ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

What’s Worse Than Not Having a Patent? You Might Be Surprised

Posted by Plish on June 1, 2020

She would never let something like this happen to someone else again. Her brother narrowly escaped with his life. Were it not for the quick thinking of the medical personnel, she would have lost her brother Tim.  He was only there for a simple vaccination. Somehow, something in the vaccine reacted with his blood. Tim went into shock.

After that harrowing experience, she asked herself what anyone would:

Why isn’t there a quick test for checking if someone will react to the injection?

She decided to do some research and create a solution.  After a year of research, she thought she was on to something.  She called a friend who was a patent attorney and submitted the idea, something that she was sure would make a difference in the world.

I met Elaine, (not her real name,) when she came to me wanting to prototype the idea that she had patented. It was an exciting project and I jumped on it right away. However, once I saw the patent, I dug into the technology and there were some major issues. The product was next to impossible to manufacture. Not only that, there were newer  tests in the marketplace that could be manufactured on something the size of a thumb drive and thrown away afterword.  Elaine’s device would be the size of football and would require cleaning of some components after use.

I mentioned all of this to Elaine and she followed up with her patent attorney who said that everything in the patent, of course, protected her and assured her she didn’t infringe on other patents. But that wasn’t the problem. This wasn’t a product that was manufacturable, and even if it were, it would be too expensive and too much trouble for a lab to maintain.  In short, she had a patent that was useless, and worse, worthless.  She had spent $7000-$10000 in patent application services up to that point, not to mention over a year of her sweat and time, and she was no closer to helping others like her brother.  In fact, because of the year’s plus worth of time she sunk into the project, others would be that much closer to commercializing a usable solution.

The problem, and one I see too often in inventor/entrepreneurs, is that Elaine lacked in two areas and was driven by one:

Elaine LackedUnderstanding of…

  1. Key technologies on a fundamental, scientific level
  2. Similar technologies that could compete with what she wanted to accomplish

Understanding Technology

When patenting an idea it’s essential that the underlying technology be understood.  It’s not the job of the patent attorney or patent office to rigorously prove out a patent.  They assume that the person filing the patent has done that already.

Understanding Similar Technologies

There are very few technologies that are brand new to the world.  Chances are that any idea you have, there’s something similar, somewhere in the world, at some place in time.  It might not even be in the same industry, but something similar is likely out there.  Testing technologies have grown by leaps and bounds in the last decade.  Much of this is due to the miniaturization of electronics.  Before, an entire laboratory of equipment was needed to do a specific test.  Now it can be done on something the size of a credit card or smaller.  There are trends in the directions testing technology is going.  It’s important to understand those trends.  If you want your patent to be valuable, it needs to either be riding that trend or taking that trend one step further.

So, in this case, if the testing mechanism isn’t going to be smaller, or quicker, or cleaner, or disposable, unless it is just as (or more!) accurate and unbelievably cheaper, it is not going to do well in the marketplace.  Elaine’s device had too many components, and was large.  It would simply be too expensive to manufacture and maintain.

Instead Elaine Was Driven By…

  1. Emotion

 

I get it.  I’ve been there myself.  A great idea, a great cause.  There has to be a product here.  I need to patent it now!

But the same passion that drives us to solve problems can also drive us to waste time and money.  It’s hard to see something for what it is.

If Elaine had  looked at the above two areas, without emotion, while she was doing her research, she would have saved herself a year’s worth of work and 7000 to 10,000 dollars for a patent that would never make that money back.

Objectivity

I mention this last, but it’s not always easy being objective.

It takes a special person to look at your own idea and stop trying to commercialize it.  I’ve done it to my own ideas and it hurts!  That’s why it helps when there are others involved. In big businesses, there are multiple sets of eyes looking at an idea and the possibility of getting a patent.

As an inventor/entrepreneur, if you’re trying to come up with a way to solve a problem, or if you’ve got an idea but just aren’t sure what to do next, don’t just patent it.  Your money and time is worth too much to throw it away.  If Elaine would’ve taken time to understand key technologies and similar tech to hers, she may actually have developed and patented something that was saving lives and building a business.

