ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Archive for the ‘Creative Thinking Techniques’ Category

Brainstorming Using Google Docs

Posted by Plish on August 6, 2014

I’ve never been a big fan of Google Docs.  Mostly because the majority of my clients don’t like having stuff in Google’s Cloud.  Nevertheless, I do see the value in having a common, online portal for collaboration.

So, when I saw this post at CrossWebIdeas on using Google Docs as a brainstorming hub, I was intrigued and excited.  It reminded me of days of yore when I used Posterous (remember Posterous?)  in a similar way.

It’s a pretty simple process actually: Upload a core document/drawing that functions as a seed to start the brainstorm and have people join in whenever they want to add or modify the document.

That’s pretty much it!

Check out how Google Docs was used for the ‘Novel In A Day’ Project.

One of the main things I want to look at is anonymity.  Some people are intimidated by other people’s personalities and/or status.  They are more likely to share their thoughts in low visibility situations.  Granted, there is some distance afforded via a web interface, but it’s still not perfect.  If Person A intimidates Person B, and Person A already has expressed an opinion in the forum, Person B may not write anything at all if it seems to contradict Person A.

I also prefer the power of drawing to text, so Google Drawings could be used instead of Google Docs, but, entering text on a laptop is much easier than creating a picture, so that’s the price paid for smoother collaboration.

Bottom Line: Using Google Docs in this way is fresh and innovative, and with the right group, I’ll give it a try.

What do you think?  Is this something you’ll do or have done?  If so, please share your thoughts!!

Thanks again to Don McLeman and Triberr for bringing this to my attention!

Posted in Co-Creation, Creative Environments, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Want to be More Creative? Change the Lighting

Posted by Plish on September 27, 2013

Posted in Creative Environments, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Creativity Videos, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Research, The Senses, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Tips for Innovative Problem Solving, or, How to Shovel Snow Without a Shovel

Posted by Plish on February 27, 2013

This past evening, just shy of midnight, I was getting ready to head outside for my second round of shoveling.  I had already shoveled a good 7 inches of snow around 5pm and it looked like another 5 or so had fallen since.

I glanced at the TV. A warning  scrolled across the bottom: more precipitation on the way and a caution to people who were going to shovel the heavy stuff. So, instead of heading outside, I paused and turned my shoveling into a small, innovative, problem solving project.

My goal was ultimately to remove snow from the walkways and from around the cars, so I asked: “In what ways can I remove the snow from walkways?” (Notice, I didn’t say, “In what ways can I shovel the snow?” My goal is snow removal, not necessarily shoveling.)

I then looked at what types of things were available to help me accomplish my goal:

  • snow
  • me
  • shovels
  • air
  • trees
  • sidewalk
  • cars
  • A house and garage full of tools, equipment, books, clothes
  • cell phone

Since the snow is heavy, ultimately, if I want to make my life easier, I would rather not shovel.

I give myself a provocation:

In what ways can I remove snow without using a shovel?

I look at what’s left: Snow, me and the house/garage/etc..

Picking up the snow doesn’t sound very easy. Hmmmm….

The snow is wet, and sticky, and sticky snow sticks to itself.  So, if I make a snowball, I can roll it and it’ll pick the snow up as it goes – I’ll clean the walkways and dig out the cars and never lift a shovel!

In the end, I’ll just have a giant snowball, or I can make multiples and make a snowman – I’ll clean the walks and have fun doing it!

So, I bundled up, went outside and started rolling.

The problem became apparent right away. Thought the snow was heavy, it didn’t stick together as well as it did earlier today. It wasn’t picking up the snow very efficiently. As you can see from the below pic,  the area where I started rolling is not terribly clean – it was only about 30% efficient, though, as the snowball got bigger, it got more efficient.

Lake Villa-20130227-00790aa

I continued rolling.  It started doing better. It was cleaning up around the cars pretty well.

It eventually started getting pretty darn big, and it was getting harder to get the traction to roll it.  I decided to roll it back into the yard.  I tried posing with it on my shoulders ‘Atlas’ Style, but alas, it was too heavy as you’ll see in the pic below.

snowball1

After extracting myself I calculated that the snowball was the result of approximately 250ft to 300ft of rolling. Not terribly efficient but I had the beginnings of a kick *** snowman.  I tried rolling the next part of the body, but unfortunately the snow was sticking even less effectively than before.  I would have to abandon this route and go back to the shovel.

While this project wasn’t quite as successful as I had hoped, it was enjoyable and it highlights the main steps that should be taken when trying to solve a problem in an innovative manner.

