ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Six Essential Guidelines to Failing Forward — Relishing Failure (Even When it Tastes Disgusting)

Posted by Plish on April 26, 2016

In the span of a couple seconds a wonderful orange, blackberry fragrance turned caramely, then malty, then char…

I quickly turned around and saw that my blackberry sauce had become a gooey burning mess.  Taking it off the heat I scraped it into a container and set it on the garbage can to cool.  I then promptly washed the pan and started another batch of my sauce – after all, the French Toast was already done.

As I went to throw away the failure, I grabbed a spoon and tasted this mess.  Who knows, maybe something good came out of it…

 

Carbonized berries with a hint of charred honey – bitter and brown – there really was nothing redeemable from this.  My takeaway?  Perhaps use a little more liquid, a little less sugars, or more importantly, just pay attention better!!

People always talk about failing fast, failing forward, etc.  But failing is only beneficial if we take the time to analyze, or in this case taste, our failures.

What’s needed first when we analyze?

A willingness to look!  If I was simply interested in making the French Toast and plating it; or if I was only interested in getting rid of a smoky mess and throwing it out, I wouldn’t have found out what the gooey stuff tasted, looked, smelled and felt/acted like.

Be curious about the failures no matter how mundane or common they may appear.  As noted in the classic, “The Art of Scientific Investigation“:

 

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The Art of Scientific Investigation, by W.I.B. Beveridge, Pg. 40

 

The trick then is to look and really question whatever you can’t explain (and sometimes even questioning the things you (think you) can explain can be very useful!) Multiple people can see the same phenomenon and yet see different things.

Some years back, a veteran engineer was convinced that a plastic part was failing because of something happening in the mold.  I was brought in to take a look at the situation as they were short on resources.  Not taking the veteran engineer’s word, I looked more closely under a microscope.  Something didn’t seem right. After looking at the part, and the entire manufacturing and testing process more closely, I realized that the failure was actually due to a testing fixture applied to the part after it was molded.  Good parts were being made bad!  A change in the testing procedure resulted in weeks of saved time and the product was able to launch on time.

So,  while fruitful failing starts with observation, there are actually six points you should think about next time you burn a berry sauce, or something fails. Pay attention to these six points and you’ll be guaranteed to be failing-forward:

  1. Practice being curious about why things fail.  Ask questions, observe, taste, feel, smell.  If you can’t explain something, if something seems odd, follow up!
  2. Can this failure actually be used?  In other words, is it truly a failure? The charred goop may have tasted good – maybe I could’ve used it in its new form? (I couldn’t but I asked this question :) )
  3. Can some aspect of the failure be used?  Okay, so maybe it tastes disgusting, but does this mean that it’s totally a loss?  Maybe charred, seasoned berry goo is good for digestion? (I don’t know if it is, but I’d venture it isn’t.)  Maybe the sticky sugar is a biofriendly adhesive?
  4. What did I do? How did I get here?  Understand the full width and breadth of what was done to create the failure.  Look at the ingredients that went into the failure, the tools and fixtures, the timing, the context/environment.  Understand what truly caused the failure.
  5. Document it!  Jot it down, put it into your phone, take pictures, make recordings. At the very minimum, commit what you can to memory.  Be conscious about remembering what happened so that it doesn’t happen again.
  6. Can you recreate the failure?  At the end of the day, we should be able to recreate the failure (I am quite confident I could burn my sauce again and create the same brown goop).  If we can’t recreate it, we didn’t understand it.

Failing is the easy part.  Turning it into something to build upon takes a conscious, concerted effort.  However, the more you are cognizant of these six points, the more fruitful and the more repeatable your product development efforts will become.

Then the fun REALLY starts!

:)

