If you haven’t heard of COCAbiz, they are a division of COCA whose mission is to “build a more creative, engaged and effective work-force by delivering innovative classes, workshops and events that employ authentic arts teaching to deliver real business results.” I like to think of them as trying to bring more fun and creativity into your work no matter your industry. Monday night, COCAbiz hosted Iain Roberts of IDEO. I’ve been to a couple of COCAbiz events and have enjoyed them. I had no idea who Iain Roberts was, other than from the blurb on the invitation. He works in the design industry which really doesn’t sound like anything I do or frankly, know anything about, but I like COCAbiz so I went. 

I am so glad I did.

At the end of the day, his talk wasn’t about design at all, but about how to lead. How to do good work. How to engage with your employees and clients. How to not let fear stop you from doing good work. Something we can all relate to in our jobs whether we’re the president of our company or the newest kid on the block. Below are some very quick notes taken directly from his slide show.

  • Insight Driven: Insight provides a fundamental understanding of behavior that reframes a challenge. Market research or focus groups with core customers rarely deliver insight. You need to be in contact and having dynamic conversations.
  • Build on the learning of others. Analogous experts and contexts often provide a new lens to an old problem. (Studying the pit at NASCAR to improve outcomes in an emergency room for example.)
  • Build To Think: Ideas can be overrated. It’s how you learn about the right ones that is key. A prototype is a question embodied. Invest only the energy and resources required to learn what you need.
  •  Iterate. Evaluate. Learn. Multiple design cycles allow you to improve your ideas not document their failures.
  • Launch to Learn – launch a minimal desirable experience quickly. Learn and evolve with the market. Don’t wait for the perfect offering. (You’ll likely launch an over featured, complex product to the market just-too-late.)
  • “Everything I do has to be in service of my people, so they can do the best work of their lives.”
  • Qualities over Qualifications – great people inspire greatness. Look for people who are open to feedback, who crave learning, who are willing to speak their mind, people who (frankly) scare you.
  • Mission Creates Motivation. Autonomy + Mastery + Purpose. Connect people to the best opportunities – those that fit their passion and skills – to get the best from them.
  • Create Team-ness – equal parts creative and analytical. Create committed, full time, multi-disciplinary teams comprised of all skills required.
  • You can’t delegate the learning. Do Dream. Enable. If the most important thing your organization can do is learn about its future, then you have to be integrally part of that.
  • Makers vs. Managers Schedule. If your calendar is broke into 8 one-hour segments, then you’re not set up for success. You can’t design in one hour chunks between the cracks. Design + Innovation takes time and focus. Big blocks of it. Find a way to make room.
  • We’re smarter collectively. Open up. Allow people to contribute. Everybody benefits from the collective knowledge, don’t hide it in pockets.
  • Emergence + Hierarchy – it’s a sensitive balance, leaders don’t necessarily have the best ideas. Acknowledge that good ideas come from everywhere. The role of leadership is to identify the most promising ideas, create the energy and remove the barriers to success.
  • Find a way to say “yes” more.

He had so much more to say than what I was able to take down, but what I realized is it didn’t matter what industry you were in or whether you were for-profit or non-profit, his message could be applied to everyone.