Category Archives: Get Out

Car + Motorcycle + Electricity + Ingenuity = Magic

We’re always on the lookout for people and organizations that are finding ingenious ways to drive positive change. So, recently we had the opportunity to visit a cool little technology start-up in San Francisco. No, not Pinterest, Airbnb or Dropbox. It’s a company that’s “thinking wrong” about the future of urban transportation and making Tesla look conventional and old-school in comparison.

Founded by Daniel Kim, a Rhode Island School of Design graduate from their industrial design program, Lit Motors is trying to figure out how to make a super efficient small and light electric car drive on 2 wheels like a motorcycle, without having to balance it yourself. Wait! What?

First, the back story. Years ago, Daniel was working as a mechanic restoring old Land Rovers in Portland, OR. One night, while working underneath the frame of a Rover, something slipped and the heavy vehicle dropped to the garage floor. Daniel was able to escape getting crushed but it started him thinking that while the Rover was a sturdy and able off-road SUV, it was insane to haul that amount of steel around for everyday transportation.

Fast forward a few years and viola, Lit Motors. A potentially ingenious solution to a big transportation challenge that is looming in front of us. Increasing numbers of drivers in densely populated developing countries, diminishing reserves of fossil fuel, and carbon related climate change to name a few.

At Future, we define ingenuity as “a clever, original and practical solution to a big challenge using existing resources.” It’s a more rigorous standard than innovation because of the focus on using what you have at hand, like Macgyver in the 80’s tv series. Innovative solutions are good. Ingenious solutions are better. So, I thought it would be interesting to see how Lit Motors fits into our 6 ingenuity practices.

1. Be Bold
Take on the existing automobile industry and find a better, more efficient, less polluting, and more fun way to move people around cities.

2. Get Out
Escape the orthodoxies and conventions of the status quo. San Francisco, not Detroit.

3. Think Wrong
4 wheel car? Boring. How about gyroscope flywheels to keep a 2-wheeled vehicle as stabile as a car.

4. Make Stuff
Industrial designers think by making. Prototype, prototype, prototype.

5. Bet Small
Start with smallish projects that reflect an affordable loss.

6. Move Fast
Keep momentum. Learn from successes… and learn even more from failures. 

Best of luck to Dan and his team at Lit Motors and their crazy awesome project.

Disclosure: This post was written as part of Progressive’s Apron Project, helping tell the story of people and their initiatives making progress towards a greater good. I have been compensated as a contributor to this project, but the thoughts and opinions in this post are my own.

8dolhairsThis post is courtesy of Future collaborator Mike Burn.

I recently received an enticing email entitled “Are your meetings memorable?”

I’m a person who goes to quite a few meetings, and indeed many of them are not what I’d call memorable.  In fact, too many just suck. So as you can imagine I read on with great anticipation; having more memorable meetings would considerably improve the quality of my life. As I passed the subject line the email got better and better. They were even offering FREE LUNCH. The opportunity to learn how to make meetings more memorable, AND free lunch—wow! What could this be?

By now, I’m imagining what could make a meeting memorable…something totally unexpected, radically different from the humdrum monotony of dungeonesque hotel conference rooms graced with vomit patterned carpets and the remnants of duct tape from meetings past. I’m imagining light years beyond the bulk-ordered brass wall sconces and the beige assortments of chicken-or-eggplant steamed and served from vats. I’ve almost forgotten the indignity of the $8 cookies. Seriously, some hotels charge 8 whole dollars for cookies at events!

I clicked through to the website—the 50 Best Venues for Events—and clicked on Chicago, a cool city filled with museums, parks, quirky neighborhoods, universities, botanic gardens, galleries, restored industrial spaces and oodles of historic buildings. I’m thinking, “This is going to be awesome, some inspiring and memorable places!”

Nope.  Wrong. A list of truly uninspiring f*&k you hotels—Marriott’s, Hyatt’s, Doubletree By Hilton’s, the big Hilton’s themselves, et cetera, et cetera, blah, blah, blah. Here’s one of the images from the website for a “memorable location.”

*Note*     We have not changed the quality of this image!

That, I’m sure you’ll agree, would make for an extremely memorable meeting; especially for the person who gets to sit with a 9 degree view of the screen, two feet away from a speaker near the door—the definition of receiving the cold shoulder.

I read further, and discovered these event locations were not the promised miracle solution to making events memorable—that would be technology. More precisely, a “robust SaaS platform [that] can help you lower your venue costs, support integrated marketing campaigns, increase attendance, and enhance attendee communication.”

