in Business Design

Trigger Word: Stapler

stapler close up Max recently asked, “I’m wondering how to apply these insights in practice: How can I, as a designer, go about changing a culture that does not promote innovation…?” So I’ve been trying to isolate concrete examples to share from the times I’ve been successful.

Earlier this year I taught a workshop to a department that wanted to improve their level of collaboration. A big reason they couldn’t be innovative was the lack of people working together. We formed teams and all worked to design something small and familiar enough to finish in two days: a better stapler. The collaboration, iteration, prototype making etc. we used were all new to them. At the end someone suggested coining a trigger word that would jolt them into this new way of working when they felt themselves falling into old habits.

I met my client for a coffee recently to see how they were doing. She told me the team decided to use the word “stapler” as their trigger word, and use it to spontaneously convene collaborative work sessions. Now when someone uses the trigger word, they pull themselves away from deep document writing, remember the lessons from the experiential workshop, and work in more collaborative ways.