Traction Part 2

Our Virtual Book Club Meeting for Traction (by Gino Wickman) started differently than usual. Based on our Book Club submissions, Angel C., our moderator, began with this: “We got comments that this was [either] the best book ever, or this was a really boring book. So we got one extreme to the next, so it should be quite an interesting book club discussion.”

And interesting it was! Below, we’ll share both lessons learned and areas we felt were off point.

Having the right people in the right seat was clearly the biggest takeaway from our team, but having discussed it in Traction Part 1 (you can read it here), the team’s next takeaway was less of a specific lesson and, rather, the whole book itself.

What the Entrepreneurial Operating System offers is a blueprint to running a business. It breaks down the different components of a business, such as having a clear vision and defining processes, and provides an intuitive process to implement them in a business. It is highly technical and instructive in its approach, yet simple and practical enough to apply in any organization. Joe H. made a good point about Traction:

“This is very much a basic playbook. No team ever won a [super bowl] title with just a basic playbook. But at the same time, no one ever won a ring if they didn’t have those basics down.” – Joe H.

Traction is a good “playbook” to come back to when the company is getting off track; But as Joe mentioned, no football team won a title with only the basics – neither can Inflow disrupt an industry by sticking to the basics.

While Inflow’s business model shares ideas from Traction’s blueprint, there are other ideas we do differently. Gino Wickman made this point about having defined measurables:

“What gets measured gets done. […] when you boil the organization’s numbers down to the point where everyone has a single meaningful, manageable number [it] creates clarity and accountability throughout the team. Everyone has a number.”

Now, we’re all for clarity of expectations and accountability, and, while the author makes valid points for the benefits of having a number for each employee to meet or exceed, within Inflow’s culture and business model, having a number would not only counter our “employees-first” ideology, it’s actually a key problem in our industry which we’re striving to solve. Ricky L. had a comment on this:

“It made me cringe when I read ‘Everyone has a number.’ I get how many businesses are run based on P&Ls (Profit and Loss statements), but when it comes to having a number on your back, that position will become a revolving door and that person will live an unhealthy lifestyle.” – Ricky L.


As mentioned in previous discussions, Inflow doesn’t use P&Ls because when people are driven by money, bad choices are made.

Instead, give an employee clear expectations of their role, yet remove the idea of “numbers” from the equation, and not only will they find a way to accomplish their task, they’ll be more creative and innovative in their thinking and approach. It’s those innovative minds we’re seeking to foster. When employees innovate, the end product improves, both in effectiveness and efficiency, and since we serve the military, “effective” and “efficient” is the name of the game.

Traction has a lot of practical advice to expand our thinking and understanding in how businesses are run, including how our CEO and President are leading Inflow. While we may agree and disagree on certain points, one thing remains: our clear vision to always Make it Matter to our customers and our Inflowees.

At Inflow we solve complex terror and criminal issues for the United States Government and their partners, by providing high quality and innovative solutions at the right price through the cultivation of a corporate culture dedicated to being #1 in employee and customer engagement. We Make it Matter, by putting people first! If you are interested in working for Inflow or partnering with us on future projects, contact us here.

Traction Part 1

Imagine an operating system (OS) that didn’t work: applications are glitchy at best, files become corrupted or seemingly disappear, and, to make matters worse, it’s prone to viruses due to the lack of security in the system.

Basically, you can’t move forward because the broken OS prevents you from accomplishing any tasks.

In many ways, each business has its own OS. Unfortunately, in many of those businesses’, profits have stalemated, growth has stopped, people either don’t follow through or move in a different direction, and you, as the owner, are losing control of your business’ direction. The Company’s OS is broken and needs some major debugging.

This quarter, we’re reading Traction by Gino Wickman, which introduces the “Entrepreneurial Operating System” (EOS) – a process that establishes the basis for a functioning, focused, and forward-thinking company, allowing the leaders to regain “traction” to direct the company. It delves into the science of a business by simplifying it into six core components. To learn more about the six components of EOS, click here.

As we’ve been reading, we’ve come across a lot of shared concepts from our previous books: candor, open and honest communication, and goal setting. However, Gino Wickman offers up two new ideas: vision and hiring the right people for the right seat.


Gino Wickman describes vision as, “clearly defining who and what your organization is, where it’s going and how it’s going to get there.”

We all know the proverbial statement, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.” – Yogi Berra. Without a clearly defined goal in mind, you can’t direct your business. However, most leaders know where they want to go. The problem is the rest of the organization doesn’t.

