At five o’clock the morning of the Summer Solstice I ballooned for the first time. The experience was a Yellow Brick Road in the sky. Mother Earth illuminated. A group of us glowing bright in the pure reflection that is, simply, a new point of view. You can hit up more of my Albuquerque experience this October or hitch some hot air in your hometown.
Image Credits: Jenny Graham (+a few more here)
A snapshot plus a life story wrapped up into one daily dose. Sure does sum up the beginning of JBD. This blog’s three year anniversary rolled into town while I was in Santa Fe on yet another celebrate-your-existence June vacation. I posted a little bit here. Let’s just say there’s a true tale for every polka dot on this skirt and then some. I’ve been working on a larger project whenever I feel especially inspired and whenever I can stick to a serious early morning schedule. But, I’ve thinking of you, JBD’ers. I say this often: life keeps happening. Life.keeps.happening. Put your fine self in the center of now. It is simple. It is all we have, all of us. By writing to you I am reminded of my own advice. Thank you for being you.
My Twitter feed preaches empathy, curiosity, adventure. Being curious, connecting with others (people of all walks of this life) and maintaining boundless adventure all contribute to the notion of a beginner’s mindset. In a way, each pathway keeps the heartbeat of this approach alive. Published in February, the essay below caught my eye earlier today. It’s a true secret of innovation.
It’s tempting to think of innovation as a rare skill belonging to a specific class of people—the visionaries, the creatives, the rule-breakers. But actually, it’s a muscle that we’re all naturally equipped with. We just need to get in the habit of using it.
At Warby Parker, we encourage employees to approach the world with a beginner’s mindset (it’s a Buddhist concept). This means banishing preconceptions and embracing curiosity. Experts have ready-made solutions; beginners have questions that may ultimately lead to better, newer solutions.
Because many of us spend a good portion of our lives working towards some form of expertise, it can feel counterintuitive to “think like a beginner”. If you do have expertise, there are ways to give yourself a fresh perspective: surround yourself with non-experts, interview first-time customers, shop your own website. Hire whip-smart people from outside of your industry.
Creating a habit of innovation in employees comes down to one simple act: asking for it. Constantly. We ask employees to submit a weekly “innovation idea” regarding absolutely anything, from product to office space. When employees know they’ll be asked for a new idea every week, the habit of generating ideas becomes ingrained.
Another key to generating innovation is to value innovation. It sounds obvious, but look at it this way: if we collected ideas but never implemented them, it would prove to employees that we don’t actually value their creative energies. Instead, we give real weight to these ideas and put resources behind them. Our Annual Report was initially the result of a junior designer proposing that idea. We’ve pursued big things— new products and collaborations— as a result of employee ideas. And we’ve also pursued small ideas, like one team member’s request to install an office ping-pong table.
Speaking of ping-pong, it’s crucial to create a physical environment that encourages people from different departments to collide. By now, the sight of a ping-pong table (or foosball, air hockey—insert table sport of your choice) at a start-up is a cliché. But it’s a useful cliché. The Warby Parker ping-pong table is one of the few places where a copywriter will naturally spend twenty intense minutes with a Front End Developer. Games are a bonding experience.
Be deliberate about creating moments for people of different departments to learn from one another. We schedule “formally informal” Demo Days where each department can show off the coolest stuff they’re working on and answer questions from coworkers. (Formal in the sense that we schedule them months in advance and prepare intensively; informal in that we also serve tacos.) We host Hackathons that include employees from the whole company, not just the tech-centric teams. And ping-pong tournaments. And Happy Hours. The list goes on.
Another aspect of innovation is learning. Humans are naturally curious—anyone who’s spent time with a toddler knows that a hunger to figure things out is a primal motivating force. Learning also leads to ideation: the more you know, the more you imagine. We’ve institutionalized learning in a few ways— by creating employee book clubs and establishing Warby Parker Academy, a program that offers free workshops on everything from frame design to public speaking to retail real estate to fantasy football. Learning naturally leads to cross-pollination and ideation. Ideation can lead to action. Action is how innovation comes to life.
Along with urging employees to think big, we give them the tools to jump in and execute ideas, starting with baby steps and prototypes to get the ball rolling. (“Take action” is one of our core values.) At the end of the day, innovation is part inspiration and part discipline.