POST SCRIPT

~~~The second batch of blackberry sauce was sublime ~~~

:)

Posted in creativity, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, Food, innovation, Innovation Tools, observation, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Technology Driven Design or Customer Centered Innovation? – The Imodium Experience

Posted by Plish on April 6, 2016

Think back to your last experience with…

diarrhea.

Yes, you read correctly.  Take a few moments and think about it.  Name at least five things that you feel when you have diarrhea.  It’s probably not hard because  those experiences are typically extremely visceral.

Urgency, cramping, sweat, embarrassment, loud, runny, running….  the list goes on.

Now, name five things that you typically need to deal with diarrhea.

Toilet paper, water, underwear, anti-diarrhea medication, an open toilet, Gatorade…

Nowhere in either of these two lists did you see scissors mentioned did you?

I can hear what you’re thinking, “Plish, why the heck would I think of fricking scissors??!?”

Check this out:

Yes, scissors!

So, what’s behind this packaging debacle?

Well, it’s surely not customer-centered needs.  While it is about stopping diarrhea, it’s not about improving people’s experiences with diarrhea.

At the core,  it’s about Technology.

I haven’t interviewed anyone at McNeil about the packaging.  But I’ve seen this phenomenon before.  You see, McNeil sees the contents of this package as its product.  It’s all about the drug, and packaging the drug was driven by technology.

The manufacturing facility has scores of cool, hi-tech packaging machines that can safely, securely,  deposit and seal loperamide (Imodium) caplets in their foil/paper  blister chambers.  These packets keep the white caplet inside safe from harm as thousands of boxes rattle around in a truck, and/or are thrown around at shipping docks.  Then, when the card of tablets is stuffed in a pocket or purse, the packaging needs to protect the precious, effective cargo.

Unfortunately, nowhere in this list is the customer experience.

The end result then is a hard to open package that includes (mindblowing) directions for using scissors in case the person opening it can’t tear the plastic.

What is interesting is that on the Imodium website you can read the following:

IMODIUM® A-D EZ Chews begin to dissolve quickly. And when you have diarrhea, fast relief can never come too soon. IMODIUM® A-D EZ Chews work fast, so you can get out of the bathroom and back to the things you love.

So, with the EZ Chews, they acknowledge the need for quick resolution, but curiously don’t figure this into the packaging experience in their other products.

How did they get here?

As I said before, this product was driven by technology.  While the drug was tested for efficacy,  and while the package keeps the drug safe,  the lesson here is that the product, Imodium, isn’t just a little pill*, it’s the pill and packaging – the whole experience of opening and taking the medication (which incidentally is done while people are in a, um, compromised state).

The takeaways?

  1. Look beyond the product and look at the experience.
  2. Don’t expect technology to automatically create a good experience.
  3. Think about the packaging! (Anyone out there thinking about battery packaging??) Oh, the presence of a certain packaging machine in your plant doesn’t mean that it’s a fit for every project.
  4. Streamline the process of opening the package while still keeping your package contents safe.
  5. Use some empathy! Understand what people are going through before, during, and after, touching your product.

The good news is that if you look at this list, especially number 5, there is clearly an opportunity for innovation in this space.

I’m looking forward to seeing the next generation of diarrhea packaging, but just hopefully it’s not as a user.😉

*-Imodium is available in  other configurations, such as a liquid.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Case Studies, Customer Focus, Design, Experience, Healthcare, innovation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Innovation and Design at the 2016 International Home and Housewares Show

Posted by Plish on March 10, 2016

 

Just got back from one of my favorite shows, the 2016 International Home and Housewares Show.  It’s a great opportunity to see what’s new and cool in the world of housewares and home, in the kitchen and in people’s minds – what’s good for the eye, stomach, heart, and/or soul.  Below are some pics and descriptions of products that I found particularly innovative, beautiful, unique, and/or conversation evoking.  Occasionally I include the clever  – the product that takes a different tack to do something that’s already done extensively/commonly. This isn’t an all-inclusive list, but these really made me stop, pause and ponder.  They are in no particular order.  They are here because they deserve to be and they each have their own virtue.

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Everplush

The Everplush company recycles cotton and more. They are leading the charge in ‘sustainable softness’.  This company is finding innovative ways of providing textiles that use embedded microfibers, jade, and lava rock powder to provide enhanced moisture wicking (without sacrificing comfort), cooling, and warmth retention, respectively.  I was impressed with the feel of these materials and the company is looking at ways of making their products even more ubiquitous.

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Tribest

 

 

It seems that very few things are standardized in the world of blenders.  What caught my eye is that the Tribest folks utilized something that is standardized: the Mason Jar.  By doing that, you can blend, drink and store using standard jars.  No need to worry about plastic blending containers and cleaning.   It’s smart.

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Teforia

