ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘culture of innovation’

Swimming in Wonderful Robin Williams Streams of Consciousness

Posted by Plish on August 21, 2014

When I conduct brainstormings (and even when I’m looking for ideas) I find that one of the biggest enemies is the internal censor that each of us has.  I’m sure you’ve succumbed to that voice.

You come up with an idea and before you’ve even spent time examining it, you’ve jettisoned the thought:

“That’s stupid!”

“That’ll never work!”

“How could I have thought that?”

“That thought came out of me? No one can ever know I thought THAT!”

One of the amazing gifts that Robin Williams had was his ability to turn off the censor.  He trusted himself, and even when riffing with others, he allowed himself to follow the promptings of lesser ideas knowing that greater ideas were coming. The results were nothing short of astounding and amazingly hilarious.  While Williams’ verbal stream didn’t seem to even afford him time to breathe, his audience couldn’t breathe because they were laughing so hard.

In the world of comedy, following the stream of consciousness is considered acceptable because, well, it’s comedy.  However, in the corporate world, such thinking is considered out of place, too bold, not politically correct – perhaps even offensive.

Unfortunately, when the censor kicks in, creativity, and perhaps the next seed of a groundbreaking innovation, gets kicked out.

People have a tendency to think that those ideas judged as ‘bad’ or ‘improper’ should just be jettisoned and forgotten.  Yes, not all ideas are ready for prime time; however these ideas are essential to the creative process – a process that builds upon that which came before.  Ignore what comes before and there’s nothing to build upon.

Robin Williams lived this brilliantly.  Not everything that Robin said was earth-shatteringly funny, but just around the corner, rest assured, mirth was imminent.

Creative thought in the corporate world follows the same process.  Not every idea is worthy of patent or should be invested in.  But, if the ideas are built upon, eventually, things will come together in a wonderful way.

So, how do we train ourselves to be creative in this way?

Practice!!!

Listen to all ideas as they bubble up!  Things pop up for a reason!!  Write everything down. Sketch!  Play with the ideas!

The idea that seems totally unusable may provide the seed that enables you, or someone else, to make a connection to an even better idea!    In my own experience, some great ideas have surfaced after someone had the courage to share a half-baked idea.  This simple and profound act of sharing provided the building blocks for others.  If the internal censor would’ve won out, these breakthrough ideas would never have been born. 

Remember this next time you’re coming up with ideas, alone or with others. Better yet, even if you’re not coming up with ideas, examine your thoughts as they are percolating to the surface. Learn to get comfortable with the flow; the more at ease you feel with the stream’s current, the less likely you’ll be to throw out ideas as they bubble up.

I love the following Robin Williams interview with Craig Ferguson.   The two of them highlight the above process – they both just grab an idea, follow it to the next, and continue the process with wonderfully entertaining results.    Notice how certain ideas become seeds for the next.  This is improvisation at its finest.  

In closing, I’d just like to thank you, Robin Williams, for creating so many wonderful, bubbling streams of consciousness, and for being a part of the Stream of which we all swim.  Tragic circumstances helped push you into different waters.  May you find the New Waters fine.  While ours are impoverished by your passing, they are also forever enriched!

Posted in Creative Environments, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Great Creative Minds, idea generation, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

Three Guidelines For Enabling Innovation (Via a 7 Year Old Crossing the Street)

Posted by Plish on June 26, 2014

The crossing guard waved her arms and held up the stop sign.  On my way to a prototype shop to pick up some parts, I slowed, and stopped, and watched.

Behind the yellow vested guard, thirty to forty seven year olds began crossing the street in a relatively organized manner, except for one girl.  She wasn’t particularly tall as far as 7 year olds go.  She had straight, dirty blonde, just-past-shoulder length hair, and was wearing a white number 4, Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers jersey.  While her friends took a linear approach to street crossing, she took each step in a calculated manner.