The EOS process begins by establishing a company’s framework, including their core values, core focus, and yearly plans to guide the company. These tools are posted online here.

This concept isn’t new. If you build a solid foundation, the rest of your company will naturally follow suit. Establishing and communicating your vision will clearly define where the company is headed and each employee’s role in that process.

The Right People in the Right Seat

Establishing your core values and focus has a side effect. A clear vision not only defines who you are and where you’re going, it also reveals who you’re not, potentially exposing departments, products, and people who don’t fit.

This is a complex subject, considering every individual has unique strengths, passions, and individual core values – none of which defines them as good or bad, right or wrong. Every company, however, has a culture, and if an employee doesn’t mesh with that culture, it becomes a burden on the company and, often, a burden on the individual themselves.

Gino Wickman breaks this down into three scenarios:

  1. Right person, wrong seat.
  2. Wrong person, right seat.
  3. Wrong person, wrong seat.

It’s not an easy decision, but when it comes to the long haul of a company, having those who embrace the company’s ideas and direction and putting them in the seat where they will exceed will pay dividends to growing your company. And that’s the real takeaway – think long term, not short.

In short, everyone needs to be on the same page with the company’s ideals and where it’s going. With that vision and focus, the company will make the decisions that will project it into the future.

We’ll continue to read Traction through the rest of the quarter, but if you would like to learn more about Traction and read the first chapter, visit Stay tuned for our Virtual Book Club Meeting where we’ll discuss in greater detail our favorite lessons-learned and takeaways.

At Inflow we solve complex terror and criminal issues for the United States Government and their partners, by providing high quality and innovative solutions at the right price through the cultivation of a corporate culture dedicated to being #1 in employee and customer engagement. We Make it Matter, by putting people first! If you are interested in working for Inflow or partnering with us on future projects, contact us here.

Creativity, Inc. - Pt. 2

For our 2016 Quarter 4 Book Club, we read Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, President of Pixar and Disney Animation. Today, we’ll explore our favorite takeaways from our Virtual Book Club Meeting, including topics about fear, taking risks, and Brain Trusts.

Brittany W. started off by saying, “The concept of failure is a good thing in the form of iterative trial and error. We can fail our way to a solution. The example of scientists and experimentation drives it home.”

We understand the importance of experimenting and trying new things – it’s how we innovate and impact the lives of our Inflowees and customers; but with experimentation comes failure and the need to accept failure.

But accepting failure as “part of the process” is hard, especially when failure often goes hand-in-hand with lost dollars. Ryan H. discussed how we can disentangle measuring success from financials:

“Most companies push revenue and profitability targets to their employees. We don’t, because we want our employees to focus on long-term goals, not short-term. People tend to make bad choices when money is involved.”

That’s only the beginning of changing our views on failure though. The truth is, everyone makes mistakes. We know this, but instead of admitting our failures, we sweep them under the rug. To be free from the fear of failure, we have to feel safe admitting our failures; and for a company to feel safe, as Cris B. put it, “Admitting you failed has to come from the top, down. If leadership is open about the mistakes they’ve made and how they fixed it, it gives the rest of the team the comfort to know they can make mistakes, embrace them, and work to improve them.”

Nikho R. added to this point, discussing when he’s had to write large technical documents and submit them for peer review:

“Often times, you put your blood and sweat in a project, and when you put it up for peer-review, you have to leave your ego at the door. When my work gets criticized, I’ve learned to not take it personally. The candor and perspective you get from others can make the project so much greater than it was before.”

And that’s another big take-away: there are no “finished” products, only versions.

Continuing this line of thought, we began discussing “Brain Trusts” – a term used to refer to a group of individuals, generally of vastly different roles, who come together to address a specific problem, brainstorm ideas, and offer feedback to the project lead.

In our discussion, we began with a scenario an Inflowee was working through: “How do we develop meaningful culture for our teams out in the field when we have limited direct exposure to their lives? How do we make sure the things we do are important to them and not what we think are important?”

From here, the conversation got interesting because, in a sense, we became a Brain Trust. Joe H., one of our Engineers who was recently stationed in Kuwait, offered his perspective:

“Our internal [communications] are a great starting point. Having those casual conversations is what allows us to get to know each other better.” Joe then went a level deeper:

“If you understand what motivates a person, you’ll understand what they do and why they do it. Having open communication like this will bridge the gap.” From there, the whole team began to chip in – suggestions for how we bridge that gap: video chats, talking about interests, presentations over subjects we’re experts in, and even Inflowee profile “baseball cards.”