  1. Define what it is you’re trying to accomplish. (Remove Snow) Play with framings here.  Don’t be too vague but don’t be too specific.
  2. Start the ideation process with the phrase, “In what ways can we (Insert task from Step #1)” (In what ways can we remove snow?) If you start the phrase with “How can I…?” it isn’t as provocative.
  3. List everything that is present. These can be tools, objects, things in the environment. Interestingly enough, very often people forget to list themselves or any objects being acted upon.
  4. Use another provocation to get the ideas going.  A good one is to remove something essential from the list.  In my case, I removed the shovel and forced myself to think of ways to remove snow without using a shovel.
  5. Brainstorm
  6. Try an idea
  7. Assess effectiveness
  8. Modify to make it more effective
  9. Go back to #4 or #5 if needed

That’s it!

EPILOGUE: Oh, and this morning we received another 3-4 inches so I used the same technique to “shovel” and finish what I started last night, as well as create a small “King of the Mountain with Subjects” .  It worked alittle better than last night, but I still had to shovel…

Yet all is well in the Kingdom of Snow…

supremelyhappy

The Supremely Happy Snowman

The King of the Mountain and Subjects
The King of the Mountain and Subjects

 

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, design thinking, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Tactics, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Looking to Outliers For Innovative Brilliance

Posted by Plish on August 17, 2012

(Before reading please watch the above short video)

I can’t help but smile every time I watch this video.  The innocence of Butters (the character that sits ‘backwards’ on toilets,) is key.  He does something that seems totally normal and makes perfect sense.  With a little creativity he goes above and beyond what is commonly practiced.

If you’re going to read while on the toilet, you need a shelf to hold your reading material, right?

If you want to have a drink, you need a shelf, so why not the same one used for your books?

And best of all?

Flushing is easy; The handle is conveniently located on the left. No getting up, twisting, or turning!

Everybody looks at Butters as if he’s nuts.  Everybody looks at him as if their awkward, minimally functional method of using the toilet is the right way!  But, nevertheless, there’s a wisdom in Butters’ approach – a simple, elegant, wisdom.

Looking to Butters for ideas for improving the toilet experience would be an example of positive deviance.  What is positive deviance?

“Positive Deviance is based on the observation that in every community there are certain individuals or groups (the positive deviants), whose uncommon but successful behaviors or strategies enable them to find better solutions to a problem than their peers. These individuals or groups have access to exactly the same resources and face the same challenges and obstacles as their peers. ” (From Positive Deviance website)

In other words, often times solutions to problems come from the fringes.  Solutions come from the people who see what everybody else sees and yet they behave differently.  These people find ways of making the most out of what others see as mundane.

Think about the product opportunities that would exist if we redesigned the toilet experience with Butters’ insights!

How would the toilet look? Where would the toilet paper go?  What would be the best way to deal with the pants around the ankles?

It’s questions like these that can get the ideation ball rolling even if the majority of people won’t use the toilet ‘in reverse.’

Questions based upon the behaviors of positive deviants can be great provocations in designing unique solutions.

But, there is one slight hitch to gaining the insights of these folks:

The Butters of the world usually aren’t in a room boldly offering up their visions of the way things could be…

They’re on the fringes…

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Customer Focus, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Great New Tool for Collaboration (and More!) – Use a ‘Big Marker’

Posted by Plish on July 19, 2012

What do GoTo Meeting, Dropbox, and Ning have in common?

Not much really.

So, if you want to web conference, share files and create a community presence on the web, you need to subscribe to all the above services and maybe more.

Enter Big Marker.

BigMarker.com is a one-stop shop – and the majority of features are free.  Those that aren’t are very reasonably priced. And, there’s nothing to download; it’s all web-based.

Seth Godin describes a tribe as, “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader and connected to an idea;” it’s people with, “a shared interest and a way to communicate.”

Big Marker is essentially a tribe builder.

Public or private, project management or social widgets, educate or elucidate, Big Marker can help you innovate!

~Would love to hear your experiences using Big Marker~

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, culture of innovation, Disruptive Innovation, Education, innovation, Innovation Tools, Project Management, Start-Ups, Team-Building, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Censoring the Censor – The Key to Increasing Creativity

Posted by Plish on May 12, 2012

Inside your brain there’s a creativity censor.  With finger poised above the ‘Bleep’ button, he’s constantly protecting you from ideas that he deems useless, or worse: foolish.  He knows what every boss wants, what every friend thinks of you, what strangers see when they look at you.  He knows what’s best for you and the best way to get it.

On more than one occasion I’ve seen this censor, singlehandedly, dull brilliance and turn a symphony into an energy sapping drone.