If you are on the verge of filing for a patent or you have a problem that you’d like solved, set up an appointment for a one hour consult https://calendly.com/zenstorming/60min and let’s see if I can help you avoid the pitfalls Elaine fell into.  My goal is to ultimately save you time and money in generating an idea and/or bringing your product to market.

We can all make the world a better place with our ideas.  But we can also make things worse for ourselves if we’re not careful.

Looking forward to chatting!

(Also looking forward to your thoughts on this topic. Share your thoughts below!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Entrepreneurship, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, patents, problem solving, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

If You Expect Normal Results From This New Normal You’ll Be Surprised. So, How Should We View These Times?

Posted by Plish on April 16, 2020

It seems we see this phrase almost everywhere: The New Normal

“Special Report – The New Normal – Emerging Innovations in a World Shaped by Covid-19” (This is a great report from the folks at Trendhunter! Get a copy of it here)

“Learn how to thrive in the new normal.”

The problem is, this is not normal.  Yes, it’s a new situation but it is anything but normal.  Normalcy implies that there are known rules to the game, that a certain action creates certain reactions.  Instead, it seems the rules change every day.  People just aren’t sure what tomorrow will bring.

No, we are living in liminal times.

What is Liminality?

It is the blurry time that exists between what was and what is to come.  The term ‘liminal’ gained traction among anthropologists.  It’s used to describe the transitional times that occur in people’s lives, families and societies.  Weddings, funerals, births, baptisms, a Bar Mitzvah or Quinceañera, divorce, new jobs, the ‘hazing’ period that fraternities make Pledges go through-for that matter, what any initiate to a new organization goes through.   They’re all types of transitions and as such people experience liminal states.   Put simply, during these times, a person is no longer a member of what was, but she also isn’t an official member of a group either. Liminal states are thresholds into what is new.

Traits of Liminal States

Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper.  On left side write the words “The Past” and on the right side, “The Future”.  The line is the liminal state.  Most liminal states are planned for, but on the larger scale, wars, disease, sociopolitical circumstances, can all create liminality and those are typically not planned for.   How do you know when you are inside the line?  Here are some indicators that let you know when you are in the liminal state.  (Does this describe what we’re going through?)

  1. The liminal state has its own rules and are different from what comes before and what comes after.
  2. Transitional
  3. Shared rituals
  4. Social hierarchies get upended or become non-existent
  5. Some type of social separation
  6. Introspection and reflection upon events and directions
  7. A time of rebirth, of creative remaking

Why Does Liminality Matter?

We are innovating and trying to grow and build business in a time in which it seems the target is moving.  We have no idea when ‘normalcy’ will return, if ever.  As a business, there’s no guarantee that what we create now will continue to work, and there’s definitely no guarantee that what we do now will work 3 months or a year from now.

Now and Later

Since we are in a liminal state, we are in a state in which the rules are being made.  Rules are not only being made for now, they may be being made for the future.  Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made the suggestion that we never shake hands again.   While this is definitely a rule that we should be following in the present, whether or not that happens in the Future is still to be seen. 

What Rules do we Plan For?

Nobody knows what life is like on the other side of this liminal experience.   Heck, no one knows what next month will be like.  The gut reaction is to try and predict how the future will pan out.  However, that’s a risky move and instead it’s better to do one or both of the following.

Try and Make the Future.

Making the Future is easier said than done, and people typically have more success the more limited the scope of the changes are in time and/or space.  (About the only thing you have control of and that you can definitely make future resistant is your own attitude and your own perspectives, and even that can be quite difficult!)

Don’t Predict, Plan

The other choice is to not try and predict, but instead plan for various scenarios.  In other words, you want to look at possible futures and set yourself up so that you are able to survive in more likely futures, or multiple futures, not just one.

Scenario Planning

Scenario planning was actually popularized as a strategic planning tool by Shell .  The process can easily take months on a corporate level, but you can be as in-depth as you like.  However, the more time you spend on the exercise, the more you will understand how the future may unfold, and it will yield better results when you design products and services during these times.