I love tea.  I have an entire drawer filled with teas of all sorts as well as a gourd+silver decorated bombilla for savoring Yerba Mate.  World wide, tea is not just consumed, it’s experienced. Teforia  realizes this and their product is a beautiful and different way of approaching the consumption of tea.  The infuser ‘reads’ the package, and then knows what the best brewing sequence is for that particular tea.  It then adjusts temperatures and steep times to optimize the extraction of flavors from the tea.  I compared a green tea brewed typically and with the Teforia infuser.  The Teforia tea color was richer and the flavors layered and complex.  It was a pleasant dance upon my palate.

 

 

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Food Cycler

Love this.  The Food Cycler is an in-home composter.  Put your scraps into bucket and 3 hours later it’s reduced to a powdery, flakey compost that you can put in your garden.  Truly no fuss or muss or additives.  Great way to minimize landfill burdens and help create a more integrated home food waste disposal process.

 

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Pancake Bot

Do you like pancakes?  Check out the Pancake Bot.  It’s a food printer.  It doesn’t need to print in 3D because pancakes are well, 2D.  Upload your designs via an SD card and enjoy the pancakes.  Oh, if you don’t want pancakes, you can turn off the griddle and print 2D cake decorations on paper.  Go wild!

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FlavorSheets

These FlavorSheets bring simplicity and bold flavor together in a simple package.  Wrap the meat/fish in the sheet, vacuum seal it and place it in the fridge for 20 minutes.  Take it out and the food is evenly seasoned and, the seasoning is not falling off when it’s thrown on the grill.  This makes great sense in sous-vide cooking as well.

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Molecule-R

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Molecule-R Aroma Technology

Do you want to create your own arugula noodles,  or savor a bite of fruit and merengue on a fork while simultaneously whiffing the aroma of vanilla, or create exotic drinks with green tea foam?  If so, joining the Molecule-R community might be right for you (It is for me!!!:) ) Molecular gastronomy is revolutionizing how people experience food.  Once the domain of high powered chefs, it is now possible for homechefs to make and experience edible works of art.  Molecule-R provides kits and materials for those interested in molecular gastronomy.   They are an extremely helpful group and the kits seem well laid out.  Get your lab coats on and have fun with your food!

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Ohashi

This is simple beauty, courtesy of Ohashi.  I love the MAST humidifier.  Add water and the leaves of curved cypress release moisture.  These  Masu boxes, or variations of them, are made from discarded wood – beauty from that which would be thrown away. They are used for storage, as cups, and are designed and manufactured exquisitely.

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Zens

Continuing the beautiful, elegant theme, these tea settings from Zens radiate serenity and aromas of tea in their design. Simple yet profound…

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Mortier Pilon

While beer kits have been around for some time, and they are still being sold by great companies such as Mr. Beer, and Brooklyn Brewshop, the trend for making fermented things at home is expanding into fermented/pickled foods such as sauerkraut, kimchee, pickles, Kefir, Kombucha or whatever else you’d like to get bubbling!  Fermented foods are good for you and fun to make.   Three different companies took three approaches.  Mortier Pilon is a fancier (and more expensive) system. Their couture mason jars (an oxymoron in some ways – these jars are too nice to be considered mason jars) add a touch of class to the fermenting stuff within.

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Fermentation Creation

Fermentation Creation takes a much more traditional approach, going for the homey look  while retaining  feel of a quality product.  Their kit comes with everything you need for one great price. Chop, Salt, Brine!  Literally, it’s that easy.  The folks at the booth were great as well!

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Microbiota, Inc

Microbiota is all about Kefir – both milk and water versions.  Their containers are pretty straightforward and basic and remind me of the way home brewing equipment looked when brewing first came on the scene. Functional but not much else.  Having said that, only a few years ago, it seemed the only people who knew what Kefir was were Eastern Europeans.  So the fact that this is at the show is impressive.

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Ever looked for a knife handle that fits perfectly with your hand?  NextGen Knives has analyzed the grip that chefs use, and made a handle that is more comfortable to accommodate that grip.  Then they took it one step further and figured out a way to customize knife handles by using a 2D scan of your hand and engineering the shape to give you a comfortable fit! These knives are Made in the United States and use specialty steel alloys for the blades.  This knife starts a long overdue conversation, not only about knife handle design, but kitchen utensil design, and brings 21st century technology into the manufacturing process.

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BWT

Water purification is still a worldwide concern.  I was impressed Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in creativity, Design, innovation, Sustainability, Sustainable Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Uncovering and Creating Innovation in a Sequence of Events (Even the Most Familiar)

Posted by Plish on March 4, 2016

Sequences of events are often taken for granted.

It’s winter.  It’s 2 degrees Fahrenheit and there are 20 mile per hour winds outside.  The fridge is empty.  You need to make a food run.

So, you go to the car, insert the key in the door, unlock the door, sit in the car, put the key in the ignition and turn it.  You then sit in a freezing cold car and watch your breath frost the windows as the defrost won’t work until the car gets warmed up…