Why would the censor do this?  Because he’s protecting you!  Give him a free rein and you will comfortably reside in the Status Quo.  You won’t look like a fool, you won’t push the envelope, you won’t feel uncomfortable.

Your creativity and the potential for great ideas will also come to a screeching halt.

Ideas build upon ideas – yours and others.  They are stepping-stones.  Remove one and things might be okay…might.  Remove two or three and you’re constrained to walking on one plane.

So, what can you do?

You need to teach yourself to not listen to the censor, but instead to listen to the ideas. When you hear the “BLEEP!” you need to ignore it.  Instead, write the idea down and play with it. See where it leads.  Nowhere?  That’s okay!  But, the very act of acknowledging that idea has now given you a stepping stone to another idea, and another, and….

Don’t get me wrong.  There is still a time and place to listen to the censor.  But, when you’re trying to come up with ideas, looking for new possibilities, exploring the unknown, your imagination is your friend, your light.  Work together with your ideas!

This is exemplified beautifully in this blog post over at Thoughts on Theater.  I’m going to end this piece with  a quote directly from her post, as it’s a wonderful read (as is her entire blog).  It’s about Academy Award winning screenwriter, Robert Pirosh.  He was a copywriter that wanted to become a Hollywood screenwriter. Here’s how he finally landed his dream job:

(Pirosh) sent the following note to all of the major studios, received a slew of interview requests, and finally accepted an offer as a junior writer at MGM. From there he went on to win an Academy Award and write for some of the best and brightest (including the Marx Brothers). Just another testament to the fact that you should not water yourself down in order to obtain the dream job. Do not censor the you that just might land you the gig.

Dear Sir:

I like words. I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady. I like solemn, angular, creaky words, such as straitlaced, cantankerous, pecunious, valedictory. I like spurious, black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde. I like suave “V” words, such as Svengali, svelte, bravura, verve. I like crunchy, brittle, crackly words, such as splinter, grapple, jostle, crusty. I like sullen, crabbed, scowling words, such as skulk, glower, scabby, churl. I like Oh-Heavens, my-gracious, land’s-sake words, such as tricksy, tucker, genteel, horrid. I like elegant, flowery words, such as estivate, peregrinate, elysium, halcyon. I like wormy, squirmy, mealy words, such as crawl, blubber, squeal, drip. I like sniggly, chuckling words, such as cowlick, gurgle, bubble and burp.

I like the word screenwriter better than copywriter, so I decided to quit my job in a New York advertising agency and try my luck in Hollywood, but before taking the plunge I went to Europe for a year of study, contemplation and horsing around.

I have just returned and I still like words.

May I have a few with you?

Robert Pirosh

385 Madison Avenue, Room 610

New York Eldorado 5-6024

 

Posted in Authenticity, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, imagination, innovation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Is There a Will For The “Why?” – Uncovering Innovative Product Opportunities

Posted by Plish on May 4, 2012

One of the best ways to generate innovative ideas is, in some ways, the simplest (but not necessarily the easiest!)

When confronted with a problem, don’t just brainstorm to solve the problem.  Ask, “Why is it important to solve this problem?”

For example, if someone asks you to design and build a boat, the typical response would be, “Okay, what type of boat?”

But, if you really want to generate some innovative solutions ask him, “Why?”

The answer might be, “I want to get from here to Hawaii and I can’t fly.” Or it might be, ” Only rich people have boats and I want people to respect me.”  Or, “I’m going fishing with a friend on a small lake and we need something for us to fish from.”

Too often, we let the problems, or stated needs, morph into the problem statement without much of a challenge.  Someone says she needs a boat, so let’s build her a boat!

Occasionally that’s the right way to go. But, when we need to generate creative solutions, and we really want to shake things up, it’s important to find out what it is that’s really needed.

If, as per the example above, someone wants more respect, is a boat really the way to go?  Similarly, a boat to get to Hawaii is nice, but is it prudent? Why can’t the person fly?  And, there are other ways to fish.  Depending upon the body of water, a boat may actually be limiting! Is it needed?

Getting answers to these questions will open our eyes to alternate products or services that meet deeper needs.   We see that we may not need to design boats at all; we need a way to bolster self-esteem!

But, what if we are boat builders by trade? 

We then are confronted with two choices.  One, we simply get the specifications for the boat, build it and get paid.  The other choice is more of a challenge, but its rewards could be magnitudes greater: We stretch ourselves with the goal of delivering products or services that will meet those, until now, unspoken needs.

