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Where Science Meets Muse

Archive for July, 2010

13 Rules for Being a More Innovative, Creative, You

Posted by Plish on July 31, 2010

On this, my 47th birthday, as others lavish gifts upon me in their kindness, I’m writing this column as my gift to you.   Want to be more innovative?  Want to be more creative? Want to be a better you?  I pondered these questions; I’ve thought about what’s worked in my life, and what hasn’t.  So far, here’s a list of what works:

  1. Be passionate about what you do.  Ultimately it’s you that motivates you.
  2. Be authentic.  Kind of like #1 but it’s about acknowledging who you are in all your various facets and embracing you.  You are your brand. Rock the world with it.
  3. Don’t let others bring you down.  I don’t care if it’s your boss or the president or a family member.  Rise above – you’re the best you.  You made a mistake? So what.  (See Rules #7, #8, #11, #12)
  4. Get plenty of sleep.  Seriously. It will help in synthesizing ideas.  Also,  when you sleep you…
  5. Dream.  Do it while you’re awake.
  6. Take time off from your work.  Hike, pray, meditate, play.  Get some of the benefits of sleep but you’re conscious.
  7. Be curious. It might drive people nuts, but then you’re living according to Rule #3, right?
  8. Don’t be afraid to look like an ass.  This might seem like #3 but it’s not.  This is about doing things that you think others are looking at you funny about.  It’s got nothing to do about what others have said or done.
  9. Have empathy for others.  Tolerance is the easy way out.   Empathy.
  10. Revel in your successes!  Don’t look ahead to the next challenge without appreciating what you’re doing, and have done, to get to the now.
  11. Don’t be afraid to try things and make mistakes.   It’ s important because we not only learn from successes we…
  12. Learn from mistakes. 
  13. Love=Service

Are there any that you would add?

Posted in Authenticity, creativity, Design, imagination, innovation, love, meditation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Renaissance Souls, Spirituality, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Embracing Scope Creep

Posted by Plish on July 23, 2010

We’ve all experienced it.

We’re cranking along in a project and someone comes in with a ‘brilliant’ idea or a new documentation requirement. 

AUGHH!  Time is ticking, money is being spent.  Why couldn’t this have been brought up at the beginning of the project?!?!

There are basically three responses:

  1. Ignore the request and move forward promising to fold features into the next version
  2. Agree to the request and try and get more time/money
  3. Agree to parts of the request and move the rest into the next version.

All three of these cause angst to the team, to management, and perhaps even the users.  They result in more time and money being spent.  Creativity likewise drops as people go into crunch mode trying to accomplish more with less. 

It’s Scope Creep.

So, why would anyone want to embrace this?

Let’s step back a moment.

We all have a tendency to look at projects as totally linear processes.  Everyone  agrees up front what needs to be done,  money is allotted, a timeline is set and everyone is off to the races.  The project moves into execution mode – efficient execution.

But, we also know that projects aren’t linear phenomena.  They’re a combination of fits and starts, looping back, problems and solutions.

So what happens?

When we first embark on projects, we keep our fingers crossed and hope that nothing gets in the way of launching the product  – that there is no Scope Creep.  As the project progresses we continue with the same mentality, constantly moving forward but at the same time looking over our shoulders, trying to anticipate what might occur before it does.   We hope nothing will knock us off our tenacious trek towards launch – especially no new product requirements.   Nevertheless, these new requirements seem to come and wreak havoc. 

But, there is a bright side.  

Scope Creep is more than something that should be avoided and/or grudgingly dealt with because where there is Scope Creep, there are opportunities to Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Authenticity, Creative Environments, culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, design thinking, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Project Management, stress, Tactics, Team-Building, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Reframing The Chicago Traffic Problem – A Possible Solution That Won’t Cost Drivers

Posted by Plish on July 16, 2010

Pic Courtesy of Johnnyjet.com

Chicago has the third worst automotive congestion in the country. 

The traffic is unpredictable.

What can be a half-an-hour trip one day, can be a 1.5 hour drive the next, and that’s in good weather.

The proposed solution?

Create special, express lanes with controlled traffic flows.  If you want to use them you pay extra.

Now, irrespective of the fact that Illinoisans are already paying for roads with their taxes, and the Illinois Tollway system, and are still driving on what are arguably some of the worst roads in the country, this idea is a perfect example of how a poorly framed problem statement can lead to mediocre solutions.

 Let me explain.

The current solution is,  no doubt, a direct descendant of the following:

  • Chicago has the third worst traffic in the country
  • There will be a 12% increase of traffic in 20 years
  • We need money to help rebuild the roads damaged by this increased traffic
  • We need to help the environment by reducing pollution from stuck traffic

Given the above, we naturally frame the problem statement as, “How can we improve the traffic and the ensuing impact on the environment by lessening congestion on the roads?”

Let’s see… money and land is scarce, so building new roads is not a terribly attractive option.  Buuuut, charging money for using the existing roads and using technology to control the flows is something that has been shown to work in other cities.  Voila! Problem solved!

