Insight from TED You Can Use Right Now

This TED video featuring collaborative engineering expert Tom Wujec is 9 minutes long…and yet you’ll be hard-pressed to find another way to find so much insight packed into 9 minutes. The task Wujec presents his clients is simple:  “Draw how to make toast.” What seems like an elementary exercise explodes into a multi-faceted lesson on collaboration, organizational creativity, decision-making, motivation, and leadership.

In case you don’t get to sit down with this video and take notes, here are some clear connections to military leadership that I observed through his talk. As I watched, I saw application to a wide range of situations:

  • A commander and Command Sergeant Major bringing the new team together to cast the vision statement for their time in command
  • Any staff member staring at a blank Excel spreadsheet or map of the training area, tasked with planning the unit’s next phase of training
  • A supply sergeant frustrated with how to reorganize the broken shop she just inherited
  • Unit leaders piecing together the events that tragically led to a Soldier’s death
  • Any one of us handling a piece of military equipment and wishing there was some better way to do X
  • Unit leaders searching for how to implement Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault Program guidance
  • Strategists writing future policy and operating guidance
  • An icebreaker exercise for unit team building and leader development events
  • Visualizing alternate courses of action for a tactical problem
  • A lesson on simple versus complex systems and plans
  • Advice on how to communicate complex ideas to your team
  • Insight into how the team members perceive situations, analyze problems, and express their thoughts
  • An after action review process for reverse-engineering events like training exercises, unit functions, and campaign plans
  • A way to explain the abstract Design Process and simplify the convoluted Military Decision Making Process
  • A method for walking out of meetings feeling like you actually accomplished something.

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Here is some expanded info from Tom Wujec’s website:

Tom Wujec is a Fellow at Autodesk, a global leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software, where he charts long-term strategy and helps leadership teams tackle tough industry challenges. He has brought several award-winning products to market, including SketchBook Pro, now used by over 40 million creative designers, illustrators and hobbyists, as well as Maya, visual effects technology which won an Academy Award for its contribution to the film industry.

As a recognized global thought-leader, Tom studies collaborative creativity, wicked problem-solving and the impact of emerging technologies on how we design and make things. He organizes and hosts forward-thinking events, including Autodesk IDEASinnovation forums and TED IDEAS Cage Matches. He is the author and editor of five books, a passionate advocate of graphic facilitation and design exercises, has served as an adjunct professor at Singularity University and Great Northern Way.

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