Talk about ingenious—I had no idea that the lack of one of those SaaS platforms was the culprit responsible for merging all my meetings and events into one giant blob of torturous forgetfulness!  Now that I think about it, of course I can see that support for integrated marketing campaigns was the one thing that would have made them more memorable for me. Forget the human experience.

Here’s an alternate approach if you want to have a memorable meeting—GET OUT.

Blitz_GetOut

Pick an unexpected location: a park, a museum, even someone’s back yard. Bring a blanket and let people bring their dogs.  When it’s coffee time have a local coffee shop show up with some specialty coffees, get some cupcakes from a nearby bakery and have a taco truck show up for lunchtime, or give people vouchers to local restaurants and let them Get Out from your Get Out.

How will you project your PowerPoint? You won’t. And people will thank you, and remember you for it. It’ll even save you money…no $8 cookies.

toxicThe problem-solving orthodoxies they teach you in business school kill ingenuity.

Greg Galle explains why at TEDxGrandRapids.

lessismore

This post is courtesy of Future collaborator Mike Burn.

Being unnecessarily long is plain disrespectful. 

A marketing document I recently had to rewrite ignited this fire. Bad writing wasn’t the obstacle to it being read; everything was grammatically correct, the words carefully chosen, and the arguments well-constructed. But the overall effect was actually mind-numbing. The whole thing was just far too long.  The writer’s point would never have been understood—because it would never be reached.

A couple of days of editing later, it became apparent that cutting hundreds of words takes significantly longer than writing them. Which brought to mind the genius of Dr. Seuss:

“It has often been said
there’s so much to be read,
you never can cram
all those words in your head.

So the writer who breeds
more words than he needs
is making a chore
for the reader who reads.

That’s why my belief is
the briefer the brief is,
the greater the sigh
of the reader’s relief is.

And that’s why your books
have such power and strength.
You publish with shorth!
(Shorth is better than length.)”

At Future, we call this parakeet storytelling. The idea is to avoid getting bogged down in narrative and words, and instead to capture the pithy tidbits that matter, using sounds, video, or sentences a parakeet could handle (140 characters, in social media world).

So please, keep to the core, make it compact—don’t wallow in words, clean up your act. After all, someone might have to read it.

Enough said.

“Alexandrine Parakeet (Psittacula eupatria) – Edward Youde Aviary, Hong Kong Park” © 2013 CC BY-NC-SA Neerav Bhatt

zooThis post is courtesy of Future collaborator, Adam Butler

Choose one—would you rather have a defined and secure territory, safety from predators, and scheduled meals; or would you prefer an evolving and uncertain territory, being a part of a dynamic food chain and always needing to be on the hunt for your own food? If you chose the first scenario you identify more with zoo animals, and if you chose the second you identify more with wild animals. And this obviously speaks to where you end up living – in a zoo or in the wild.

After running my own business for ten years after having worked for others for 7 years, I feel like I went from something quite like a zoo to something much more like the wild. In fact my brother Marty and I, the co-founder of The Butler Bros, really connected deeply with this analogy when we uncovered it.

It made me recall this passage from the “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel:

“One might even argue that if an animal could choose with intelligence, it would opt for living in a zoo, since the major difference between a zoo and the wild is the absence of parasites and enemies and the abundance of food in the first, and their respective abundance and scarcity in the second. Think about it yourself. Would you rather be put up at the Ritz with free room service and unlimited access to a doctor or be homeless without a soul to care for you?”

Comfort is in fact what’s at play here. And when you get overly comfortable, you get a bit numb to yourself. When you expect a carcass to come flying over the fence you lose some of your hunting instincts. When you know your territory is 100% secure you sleep a little deeper but somehow fail to dream. Add all of this up and it translates to a dimming of your senses and a suppression of your wild, instinctual, self. Your ingenious self.

This isn’t a referendum on being an employee versus an employer or entrepreneur. It’s more of a meta-observation about what happens when you never leave your zoo. Or never let your people leave the zoo you’ve built for them, whichever the case may be.

It’s also not an indictment of where you choose to ‘live’. Because getting out of the zoo is literally as simple as walking out the door with the intention of being open to what you see outside.

In Future Blitzes getting out is a practice that comes with tools. Chief among them is 10X10X10. You go to ten places, meet ten new people, and bring back ten stories. This is a recipe for comparatively wild animal behavior. The senses will indeed bristle. And then you’ll step through the threshold of your proverbial cage to discover inspiration in places you never knew existed. You will bring it all back and share this fresh sustenance with others. It will feed them too. They will grow stronger from it. And you might howl together. Seriously. Get out of your zoo and go wild.

“Cubicles” © 2013 CC BY-NC-ND Michael Lokner