Scenario planning takes a look at the past and present to better understand possible futures.  It’s a structured framework for analyzing trends and drivers be they social, technological, environmental, political, or economic.  Once you know what types of things are happening in the world you can understand the likelihood they will impact the issue you’re looking at.

I strongly suggest checking out, “4 Steps to the Future” by Richard A.K. Lum.  It’s concise with templates galore.  There is copious Scenario Planning info on the internet and in book form, but I found this handbook to be a great, usable tool to get the ball rolling and structure your thinking around what might happen and how you can prepare for it.  While doing a thorough, full blown, scenario exercise is a good thing, anything you do to help you understand possible future scenarios will be a good thing.

In the Playground of Potential Futures

The Future is a horizon that glows in every second of the Now.  Each day brings new challenges, new information, new hope.  Rembrandt, Michelangelo and others of the Renaissance, rose from the liminal times of the Plague to create some of Humanity’s most powerful works.

Remember that line you drew down the center of the paper?

That Liminal space is powerful and filled with potential.  Everything to the right of that line is a product of the Past and the Liminal Line! The line is not only something that divides, it is the start, and we are living it! It’s a time to reboot and re-make, to re-create/recreate, to make new rules and perhaps jettison old ones.  Yes, these are terrible times but they are also filled with awesome potential.  Explore and use this time to re-center, forge new growth, new strategies and directions, new relationships, because what we are living through now is not a ‘new normal’.

It’s Liminal.

 

Posted in Authenticity, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Great Creative Minds, innovation, Social Innovation, The Future, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Are You Lowering Your Verbal Creativity Doing This Common Thing?

Posted by Plish on February 28, 2019

You’re working on a creative project involving verbiage.  So, you crank up the tunes and listen to your favorite creative mix of instrumental music.

Do you think you’ll be more or less creative than the following scenarios?

  1. Listening to background music with foreign (unfamiliar) lyrics
  2. Music with familiar lyrics

If you’re like me you probably thought that you’d be more creative than scenario #1, but less creative than scenario #2.

You’d be wrong, as I was.

Actually, turning on music in the first place is the problem.  Even if it puts you in a good mood.  According to recent research from Lancaster University, silence or simply background noise (like a library) enables better verbal creativity and verbal insight problem solving.   It appears that the nature of music (of any type!) distracts verbal processes in the brain, which for creative verbal insight problem solving, is a bad thing.

This might not hold though for other types of visual-spatial creative problem solving.  In those cases, background music may actually benefit.  One theory is that the distraction provided by music actually may provide more room for creative wandering so to speak.  That extra space may let ideas flow. ( A fascinating description on the role of background music in verbal versus visual-spatial states is on pages 12 and 13 of the study here.  )

Still, the fact that music is not helpful in a type of creative activity is a shock to those who love music and often turn it on out of habit.

What’s the lesson then?

Understand what type of creative problem you’re solving before adjusting your environment.  We can do things to make ourselves more creative.  Sometimes habits, even pleasing ones, can work against creativity.

What do you think about this research?

 

 

 

Posted in creativity, innovation, Innovation Tools, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Uncategorized, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Don’t Make this Mistake when Helping the Environment – How Design Thinking can Help you Change from Plastic to Paper Straws

Posted by Plish on December 10, 2018

When designing solutions for the ‘E’nvironment, don’t ignore the ‘e’nvironment.

What do I mean?

I went recently to a Chicago Wolves hockey game at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, IL.  Following the lead of the Chicago White Sox (and Shedd Aquarium) who announced they were switching to non-petroleum based straws, the Allstate Arena decided to switch to paper straws.

But, there’s a problem.

They don’t work.

How can a straw not work?

They don’t suck.

Well, actually, they do suck, they suck badly.  (Check out this article for perspectives on how straw changes impact people with disabilities.)

The picture below shows what happens after 15 minutes of use. It’s completely unusable.

lid3

I either have to get another straw (a friend of mine takes two or more now every time he gets a drink) or get rid of the lid altogether (which isn’t always a good idea when people are getting up and down, walking through aisles, dropping popcorn, etc.)

