of Synergy and prevention or resolution of Discord (chaos) are two of the biggest challenges faced every day. How your Personal and Organizational Values effect the ability to pursue these is directly linked but many times ignored or viewed as insignificant. Your Values include your biases, mental models, paradigms and what you intuitively value as important. Your Organizational Values drive the organizational behaviors, and actions.  Both are demonstrated in your Mission, Vision and Purpose statements.

These “Value” statements are linked to your organizational strategies, goals and ultimately the tasks that everyone is striving to work on, and think about. Values are also a description of what the organization thinks is important. They help create priorities to assure the people are performing in alignment and balance to what is expected. Steve Pavlina has identified a list of over 400 “Values” that can be found at –

Both Subjective and Objective values are part of the balance and makeup of a person.  You may recognize these immediately and say that “Yes” that is part of me. Not all values are the same, in other words some are more important than others. These values also work in conjunction with each other to compliment performance and actions. In some ways, the importance of a subjective or objective value causes us to think more clearly about it. A simple explanation of the difference between them is:

  • Subjective Values – these are values you chose because you find alignment and balance in them.  Superman finds his values in his self-declared proclamation of “Truth, Justice and the American Way”! Superman represents these values by “walking the talk”. He exhibits these values constantly with his behaviors and actions. This is a fictitious example, but a clear demonstration of personal values to actions.
  • Objective Values – these are values that are inside the “object”, culture or organization. Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream has a Mission Statement that tells others that they are dedicated to a sustainable corporate concept of linked prosperity.  With 3 interrelated parts which encompass a Social Mission, Product Mission and an Economic Mission while holding a deep respect for individuals inside and outside the company and for the communities of which they are a part. I have personally used Ben & Jerry’s as a model of ethical behavior in an academic format with students for years.

The balance of these subjective and objective values make you “authentic” as a leader. They can also send a message to everyone who interacts with you regarding whether you are credible or not. Harry Kraemer, professor of management and strategy at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and author of “From Values to Action,” describes four principles of values-based leadership that can be embraced, enhanced and demonstrated. These are:

  • An ongoing self-reflection helps you identify your core values and goals and what you truly stand for.
  • The ability to see more than one side to a story, giving you insight into the issues and tradeoffs and how you’ll make decisions.
  • True self-confidence, is accepting your strengths and weaknesses, knowing you can improve.
  • Genuine humility, stems from never forgetting where you came from and keeping your leadership role in perspective

As a leader in your organization, you model the behavior for others and, whether you like it or not are a role model for others by your demonstrated actions. You don’t identify your core values and then ignore them. Truly great leaders are in complete alignment with their values, actions and behaviors and create synergy.

Unfortunately, there is a possibility where any one or all of these values is not in balance. An example would be when a leader says one thing but does another. When a leader is seen behaving in a manner that is not represented by, or is contradiction to the organizational value structure, they create discord or what is more openly called chaos. They become unpredictable to others and lose the trust of those around them. Sometimes this is a sign of leadership immaturity but it can also be a lack of clear values structure and weakness. Ultimately it puts leaders in a position where they may not be able to trust the other leaders they work and interact with every day.

To create and be a positive leader in a values-based team or organizations is something that everyone should strive for and be comfortable exhibiting.  H. Kramer suggests that as a value-based leader you set the tone for your team and others. You must continually ask yourself “what example am I setting” and “are my actions in line with my beliefs and values?”

The only way to change a negative “Value” in yourself or your organization is to recognize it and publicly acknowledge that it is not acceptable. This requires exposing the actions, beliefs and behaviors that are not considered acceptable. Next, you must provide the framework and replacement actions, beliefs and behaviors that are considered acceptable and publish these.  Most organizations create “value” statements that establish this framework for their employees but what even be necessary to create a “Leadership” Mission Statement.

By establishing a Leadership Mission Statement you can establish an expected consistency among the leadership staff. It focuses the recognition that leaders model the behavior of what is acceptable and creates an alignment between organizational and personal values.

Values have three components – an emotional, cognitive and behavioral pattern that is based on our feelings. Feelings are very personal and sometimes need clarification to explain them clearly. Values are distinguishable from feelings, attitudes, goals, opinions, beliefs and habits. Values are the aspects of our lives that exhibited by behavior patterns. Hopefully our decisions are made on the basis of the positive values, principles, and priorities that we embrace.

Almost any thinking & action has a critical value component so it is impossible to ignore them. Additionally you constantly demonstrate Leadership values by how you talk to others and what you say. Ultimately this creates trust, establishes positive relationships, and helps create synergy. Remember that actions speak louder than words.