Not a bad idea, but also not a good one, and also not a fiscally responsible one.

What do I mean?

If the  above list included:

  • The State of Illinois has a tendency to poorly budget, over-spend and under-deliver,

the proposed “pay to drive” solution probably wouldn’t even be considered a solution.

So, in the name of realism, let’s include the above statement about  Illinois’ fiscal/political situation and reframe the problem as:

“In what ways can we improve the traffic and the ensuing impact on the environment by lessening congestion on the roads without using additional taxpayer money, while working within current budget constraints?”

Whoa…Since we can’t rely on taxpayers to foot the bill, nor can we rely on an overly expanded budget, what can we do???

Let’s take a step back and ask this relatively obvious question:  Can we get people to work without using their cars?

Yes. 

It’s called: Telecommuting!

It’s an obvious solution and one that needs to be researched more deeply.   Consider this:

According to a 2008 study conducted by Telework Exchange, a company that aims to increase telecommuting options for workers, around 9.7 billion gallons of gas and $38.2 billion can be saved each year, if only 53 percent of all white-collar workers telecommuted two days per week.

The study also found that 84 percent of Americans depend on their own means of transportation to travel to and from work. On average, these workers spend $2,052 on gas and 264 hours of travel time a year just on commuting alone.

Research network Undress4Success estimates that the United States could save $500 billion a year, reduce Persian Gulf oil imports by 28 percent and take the equivalent of 7 million cars off the road if workers were allowed to telecommute just half the time.¹

How many people could telecommute?

… 92 percent of (American) workers believe that their job can be completed by telecommuting, though only 39 percent telework on a regular basis.¹

So, while most people seem to be in favor of it, and at the same time,  telecommuting technologies continue to improve, most businesses, unfortunately, still have a paranoia about having people work from home.     But, if they instead structured themselves to accommodate telecommuting, and if the State and Federal governments provided incentives to people and companies to support telecommuting, this could very well take a considerable burden of the roads of Illinois and the country.

Let’s see….

Less traffic, less damage to roads, less pollution, better productivity, and best of all, more money in the pockets of Illinois drivers.

 I personally think it’s a better solution.  What do you think?

1. http://earth911.com/news/2010/03/12/telecommuting-two-days-a-week-could-save-billions/

Posted in creativity, Design, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Social Responsibility, Sustainable Technology, Trends, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Road to Ecologically Sustainable Design and the Sacred Space Paradox

Posted by Plish on July 8, 2010

We set things apart for special use all the time.  We keep a special set of plates and silverware for special occasions.  We give those utensils and plates extra special treatment, washing them in special ways, storing them in extra safe locations,  being extra careful not to break or chip them.

On the other hand, the every day stuff we’re more careless with.  We clean the stuff using everyday cleaning methods, and if we break something, it’s okay because we can always replace it. 

There are two different mindsets at work.  In the former case we’re  elevating objects to the level of being sacred.  We’re acknowledging that these objects are special, perhaps even holy.  In the latter, there is a sense of mundaneness – we could say that the objects are profane.  (Anthropologically speaking, sacred/profane is not equal to good/evil.  Sacred/profane can be good/bad, bad/good, etc.) 

Just like we reserve a set of dinnerware for special purposes, it’s been a common practice over the course of the last century or so, for governments to set aside chunks of land and designate them as preserves, as land set aside for a special purpose, as ‘sacred’ land.  While this is usually viewed in a positive light, and it has undoubtedly saved land from misuse and abuse, it has an interesting side effect.

Just as having the dichotomy between special and everyday dinnerware creates two sets of rules in how the dinnerware gets treated, so too, creating nature preserves as separate sacred entities fosters two sets of rules in dealing with the environment.

The two rules are, “Do what you want outside the preserves  as long as you try and minimize your impact on others and the world, but inside the preserves  nothing is allowed except appreciation and minimal interference.” 

The preserves are disconnected from the greater whole and are treated as closed, ‘sacred’ systems.  The rest of the world is viewed by default, not as “sacred” per se, but as profane.  Oh sure, people try to be eco-friendly, but we’re willing to stretch the rules a little bit because after all, we’re not in the middle of a preserve like the Grand Canyon.  Admit it, when you see a cup lying in the gutter of a city it usually doesn’t create the same visceral reaction as seeing the same cup floating down a river, does it?

And that’s the problem.

While the idea of setting aside preserves is indeed noble and well intentioned, is this really what we want?  Wouldn’t it be better if every part of the world was treated as sacred space?  How might a city be different if it treated its ecosystem as sacred as opposed to excusing it by saying, “It’s a city.  It’s okay if it alters the landscape and water absorption and wind patterns.”  Instead, if everything was seen as sacred,  manufacturing and  water purification processes would be designed with the goal of putting water back into the environment at equal or better quality than what they started with!  

This phenomenon isn’t only present on the macro level.  It’s present on the micro-level as well, as hospitals operate Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Architectural Design, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, innovation, nature, Politics, Religion, Sustainable Technology, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

 
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