For reference, take a look at a typical plastic straw in a lid from a fast-food establishment (This is what it used to be like at the arena).

goodlid

 

If the solution for replacing plastic straws was derived using design thinking (taking the ‘e‘nvironment into account) as opposed to simply being implemented by decree, none of this would have happened.

What do I mean?

This is what the design thinking process looks like:

fce97

Courtesy of Stanford’s D.School

 

And, here’s how the process for changing the straws should have gone:

  1. Empathy –  Understand how people are using cups and straws and lids.  Watch what people are doing.  Who is using straws the most? Understand the technical aspects of the straw, the lid, the straw/lid interface.  Understand what the straw feels like in the mouth.  What is it like to suck on a paper straw vs. a plastic straw?  I heard a person say, “It feels weird sucking on the paper straw.  It tastes funny.  Eh, I’ll probably get used to it.”  That’s the type of feedback that’s needed.
  2. Define the problem –  Here the problem isn’t just, “Plastic straws are bad for the environment, we need to replace them.”  A better problem statement would be: How can we create a pleasing drinking experience for people using straws, while having a minimal impact on the Environment and minimal cost impact?  The difference between these two statements is that People should be the focus, not the straws.  Their experience is key.
  3. Ideate –  Brainstorm solutions.  If the Empathy phase was done, and the problem statement defined, the solutions that would’ve seemed most viable would’ve come to the forefront.  When they checked with straw (and lid!) suppliers, only certain ones would’ve been chosen.
  4. Prototype –  Obtain straws and lids of all types.  Experiment.
  5. Test/Feedback –  Understand what works and what doesn’t.  See which combinations of straws and lids meet the problem statement:  How can we create a pleasing drinking experience using for people using straws, while having a minimal impact on the Environment and minimal cost impact?

Where did Allstate Arena go wrong?

Pretty much everywhere.

It’s clear that no one took the time to understand the situation, no one took the ‘e‘nvironment into account.

No one realized that because the lid material (Plant based, biodegradable PLA) is much stiffer than the former lids (usually polystyrene), the “X” cut for the straw puts major forces on the straw.  Paper gets wet and soft, and the stronger plastic lid collapses the paper. (Note to Fabri-Kal: use a circular cut in your Greenware lids!)

Instead someone, somewhere said, “Let’s do something good for the Environment.  Let’s blaze a trail and be like the White Sox.  Hank (or George, Tina, etc.), let’s start using paper straws.  See what our supplier has and let’s make the change!!!”

Boom!! Problem solved.  Only it isn’t.

The biggest shame here is that an entire exploratory project wasn’t even required.  A simple 15 minute experiment of taking a cup, putting a lid on it, putting the straw in and drinking would’ve done wonders!  It would’ve been clear that this particular combination of straw/lid is not usable.

Instead, lack of any aspect of design thinking resulted in a solution that is less than adequate.  An opportunity to make a positive change with positive repercussions will now be seen by some as a waste of time and money, as institutions needlessly intruding in people’s lives, of fixing a problem that some may view as non-existent.

A little observation, a little empathy, can go a long way…

EPILOGUE
Now that I know the problem, I fix the situation by poking my finger through the “X” and breaking one of the tabs. I then put the straw in and it works better.   But seriously, should any solution require a person to stick his/her finger through the lid of the cup?

lids2.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Design, design thinking, environment, problem solving, Sustainability | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Are You Using This Innovation Technique That is a Favorite of NASA?

Posted by Plish on October 25, 2018

I just saw the movie First Man, about Neil Armstrong and the quest to put a human on the moon. (Good movie 🙂 )

What struck me again while watching the movie is that the main innovation technique NASA uses to put a person on the moon is also one of my favorites.

SEGMENTATION

There are other names for it, but it comes down to this: break down a bigger problem, device, situation, etc. into smaller components that are easier to handle and design solutions for.

NASA uses segmentation extensively in the Apollo program.  The best way to illustrate it is by looking at the Saturn V rocket diagram below.

What’s with the red thingie?

That’s the component that ultimately mattered at the end – it’s the capsule that brought the astronauts back to earth.  The rest of the rocket components ended up on the moon, in orbit,  in the ocean or burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere.  They weren’t necessarily less important, but their jobs were specific to specific phases of the project.

apollo

Why throw it all away?