5 Leadership Styles to help your organization move forward

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As a Project and Program Manager for over 20 years, I have been asked many times which “Leadership Style” is best. There is a perception among young leaders that if they embrace one specific style that they will become more successful.

The answer to the question is a response that is seen by some as a riddle and others as an enigma……”It Depends”.

In other words, there is no one specific leadership style that is best. Leadership styles are not something that you can put on and take off like a coat when it gets cold outside. You need to have a core blend and balance of 3-5 leadership styles that you recognize can be used at different times and under different situations that fit. You will need to be able to move or flow from one to another creating a personal leadership palate.

Leadership styles are embedded into what you say, what you do, and finally what you think. The most effective leaders are able to move within their leadership styles in a manner that is consistent and authentic with the styles they embrace. People want their leaders to be predictable in their behaviors and actions. They also want those actions to be based on values and morals that align with the purpose, mission and vision of the organization.

By authentic we want our leaders to be “real”, not fake and that they live those same beliefs and values that help build their organizations and help movement forward in a positive direction. The following 5 different but uniquely positive leadership styles can be used to help you create that forward movement:

  • Transformational Leadership
  • People-Oriented/Relations-Oriented Leadership
  • Servant Leadership
  • Situational Leadership
  • Leaderful Leadership

Transformational Leadership – enhances the motivation, morale, and performance of followers through a variety of mechanisms. These include connecting the follower’s sense of identity and self to the project and the collective identity of their organization. Being a role model for followers inspires them and makes them interested. It challenges followers to take greater ownership in their work, and understad the strengths and weaknesses of followers. The leader can align followers with tasks that enhance their performance. The transforming approach creates significant change in the life of people and organizations. It redesigns perceptions, values, and changes expectations and aspirations of employees.

People-Oriented/Relations-Oriented Leadership – consists of the leader sharing the decision-making abilities with group members by promoting the interests of the group members and by practicing social equality. This has also been called shared leadership. With the complexity and ambiguity of tasks that teams often experience, it is becoming more apparent that a single leader is unlikely to have all of the skills and traits to effectively perform the necessary leadership functions. Thus, shared leadership is becoming increasingly popular in teams, as multiple team members emerge as leaders, especially when they have the skills/knowledge/expertise that the team needs. Also encompasses Democratic and Participative Leadership Styles.

Servant Leadership – is both a leadership philosophy and set of leadership practices. Traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid.” By comparison, the servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. The servant leadership approach goes beyond employee-related behavior and calls for a rethinking of the hierarchical relationship between a leader and their subordinates. This does not mean that the ideal of a participative style in any situation is to be enforced, but that the focus of leadership responsibilities is the promotion of performance and satisfaction of employees.

Situational Leadership – a leadership theory first introduced as “Life Cycle Theory of Leadership”. During the mid-1970s, “Life Cycle Theory of Leadership” was renamed “Situational Leadership theory”. The fundamental underpinning of the situational leadership theory is that there is no single “best” style of leadership. Effective leadership is task-relevant, and the most successful leaders are those that adapt their leadership style to the maturity (“the capacity to set high but attainable goals, willingness and ability to take responsibility for the task, and relevant education and/or experience of an individual or a group for the task”) of the individual or group they are attempting to lead or influence. Effective leadership varies, not only with the person or group that is being influenced, but it also depends on the task, job or function that needs to be accomplished.

Leaderful Leadership – As described in a Leaderful Leadership organization there are tenants to 4-C’s that assert a contrast to the familiar traditional leadership model, which tends to identify a single leader with heroic imagery. These Leaders are:

  • Concurrent – stipulates that there can be more than one leader operating at the same time in an organization, so leaders willingly and naturally share power with others.
  • Collective – the entity is not solely dependent on one individual to mobilize action or make decisions on behalf of others.
  • Collaborative – advocate a point of view that can contribute to the common good of the organization, but are equally sensitive to the views & feelings of others.
  • Compassionate – demonstrating compassion, one extends unadulterated commitment to preserving the dignity of others.

So now that we have a good clear understanding of 5 unique Leadership Styles….what is the difference between a style and a Leadership trait..?

The difference between leadership styles and traits is subtle, but important. Leadership style refers to the methods used to manage a group of individuals. In addition, leadership style refers to the methods and theories used to solve problems and make decisions. In contrast, leadership traits describe the characteristics and personality traits that are common among leaders or those in a position of authority. Typically, leadership traits encompass physical, emotional, social and intellectual characteristics.

Leadership traits represent the individual characteristics that go into creating a specific leadership style. They can represent positive characteristics such as self-confidence, ambition and high energy, commonly found among leaders representing a wide variety of leadership styles. Other positive leadership traits include the ability to communicate effectively, motivate others and multitask. These traits allow leaders to formulate a leadership style that will move their teams or departments toward accomplishing their organizational goals and initiatives.

