Where Science Meets Muse

Archive for November, 2008

Cup Noodles – More Than Sodium in a Cup

Posted by Plish on November 29, 2008


The following video is a great summary of the creative process and the innovation of Cup Noodles

Simplicity is key to this product.  There’s some great marketing ideas in here as well.

Posted in Case Studies, Creativity Videos, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, innovation | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Finding and Grooming Innovators

Posted by Plish on November 25, 2008

Good article here from the Harvard Business Review.

In general, the article is right on.  I’ve personally (and unfortunately) seen much of what this article says must be done (or its lack thereof.)  I disagree, to some extent, with the section on giving innovators responsibility and the reward structure.  The argument is made that once innovators are found they should be given a chance – rewarded if they succeed and not given another chance if they fail. 

Since the article discusses “finding” innovators, I can see the rationale behind the need to give them a chance.  On the other hand, if a company has to “find” innovators, is it truly a company with an innovative culture, or a company that is efficient at keeping positive cash flow? I would argue there should be a difference. Perhaps not in the needed result but in orientation and execution.

In line with this is my dislike of the “one-strike-you’re-out” rule that most companies mentioned here seem to use.  By definition within the article, innovators are those who take risks.  A high risk project might fail- it’s what makes it high risk!  Having said that, risking once is relatively easy.  Risking twice or thrice after a former failure takes guts and courage.  The approach in this article cuts true innovators off at the knees. 

If somebody fails, (or as I prefer to say, “Increases his/her experiential database”, which coincidentally increases odds of future success!) analyze the situation, learn, cross-pollinate and keep moving forward!  What do I mean by cross-pollinate?

Any Innovator that is turned loose will innovate – new products, processes, systems, sub-systems will be developed in the course of any project.  Odds are HUGE that something developed during a “failure” can and will be used somewhere else in the company and perhaps with even greater payback than the original project had! That person should be rewarded not barred from future attempts.

What are your thoughts?


Sustaining innovation, many agree, is crucial for a company’s long-term success. But truly innovative people are rare: They have excellent analytic skills, never rest on their laurels, and can identify the solutions likeliest to win over top leadership. They are socially savvy and can bring a diverse group of constituents into alignment. They tend to be both charming and persuasive.

The right talent-management procedures can help in spotting potential innovators. Reuters, for example, interviews candidates one-on-one and gives them complex, real-world scenarios in which they must reach and defend decisions, accommodate new information, and convincingly sell their point of view. Starwood and McDonald’s require would-be innovators to lead cross-functional teams in developing promising ideas and then to present those ideas to senior management. One global industrial products company in the UK insists that they do a stint in the sales department.

Developing breakthrough innovators requires mentoring and peer networks. Mentors provide insight into the motivations, goals, mind-set, and budget constraints of managers in a variety of relevant functions. At Allstate, for example, the CEO coaches and supports the mentors themselves, sending a strong signal about the importance of the program. Peer networks provide a sense of solidarity and a uniquely fertile environment in which to exchange ideas, impart information, and instill hope.

Companies that excel in developing innovative leaders often remove them from revenue-generating line positions and plant them in the middle of the organization, where they form “innovation hubs,” with easy access to influentials, more autonomy, and broader job responsibilities.

Practices like these keep companies open to new ideas and prepare them to respond nimbly to innovation from elsewhere in their industries.

Posted in Case Studies, Creativity Leadership, culture of innovation, innovation, Innovation Metrics, problem solving, Research, Uncategorized, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Review of Chicago Toy and Game Fair

Posted by Plish on November 23, 2008

Do Not Know When This Pic Was Taken But It Was Not Today In Chicago

Do Not Know When This Pic Was Taken But It Was Not Today In Chicago

Today went to the Chicago Toy and Game Fair-ChiTaG for short.  It took a bout 2 hours to leisurely stroll through the hall, chatting and checking out the various games.  The main take-aways were:

  • Eco/Green games are in.  This was clearly THE main common thread through the majority of the newer games.
  • You don’t have to come up with a whole new type of game to have something that’s pretty cool.  Just by tweaking the rules and adding or subtracting from well known games like Trivial Pursuit can result in totally new and cool games. 
  • Almost no high tech type games were there- only a couple even looked high tech.
  • Very few music related games or toys
  • The overwhelming majority of games were for indoor use.

Personally there were two games that caught my eye and even dented my pocketbook.  The first, called “Not Tonight Josephine” is a Trivial Pursuit type of game that is great for history buffs.  Though originally designed for the UK it comes with a US adaption kit for those of us on this side of the pond that don’t know much about Cockney English.   It even got good reviews.  By the way, this is the one that dented our pocketbook as my wife and I couldn’t pass it up. 

The second game that I really dug was called SiegeStones.  Players take turns placing towers or stones on a wooden game board (that would look totally cool if it was marble!) and try and claim the towers by gaining adjacent circles with their color stones.  A typical game lasts only 15 minutes or so.  I was taken by the simplicity and modern primitivity of it.  Didn’t drop any coin for this one, but maybe I’ll make a marble board for it first.

All in all, I recommend you checking it out if you’re in Chicago.  It’s still going Sunday the 23rd and you can get a $2 off coupon here.

Games are a great way to get thinking in non-traditional ways, so go with an open mind and see how innovation doesn’t have to be earth shattering to be new!

Posted in Design, games, idea generation, problem solving, Reviews, toys, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Fly Me To The Moon, Baby!