The physics of getting something into space is relatively straightforward.  Take something  and accelerate it to escape velocity.  The problem is that the the heavier the payloads, the more fuel that’s required, and the more fuel that’s required, the heavier the rocket  becomes.  It’s a nasty catch 22.

So, to solve the problem, you break things into modules.  Launch the rocket, when it gets to a certain speed, you get rid of part of the rocket, and use different fuels to propel what’s left (which now weighs less) even faster, and so on.

What’s the key then to Segmentation?

The key is that each component contains only what is necessary for that stage in the launch, or more generally, for each step in a process. By doing this, the design can be streamlined and optimized.

For example, the lunar module (shown below) had very specific tasks:

  1. Dock with the Command Module
  2. Land on the Moon
  3. Take off from the Moon
  4. Dock with the Command Module
  5. Separate from the Command Module

lunar_module_diagram

Landing gear and pads are only required for landing. Descent engine is for landing.  Ladder is for getting onto the surface of the moon.

Once business was complete on the moon, the upper half of the module left the lower half on the moon and was now smaller and lighter.  Its job was now to rendezvous with the Command Module, dock, and transfer the astronauts back into the Command vehicle.

It then was jettisoned.  None of the Lunar Module was brought back to earth – well except for the astronauts inside.  (There’s an interesting non-obvious segmentation going on here  – even the crew was segmented!  Only two astronauts went to the moon and back.  The third astronaut stayed in the command module.  Sending all three to the moon could’ve been done, but the segmentation solution was safer, more elegant and more efficient)

It’s about optimization

Next time you’re confronted with a problem, try Segmentation.  Break down the problem into stages and see if each can be solved with specialized solutions – all inter-related, but standalone in their ability to achieve a goal.

There’s a tendency to design products so that they solve all the possible problems a user might have.  What happens then is that the product can get unwieldy, lose its elegance and often its appeal.

Keep it elegant by  using Segmentation!

This coincidentally opens the door to modularity.  You can then sell modules that do entirely different, or complimentary tasks.  Why sell a frying pan with a lid that’s permanently attached with hinge?  Sure you may find it useful but the lid is only used under certain circumstances.  The rest of the time it’ll be clunky and difficult to manage.  Keep it separate.

Segmentation has always been a favorite innovation approach of mine.  Try it and I’m sure you’ll agree!

Posted in creativity, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Can Drugs Help Your Creativity?

Posted by Plish on September 19, 2018

With all the emphasis on legalizing marijuana, and along with it, scores of users that claim it helps their creativity, I figured this would be an opportunity to dig into the science a little bit.

Dr. Heidi Moawad, over at Neurology Times has thankfully addressed the question recently here.

DISCLAIMER:  I am NOT condoning or recommending  experimentation with, or use of any drugs, legal or illegal.

Cannabis is the bomb!

Actually, it may be, in that smoking weed may mean you bomb your next brainstorming session.  People who were administered low  and high doses of THC were measured for their level of divergent thinking – the thinking that most people identify with being creative and coming up with wild ideas.  Low doses had no effect and high doses actually resulted in lower levels of divergent thinking.

So, lighting up or getting some THC candy might not be the best solution to come up with creative solutions.

What about LSD??

Sorry, this didn’t help either.   Using brain imaging  while under the influence of psychedelics, researchers concluded that while the drug may have been responsible for some far out experiences, the problem is that the brain has trouble with cause/effect relationships.  In other words, it can’t make sense of what it’s seeing and apply it in a meaningful way.  Does this mean that if a person narrates his/her trip and a non-drugged person listens, that the far out imagery of a trip might be usable for someone? (AGAIN, NOT CONDONING THIS!) Something to think about.  But having said that, there are ways of creating the same effect of prompting ideas using random words and images that would probably work just as well.

Even Microdosing LSD?

There is some evidence, though it’s considered dubious, that microdosing might actually help with creativity, but only now is this becoming a topic for serious research, so the jury is still out.

Can I have a drink?