The characteristics of leadership or traits that are the most ineffective in helping move your organization forward are micro-managing, criticism, pitting one person against another in a negative competition and demanding that people go faster without a clear understanding of the impacts.

So you can see that helping your organization move forward in a positive direction requires a set of leadership styles that embraces positive leadership traits. And, that “one size does not fit all”.….in other words….you need to review your values and listen to your impact on others. Leaders that help move organizations move forward in a positive direction are responsible, accountable and help clarify the thinking of others. These leadership styles allow leaders to listen, communicate and empower others by removing roadblocks that prevent an organization from moving forward.




“Challenging” the start of Creativity for Transformational Innovation


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The process of Transformational Innovation requires the use of creativity tools that provide concise and focused steps to understand the starting direction. Establishing this starting point is essential for the efficiency of any idea constructing toolset.  For Innovation and Creativity to be successful, the path we start down needs to be clear, concise and contain focused steps.  In many cases having a good start accounts for half of the battle, and it occurs before we even start an actual idea creating session.

In other words the preparation and development of the Problem, Focus or, “Need Statement” must contain specific elements. Edward De Bono calls them Area (where) and Purpose (why) focuses. But with “Wicked Problems” that contain contradictions and assumptions requires dissecting into pieces or levels.

Functional mapping and Systems analysis requires moving from the Super-System, to System, to Sub System and then looking at that in the perspective or state of the past, present and the future. As you can see getting the idea session ready to start can require preparation up from to understand the correct direction to move forward.

Steve Swann gives us a great start to pulling at the pieces required by asking having you follow three steps – the first step is to answer the following questions:

  • who does it affect / does not affect.
  • what does it affect / does not affect.
  • how does it affect / does not affect.
  • when is it a problem / is not a problem.
  • where is it a problem / is not a problem.

The second step is to understand the state or the level that your problem exists at as illustrated in the figure below from

Image found at

Image found at

The third and final step is to re-state the problem by combining the current state problem with the desired state. But this does not get to the “WHY”. To get to that you need to use a tool called the Ladder of Abstraction. The ladder works by starting with a Need Statement and asking two key questions:

“Why?” or “Why else?” or “What’s stopping you?” or “What else is stopping you?”

You branch the original focus statement in both directions as long as it makes sense and restate the problem at that level. Another way to engage in this divergence process of dissecting the starting point can be to use. This tool is a mental whetstone, capable of sharpening, refining, focusing the most powerful tool at the thinker’s disposal. Their own minds, which exponentially adds to their impact on the value stream.

One final comment is that sometimes the focus, problem or need statement needs to be phrased in a more serendipitous manner. It may need to have something included inside it that asks us to achieve greatness, to find new ideas focused on novelty and originality. A way to accomplish this is to “Challenge” your teams with a cognitive provocation. Examples of this can be formulated by stating “we a challenging you to…..”

  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that allow us to reduce costs by 10%
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that improve functionality
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that increase safety by 5%
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that reduce parts and simplify the design
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that increase performance by 20%

The simple process of creating and using what I call a Challenge Statement allows you to quickly formulate a desired or future state condition without placing any preconceived bias or paradigm blinders on.  These can also be fun and crazy but at the same time quite impactful. Remember John F. Kennedy’s challenge. On May 25, 1961, he stood in front of Congress to deliver a special message on “urgent national needs.” He asked for an additional $7 billion to $9 billion over the next five years for the space program, proclaiming that “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”

A message that inspired us to achieve an incredible series of events constructed by thousands of people creating ideas based upon a Challenge Statement. Maybe it’s time for us to establish 5 new STEM challenges for society such as:

  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that allow us to recycle every households trash by an additional 10% by the year 2015.
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that reduce the carbon footprint of each person by 5% each year.
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that allow us to reduce the amount of gasoline or petroleum required for each car by 20% in the next 3 years.
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that increase the literacy of everyone in the United States by 5% over the next 5 years.
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that allow Sustainable Leadership training and mentoring for young adults to learn and implement by the time the time they graduate from college and enter the workforce.

These 5 grand “Challenges” can be used to help us as a society move forward in a positive direction now and in the future. So who’s willing to take a challenge and run with it to create truly Transformational Innovation..?




Is your IQ holding you back…or are you holding your IQ back?


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Recent British and American psychologists have found that being broke impedes brainpower as much as staying awake all night or losing 8 to13 IQ points. This research, published in the journal Science, suggests poverty feeds on itself by consuming “mental bandwidth”.