Regardless of the idea – feasible or not – we engaged in exactly what we read: a Brain Trust where ideas flowed, concepts were explored, and problems were tackled. It’s about taking the time to stop, recognize the problem, and work to overcome it as a team.

For the whole conversation, listen to the audio from our meeting here.

There is so much more to be said about Creativity, Inc. and our discussion over it. Our goal, as is with each book we read, is to improve the way we work, broaden the way we think, and ultimately, build a company and culture that genuinely and actively “Makes it Matter.”

At Inflow we solve complex terror and criminal issues for the United States Government and their partners, by providing high quality and innovative solutions at the right price through the cultivation of a corporate culture dedicated to being #1 in employee and customer engagement. We Make it Matter, by putting people first! If you are interested in working for Inflow or partnering with us on future projects, contact us here

Creativity, Inc. - Pt. 1

Talk to an Inflowee and you’ll hear the word “culture” a lot. The reason is, we’re obsessed with creating an environment where every Inflowee’s voice is heard. We’re all stakeholders in this company, responsible for taking care of our culture. However, our culture is constantly growing, constantly changing, and in order to sustain it with our growth, it calls for research, experimentation, and a whole lot of love and care to develop a meaningful and sustainable impact within our company.

But culture doesn’t happen by accident – it is designed. Culture is an active process of “try-fail-iterate” that takes simple ideas and molds them into functional and impactful components of our work lives. To learn more about this, we’ve been reading Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull for this quarter’s Book Club.

Creativity, Inc. is the story of how Pixar went from a small startup to a sustainable, industry-leading animation studio, while maintaining its culture of passion, story-telling, and candor.

We’re only a hundred pages in, and already we’ve learned a lot. Here are some of the key highlights we’ve gained:

Candor & Trust:

Effective problem solving requires brainstorming in an open and honest environment where problems and solutions are discussed as a team. We do this by letting go of our own biases and focusing on problems as a whole.

This type of honest communication builds trust. When we trust each other, barriers like hierarchy, personal motives, and preconceived notions become less of an issue, and instead, generates a team mentality united by a singular goal.

Walking the Walk & Talking the Talk:  

Companies tend to attribute words to themselves, like their commitment to “excellence” or “quality.” However, their actions don’t always align with these statements.

We too have a phrase, “Make it Matter,” and while we strive to impact the lives of our Inflowees and customers, we similarly run the risk of proclaiming we do something without following through. It’s challenging to build trust and a family atmosphere with a globally dispersed team, and unless we’re able to, we’ll also attribute meaningless words to ourselves. Which is why we’re constantly working to bridge the gap between all our Inflowees through our company culture programs.

Inflow, just like all of us, is a work-in-progress. That means each Inflowee can question, collaborate, problem solve, and innovate, making Inflow better than the day before; and by doing this, we’ll be successful in what we say we do: “Make it Matter.”

This only scratches the surface; there are a more lessons in those hundred pages, and still more to learn in the coming chapters. In our next post, we’ll discuss some of our favorite lessons-learned and the applications we can make in our daily actions.

At Inflow we solve complex terror and criminal issues for the United States Government and their partners, by providing high quality and innovative solutions at the right price through the cultivation of a corporate culture dedicated to being #1 in employee and customer engagement. We Make it Matter, by putting people first! If you are interested in working for Inflow or partnering with us on future projects, contact us here

Conversational Capacity

Author: Mason C., Inflow Technical Writer

I found myself doing that “thing” again. You know – when you sit there listening to somebody else talk about an important subject matter. You listen to them go on and on about their views and all you can do is watch in horror as you nod your head in agreement when your insides are screaming, “I COMPLETELY DISAGREE!” Even though I wanted to have an open dialogue that weighed two opposing thoughts (leaving both parties with a broader understanding of each other) I instead sat there, frozen by my instinctual need to “play it safe.”

The bad news is this tendency doesn’t just affect our personal, day-to-day conversations, we bring these bad habits to work as well. The good news is there are skills out there to help avoid scenarios like these, which we learned about in Inflow’s Book Club while reading “Conversational Capacity” by Craig Weber. 

What is “Conversational Capacity”?