Actually, you can.  There is some evidence that alcohol can help out of the box thinking.  There is again, a point of diminishing returns as can be expected.  But, loosening up by having a couple drinks might have some merit.

What about Nootropics?

Nooo-what?

Nootropics. These are substances that enhance brain function.  Sometimes they’re called smart drugs.  People are already familiar with many of them, and use them, without realizing they’re using nootropics.

Caffeine, B-vitamins, Vitamin D, Turmeric, Ginseng, Ginkgo, are some of the more obvious ones.  As with any substance, you can have too much of a good thing.  But, there is a growing body of evidence that many of these have some merit.  Research is in its early phases and there are people that use nootropics as part of their biohacking regime.  I’m planning on doing an article about some of the more common ones in the future.

What’s the verdict then?

Do your research!  Everyone is looking for an edge but at the end of the day, if we manage stress, eat well, exercise, maybe we’d need less of an edge.  It’d be interesting to compare someone who is physically and mentally fit with someone who isn’t, but is trying to supplement with other substances.  I wonder if the drugs or nootropics would give much benefit?

Until that study is done, here’s to being more creative and healthy!

CHEERS!!!

 

Posted in creativity, health, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Innovation Proposes, You Say “Yes” – Can All Parties Make This Critical Shift in Perspective?

Posted by Plish on May 25, 2018

 

Innovations occur at the intersections

 

As I walked into the Earthly Goods health food store I noticed the neighbors and immediately thought,  ” Wow, Bath and Body Works, Nothing Bundt Cakes and Earthly Goods.  There are some dynamite opportunities just waiting to happen, if….”

If What?

If the parties involved have enough courage to create a working relationship and even more courage to develop new processes that leverage all parties’ strengths. In my experience, the latter is where most cooperative ventures grind to a halt.

Creating a relationship seems to be the easy part. 

Someone comes up with a great idea that has one missing piece.  After a little digging, a partner is found to provide that piece and the excitement is palpable.  The first prototypes are made that successfully leverage both companies’ competencies and there’s even more excitement!! And then…

Who’s going to deal with the problems if they pop up?

Do we handle it ourselves or let them handle it?

All of a sudden people forget why the venture was started in the first place.

We can’t let them handle it.  We’ve always handled that part of the business! 

The doubt and insecurity take over.

The products, the deal, the relationship loses its luster and nothing happens…

For there to be success, parties need to realize they’re a tertium quid, at least at the start.

The partnership results in something new that is neither company and yet both companies.  Once a new relationship is formed, both parties need to be willing to re-write the rule book and then play by the new rules.

Accept that, and beautiful things will happen.

So let’s assume that the parties shown in the picture can find a way to work together.  What creations would you like to see created out of those relationships?  I like the response posted on the ZenStorming™ Facebook page:

Beginnings

 

 

 

Posted in Design, Entrepreneurship, innovation, Innovation Tools, product design, Service Design, Uncategorized, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

When You Need Ideas, Make Sure You Invite This Collaboration Partner

Posted by Plish on April 30, 2018

I’ve been reading artist David Byrne‘s book, “How Music Works.” For those of you who don’t know, he was the founding member of the band, Talking Heads.

It’s a fascinating book, part history, part autobiography, part music science, and totally fascinating.

Sharing His Creative Process

Byrne is wonderfully introspective when it comes to his songwriting process.  He clearly pays attention to himself when creating, which, incidentally, on its own is a good thing to practice while being creative.

While the book is, in itself, an exploration of his creativity, a few of the pages delve into the specifics of his songwriting.  I found much of what he wrote resonates with my own songwriting and the creative process in general.

A Little Bubbly

One of the most powerful things Byrne does, and perhaps the most difficult, is listen to his subconscious and let it bubble to the surface.

As he listens to musical frameworks, he uses them as springboards to lyrics.  He does this by singing passionate jibberish and writing it all down.  In essences, he’s sketching.

Stop Making Sense

He allows emotions, memories, sounds, patterns, to express themselves, even if they don’t make sense! Eventually those sung sounds will be transliterated into actual words and music, but not in the early stages.  Instead, he simply trusts that those sounds, the lyrical structure, all things being articulated, are connected to the music on a deep, visceral level.