Posted by Plish on November 20, 2008

Sometimes we think there is no way to improve on a technology, no way to to make it more human, more beautiful, more zen.  Sometimes it seems like there is an impenetrable wall to advancement.  Today’s case study shows otherwise.

Duck Young Kong's, "Lunar Baby Thermometer"

The Lunar Baby Thermometer

This wonderful, ergonomic, new forehead thermometer just SCREAMS human touch! Designed by Duck Young Kong, this design is simple, elegant and just plain cool.  It is almost like there isn’t a thermometer there and yet the person takes the temperature and touches the patient in a loving manner.

The exercise in creativity for today?  Find something commonplace and redesign it.  There’s always room for improvement.

Posted in Case Studies, Creative Thinking Techniques, Design, Ergonomics, innovation, problem solving, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Check Out These Online Innovation Tools

Posted by Plish on November 18, 2008

The folks over at Open Innovators have created this excellent guide to online innovation and entrepreneurship.  I’ve touched on some of these briefly but they break down the entire process, step by step with the associated resources.  Bookmark it or print it out. I’ve already cross-referenced this multiple times. 

It does help to remind ourselves though that there are great resources out there, especially for prototyping, moldbuilding, etc., that might not be web-based per se, but have excellent response times and the price for their services is excellent.

Posted in Entrepreneurship 2.0, innovation, Innovation Tools, Traditional Brainstorming, Web 2.0, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Timing Creativity

Posted by Plish on November 17, 2008

A recent study was done Crown Plaza Hotels on when and where people are most creative.  According to the survey 10pm was most creative time and least creative around 4:30pm.

While this research was done as part of the launch of their new “Think Notes”, there are multiple interesting findings in this survey :

Nearly a third of people questioned felt that removing themselves from the traditional daytime office environment let their creativity run wild.

Fifty-eight per cent of respondents admitted to forgetting their best ideas when failing to write them down immediately.

Interestingly, four out of five people questioned found that when they did note down an idea they would never lose it.

The survey also found that women are the most effective at recording their best ideas with 37 per cent of them choosing to scribble notes on the back of a tissue or napkin.  This narrowly beat the back of receipts, the back of the hand and cigarette packets as the most preferred means of on-the-go note-making for both sexes.

The take-aways are clear: 

  1. Record your ideas
  2. Use your creative times wisely
  3. Use your uncreative times efficiently

But remember-don’t let yourself be subject to the whims of time and space!  There are ways to make yourself more creative consistently.  There are alot of great ideas on my resource page.

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, idea generation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Surveys, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

X-Ray Yourself With Sticky Tape!

Posted by Plish on November 16, 2008

This just goes to show what can happen when you looks at something in a totally different way.  Take a totally mundane task, like unrolling a roll of sticky tape and try to find something different about it.   Now, the challenge becomes one of harnessing the energies available in this process.

X-ray photography would be an obvious use of this phenomenon.  What’s a second use for x-rays?

Posted in Case Studies, idea generation, innovation, Research, Science | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Latest on Innovation Metrics

Posted by Plish on November 14, 2008

InnovationLabs has published a white paper on innovation metrics.  While intriguing in its breadth, I’m not totally sold on the proposed metrics contained therein.  Too many of these metrics can be “padded” so that when it comes times to performance reviews people will be rushing to fill their quotas of “customers seen” or “ideas generated” just so they can claim they’re innovative.

Many of the other metrics are based upon  “what was done”, or “what was the return on x project”.  While necessary to somehow measure, these types of metrics lag and are like reacting to a fever of 105F after the person’s fever dropped to room temperature  becaue he/she cooked.


Posted in Creativity Leadership, innovation, Innovation Metrics, Nature of Creativity, patents, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Case Study: All Waters Are Not The Same

Posted by Plish on November 12, 2008

Which One Is Less Than Optimal Design?

Which One Is Less Than Optimal Design?

Take a look at the above picture.  Which one is designed less than optimally?  It’s actually ironic.  There are three different approaches to optimizing the water pouring experience.  However, one product doesn’t do the best job of addressing what happens before the bottle reaches the consumer. Think about it.

You take your bottle of water off the shelf and bring it to the register.  You place it on the belt and the cashier scans the bottles price.  It doesn’t scan. 

She tries again. 

No dice. She turns the bottle on the side and it finally scans.

The center bottle of Ice Mountain has its barcode above the level of the scanner.

Bar Code Is Above The Level of Most Scanners

Bar Code Is Above The Level of Most Scanners

A quick rendering (below) of the alternative shows that it looks pretty good. Reading the lettering is harder in the mountains.  My guess (and no offense to Marketing) is that the decision to have the bar code higher was largely an aesthetic decision.   A creative and very cool, grippable bottle makes a sacrifice in design that the folks at the cash register have to pay for.

Flip-Flopping Info And Bar Code

Flip-Flopping Info And Bar Code

Posted in Case Studies, innovation, problem solving | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Creativity Interview – Roger von Oech

Posted by Plish on November 11, 2008

Creativity Specialist Roger von Oech

Creativity Specialist Roger von Oech

Great interview over at Innovation Zen.  Roger is another one of my favorite creative types.  One of my favorite points that Roger makes is that when coming up with an idea, take that second or third thought that comes up as opposed to the first one that pops into your head. 

The first idea is very often the most obvious and the one everyone else has thought of.  It’s the others that are buried a little that really come forth from your individual experiences and strengths.  Those are the unique and stellar ideas!

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, idea generation, innovation, Interviews | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

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