Typically an average Intelligence Quotient  (IQ) test results in a range of 90-110 points with a score of 100 as the median for most people.  A persons score below 70 is a possible indication of developmental delays related to intelligence. But what does this really mean..?

Intelligence measured in this type of test is an indication of our mental capacity for how well we process information and our ability to retrieve it. The authors propose that “being poor can impair cognitive functioning, which hinders an individual’s ability to make good decisions and can cause further poverty.”

The problem with this type of grand research is that terms such as poor, poverty and a clear description of what types of mental bandwidth impacted do not seem to be provided. While it is recognized that the challenges of financial poverty and being poor could distress people and prevent challenges to positive conditioning reflected in a positive mental attitude (PMA). The mental message that nothing good can happen or that stresses associated with socioeconomic situations are not real, are just wrong.

IQ tests don’t measure creativity, emotional sensitivity, social competence and many other skills that fall under the general description of “intelligence”.  In other words a person with average intelligence can be exceptionally creative. Your IQ typically does not change over your lifetime so how can we make the argument that an arbitrary measurement of intelligence could be holding us back.

I think that suggesting that any group of people being more likely to make mistakes, and bad decisions that amplify or perpetuate financial woes should be an indication of a need for basic education and skills enhancement or training in these areas.

In one of the research studies, half of the participants were first asked to think about what they would do if their car broke down and the repair cost $1,500 – designed to kick off worries about money. It was proposed that among these people that performance dipped significantly.

Increasing the mental bandwidth for people in poverty can be accomplished by a change in how we think positively. The old adage that the glass is either half full or half empty has been replace with a new one where the glass is considered ½ full of water and ½ full of air – a stronger positive way to look at things. Additionally how we characterize people with financial challenges (in poverty or poor) in social economic personal tone can have a tremendous impact. If people are seen by others as having the mental capacity, bandwidth and opportunity to increase the financial status we typically find that opportunities are available. If we suggest that nothing good can happen and impose negative conditioning it is likely that we could see the social intelligence of any group to drop.

If I was the CEO of a major company and identified that a specific department was having problems making the right decisions the recommendations for them would be to follow the 7 Steps to Better Decisions proposed by Catherine Price.

1. Identify your goal.
As David Welch, PhD, professor of political science at the University of Waterloo in Ontario and author of Decisions, Decisions: The Art of Effective Decision Making, explains, “People who aren’t self-reflective are going to end up making bad decisions because they don’t really know what they want in the first place.” Before you switch jobs, ask yourself: Do I really want a different career? Or do I just want a different boss? Don’t make a decision based on the wrong problem.

2. Eliminate choices by setting standards.
If you’re trying to buy a digital camera, list the features you’ll actually use. Any camera that has them is therefore good enough for you; ignore anything fancier. Speaking of which…

3. Don’t worry about finding the “best.”
How good you feel about your decisions is usually more important than how good they are objectively.

4. Be aware of biases.
They can lead smart people to make dumb decisions. For example: We hate to lose more than we like to win, which can result in behavior such as holding on to a tanking stock instead of accepting a loss. We remember vivid examples better than facts, which is why plane crashes stick in our heads more than statistics on air safety. And we’re susceptible to how information is framed—a “cash discount” is more appealing than “no credit card surcharge.” Keeping these biases in mind can help you think clearly.

5. Try not to rush.
People tend to make poorer choices when they’re in a bad mood or under a lot of stress. When facing a complex decision, use your conscious brain to gather the information you need, and then take a break. Go for a walk. Spend a half hour meditating. Take a nap. Have a beer. The idea is to give your unconscious mind some time to do its work. The decision you make afterward is more likely to be the right (or at least a perfectly acceptable) one.

6. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
When possible, eliminate the need for decisions by establishing rules for yourself. You will go to yoga every weekend. You will not have more than two glasses of wine. You will buy whatever toilet paper is on sale.

7. Do a postgame analysis.
After each decision you make, ask yourself how you felt afterward and what about the experience you can apply in the future.

From the May 2011 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.

Too often the discussion is reduce to good thinking versus bad thinking or right thinking versus wrong thinking when making decisions. The discussions should be directed more importantly into “How” did they make decisions, and sharing “What” they learn from them.



The author


Prof. Novate

Dale S. Deardorff ( is the director of innovation and strategic thinking with The Rocky Peak Leadership Center. He is a self proclaimed innovation futurist with a focus on systemic and process based innovation methods involving individual, group and organizational creativity thinking tools and processes. He designed and implemented innovation and creativity workshops, tools and enterprise idea programs.

Oliver Sacks Book Covers, art by Cardon Webb