The above sequence of events can be most unpleasant to experience, and it was a pretty typical winter experience for many people until…

Someone invented the Remote Control Key Fob.  Simply press a button and the car is unlocked from inside the house! Now that it’s open, you can run outside into the cold and open the door quickly.  No need to fumble for the keys with frozen fingers.  Just open the door and sit down and start the car.

But….

You still need to wait for it to warm up.

The solution?

While the Remote Control Fob is a great invention for unlocking car doors, it’s an even better invention for starting the car before going outside!

In this case, the value of the innovation comes not so much from snazzy remote control technologies, but from changing the sequence in which various events occur: turning the car on before opening the door (A similar value comes from opening a garage door remotely without having to get out of the car.)

Juggling the sequence of events, or looking at technologies that enable us to change the sequence of events, are often very powerful (and sometimes surprisingly simple!) ways of innovating creative solutions.

One place where creative solutions are always needed are with regards to public health.

The proper washing of hands is one of the easiest ways to minimize the transmission of diseases of many types. Yet, a survey of 100000 people showed that 60+ percent of men and 40 percent of women don’t even bother to wash their hands when leaving the rest room (and these were people that admitted it!)  To make you feel even more uncomfortable, most people who do wash their hands don’t do it as thoroughly as they should.

In bathrooms, washing hands and drying hands are actually part of the same process.  Do a lousy job of washing or drying, and the chances of germ transmission go up.  Not to mention, most bathrooms have doors and other surfaces that people touch on their way into and out of the bathroom, so even if they’ve washed and perhaps dried, they may still touch these surfaces and pick things up or leave things behind.

The solution then is to go into a bathroom, wash, dry and leave without touching anything on your way out.

:)

Being the type of person I am, while recently in a bathroom I realized it was configured almost perfectly to enable the primo handwashing solution. A new technology wasn’t really needed.  However, a little creative event shuffling yielded a simple and very effective solution.

#cleanhands or #dirtyhands : #innovation by changing the #sequence of events. One of my favorite ways of innovating is to look at a sequence of events and rearrange them in time. This bathroom is a perfect example. By changing the sequence (ejecting the paper but NOT tearing it before using the urinal or toilet) I can use the urinal, wash my hands, tear the paper, dry them, open the door using the soiled paper towel and throw it away. Granted, this isn't perfect. The ideal would be to leave the water running and turn it off using the paper towel, use the door handle, and then throw it away when walking out the door. #handwashing #sanitation #germs #bathroom #washroom #design #processdesign #processflow #systemdesign

A photo posted by Michael Plishka (@zenstorming) on

In the upper picture I’ve shown the order a person typically follows when entering a restroom (the lightswitch is not always a part of the equation😉 .)

The lower picture shows how simply changing the sequence enables someone to come in, wash, dry and leave without touching anything dirty on the way out.  No need for any new technology.

But, there is a dark side…

Just as technology can enable us to change the sequence for the better, the introduction of a technology into the bathroom can negatively impact the sequence and perhaps create ramifications outside the door.  What happens when we replace the paper towel with an electrical hand dryer?

All types of questions then arise:

Will someone’s hands really be clean when he/she leaves?  Is saving trees a greater good than public health impacts from dirty hands?  Should doors open electronically?  Can a plate be placed at the base of the door to enable someone to open it with a foot? Should a hired person be there to open and close the doors? Should there be a soap that forms an active protective film that is only activated after drying in a hand dryer?

As you can see, (and as all time travelers will tell you) tampering with time has its consequences.  In the above example, the introduction of one technology has spawned the need for other technologies or additional (or less) steps.  Each of these are an opportunity for a product or service.

So, next time you’re having a difficult time solving a problem, or if you’re looking for a new space to play, look at the sequence of events that are part of the situation and ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Can we change the sequence of events to thus create a better outcome?  If we can’t, or sometimes even if we can….
  2. Can we leverage or develop a technology that enables us to reshuffle the sequence of events so that a better result is achieved?

These two questions can lead to tremendous innovations, but first we need to stop taking the sequence of events for granted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, Disruptive Innovation, Healthcare, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Ramifications in Innovation (Lessons from Bonsai)

Posted by Plish on February 17, 2016

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When people say, “There will be ramifications if you do that,” most people interpret that to mean that there will secondary, negative consequences to an action.  In the world of Bonsai,  ramification is good; it means (often artist assisted) branching, and a healthy tree branches, and branches, and branches, with leaves growing from the smallest branches.  More leaves means more sunlight gathering capacity and that translates into more energy being captured and sent to the roots.  Stronger, finer roots means strength during lean times and stability in storms.