With each step she reached with her little legs to the next reflective strip in the cross walk.  Like Indiana Jones crossing a foot bridge, this little girl took a step, rebalanced, shuffled to get to the edge of the strip and then s t r e t c h e d her leg, pointing her toes, landing on the next reflective strip.   Intensely concentrating on where she stepped and avoiding knocking into those around her, she wove her way across the street.

As I smiled at the beautiful play, I realized that this little girl, in this situation, embodies what’s necessary for there to be successful innovation.

1. Safe Space is Needed – She most likely couldn’t have done what she did if cars were whizzing through the crosswalk.  The crossing guard stopped traffic and created a safe area.  If you want people to be innovative, or for that matter, if you want to be innovative yourself, somehow the traffic has to be stopped.  Someone, or something, has to run interference and create a space and time for innovation.   Corporate politics and power plays are guaranteed innovation killers.  There needs to be insulation from NOISE and distraction. If an innovator has to worry about getting hit by proverbial cars, she can’t create.

2. Give the Minimum Direction Necessary – The little girl was likely told: “Cross the street with your friends when the guard says it’s safe. Be sure to stay in the crosswalk!”  She wasn’t told where to step, how many steps to take, or who she had to walk with.  She knew she had to get from Point A to Point B.  Too often there is a tendency to manage how people get from Point A to Point B.  Don’t.  There are infinite combinations of numbers that when added equal 4.  It’s not simply 2+2.  This goes for personal creativity as well.  When in a creative endeavor, ask yourself if you’re simply taking the shortest distance between two points or if you’re exploring options.  Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re taking the ‘easy’ way, or following everyone else, until we stop and ask ourselves what we’re doing.

3.  Space for Fun/Exploration – To me, fun and exploration are largely synonymous.  I alluded to this earlier.  The girl was playing while accomplishing what was asked of her: crossing the street and staying in the cross-walk.  As safe space is needed, so is space for playing.  People need to explore, to try things out, to play and have fun while they innovate.  At least they should.  If someone isn’t having fun going from Point A to Point B, you should ask yourself if that person is the right person in the right place in the project.  But, it’s not always the person!  If someone isn’t having fun, this could also be an indication that above points 1 and 2 haven’t  been implemented.  If they haven’t, fun is much less likely to occur.  Use this check for yourself as well.  Are you passionate about what you’re doing? Are you having fun?  If not, find out what it is that’s blocking the fun.

When you’re trying to create the best environment for innovation for yourself or others, picture the little girl in the Brett Favre jersey stepping from reflective strip to reflective strip while crossing the street.  Remember the three guidelines and you might just find yourself coming up with more creative work and having fun doing it!

 

Posted in children, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, imagination, innovation, problem solving, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Chef Guy Fieri on Innovation

Posted by Plish on April 1, 2014

Every time I get the opportunity, I ask great chefs this simple question:

What does innovation mean to you?

This year at the International Home and Housewares Show, I caught up (quite literally as you see from the video,) with Chef Guy Fieri.  His response to the question: “What does innovation mean to you?” is shown below.  Give it a watch and join me below the video and I’ll share my thoughts.

Chef Fieri’s thoughts echo, I think, what many people believe innovation is:  The willingness to “step outside the box” and try new things, the willingness to experiment.  Undergirding this willingness, though, is a key acceptance of failure.  He realizes that not everything will be great but we won’t know unless we try.

It’s quite simple really, if we think something, try it and see what happens.  Small changes can have huge impacts; wolves can change the course of rivers.

