The Ants and The Apple

Ants and the Apple

This story was shared to me a long time ago so I may have changed it slightly, but I think you will get the idea.

One sunny afternoon two ants from different colonies met beneath a grand old apple tree. In customary fashion, the two ants exchanged greetings and signals about where they were from. The first ant came from the West near the old barn; the other from the East, just passed the well.

 After formal greetings the ant from the West asked the other ant what he maybe scouting for. The East ant tilted his head up towards a fresh shiny apple was up in the tree. “I’m here to get that apple.”

 With a polite nod, the East ant scurried up the tree. The ant quickly moved up and down, back and forth across each limb in search of the path that would lead him to the apple.

From the ground, the ant from the West watched with great intensity and curiosity as the other ant’s search continued. Strange, he thought, why was the ant from the East working so hard to find the apple?

Eventually the ant from the East returned back to the ground below only to discover the ant from the West carrying the prize apple away.

 “Stop” he signaled. “How did you get the apple before me? I tracked each limb and backtracked every possible path to the apple, yet here you are with the apple. How?”

 The ant from the West set down the apple and climbed on top and spoke. “You see, it’s quite simple ant from the East. As you raced up and down, back and forth across every possible limb trying to find the right path to the apple, I simply began at the apple and followed the path back down to the ground before climbing the tree to get the apple. You see, I saw the end and worked my way back to the start. This way there was only one route needed to take.

With that, the ant step down off the apple, picked it back up and headed back to the old barn and to his colony while the other ant remained looking up at the grand old apple tree with amazement and without an apple.

Like any venture, it is better to understand the outcome than it is to rush into it and needing to try various options until you discover the solution or before someone else does. Strategic planning combined with visual thinking and graphic facilitation are powerful tools in clarifying goals, directions and tactics needed to achieve those goals before venturing forward.

So, before you race up that tree searching for the apple, stop and map out your journey first and save time and energy.

Thanks for reading and journey ahead like the ant from the West.

Pigtails and Rabbit Ears

Ponytails and Rabbit Ears

No, this is not a story of a little girl and her pet rabbit.

In fact, this is about how employees and customers react to a company’s environment.

Allow me to explain.

During a past ideation session with a client group, I was graphically co-facilitating on a large white board some of their responses about their customers in their centers. During part of the team activities I over heard one of them say, “We hear such great things about our staff and the environment from our customers.” In response, I added some exclamation marks above the heads of the customers I had drawn interacting with the staff to emphasis the positive response. During one of the breaks, a few of the participants had gathered in front of the visual recording and were making humorous comments about the pigtails and rabbit ears I had put on people.

“Pigtails and rabbit ears?” I asked. They pointed out that the exclamation marks I had drawn over the heads and how it had made them look like they had pigtails and rabbit ears. Sure enough to my amusement I had. Unknowingly to me when, In order to add relevance to the comment, I had made some of the people cute girls with pigtails and others, people with rabbit ears.

After that, when that group discussed the experience being staged for employees or customers they would challenge the rest of the group by asking if it would give the employees and customers pigtails and rabbit ears. To my surprise, a humorous visual edit quickly became shorthand for measuring a positive experience.

Since then, I ask myself during client ideations about headquarters or customer spaces if they are actually creating enough of a positive experience within their environments that the reactions from those engaging in the experiences would generate pigtails and rabbit ears on drawn people? One of our goals for our clients is to help develop experiences that would exceed expectations and create positive memories, experiences that employees and customers would share with others.

I challenge you take a look at your employee and customer environments and interactions. Are they dynamic enough to put pigtails and rabbit ears on your people? If not, how could you change the environment and the interaction to do so? Maybe we can help?

Until next time, keep thINKing in Ink and stay ahead of the problem.


rabbit me

“Thinging” is the New Thing


When it comes to experiences, it’s not about the thing as it is more about what you do with the thing. An experience is in the action or “Ing” of a thing. A ball is a thing, yet ball balancing is doing. Any time you do something, you are in essence, experiencing. For a business, staging the action of a thing can be of greater value than merely the selling of the thing.

This trend, which the American Lifestyle Report identified and the Washington Post reported, indicates that consumers are shifting from the acquisition of things to seeking more experiences. People are doing more than buying more. Consumers are moving from the tangible goods to intangible experiences. With this shift comes greater value to the staging of experiences.

So, before you create your customer experience, stop and consider what you want your customer to do. What are you “Thinging” for your customers to experience and how are you driving value from this experience?

The New Economic Value Equation is this “Ing > Thing”


Reshaping Healthcare

Berry Tree

My grandmother was a simple woman and always had a unique way of viewing and explaining the world to me. Her simple upbringing always seemed to add clarity to her storytelling lessons which always helped me to better understand life, people and how things work.

The reason I bring this up is because while chatting with someone in Healthcare about the challenges of changing how people think about what healthcare should or could be, I was reminded of one of her stories about being something you’re not or trying to be different from your nature.

“Take the berry tree. ” She would whisper as if a great secret was being shared. “Its nature is to be a berry tree. No matter how you trim, cut or tie down its limbs to look like a berry bush, its nature is to be a tree. Its trunk will grow out as it was intended to do in order to support the long limbs where the berries should hang. But it will never be a berry bush. No matter how hard you try.”