Without ramification, a tree will be a one trick pony.  It will have few branches and large leaves.  Young trees start out with little ramification.  However, older trees, like those pictured above, optimize their light capturing ability with multiple little branches and many leaves.  At the heart of this growth is a battle – the survival of the fittest branch.  You see, as a tree branch grows, cells at the tip of the branch stimulate growth and simultaneously create hormones that inhibit the growth of branches below it.  It’s a tree’s way to ensure that the strongest branches get to the light, and keep it.

In the world of innovation, the same thing happens.  Certain projects or products, certain mindsets start soaking up energy -they grow at the expense of other projects sucking up money and personnel.  The lead projects can often send signals, cultural hormones if you will, that stifle the growth of other projects.  It’s a self-sustaining cycle.  Even though the energy obtained from success goes back to the roots of the company, a tree doesn’t grow stronger from one branch and a couple of leaves. It needs many branches, many leaves.  It needs ramification.

But, contrary to trees growing in the wild, bonsai are constrained in vessels.  This puts stressors on the plant, and if you don’t make adjustments for these stressors, the tree won’t thrive, and in fact, may die.  So, you need to optimize the leaf output because that means you optimize energy capture, thus helping optimize  the root system, effectively giving the tree physical support and a place to store energy in lean times. (Not to mention, a tree with ramification looks nicer :))

How do you do it?

You create ramification by cutting off the ends of strategic branches. By doing this, you are giving the plant the opportunity to change direction. You’re effectively telling the bonsai tree that even though it is growing in a certain direction, you now give the tree freedom to grow somewhere else; in fact, you’re forcing it. New branches, and hence new leaves, will come out near where you had cut, but these branches will take different directions. In addition, since the inhibitory hormone is temporarily inactive, the tree will sometimes find some other place to bud from where, for reasons known only to the tree, there is a perceived better opportunity.

In the world of innovation and creativity, the equivalent process is to give people opportunities to take things in new directions.  It’s telling people to forget what’s gotten them this far, forget the direction they’re going, and let the dormant ideas sprout and be nurtured.  Just as ramification unleashes new growth in a tree, in a company (and in people!), active branching out fosters creative growth.   When the tip of a branch is trimmed, the dormant buds respond to the environment, to changes in sunlight and moisture.  Similarly, when creative ideas are no longer subject to inhibitory cultural hormones, they are free to respond and grow, sensing and responding to the light of market moving trends and needs.

One way of achieving ramification is to do what some companies call the 20 percent rule (or 10%, 15% depending on the company).  Dave Myers, an engineer in one of W.L. Gore’s medical product facilities, spent his 10% time working on his mountain bike.  From this seemingly disconnected activity, Gore developed Ride-On bike cables and Elixir guitar strings.

Remember, ramification, is a subtler process in contrast to more aggressive pruning. Pruning can take away major resources from a tree and causes gross restructuring.    Once a major branch is gone, it’s gone and not coming back any time soon.  Conversely, ramification is gentler way of reallocating  the way a tree receives energy and expends it in growing.  In organizations of all types, ramification is about recognizing the organic structure that is present and fostering the growth of those organisms (i.e. people) within it.    Organic growth occurs when there’s abundant nourishment and a lack of inhibitory signals – growth finds its way to the light.

What steps can you take to start the process of ramification?

Start by asking some key questions:

Ask yourself what your people are doing.  Heck, ask the people themselves! (see the Innovation Audit.) Do they have opportunities to grow organically and hence help the company grow organically?  Are there signals being sent by the culture at large that stifle the growth of latent potential within the company? Do people mock what others are doing? Is there an acceptance of what people do and what they bring to the table? Are there projects that have great promise but are consuming large amounts of energy with little to show for it?  If things start growing are they given opportunities to continue to grow?

Have people ask themselves if they are hitting a wall; perhaps even more importantly, ask yourself!  The best way to stop hitting it is to stop going in the direction of the wall!  Re-route yourself, forget what direction you’re going, and go in the direction you want to go. Learn anew!!

Dormant buds are present in trees and they never sprout because dominant branches stifle with their inhibitory hormones.  In a creative culture, innovation occurs when people’s understanding of the markets are allowed to percolate; let them feel the light and give them support by giving little opportunities for people to feel part of the bigger organism.  Nourish people!

I remember in high school our principal, Dr. Duffy, pointed out that we were green going into the world.  “That’s okay,” he said, “because green things grow.”

The same holds in a company.  You want ramification.  You want people learning alternate ways of branching out and finding success.  One branch, one project, isn’t sustainable.  Ramification in some ways is synonymous with diversification.  Abundant ‘leaves’ means more ways of absorbing energy from the markets of the world, and more energy means stronger roots. Become lush with greenery, foster the growth of many branches and the results will not only benefit your company, but people (employees and customers), their families, and the world, in richer and more diverse ways.

 