This stretching means that we may need to partner with new suppliers or even restructure how we currently do business.  That is why the title of this piece is, “Is There a Will For The ‘Why?'”

Finding out these needs and then acting on them will take some serious will power and maybe even soul-searching. The following are types of questions and solutions we might have to wrestle with.

How can we, as a company, help people feel good about themselves?  What if instead of building a boat, we provided a service whereby sponsors pay for the building of fishing boats for families who lost their livelihoods to a hurricane?  What if we sent “Thank You!” videos from these families to their sponsors, or maybe even made the sponsors part of their businesses so that they got a small percentage of the profits until the boat is paid off?

For those afraid of flying to Hawaii, what if we held a series of workshops for people on conquering their fears?  These workshops could include conquering fear of water, boating, flying, etc.

Similarly, what if we held workshops on, ‘How to Fish Various Bodies of Water?”  What if we partnered with another company to design a line of fishing waders?  What about creating a division to provide rental boats based upon the type of water a person intends to fish?

All these opportunities to differentiate ourselves from the competition would be lost if all we did was take a customer’s money and build a boat.

It ultimately comes down to answering the question:

Is there a will for the”Why?”

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, Disruptive Innovation, Emotions, Experience, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Service Design | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

G.R.A.S.P. The Solution – A Book Review

Posted by Plish on February 22, 2012

I had the privilege of recently reading the book,  Grasp the Solution: How to Find the Best Answers to Everyday Challenges , by Chris Griffiths with Melina Costi.

G.R.A.S.P. stands for the various stages and types of thinking:

G-Generative

R-Reactive

A-Analytical

S-Selective

P-Proactive

In general, the book takes an in-depth look at the above thinking processes and couples them with a method called the “The Solution Finder”.  When used in tandem, they provide a scaffold for finding creative solutions.

While the book is dedicated to the explanation of GRASP and the Solution Finder, the authors state that there’s one thing that they hope readers take away from the book: It’s that they start thinking about thinking.

Without doubt, this book will get you pondering about how you think.  However, if you think thinking about thinking is difficult to do, perhaps it’s even more difficult to write about.

Therein lies the one negative about this book – the authors’ discussion of a recursive process can, at times, be difficult to follow.

However, there are many positives to this book and I consider it a welcome addition to any entrepreneur/innovator’s bookshelf.  I particularly was impressed with the various tools discussed as they are clearly and concisely explained.

By the authors’ own admission, there’s not really anything new, per se, in this book.  What they have done, however,  is provide a cogent methodology for creative thinking and compiled and explained the tools/resources that support it.  This is no small feat and should be commended.  (Also, if you’re a newbie to mind-mapping this book gives a quick but, as with the other tools, utterly thorough primer.)

Overall, I give this book a ‘thumbs up’ and recommend that you give it a read.

If you do, please drop me a line, or post your thoughts here.  I’d love to hear what you think.

Posted in Books, Creative Thinking Techniques, innovation, Innovation Tools, Mind Maps, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

You Don’t Have to be Brilliant to be Creative, Just Combinatorial

Posted by Plish on January 4, 2012

Was reading an interview with Maria Popova of Brainpickings.org and it dawned on me that I never shared her link with you, my Readers.  Her website often has posts that can be quite thought provoking.  Check it out.

I do want to share something from her webpage that is one of the best explanations of creativity/innovation that I’ve come across. It’s not complicated, it doesn’t play to turf wars in the ongoing battle between those that carve distinctions between innovation and creativity.  It’s simple and beautiful.

Read on…

…creativity, after all, is a combinatorial force. It’s our ability to tap into the mental pool of resources — ideas, insights, knowledge, inspiration — that we’ve accumulated over the years just by being present and alive and awake to the world, and to combine them in extraordinary new ways.  In order for us to truly create and contribute to the world, we have to be able to connect countless dots, to cross-pollinate ideas from a wealth of disciplines, to combine and recombine these ideas and build new ideas — like LEGOs. The more of these building blocks we have, and the more diverse their shapes and colors, the more interesting our creations will become.  Brain Pickings is your LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces across art, design, science, technology, philosophy, history, politics, psychology, sociology, ecology, anthropology, you-name-itology. Pieces that enrich your mental pool of resources and empower you to combine them into original concepts that are stronger, smarter, richer, deeper and more impactful — a modest, curiosity-driven exercise in vision- and mind-expansion. Please enjoy.

Ponder Popova’s description and use it as a tool for a creative self-examination and an audit of your environment.