Then she smiled and added, “The more you reshape it the less fruit you gather.  So, if you want a berry bush, than it’s wiser to plant a different kind of seed.” 

As I watch how the Healthcare industry is trying to change and reshape itself, I reflect on that story of the berry tree. If Healthcare needs to be different, then maybe it’s wiser to create something new, than it is to reshape that which it was intended to be. Maybe it’s time to grow from different seeds.

Change can be very hard to do from the inside. My advice is always to seek help from someone from the outside to get a fresh and different perspective to grow a new idea. Because thinking outside the box is just that, it’s the thinking from outside the box.


Bridging The Gap: Purpose + Process

Gap 01

I have written about the gap before and illustrated it in many graphicnotes, sketchnote as well as in client ideation sessions as a Graphic Recorder. It is an image that has a recurring theme with me and with many others in business, education and in life general. The gap is about change and the challenges of change

Why is the image of a gap important? Because it easily represents an approaching challenge of shifting from one state or place to the next. Before I get too deep in this post, let’s step back a bit a look at the source of this recurring image. Why this image and where does it come from?

First lesson; in mathematics the Delta symbol (Δ), represents a change of state between two before and after state schemas; a variation in state. The origins of the delta go as far back as the Ancient Greeks.

Gap 02Today I graphically depict this delta as an inverted triangle. It has become the two sides of a chasm or gap. On one side is the current condition of state and on the other side of the inverted triangle is the targeted changed state. What lies between is the chasm which represents the challenge to overcome.

Another thing I like to add to the image when it is about change is an increase in elevation on the “B” side of the chasm. There is very important element to the message with the visual and the idea I am trying to convey. The first impression of course, is that of the great challenge crossing the gap. The second note with the change in elevation is the idea of improvement over the existing state. I do not shift elevations all the time. In anything that may deal with a partnership I usually keep both sides at the same height since the idea is usually about connections and not intentional change or improvement.

The desire to cross over is not the only task, there is also the purpose behind making the change. For me, anytime such an effort is exerted there must to be intent for improvement, an increase in knowledge or the enhancement of self or business. There needs to be gain of some kind or the action is wasted and becomes nothing but a performance in frustration.

Take the example of a company that make changes, adds new products or alters direction due to pressure from the outside, but they are not really improving the core business. When a company is not improving or enhancing the current state, then it is nothing more than an expensive activity that yields no gain. In many cases, the outcome is unchanged, thus money and time are wasted, and eventually I see them falling off into the chasm.

The inverted delta as the gap and the elevation as the evolution are partly what this image is about. The greater piece is the method of crossing. How we change and the tools we use to make that change are just as important as what we want to change or become after achieving that change. What method is the best to bridge this gap from point A to point B?

Here are some of my favorite depictions of crossing the gap that have appeared in various client thINKing Canvases or in Graphicnotes as well as sketchnotes from meetings.

Many bridges c

These are a few examples of the metaphors of the methods people describe their plan to get from one side to the other. Did you identify one that you feel is your method? If so, what does it mean to you?

Some methods of getting across rely on mechanical bridging techniques while others are very creative or whimsical that could be both affective and an experience worthy of the crossing.

One in particular that always makes me laugh is that of the human cannon. Imagine this method of crossing the gap by being stuffed down a barrel of an oversized cannon. Dressed up all in a colorful fancy suit and wearing a helmet for some slight protection. Then, as you’re waiting in anticipation in the dark for that moment, there comes an explosive noise, your body surges forward into the day light and you find yourself hurdling through the sky like a ballistic. Everything around you is a blur passing by so quickly that you can’t even recognize what your passing by. Then reality hits or soon will, because the other side has no catch net. Guarantee, you will make it across, but at what cost?

The truth is that the crossing of the gap is about processes. Which method you feel you are using or works for you? The conversation leads to which methods is actually better for you? Worse yet, maybe, you turn back and don’t cross as one group discussed. I guess it all depends on the gap you need to cross and the level of the improvement you seek.

For me, it’s about narrower gaps with greater heights and having those already on the other side help me build bridges across so others can follow.

Until next time. use the image below and draw out how you would cross and what that really means.

Gap 03

Customized Gap Maps are available.

I Believe… My Purpose

Stop me if you heard this one before…

“I have a great idea for a…” or “No one else is doing this. It would be a great business…”

Like you, I have heard many of these lines over the past years from people who were thinking of starting a business or expanding an existing offering. Over time I have come to realize that potentials are not about a great idea or a gap in opportunities, rather it’s about the reason it’s important to do. So, the best question I can ask of them is this…

What’s the purpose?

Hint; ‘Purpose’ speaks to people. “Human to Human”

As Simon Sinek states, “Start with Why”. I believe the ‘Why’ will help identify the ‘Who’ if clearly defined and then possibly the ‘How.’ What you provide to support that ‘Why’ (your purpose/cause) could become your offering.

Once you determine to create, expand or even redesign your offering, map it out visually to make it a tangible plan, then heed some important advice that was shared with me. Seek out an outside professional to help you see beyond your framework to ensure that your purpose is clear and important enough to others as well to sustain growth and success.

Be a Cause, not just because.