What are your thoughts on Chef Fieri’s approach?

~~~

Thank you, Chef Fieri!  You’re schedule was fast paced and packed with action (like your food!) and taking the time to chat was most gracious.  Thank you, and keep rocking!

Posted in creativity, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, Food, innovation, Interviews, Nature of Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Fostering Organically Grown Innovation – Insights From the Art of Bonsai

Posted by Plish on March 16, 2014

I just got done trimming some of my bonsai trees.  What always fascinates me is how branches seem to show up in the most unlikely places.   Yet, while the origin of a particular branch baffles me, to the branch growing out of the tree, it made sense.

Somehow, the protobranch saw an opportunity.

Somehow that tree responded to the amount of light being received, the overall stress levels, temperature, soil conditions, nourishment demands, and it sent out branches in the most unlikely, and sometime unwanted(!), places (at least for the artist). Not all these branches will become large, at least without some eventual outside help. But, these branches spring up and, while they take up resources, they also contribute to the overall health of the tree as they leaf, flower and sometimes, even bear fruit.

From a bonsai perspective, these branches are sometimes pruned away so they don’t take energy away from other parts of the tree that, at least in the bonsai artist’s mind, need more.  But, many times, these rogue branches are left – precisely because of the reason mentioned in the previous paragraph – they contribute to the well-being of the tree.  These fledgling branches, while pulling nourishment from the tree’s roots, also send nourishment back to the entire tree.  In the process they contribute to building up the vascular system of the tree and ‘fattening’ up the trunk and all the rest of the branches.   They help make the tree more robust and able to withstand lean times, or environmental stressors in the future.

Innovation efforts in many companies are like these branches.  They pop up, seemingly without rhyme or reason, and often avoid detection until someone finds out about them and then wants to eliminate them.

Don’t!

These budding innovation efforts are organic - it’s not an accident that they showed up inside a specific company at a specific time! They should be welcomed and examined, not elicit shock and disdain (“What are you working on this for!?”).  After all, they came from the company’s roots.  Somehow these proto-innovation efforts sensed an opportunity.  Due to internal or external stressors, market dynamics, serendipitous inter-employee communications, or any combination of myriad variables, a person sensed that now was the time to start making an idea manifest in the world.

An innovation branch is born…

What’s next?

Leave it alone and let it grow for a while where it started.

Again, it’s an organic growth in a specific time and place, trying to mature where it started.  Try and put more light on that dark nook where the tiny branch is budding, try and cut it off and transplant it somewhere else, trim too much of the surrounding foliage, and it’ll die, or start growing in a different manner.  Same thing with new innovation efforts.  Shine corporate spotlights on it, try and move it somewhere else, put other people on it, change the corporate structure and it could very well die.  If nothing else, it will stumble.

New efforts need to grow where they start, at least for a while.  They will contribute to the corporate whole in subtle but real ways. The knowledge being obtained from the budding effort, the synergies being developed, these all feed back into the organic whole and contribute to its growth – if they’re allowed to.

Another reason to let these innovation branches grow for a while is that the world is unpredictable.  A sudden storm, intense winter, drought, animals, a move to another location, or a combination of many other issues, can cause severe damage to a bonsai tree.  After the dust clears, often those branches that played the main role are damaged beyond repair.  Those little branches in the sheltered nooks, that grew in the shadows, they are the ones that survive and enable the tree to continue its life. Will it look like the old tree?  Most likely not, but, the tree will survive.

So too with innovation efforts.  When market dynamics change, sometimes quickly, a company can’t adjust quickly enough and it’s the little innovation efforts that are well poised to take the corporation into the next era.  Those little, pesky, organic, innovation projects, that were perhaps unwanted, are the very projects that will enable a corporation to survive.

There are times and places to trim back branches, sometimes heavily.  But, if you want innovative diversity, resiliency and robustness, pay attention to those new little buds popping up.  They are a sign of life, a sign that the company is interacting with the world around it, a sign that people are thinking, interacting, and dreaming.

Then…

…leave them alone for a while…

Posted in Creative Environments, culture of innovation, Design, Disruptive Innovation, Funding Innovation, innovation, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Want to Harness the Power of “We”? Innovation Starts with “I”

Posted by Plish on March 3, 2014

People like to point to the fact that Thomas Edison had an entire innovation factory working for him, that innovation was a team effort.  While this is true in general, the deeper truth is that Edison was an entrepreneur.  He had to get the ball rolling.  At the beginning, the ideas were his, the dreams were his, the innovation factory was his baby.  He worked to make things happen.  Even in the context of the “We” of his facility in Menlo Park, there were commitments from each individual employed there.

Innovation starts with “I”.  It starts in the heart; it starts with an individual commitment, an individual work ethic. Before it can become a communal effort it needs to be an individual dream. Innovation has entrepreneurial roots.  When individuals come together with common goals, empowered to make dreams reality, when they’re given freedom to experiment, to be creative, to try, fail, learn and grow, when people are rewarded either intrinsically or extrinsically, then “We” means something.  Until then, it’s simply a word used in the context of stirring political, and corporate, pep rallies.

Please don’t misunderstand me. “We” is powerful.  But it’s only powerful if the following criteria are met:

  1. Everyone being called, “We”, must consider themselves part of “We.” (If I say you’re part of a Tribe, you need to agree.)
  2. Anyone saying, “We”, must be acknowledged as part of “We”. (If you say you’re part of a Tribe, I need to agree.)
  3. “We” must all believe in the same goals and means to accomplish those goals.  (Each individual agrees to certain roles.)
  4. Each individual receives a reward for contributing to “We”.
  5. Each individual must be empowered to act in ways that helps accomplish the goals of “We”.
  6. “We” does not turn against the individual.  “We” respects the individual.  As such, “We” respects, and needs, diversity – especially in the context of innovation.

“We”, paradoxically, is fragile. If all 6 of the above criteria are not met, especially the first 3, there is no “We”.   Strictly speaking, we is a virtual entity – it only exists when the above 6 criteria are met.  Saying “We can do this! We can change this!” while perhaps inspiring,  provides no direction.

On the other hand, “I” does not have the pre-requisites above.  It is powerful and strong.  Yes, there may be circumstances that hinder innovation.  But, in the end, it’s about digging deep and finding a way.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” -Theodore Roosevelt

So, how do we create “We”?

Address the needs of, inspire and empower, the individual.  Let people be “I”.  Let people be authentic, let them be true to themselves.  People are social creatures, they leverage relationships naturally when given opportunities.  “We” – Tribes – form somewhat spontaneously where individuals blossom.

You are change!

Make a difference in your own life, in your family, in your community!

The ripples will build upon themselves, and the “We” that’s formed will be even more powerful.

Innovation starts with “I”.

Posted in culture of innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship 2.0, innovation, Politics, Team-Building, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Communicating The New – A Book Review

Posted by Plish on December 30, 2013

I recently finished reading, Communicating The New: Methods to Shape and Accelerate Innovation by IIT Institute of Design Professor, Kim Erwin.

The premise of the book is simple but it’s a point that gets missed.  If someone is trying to communicating a new idea, the typical way is to use concepts, techniques and metaphors that are familiar. I’ve seen it in many industries.  In music we hear people say, “The music is a cross between Joan Jett and Enya.”  While the statement is provocative, it falls short because people are forming an idea of what the “Joan/Enya” amalgam sounds and looks like, a perception that is likely inaccurate in some, if not many, ways.  In business I’ve seen products described as “XYZ product but it does it in a different way and better.”  Again, this type of comparison rings hollow and doesn’t do justice to what may truly be a ground breaking concept.

So what to do?

As the book points out: If you want to communicate The New, it should be done in ways that get the message across and at the same time pave the way for bringing the idea to fruition.  It’s not just about transmitting information, it’s about bringing information alive and making it engaging on myriads of levels.  Hence the subtitle of the book: “Methods to Shape and Accelerate Innovation.”

While the book is about communication, it’s about much more than that, it’s about creating and cocreating – bringing things to actualization.  This book is about innovation tactics; it’s about dream-storming.  We all have heard and seen great ideas that don’t get a chance to spread their wings because the idea was  ineffectively communicated.  This book shares tools to give an idea wings.  In addition, it provides tools that will excite and empower stakeholders/team members so that they engage with, and develop, fledgling ideas.  The more these people are engaged, the more they feel confident and enthusiastic about pushing an idea out of the nest expecting it to fly!

The book is easy to read and is aesthetically pleasing as well.  There are multiple case studies and insights from innovators – it adds breadth to the content.  One minor complaint I have is that there are some great graphics that span adjacent pages. As a result, some of the content in the graphics is hard to see because it disappears in the seam between the pages.  Granted, the content of these ‘page spanning graphics’ are from case studies and they aren’t really pertinent to the content of the chapters, but the graphics were interesting and it drove me nuts to not be able to see the entire graphic.  If I can read part of a graphic, I want to be able to read all of it.  Just a personal pet peeve. The remainder of the graphics are well done and helpful, illuminating the text.

The resource section of this book, what people would normally consider the end notes of a book, are outstanding and provide links and directions to sources for further research.  This chapter is a gem and should be read.

A final point is that a book about communicating The New, should perhaps be more than a book. The webpage is a step in the right direction, but somewhere in the back of my mind, this book is screaming for new ways of being shared.   I am also looking forward to more case studies of people who are successfully (and unsuccessfully!) communicating The New.  This book is just getting the conversation started!

Erwin’s book is a welcome addition to the libraries of innovators and entre/intrapraneurs alike.  I highly recommend “Communicating the New” for anyone who has ideas and knows it’ll take more than an army of one to make them reality.

Posted in culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, Entrepreneurship 2.0, innovation, Tactics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Creative Milwaukee @Work – My Summary in Words and Pictures

Posted by Plish on November 20, 2013

A couple weeks back, I was at the Creative Milwaukee @Work Conference.

I’ve put together a social media summary at Seen.

To Be

 

 

Posted in Arts, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, imagination, innovation, Innovation Tools, Social Innovation, Sustainability, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Getting Naked…Innovation!

Posted by Plish on November 5, 2013

If you’d like to read a comprehensive, yet very readable book on the innovation process and the tactics of designing for people, I highly recommend the book Naked Innovation by Zachary Paradis and David McGaw.

How much does the book cost?  Right now it’s less than I paid for it when it first hit the shelves of an IIT Design Conference.  In fact, it costs nothing!  That’s right – it’s free.  The authors want to make an already good book even better, so they are re-releasing it for free, one chapter at a time, and asking for feedback from the readers.

What do you need to do?

First step: Head to  NakedInnovation.com.

Second step: Download individual chapters of the book.

Third step: Read…

Fourth step: Give your feedback.

This book is an excellent addition to your innovation library, and now is the best time to pick up a copy and contribute to making the next version even better!

Let me know your thoughts when you read it.

Posted in Books, Crowdsourcing, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, innovation, Innovation Tools, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Accelerating Innovation Using Human-Centered Design: A Seminar

Posted by Plish on October 11, 2013

If you’d like to learn more about Human-Centered Design, and how it can power your innovation efforts be sure to check out DMI’s seminar, powered by friends over at the LUMA Institute.

Developing Effective Action Plans for Accelerated Innovation is being held Chicago on November 14th at the IIT Institute of Design.  The seminar will introduce participants to:

…a versatile system for innovating with speed and agility. It is a hands-on workshop featuring an organized framework for Human-Centered Design methods and a corresponding series of collaborative planning exercises.

(Specifically participants will learn: )

  • A practical construct for repeatable innovation
  • Deeper competence in the practice of Human-Centered Design
  • A collaborative approach to drafting action plans
  • Ways to enhance an existing process
  • Ways to establish a new process

Each participant will also receive a copy of LUMA’s Handbook of Human-Centered Design Methods  as well as the Planning Cards based upon the handbook.  I’ve got the Handbook in my library and I can say first hand it’s a great resource and should be in the library of anyone doing Human-Centered Design.  (I’m planning on adding the cards to my collection as well :) )

The interactive seminar is being led by Bill Lucas.  Bill has 25 years of design chops informing the seminar you’ll experience.  He’s fun, engaging, and a heck of nice guy. (Tell him I say “Hi!”  if you go.)

For Registration info click here.  If you can’t make it to Chicago, be sure to check out the LUMA site for other workshops and seminars.  They are always busy putting the education into innovation.

Oh, and if you do go, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Posted in culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, design thinking, innovation, Innovation Tools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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