71AQj8xHouLThe Simplicity Cycle” provides a roadmap to help people make good decisions about complexity in the things we design and use. One of the ways it does this is by examining the different phases of a project and highlighting different tools for each phase. In this lesson, we’ll look at four key verbs to be aware of as our projects move through the typical stages of development.

1. Start

At the beginning of a project, the key verb is “to start.” That is neither as obvious nor as easy as it sounds. Instead of taking a first step, we sometimes distract ourselves with superfluous activities that prevent rather than support stating.

We procrastinate and hesitate, unsure where or how (or whether!) to begin. We may feel overwhelmed or unprepared, so we spend our time and energy doing something else, anything other than starting. We optimize our paperclip collection. We shuffle documents around. (read more…)

Disrupting. Everyone’s claiming to do it and oh how it’s grabbed our attention lately. In fact, at the moment, it is one of the most used, trendiest and overly stated buzzwords of recent years. To disrupt is to drastically alter or damage something. Applied to business, it translates to change and innovation.

While the surge of creativity is fantastic and companies are out disrupting, the real question is who is actually disturbing?

You see, there is a difference.


Although both imply innovation, with varying degrees of radicalism, disrupting is more internally focused. Disruption tends to focus on how an organization can make a great external impact by what it’s doing. You could say that disruption is more assumed by those who are allegedly doing the disrupting. They are out to disrupt through their creations. Although disruption is a huge step toward improvement and breakthroughs, it lacks the provoking factor.


Disturbing is more externally focused, posing a question at something. (read more…)

The internet can’t seem to make up its mind about who coined the phrase “chase two rabbits, catch none.” Some people say it’s an old Russian proverb, while other attribute it to an anonymous Navajo wise man. Me, I’m pretty sure that piece of advice originated with the great hunter Elmer Fudd, because whoever came up with it clearly did so during rabbit season. Or was it duck season?

Regardless of its provenance, the rabbit saying is a good principle to keep in mind when we design things. Just as a pair of rabbits will readily elude capture by heading in opposite directions, conflicting design objectives lead to empty hands Whether we are building a strategy, writing code or creating a PowerPoint presentation, a distracted design will not satisfy any of our goals. The plan will be muddled, the code won’t compile, and the charts won’t communicate. Usually this is because chasing too many rabbits makes things more complicated than they need to be. (read more…)

What would happen if you trusted your team members enough to give them the freedom to take risks and voice ideas openly?

Some of the ideas you receive will sound crazy. Some will flop. But others will be just what your organization needs to solve an important challenge.

One of the most remarkable examples of what can happen when group members are given autonomy and encouraged to voice their ideas occurred during WWII, as recounted by Stephen Ambrose in his book “Citizen Soldiers.”

A thorny issue

In June of 1944, after American soldiers landed on the beaches of Normandy on D‐Day and moved about 10 miles inland, they approached the Normandy countryside the French refer to as the Bocage. This part of France consisted of plots of land that farmers separated with hedgerows rather than fences. The hedgerows were made of two to three feet of packed soil at their base and topped off with several feet of brush and vines. (read more…)

The Orbital PerspectiveThis post is reprinted, with permission, from the book “The Orbital Perspective: Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of 71 Million Miles,” by Col. Ron Garan (USAF ret.) (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2015). Garan is a decorated fighter pilot, astronaut, aquanaut and entrepreneur. He has logged 178 days in space and 71 million miles in orbit. He is the founder of the nonprofit social enterprise incubator Manna Energy Foundation and has worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development. Garan is also the founder of Fragile Oasis, an effort to use the orbital perspective to inspire positive social and environmental action. Follow Garan on Twitter.

Just as partners need to allow each other to provide expertise and act independently when necessary, a collaborative environment requires mechanisms that provide workers closest to the issues with a clear, open channel to communicate ideas, suggestions, and improvements to management.

Those that have decision-making authority for a team or business must trust the creativity and intelligence of the members of their team. (read more…)