We were incredibly excited to be named this year’s Most Innovative Company in the pages of Fast Company. What’s even more exciting? The fact that anyone can use these tools in pursuit of the new.
The Secret to Innovation essay via LinkedIn
Are you an early bird or a night owl? I have always been an early bird, however I am sometimes a night owl. For instance, I will make exceptions to the bird to embrace the owl who writes this blog, gets lost in time with a creative project, and goes out on the town. I read there appears to be a genetic component which explains why staying up late may run in families. My mom and two of my brothers are Class A night owls. My dad and my other brother skew more my way. Perhaps there is something to it? I got to thinking about circadian rhythms this morning after waking up much earlier than the worms. Now let me tell you: I am someone who sleeps at least 7 hours a night no matter what continent I am on, no matter what happens to be swirling in my mind, no matter what is a-glow in my heart. My head hits the pillow, I’m out, I dream, and I awake to begin a brand new day. (For all of you who have kids, let’s remember I haven’t had my own children just yet. I am sure this will all go out the window when I give birth!). For now, back to being a traditional Chinese medicine nerd novice. I got curious after the random wake up and dug up an organ clock chart. Most practitioners will tell you waking up only one time at one specific hour doesn’t mean much, if anything. But, if you find yourself clocking in on a frequent basis to a particular time frame, well, it could tell you more. I’m fascinated by our ability to navigate our needs by simply tuning into our inner cycle. Goes without saying, I have no formal training in this…I am a devotee of acupuncture and reiki and simply find Eastern medicine useful and insightful. So, to all of you early birds and all of you night owls, here is a guide to all of the hours of your organs’ day.
Good morning, good afternoon and good evening. Crack into your day like none other. Treat it like a weekend, a birthday, a new habit. Because gosh darn it, people, today is brand new. Even if you must show up to an office or take care of kids or pay your bills, you still get today to live. Call someone who makes you laugh out loud, sign up for that class you keep thinking of, savor a cup of coffee five minutes longer. Book the ticket, paint the picture, say yes to love. Whatever it is, big or small, do it. Do it for you and you’ll raise a wave of good wonder for all of the rest of us.
Mermaid School. This is my dream school. AquaSirène in Montreal offers a one hour initiation class to unlimited mermaid membership. I came across a blurb in a magazine about “Aqua Mermaid” and thought this cannot be real. But it is. And I want to go. Mermaid tails are made of stretch fabric and worn up to the waist, monofin attached for your graceful kicking pleasure. What more could a gal need?
Image via AquaSirène
I’m loving this pineapple print as much as I enjoyed reading these links. Happy clicking…
An all rosé wine festival is coming to Los Angeles? Um, yes please.
15 words you should eliminate from your vocabulary to sound smarter. If you want to sound smarter. If you don’t, you literally always just really shouldn’t read this link.
Rock star, TED speaker, and crowdfunding pioneer Amanda Palmer wrote a rad book, The Art of Asking. I read it and couldn’t stop telling anyone in my path to get their eyes on it. As Jenny Lawson said: “This is the kind of book that makes you want to call the author up at midnight to whisper, ‘My God, I thought I was the only one.'”
My high school French teacher, a multilingual Jackie O.-chic mother, wife and world traveler, Madame Musacchio, once told me: “Jennifer, you will adapt the things you love no matter where you are.” She was continuously sharing wisdom, especially with a small circle of us 11th grade girls. It was after traveling with her and studying in Poitiers, France, at the ripe age of 16, that I began to practice her sage advice. Moving back and forth (and back and forth again, and yet again) across the United States, I am adapting the things I love no matter where I am. We are all in motion. The moon changes, the earth orbits the sun, we are in constant adaptation. On your journey, wherever that may be, choose to cultivate an acknowledgement of you. Yup, simply your very own existence. Close your eyes and breathe in and then out. Feel your feet firmly on the ground. Straighten out your spine. Breathe again. What is it in this wild life that you see for yourself? What do you want? What is the place you want to be a part of? It is all actually possible. Creating something from nothing has been going on since the beginning of time. Adapt the things you love wherever you are today. Linger into your beautiful future. It’s bright.
Image Credit: Jenny Graham