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

Want a Productive Brainstorm? Here Are Some Do’s and Don’ts

Posted by Plish on November 24, 2015

Came across a post at USA Today College: “5 tips for a Productive Brainstorming Session.”

I enjoy reading different people’s approaches to brainstorming.   However, this one had me screaming at the computer screen: “NO!”  After which I went to a different page, relaxed, came back the next day and re-read it.

Nope, no difference – still not the best advice.

Actually, to be fair, it’s a mixture of good and bad advice.  (These tips seem more apropos for a design review than for a brainstorming)

Let’s take a look at the 5 tips and look at their value.

1.Create the Right Environment – Actually, this paragraph gives good advice:  “Select a time to meet when you know you and your group members will have enough energy to think creatively … Choose a space conducive to creative thinking: a clean, quiet place with natural light and comfortable seating. Maintain that calm, creative environment by asking all group members to silence their phones and put them away to avoid being distracted by a text or Twitter update. 

2.Establish Structure – “Set a time limit for your meeting depending on how much work needs to get done so that everyone stays on task…Also, be sure to assign one group member the role of moderator…Choose a person who knows well both the purpose of the project and the personalities of everyone in the group.”  This is all pretty good advice. It’s crucially important that the moderator not be someone who is simply looking for confirmation of his/her idea.  This person really has to have the project’s success at heart.

3. Prioritize Your Goals – “Once some order is established, the moderator should outline a general overview of the project to help get everyone’s brains in the right place. After the project is sketched out, the moderator should clearly state the goal of the brainstorming session. Your group’s brainstorming session goal should be SMART—that is: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.  Avoid making overarching goals. For instance, if your project is for an environmental planning course requiring you to design an urban space, don’t simply say your goal is to: “Make the best urban design plan.” Make a SMART goal, like: “Design an urban space that is comfortable, functional, and eco-friendly in one week.””  This is the first tip that really got me going. If you’re giving people background, and the expected goal, as part of the brainstorming session, you’re already too late.  People need to understand the challenge, and they need time to think about it.  I realize this is for a college column, so giving people a long term heads up isn’t always possible.  But give people at least a day! (Give them a week of more if possible.  If you really can’t give a day, give a few hours to think about the challenge)   There’s very little hope of getting good output if your input is hurried and not reflected upon.  (Remember: Garbage in=Garbage out) Also, the brainstorming statement shouldn’t be a project statement.  Making it SMART isn’t a bad thing per se, but it would be much better to say, “In what ways can a comfortable, functional, ecofriendly urban space be designed?”  It would be even better to break it up into subsections, brainstorm on Comfort, Functionality and Ecofriendliness by dedicating time to each trait individually.  Remember, if you’re trying to get across a river, your problem statement shouldn’t say, “In what ways can we build a bridge over the river in a week?”, but instead, “In what ways can we get across the river in a week’s time?”  Or, “In what ways can we get 1000 people from this shore to the other shore?”  Leave some wiggle room.  Too specific and every solution will be a variation of a bridge.

4.  Write it Out – “Bring notepads, sticky notes, and/or a large whiteboard to your meeting. Ensure everyone has the opportunity to write down—or draw—his or her ideas. Jot down or sketch out every idea—not just those that sound best at the time—so that your group can build off others’ ideas as your brainstorming session progresses.”  Good points about drawing and writing!

5. Ask QuestionsWhen it comes to brainstorming, cooperation and collaboration go hand in hand. But if during a brainstorming session no one challenges any ideas, innovation is unlikely to occur. Agreeing on some things is good, but in general, it’s important to avoid group complacency—called groupthink—with every idea that is presented during a brainstorming session.  Avoid groupthink by assigning one group member the role of devil’s advocate. It’s this person’s job to raise at least one counterargument to every idea the group agrees on. These counterarguments shouldn’t be attacks, but should raise important questions about idea feasibility, integrity, and relevance that help move your brainstorming forward in a positive direction.” NOOOO! (The red highlight is mine – it means WT? )This one REALLY got me going.  Yes, innovation can occur in response to questioning, but the brainstorming is not the place for it.  You want free-flow of ideas, not critiquing.  If you give people time to understand the challenge and give them time to prepare and to brainstorm in private before the brainstorming session, you’ll get ideas that are somewhat baked.  You may not get the best idea until everyone has bounced their ideas off of each other, but you’ll do much better if you DON’T have a devil’s advocate.  Leave that for an after brainstorming tactical meeting: discussing the who, how, what, when, how much, etc’s, of implementing the best ideas.   If every idea is picked apart as part of the brainstorming meeting, I guarantee people will start self-censoring themselves during the brainstorm, and that’s the last thing you want happening.  As for Groupthink- read about the solutions here.  Again, if people can brainstorm on their own before the actual meeting, and people are encouraged to share during the meeting, groupthink is less likely to occur. It’s the moderator’s job to keep everyone involved and keep judgment to a minimum.  Worry about groupthink when you are in your post brainstorming tactical meeting,  THEN question.