“…art, design, science, technology, philosophy, history, politics, psychology, sociology, ecology, anthropology…”

What are you doing to feed your creative side – what are you drawing upon of the above, to equip yourself with the building blocks of innovation?

What are you doing to build an environment that is conducive to creative growth?

Posted in Brain Stimulation Tools, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, innovation, Nature of Creativity, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Honing Creative Skills with Six Impossible Things – An Interview with the Captain of the Titanic

Posted by Plish on December 14, 2011

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said. “One can’t believe impossible things.”

“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”  -Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

I sat down for breakfast tea with Edward Smith.  A jovial, white-haired seadog, he walked with a bounce in his step since he learned he’d be Captain of the Titanic.

“Sarah,” he called to his wife in the kitchen, “I’ll be having tea with Michael in the study.”

“Yes, dear!” she said as Smith smiled and showed me my seat.

He sat down across from me and without hesitating asked, “So my good friend,” as he leaned towards me, “You are always reading something,  What have you been reading lately?”

“Lewis Carroll’s works, ” I said,  his white eyebrows raised and he leaned back in his chair. “I find them quite stimulating, even if at times they are somewhat cryptic.”

“Ha! I always enjoy our conversations Michael, you find amusement in the strangest of areas.”

His wife placed warm. steaming crumpets in front of us and began pouring tea.

“What one tidbit of Carroll catches your fancy this morning?” said Smith as he buttered a crumpet.

“Six impossible things.”

“Which six?”

I took a bite of a crumpet, the steam carrying the aroma into my nose, “These are delicious, Sarah!”

A voice returned, “There are plenty more, eat hearty!”

“Which six impossible things has Mr. Carroll written about?” continued the Captain, clearly captivated by my introduction.

“Six impossible things before breakfast.  Any six. Simply believe six impossible things to be possible – it is at once challenge and folly.”

The Captain smiled, “And therein lies the allure – much like a man’s love for the sea.” He smiled broadly, crumpet crumbs falling from the white, brushy mustache.

“I’ve taken it as a personal challenge, Captain, to believe six impossible things before breakfast.  I do believe it’s motivating me to make the impossible, possible.  It stimulates my creativity and broadens my horizons!”

Captain Smith nodded, “It is the motivation of the likes of Magellan, to constantly reach for the horizon, where the impossible waits…” His view became distant and he paused.  No doubt for effect as well as to ponder the deeper truth.

“Six impossible things,” he continued. “Let’s take the challenge together this morning.  What is impossible so that we may believe it?”

He began looking around the room, stopping at the radio.

“There!” He said pointing. “Wouldn’t it be grand if, while I listened to the radio, I could see the people talking? -That’s impossible isn’t it?”

“Well done, Captain!” I laughed and watched as his eyes went to his telescope.

He slapped his thighs and wiped the last bit of crumb from his mustache and beard and pointed at the scope, “The moon.  One day men will walk upon that cold, grey orb.”

“Are you quite sure that’s impossible?”

“Are you telling me it’s possible?”

“It’s perhaps as possible as your cigar box containing all the letters you’ve ever written, all your charts, and all Sarah’s recipes with room for more!”

The Captain laughed, “My dear Michael, you are not helping your case.  What you claim is quite impossible, even if all were written with tiny letters.”  He paused.  “But, I will believe it to be possible.  There, that’s three:  A box that can hold an ocean’s worth of information.”

“Three,” I  sipped some more tea. “You have a heart for this, Captain.”

“I find this enjoyable.”  He paused, chuckling. “My heart!”  He paused and his eyes widened. What if it could be replaced by a machine, or, or perhaps another person’s heart?!” His eyes were sparkling and childlike now.  He was beginning to understand why I liked this discipline.

“Four,” I said. “What is number five?”

He narrowed his eyes and again they wandered about the room. First to my tea-cup, then to his.  He began stroking his beard and his gaze landed on a rifle on the wall.

“Number five is a weapon…one round sufficient to annihilate entire cities the size of London.”

“Number five!” I poured myself another cup of tea and continued, “You’ve gotten the hang of this! Remember to start each day aboard the Titanic with this exercise.  You’ll find your mind invigorated!”

The corners of the Captain’s mouth fell, his gaze distant.  He looked down and shook his head, “Michael, you Cretan, you’ve told me all Cretan’s are liars and I am bound by your truth.”

I wasn’t offended, but it was clear the Captain was not complimenting me.

“People say,” the Captain said, his voice becoming softer and gaze more distant, ” that the Titanic is impossible to sink…”

 

Posted in Brain Stimulation Tools, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, idea generation, imagination, innovation, Innovation Tools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,432 other followers

%d bloggers like this: