ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Six Rules to Keeping Your Innovation Spaces Innovative

Posted by Plish on July 24, 2016

46556-einstein-cluttered-desk-quote

 

 

An engineer on an interview walked into a pristine R&D lab and quipped, “Does anyone do any work in here?”

Turns out, that when creating environments conducive to creative thinking and problem solving, messy environments are more liberating and more conducive to coming up with novel ideas. (Study in Psychological Science)  It’s probably not a coincidence that in addition to Einstein, Steve Jobs, Mark Twain, and Alan Turing also had messy desks. (Great pics here)

“Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights.  Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.” – Psychological Scientist Kathleen Vohs

Messy environments are safe spaces for creativity.  Or perhaps it’s easier to think of it the other way.  When you walk into a room that’s pristine  and perfect, shiny and new,  are you willing to be the first one to mess it up?   Because of this, perfectly organized clean rooms have a tendency to perpetuate their cleanliness.  The expectations are that you need to exercise control and follow social norms.   There is a lack of freedom present which stifles the innovative spirit.   There is a sense that “I’m in someone else’s area and I need to play by their rules.”

On the other hand, walking into a disorderly area impacts everyone that’s exposed to it.  It doesn’t even need to be your mess!  People will tend to feel more at ease, thus more free to contribute, to create, to be unconventional!

So, the important thing is, if you want innovation to happen in your lab, it might behoove you to let things go a little bit.  Let certain areas become islands of creativity where people can play and invent, where they don’t have to play by the rules.

If you do organize, and you have more than one person that uses the lab, make sure that each person cleans his/her own messes.  I’ve heard horror stories of overzealous colleagues unwittingly throwing away  someone else’s valuable prototypes because they didn’t know what they were and they looked liked they didn’t have any value.

So, instead of cleaning parties, I suggest that you have innovation parties.  Spend a couple hours together in the lab with everyone showing everyone else what they’re working on.  Let people look at and touch stuff.  Ask, “What does this do?”.  Cross-fertilize!!

It’s also important to keep raw materials and tools within reach.  If you have to go upstairs or downstairs each time you need some component, there’s a problem in your lab organization.

Likewise, keep reminders of your current product lines in reach.  You have certain core competencies, certain products that define who you are.  Creating innovations that leverage your core competencies can create products that are ‘in your wheelhouse’, and thus accelerate their time to market.

So, in summary, here are the rules to keeping your innovation lab fruitful:

  1. Make sure there is a way for people to see what you’re working on.  Don’t hide prototypes or ideas from others or yourself!
  2. If you must keep the lab pristine, designate certain areas as innovation zones (some design firms create ‘war rooms’) where it’s free to be…
  3. The only people allowed to clean work areas are those who are responsible for that work.
  4. Keep raw materials and prototypes close at hand in cabinets, drawers, etc.  If you have to walk more than 20 feet to get something, or be reminded of something, the plan needs to be changed.
  5. If you have raw materials or prototypes that you must move, take pictures and post them.
  6. Keep your current product lines in view. Learn about what your company does well.

Do you have any other rules that help make your innovation works-spaces more fruitful?

PS. Clean areas have their place. They do promote healthy eating, conventionality and charitable giving.   So, make yourself a clean area for healthier, linear thinking, crank-through work.  After all, sometimes you just need to get a report written and sent.

PPS.  Unlabeled containers, open flammable substances, cutting machinery, in short, things that could hurt yourself or others, should always be properly stored and/or locked to prevent accidents.

PPPS Messy is not the same as dirty.  Working in a place with exposed mold, excessive dust, standing water, is not creating an environment that is healthy to function in.  Stay away from these. (I hope you didn’t need me to tell you this😉 )

PPPPS Check out this link for some great environmental creativity hacks

 

 

 

 

 

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

Innovation and Independence Both Start with”I” (Happy 4th!)

Posted by Plish on July 4, 2016

Innovation and Independence both start with “I”. It’s not a coincidence!

This country was founded by people who said, “I am going to make a difference!”

Those are the same words spoken by entrepreneurs and innovators world wide.

Not to mention that research shows that when fear is low, innovation is high.  So work to make your country, your work, neighborhood, homes, and your self, less fear filled!  Work towards creating a world where each person, each “I” can say with the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Provide safe spaces where people (yourself included!) can innovate and grow.   Allow innovation to flourish and you will indeed make the world a better place, one innovation at a time!

Happy Independence Day!!  Happy 240th Birthday, USA!

 

 

 

Posted in culture of innovation, Design, Human Rights, innovation, Social Innovation, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Don’t Worry About the Elephant in the Room, Look for the Chameleons

Posted by Plish on June 30, 2016

 

color-changing-chameleon-lizards

Photo Courtesy of momtastic.com

 

You’ve got multiple experts in a room.  They’re all giving their opinions on the state of a market, or a new product.  Very often this leads to the manifestation of proverbial Elephant in the Room – the obvious issue no one wants to mention because it’s embarrassing, or taboo, as it has implications that could impact the project in a negative way.

While no one wants to talk about the elephant, the good news is that it’s there.  Yes, no one is talking about it (yet), but if  the culture is such that accountability is valued more than meeting deadlines, the elephant will be revealed and it will get talked about.  (If there are negative ramifications for saying something important just because it will negatively impact a product launch, you’ve got bigger problems than the elephant*.)

But very often, there are insights in your Voice of Customer (VOC) feedback that aren’t obvious, that won’t get talked about or dealt with – they’re Chameleons.

Chameleons are more dangerous to your project than elephants (I’m speaking with regards to VOC type data, or any situation where people are interpreting what others believe or are doing. I realize chameleons are cute benign reptiles:) )  .  This is because people don’t know what they don’t know.  But, just because something isn’t known, doesn’t mean it can’t be known, or that there aren’t tell-tale signs present.

Since you can’t see the Chameleon directly, you have to look indirectly for the shadows –  Shifting shadows, a glimpse of movement.  It’s things that are implied, not things that are obvious.  It’s the nebulous things, the directions that are inferred from what is being said and done, not the words themselves.

This is important, because the words themselves are going to be the same words that members of the VOC panel will use when describing the situation to your competition.   If you want to have a product or service that is different and superior to what everyone else does, look for the Chameleon.

What are some tricks for seeing the Chameleon?

When dealing with VOC, a textual analysis is a great place to start.  It can reveal underlying dispositions and assumptions.  It can also show what types of metaphors, and thus what contexts people are using when they talk about your product.  I was once part of VOC feedback and noticed that certain subgroups of clinicians consistently referred to certain medical devices using military-like terms: cocked, captured, loaded, etc.  No one really noticed it because those terms are ubiquitous.   I did some textual analysis and noticed that there was another subgroup that rarely used those terms.  This was a Chameleon!

So I raised the question, do we want people using a war/battle metaphor for this surgical device, or do we want the market to use, and experience, a different, more healing metaphor?

The other tip is to pay close attention to what people do, not only what they say.  Body language, rituals, procedures, actions of any type, can give tremendous insight and reveal the Chameleons that everyone else will miss.

I once researched  a medical procedure and realized the doctor used a particular motion again and again.  The doctor never mentioned he made the movement, but he did it every procedure.  The kicker is that no products on the market leveraged that particular movement.  So I rolled that motion into the product design, creating a more ergonomic, simple, and cost effective to make, product.

Remember, do textual analysis and analyze what people do.  By being cognizant of these two tips, you’ll be well on your way to recognizing the Chameleons when they become present.  It’s well worth looking for them.  Sometimes they hide right next to the elephants.😉

 

 

*- Actually this is a Cultural, or Corporate Chameleon.

Posted in Behavioral Science, Best Practices, Case Studies, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Disruptive Innovation, ethnography, innovation, Innovation Tools, observation, problem solving, Service Design, Surveys | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Lessons on Innovating Using Cornstraints (It’s Not a Typo)

Posted by Plish on June 6, 2016

Now that we’re in the season of barbecues and beer, let’s delve into innovating using constraints.  For this post we’ll look at innovating how we eat corn on the cob, so we should probably call them “Cornstraints” (Sorry, couldn’t resist😉 )

Typically, eating corn on the cob is a delicious but messy process because the cob can be slathered with butter, salt, pepper, mayo, pepper sauce, etc. (Corn must be delicious! – User applied constraints).  Most people don’t want this on their fingers (Keep fingers clean –A user applied constraint).  Not to mention, corn cobs are remarkably efficient at retaining heat (an inherent constraint), so holding them at the ends can be challenge if they were recently plucked out of boiling water.

Doing a quick Google search shows people are pretty much dealing with these constraints already.

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Most innovations in this space deal with ways of holding the corn.  Inserting sticks or holding the ears of the corn seem to be the most common solutions.  Using napkins or some other intermediate device are also ways of minimizing mess, improving grip, and increasing comfort.

How else can we improve the eating experience?

  1. Who says we have to hold it?  It’s a choice – a user applied constraint.  We can, as some people with dental work do, cut off the corn and eat it with a fork.  We can also use a power drill (as has been done by some folks on YouTube)  but this brings up whether we should ignore another  user applied constraint: All the kernels need to end up in the mouth .  We could also design a corn stand that holds the cob for us; or for that matter, we could ask a friend to hold it for us so we don’t get our own hands gummed up.  This then brings up a possible constraint: Eating Corn on the Cob shouldn’t cause us to lose friends.
  2. Since the center of the cob is often hot, what if we cook the corn without heating the core?  Think of ways to do this and have fun with solar heaters or blow torches!  For that matter, let’s work with the reverse of the constraint (Corn needs to be served hot) and create a delicious COLD corn dish!  What about chemically ‘cooking’ the corn?  We can use enzymes or chemicals to convert the corn into something delectable and yet cool.   Or what if we slice the corn cob into 1/4″ slices so that corn chips takes on a new meaning?😉  Since they’re thinner, the centers will cool faster and be easier to hold.  Plus, the corn can now be dipped into whatever sauce we want!  We ignore one user constraint (Corn cob must be whole) and turn another on its head (The entire cob must be slathered with the same substance)
  3.  The center of the cob is typically not edible (Inherent Constraint).  So let’s make it edible!  Can we inject it with something prior to cooking it so that it softens and tastes good?

I could go on, but let’s take a look at what I’ve done.

At the heart of all the above ideas is a questioning of the constraint.  Why do we have to buy in to the constraint?  Let’s change it.  Who cares if it’s inherent in the product – work around it!   Personally I like looking at the opposite of what the constraint implies and then find a way to make that reality.  What’s very interesting (and fruitful!) is that as one starts playing with the alteration of constraints, new constraints inevitably pop up.  This makes sense because once constraints get changed, the whole context can change.  This change in context demands that we ask new questions and probe the new constraints that are formed.

So, the next time you’re eating corn on the cob, think about ways of changing the eating experience.  It might make for a great discussion at a party!  I’d love to hear your ideas for changing the experience by experimenting with cornstraints.:)

 

 

 

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, design thinking, Disruptive Innovation, Food, innovation, Innovation Tools, Service Design, Social Innovation, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Are you doing this simple thing to help think “Big Picture”?

Posted by Plish on May 12, 2016

We’ve all done it. We forward reams of information to people in preparation for a meeting.  It’s convenient and it saves trees.  But there’s a problem.  We may be unwittingly influencing how the reader thinks about the information.

Researchers have found that how we consume information  determines how we think.  In short, when we view information in a digital format, we tend to hone in on details and think more concretely.

On the other hand, when we consume the same information in an analog fashion (on paper), we have a tendency to think much more abstractly and ‘big picture ‘.

Now, when CEOs were asked what the most important leadership quality is, the majority cited  creativity.  The second quality -integrity, and third, global thinking.  Those are all pretty abstract concepts. Yet, we are consuming so much of our information digitally and accidentally narrowing our thought processes.

So what’s the one thing we should do to make sure we look at the big picture?

Think about why we’re reading what we’re reading.

In other words, ask yourself if what you’re reading needs laser focused thinking or big picture, abstract thinking.

If you need to think ‘big picture’, then print out your email/presentation/document/etc.  If you are totally committed to not using tree-derived paper, then you can start using tree-free papers made from alternate materials.   If you don’t want to print stuff out at all, then gather information that helps establish the context of what you’re reading.  Deeply understand the context before starting to read.  This will help you deal with the information in a more broad-minded way.

If you’re prepping for a brainstorm, or in a brainstorm, pass things around in paper format.  Make copies and circulate them around.  Make it easy for people to make notations, mark things up, to encounter ideas without the borders of a screen.

If you’d like to be laser focused, if you need to understand the facts, then just read digitally.

Remember, reflect on your purpose for reading information. It’ll make you a better thinker and a better do-er.

 

 

 

Posted in Brain Stimulation Tools, brainstorming, cognitive studies, Conveying Information, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, Information Visualization, innovation, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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

Screenshot_2016-02-11-18-12-20 (Copy)

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 »

 
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