So, what rules should be followed?

Here are the 7 rules that I post on the wall every time I lead a brainstorm:

  1. Every person has equal worth
  2. Withhold judgment of ideas (This includes your own!)
  3. Go for quantity
  4. Go for wild ideas
  5. Build on the ideas of others
  6. One conversation at a time
  7. Be visual, draw and prototype

If you’d like a Poster Size PDF of the above rules, click here .

As I’ve alluded to above, Brainstorming shouldn’t be just a one time event, it should be a three part process of Preparation, Brainstorming, and Follow-Up.  (Incidentally, all three of the phases usually include some type of brainstorming:) )

Do you have any rules that you follow when brainstorming?

 

 

 

 

Posted in Best Practices, brainstorming, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How Creative Dialogues With the Past Can Inform Design – Lessons Inspired by Kabuki

Posted by Plish on October 29, 2015

Great piece on the value of creative traditions over at Lateral Action – about how understanding them can lead to greater creative output.  Mark McGuinness talks about the 400+ year old, Japanese form of theater known as, Kabuki, how it’s a vital part of the Arts’ tradition, and how tradition and innovation can indeed go hand in hand.

Fascinating read. In addition, Mark has some wonderful advice for learning from a creative tradition.  It’s also a great summary of things to look at when designing new products.  When I prepare a group for a brainstorm I have them look at these very topics, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the parallels.  He summarizes beautifully:

Every creative tradition is a treasure-trove of inspiration and knowledge. Unless you know what past masters have done — and why and how they did it — you are limiting the palette of creative options available to you. So if you are serious about your creative discipline, you need to learn about its history and traditions.

Run through the following list and make a note of how well you know each category within your creative field:

  • Classic works
  • Contemporary works
  • The avant-garde
  • Works from your own country
  • Works from other countries
  • Critical reviews and studies

The list is great summary of what to look at when you need inspiration for solving a problem.

  1. Classic works >>how did people solve this problem in the past?
  2. Contemporary works >> How are people solving this problem now?  (These are the mainstream soluitions)
  3. The avant-garde >> What are people on the cutting edge doing to solve this problem?
  4. Works from this country and others >> People deal with problems in different ways in different parts of the world, or even in the same parts of the world!  Look for examples of Positive Deviance.
  5. Critical Reviews and Studies – Look in the literature.  This also includes patents.  I would also include Nature here.  Does anything in Nature resemble or shed light upon your current problem?

More great advice:

Do not avoid works or artists you don’t like. You don’t have to like everything, but if you want to be more than a keen amateur, you need some knowledge of every aspect of your field. Even if you only confirm your negative judgment, it’s better to do this from an informed position than dismissing things without getting to know them. And you might even surprise yourself by finding some diamonds in the rough.

Pay attention to those products that you don’t like as well as those you do.   How did they solve a problem?  Are they trying to solve the same problem you are?  Look for the method behind the madness.

When looking at the past,people tend to think that we’re going backwards.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  Use those older designs and ideas as springboards for new ideas!

Don’t worry that your work will seem derivative or unoriginal. Treat these dialogues with the past as experiments, to be discarded if you don’t like the results.

Newer materials and manufacturing methods are constantly stretching the boundaries of what can be accomplished.  Very often past solutions can be given new life by changing the materials and manufacturing methods.  Adidas did this by utilizing 3D printing  in  the time honored running shoe.

Next time you’re confronted with a problem that needs to be creatively solved, spend some time dancing with the past and present.  Your future will contain innovative and creative solutions!

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

What do You See? – Are You Doing These Two Things to Improve Your Observational Skills?

Posted by Plish on October 6, 2015

We all know what one swinging pendulum looks like.  But what do multiple swinging pendulums (pendula😉 ) look like?

I love the pendulum wave because it highlights two key aspects to improving observational skills (and observation is essential to design and innovation!).

  1. Pay attention to the angle of observation (i.e. perspective) – Are you seeing something in the only way possible?  Can you observe the phenomenon from other directions?  Is it the best angle?  From a particular angle, what’s moving and what’s standing still? What’s surrounding what you’re looking at? What’s in the foreground and background?
  2. Be cognizant of how much time you spend looking at something – Are you spending enough time observing something?  Do you feel confident that you’ve seen all there is to see in the time taken? Can you learn something by looking at it less? (Think a snapshot vs. a video)

If you didn’t spend enough time looking at the swinging balls, you could reach inaccurate conclusions as to what was happening.  At one moment they are swinging in a snake like motion.  At another, it looks random.  Look at it from a different direction and totally different conclusions might be reached.

I remember when I was learning to fly a glider, it became second nature to pay attention to other aircraft.  The above two points were especially important in determining if something was on a collision course.  Seeing aircraft moving on the horizon wasn’t  alarming.  It was seeing them NOT moving – and then getting bigger that signaled impending danger.