However, all this is for naught if he judges his work too quickly.  He does his best to

Suspend judgement!

This is something that I always drive home to people when I am moderating brainstorming sessions.

Don’t judge!

Judging the ideas is for a later time, after the various ideas can be explored for their apropos-ness to the music.  For people who are innovating, the ideas should resonate on multiple levels, not just the physical, but the emotional as well.

“I try not to prejudge anything that occurs to me at this point in the writing process – I never know if something that sounds stupid at first, will in some soon-to-emerge lyrical context make the whole thing shine.  So no matter how many pages get filled up, I try to turn off the internal censor.”(Italics mine; pp. 219-220)

This can’t be overstated: What seems stupid at the beginning might be the key at a later time.

What if the internal censor doesn’t cooperate? (“…the conscious mind might be thinking too much.”)

“Exactly at this point…I most want and need surprises and weirdness from the depths.”

His goal here is to “distract the gatekeepers.” Go jog, cook, walk, drive, do whatever so that the conscious mind is occupied with something else, just enough to let the goodies come through.

Again, make sure you have a recorder, sketchpad, camera, clay, whatever, so that you can record these gems as they “gurgle up.”  Just a snippet of these pearls could be enough to connect everything and make the whole project come together.   What was once a garbled mess can become a pleasing coherent whole.

Bottom Line: Collaborate!

“With whom?” you may ask.

With yourself!  Access the emotions,  knowledge,  patterns, experiences and feelings of all that you are!  Each of us is a wonderful repository of so much more than we realize.  Just because we don’t think we remember something doesn’t mean that something we saw, heard, smelled, felt, tasted, learned, or even thought we experienced, didn’t leave a valuable experiential nugget in our beings.

Our imaginations and our experiences can work together to enable us to design a better future.  (For a fascinating article on how we imagine the past and the future in similar ways read, “Remembering the Past to Imagine the Future: a Cognitive Neuroscience Perspective.”) We just have to get out of our own ways.

Are More Better?

As I’ve written before, there are certain conditions in which small groups are good for collaboration, especially when participants are able to share their own unique perspectives and experiences.  However, at the root of that multi-person collaboration is the ability for each individual to collaborate with themselves, to not censor themselves.   Solo-brainstorming is indeed powerful! (See “Why Groups Are Less Effective than Their Members: On Productivity Losses in Idea-Generating Groups“)

But you need to be you.

Take these tips from David Byrne and internalize them.  Listen to yourself – your subconscious.  Access who you are. Sketch. Suspend judgement. Explore. Look for resonance between concepts. (Sometimes they’re in that order, sometimes not.  😉 )

Regardless of what you’re designing, your innovations will be more creative the more you’re willing to collaborate with yourself.

Here’s to better solutions and a better world filled with better music 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, imagination, innovation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, product design, Service Design, Sketching, Social Innovation, The Future, The Human Person, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Future of Innovation: The World is Your Controller

Posted by Plish on March 30, 2018

 

We interact with the world even when we don’t realize it. 

The act of breathing changes the chemical composition of the air in our immediate vicinity.  Standing in the sun casts a shadow – the area in the darkness gets momentarily deprived of light.  Jump up and down and the floor vibrates.  Walk in a crowd and other people magically move out of the way (hopefully 😉 ).  We tell people we love them (or we don’t) and they respond on an emotional level causing chemical and electrical processes to be initiated in their bodies and in ours.

Go to any Home Depot or Lowes, and there are countless switches, knobs, buttons, sliders and more, that are used to foster interaction with the world around us.

Unfortunately, we’ve gotten so used to these mechanisms of interaction that we think these are the only ways to interact.  We call them switches, knobs, buttons, etc., but we no longer call them what they really are:

Controllers.

Interact with something and it controls something.

To the extent we can measure how the world reacts to our interactions, we can use those measurements to control other things.

Everything has the potential to be a controller.

Some Gamers have taken this truism to an extreme by using objects as diverse as fishing reels to bananas to LED strips to control the games they’re playing.

This video shows the bananas in use.

 

What can we use as controllers in the game we all play: Life?

It’s important that we suspend all judgement of what makes a good controller, at least in the beginning.  It’s important that we play, that we experiment. After all, controllers are used in games.

In our increasingly connected world, the Internet of Things enables controlling systems in unimaginable ways.

The controllers of the future don’t need to have an obvious relationship to the things we want to control (bananas?!).  We only have to design the means for interpreting  our interactions with controllers and sending that information to whatever it is we want to control.

That’s my challenge to you.

Start seeing the everything in the world as a potential controller. Get wild with your ideas.  Think of it as a game, have fun!

Radical innovation may only be a banana away!

 

***If you’d like to learn more and want to structure a class on alternate controllers, take a look at this paper from the folks at the Rochester Institute of Technology who had a class in building alternative game controllers.

 

Posted in creativity, Design, Disruptive Innovation, games, imagination, innovation, Maker, Maker Movement, problem solving, product design, Service Design, The Future, toys, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

There’s More to Hot Sauce than Meets the Tongue – How to Jumpstart Business Idea Generation

Posted by Plish on March 7, 2018

Hot sauces

They’re everywhere.  From mild to scorching, these heat packed condiments can perk up almost any dish – if perky is what you want.

How do we come up with new ways of growing a hot sauce business?

There are multiple ways to come up with new business ideas.  One of the processes I use for generating multiple ideas quickly is illustrated below.  It’s based on a simple process.

  1. List the traits/attributes of a specific product/service (I use VUE) Those are shown in purple in the concept map below. (Color coding helps tremendously in keeping track of ideas.  I could even do more color coding by group)
  2. Think of ways of enhancing or changing the attributes.  These are the ideas. These are shown in green.
  3. Let one idea lead to another – don’t censor yourself!

Hot Pepper Ideas-copy.pngThe PDF of the above document is here

 

This use of Attributes can be even further structured. While I just took traits as they popped into my mind, there are other tools that I use that are slightly more structured and they can be used to guide idea generation.

(In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m actually using these additional frameworks, it’s just second nature and I don’t think about it as much.)

It’s about POEMS

Not poetry, but POEMS. This acronym was developed by the folks over at the Illinois Institute of Technology-Institute of Design. The POEMS framework is not actually an idea generating tools per se.    It is a research framework. It provides a memorable way to code/categorize observations.  However, I use it  as a way to jump start ideation.

POEMS is an acronym for:

People

Objects

Environment

Messages/Media

Services

For each of the above, list everything you know about each one and then subtract, add or change the attribute.

People – Who uses this?  Using the Pepper Sauce example, people typically think of hot sauce as geared towards adults.  What about making a hot sauce for children?

Objects – What are the objects that people interact with?  Bottles, the sauce itself which is made up of vinegar, spices, sugar, peppers, etc.  Eliminate the bottles.  Eliminate an ingredient.

Environment – Where are the products or services used?  Where are hot sauces used? Kitchens, at the meal table, in a car.  Where can the use of hot sauces be extended?  Can where they’re made be changed?  

Messages/Media – What messages are typically conveyed?  What do labels and other media look like? For Hot Sauce, why do labels always using scary, intimidating images?  Can a container label be inviting and gentle?

Services – How are products delivered?  How are they sampled? How are they bundled?  What places have hot sauces?  There are health values to the capsaicin, what about selling that idea/product at boutique spas?  What about developing medicinally spike pepper sauces?  What could you add to give them more nutritional value?

If POEMS isn’t fruitful try AEIOU.

It’s similar to POEMS, but AEIOU gives a slightly different twist. Each framework can give you new ideas.

Activities – What do people want to accomplish, what needs to get done
Environments – The setting and context
Interactions – Are between people/people, people/objects, objects/objects
Objects – The things in the environment, things people use
Users – The people using the product, trying to accomplish something

So, there you have it.  What do you do to jump-start new ideas?

NOTE: If you actually want to try out a hot sauce idea, let me know 😉

Posted in brainstorming, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, Disruptive Innovation, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, product design, Service Design, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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