“In the grand sweep of human history, our modern organizations are a recent invention and we’ve still got a lot to learn about putting teams together that really work when it counts.” – Craig Weber

“Conversational Capacity” speaks on the different skills that can be applied to have “open, balanced, and non-defensive dialogues in the workplace.” We’ve all been in meetings or conversations that have either turned into shouting contests or, in the pursuit to please others, we feign agreement instead of voicing our thoughts. Nikho made a really good parallel between teams in the business place and football teams.

What Nikho is saying is that Fantasy Football would NEVER work! (Not initially anyway.) Even with your free pick of all the top players, it’s not the skill alone that makes a great team, it’s their ability to communicate and work together toward a common goal.

In a perfect world, our ability to work well together would be directly proportional to our skills within a certain field. Since this is neither Fantasy Football, nor is it a perfect world, we have to adapt and learn to communicate together. This is where Craig Weber brings in the “Sweet Spot”. The “Sweet Spot” is the area where a team can have an “open, balanced, non-defensive dialogue about tough subjects in challenging situations.”

Many of us, however fall mostly into one of two categories: we either minimize, or win within a conversation.

Minimizers may be too afraid of conflict to add their point of view to a conversation, even if that point is of significant value. On the other side of the spectrum, you have Winners who care more about their point-of-view being “right” and accepted by the group, rather than what is best for everyone and the company. For example, that annoying family member who is adamant on making sure you know at EVERY family gathering that his political views are, IN FACT, right. This is a perfect example of a conversation where a minimizer and a winner are involved. The end result is always the same; the Minimizer walks away frustrated while the Winner gets a sense of self-justification of his or her views – yet nothing has been accomplished. Instead, both parties need to open themselves to all possibilities and come to the best decision.

It’s the people who see things differently that provide the most value.” – Craig Weber

This is really what we’re striving to accomplish: getting to that “sweet spot” where, as Kellie stated it: 

At Inflow, we want to open the floor to all ideas, so this summer we are hosting our first annual Inflow Idea Hackathon. Our goal is to make a difference in our industry and the way we make that happen is by changing the way we communicate with each other.

What’s so great about each Inflowee is that we each come from different walks of life with unique experiences to draw upon and share. That also means we perceive problems differently, and therefore what we see as the “right” solution may not always be the “best” solution. Fortunately, balanced dialogue isn’t about consensus as Craig Weber points out:

Balanced dialogue isn't about everyone on the team reaching the same decision, it is about helping the person making the decision make the best one possible.”

– Craig Weber

Being purpose driven is really the point Brittany makes. Each meeting should have a clear purpose, and the question Craig poses is, “What should change [within the organization] because of the meeting?” With a clear purpose, the team can focus on that objective as opposed to “who’s right” and “who’s wrong?”    

Truthfully, it’s about building meaningful relationships. Whether it be between Inflowees or with our customers, we’re striving to break down the barriers that often hold other companies back.

Yes, work is your practice arena for better communication and problem solving! Next time you’re in a meeting, try out the “Conversational Capacity” skills. Practice using more candor or curiosity. Test your ideas like hypotheses and inquire about other’s points of view when they fail to expound on their positions. There’s only one way to improve our ability, and that’s through practice. For example, some of us are minimizers (yes, you can stop pointing at me). It is very difficult and awkward for us to be candid. To state our perspectives clearly and concisely means that we have to put aside our fear of “rocking the boat” for the sake of bringing insight within a discussion. Sounds simple. Sounds easy. So often, however, our clear intentions are derailed by our “flight or fight” reaction. The only way to improve, as Joe states, is to discipline ourselves.

What we learn is it’s not about the skills alone. It’s not about forcing our own personal agenda on others. It’s about changing our mindset. Seeing the problem in a larger spectrum that transcends our singular finite understanding of “my” reality. It goes beyond just being candid in our approach, curious about other’s suggestions, or testing all possible solutions. It’s about being genuinely humble, purpose driven (not ego driven), so that in the end we’re all successful.

Next time you’re in a meeting, give these skills a shot. With a little practice and patience, you just might be surprised by how much more productive your meetings become. 

And in case you don’t fully grasp how detrimental it can be to have a poor conversational capacity, here’s my example:

George Lucas (Winner) + the whole Star Wars Production Crew (Minimizers)


Learn more about Craig Weber's book "Conversational Capacity" and purchase the book here.

At Inflow we solve complex terror and criminal issues for the United States Government and their partners, by providing high quality and innovative solutions at the right price through the cultivation of a corporate culture dedicated to being #1 in employee and customer engagement. We Make it Matter, by putting people first! If you are interested in working for Inflow or partnering with us on future projects, contact us here