The angle of view, and the length of time I spent observing, were important to properly assessing the situation.  Look for too short of a time and the speck in the sky isn’t recognized as another aircraft.  Change the direction of the plane I was flying and now the approaching object’s shape and trajectory become more apparent.

This isn’t just about ‘hard’ objects, you can look in a ‘soft’ manner as well.  Is the scowl on the person’s face because of an emotion (short time frame) or a mood (longer time frame)?

Next time you’re looking at something, spend some time interiorizing these two questions.  Reflect on how you’re looking at something, and for how long. Try to look at things from different perspectives.  If everyone is looking at something from the top, try to see it from the bottom.  If people only glance at something, sit down and really look at it for minutes at a time.

If nothing else, you might be taken by the beauty of the world that surrounds us, and you might see something for the first time!

Posted in Best Practices, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, Service Design, The Senses | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Battling Negative Body Perceptions by Designing Life-Giving Experiences of Self

Posted by Plish on September 25, 2015

A friend of mine who is an art teacher, shared a recent experience.

Her class of 1st graders had just finished their Mondrian artworks and they were placing them on a rack to dry.  As one girl approached the rack, she slowly, and respectfully, placed her masterpiece on the rack and kissed it gently.

A gentle acceptance of beauty…

She saw the creative wonder that came forth from her hands, from her soul, and she appreciated it, and loved it…

Why can’t we do that with ourselves?

We are amazing, creative wonder-filled beings and yet we often focus on the negatives, focus on what’s wrong with ourselves, our bodies, and we let that negativity define us.

Today, while sitting in a hospital waiting room, I read this article in Brava Magazine:

Our Bodies Ourselves

Learn To Love What You See In The Mirror

Women have an especially hard time seeing themselves as they truly are in today’s culture.

  • Do you know any girls six to eight years old?  Almost half of them would rather be slimmer.
  • Know adolescent girls? Odds are that they’ve dieted and thought about weight loss even though they were normal weight.
  • Eating disorders are 400 percent more prevalent than in the 1970’s
  • It takes seeing only 11 images from the media for women to have feelings of body dissatisfaction, and anxiety over their weight.

11 images…

This article has some heartfelt and practical advice for overcoming negative body images.  It’s about redesigning your perception of your self.  It’s about seeing yourself as more than what media images, and the culture at large, will have you believe you are.

Know you are more.

You are Beauty.

You Are Light.

Share YOU!

Some years back, a friend, an artist, was going through multiple challenges. She saw herself as unattractive and overweight, and couldn’t see herself otherwise.  She couldn’t even appreciate her own art, the works of her hands.  Her self-perception was crippling her ability to share of herself.  She thought she was a no one, and was in a depression.  I wrote the following song for her.  I feel it compliments the article in Brava.

So many faces
the woman, the lover, the poet, the artist
You look into the mirror
ask “Is it really me?”

For every drop of rain that falls
every tear that touches sky
every breath mingling with stars
why should there be any doubt
of who you are?

It’s clear to me
so many faces, so much love, so much beauty
Mystery is not defined it’s experienced
and loved in silence…

For every drop of rain that falls
every tear that touches sky
every breath mingling with stars
why should there be any doubt
of who you are?

You
Just be you
Just be you
Just be you
just be you…

***

We are not defined by what others say.

Let’s design ways to help people, especially women, see themselves as they really are.  There’s a wonderful program synthesizing yoga, community and service, at Eat, Breathe, Thrive.  Check them out!

I’d love to hear your ideas for fostering self-acceptance, especially pertaining to disordered eating and negative body image,

Posted in Authenticity, Design, Healthcare, The Human Person, Wellness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How Would You Heighten The Experience of a Blooming Corpse Flower? (UPDATE!)

Posted by Plish on August 26, 2015

I share this little tidbit because it’s a rare event that will be unfolding before your eyes in the next couple of days at the Chicago Botanic Garden.  And when it unfolds, it’ll be a sight to behold and a stench to remember!

The Titan Arum, or Corpse Flower, a rare Sumatran plant, will be blooming in what could be less than 24 hours.

I’ve made a couple of visits already and am excitedly waiting for it to unfurl.

Only a couple more days (hopefully) until the #corpseflower blooms at #chicagobotanicgarden ! #cbgspike

A photo posted by Michael Plishka (@zenstorming) on

This event has gotten me thinking about how else might an event like this be remembered?  We can always take pictures, but they won’t do justice to the whole experience of the flower.  What else could be done to create more buzz and more memories around an event like this? How else might you educate?

I think scratch and sniff cards would be a cool souvenir ;-)   What would you do?

Here’s the  live feed archive of the livefeed so you can see it in real time!

UPDATED!

Click HERE to see a great summary page that the Garden put together, as well as this page that has some cool pics.

I was able to check Spike out the day before they moved it out of the limelight.  It’s a pretty amazing plant!

 

Posted in creativity, Design, Education, Experience, innovation, nature | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

 
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