Where Science Meets Muse

Archive for December, 2008

Recognizing Innovation When It Lights Your Night

Posted by Plish on December 30, 2008

Santa's Innovation Partner

Santa's Innovation Partner

When people (or reindeer) have the solution to a problem, the more radical and out of the ordinary the solution, an odd thing happens — The idea, and often the idea generator,  get scoffed at and mocked. 

It takes a leader with great fortitude and an entrepreneurial spirit to spot these creative gems and give them the chance they deserve.  This article by Jacqueline Byrd, author of The Innovation Equation, uses the example of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to highlight the need for people to have the insight of Santa as he recognized the value of Rudolph’s nose. 

People often struggle to come up with the next great idea, but perhaps an equal challenge is to recognize other ideas, and people, as having their own unique brilliance–just like the brilliance of a reindeer’s nose.

Posted in Authenticity, Creativity Leadership, culture of innovation, innovation, Nature of Creativity, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Innovation Never Sleeps, But It Does Nap…(Trends in Innovation)

Posted by Plish on December 29, 2008

One would think that innovation is first and foremost on everyone’s minds in the corporate world of the United States. Turns out that not only is it not front and center in the minds of US web surfers it actually is seasonal.

When searching on the word “innovation” in Google trends, I found that searches on the term “innovation” dip in the summer months and drastically dip in the month of December.


Perhaps even more telling is that when search volume is normalized the United States doesn’t show up in the top ten regions for searches.


Different search terms could skew the results so I checked “creativity”.


This shows the same Summer/December dips. The good news (or bad depending how you look at it), is that the US did make the top ten regions for search volume.


Also of note is that the general trends for search volume and news references are going down and up respectively.

What about “entrepreneur”? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Case Studies, culture of innovation, innovation, Innovation Metrics, Research, Trends | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Cortisol Levels and Sleeping, Stress and Creativity

Posted by Plish on December 26, 2008

This recently published blurb in Wired gives three reasons why sleeping late may be better than going to bed early and rising early.

They are:

1. You may need more sleep than you think (i.e. You don’t sleep nearly enough)

2. Night Owls are more creative.

3. Rising early occurs during peak Cortisol levels so you may feel tension upon waking early.

When I checked the study responsible for point number 3, another interesting thing became obvious and it may account for point Number 2.

Cortisol is also at its lowest between 10pm and 1am. If stress hormone is low, creativity may be higher during these times.

FORMULA A: Less stress hormone (Cortisol)=more relaxed=more creative.

If I extrapolate a Creativity Curve based upon the cortisol curve we see the following:

Circadian Rhythm Graph with creativity

Possible Creativity vs. Cortisol Curve (michael plishka, 2008; red curve courtesy of http://www.phoqus.com)

Is the above relationship absolute? Probably not. The folks over at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine have shown that changes in stress (i.e the relaxation response) can produce “aha” moments. And, as I mentioned here, stress is essential to performance. So there are most likely some micro-stress trends within the larger trends that can help or hinder creativity.

Nevertheless, studies are starting to show that increased cortisol levels that don’t decline during the day may induce clinical depression.  So…

FORMULA B: Less sleep=greater stress=clinical depression=less sleep=greater stress…

It’s a downward spiral that will not help with creative endeavors.

What do we take away from this all?

1. We need sleep.

2. We have to be careful not to stay up too late. If we overshoot our lowest cortisol levels, we may have trouble falling asleep. Since cortisol rises quickly in the AM, we don’t want to be stuck getting stressed when we should be recouping. Rising cortisol levels also might maker it more difficult to stay asleep or get good quality sleep. That means waking up feeling sleep deprived and that puts us into FORMULA B above….bad news.

3. We need to learn to relax better- take time to meditate/pray/relax/play so that we minimize the effects of stress when we’re awake.

What are your thoughts on creativity and sleep?

Posted in Nature of Creativity, Research, Science, stress, Workplace Creativity, Yerkes-Dodson Curve | Tagged: , , , , | 23 Comments »

Embracing the Mystery – Being More Human and More Creative

Posted by Plish on December 24, 2008

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, and die gallantly.

Specialization is for insects.

Robert A. Heinlein from The Notebook of Lazarus Long
I found this quote while perusing this blog.  The reason I post it is that it hits on the amazing qualities that the human person has and is – grandiose and little known. 

It points out that the capacity for extraordinary human authenticity is not something foreign to us- it is part and parcel to our condition.  

Albert Einstein said:
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.
He also said:
The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.
To approach life with the wonder of a child, to embrace the mystery that surrounds us each day, is to be a human living to the fullest.  It is in this context of being a “wonder-seeker” that we become more fully creative,  more innovative,  and in a mysterious and wonderful way… even more loving. 

May you all have a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, holiday season. 


Posted in Authenticity, Great Creative Minds, innovation, Nature of Creativity, The Human Person, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Constraints Only Help Creativity To A Point

Posted by Plish on December 22, 2008

We hear it all the time.

“Creativity thrives in constraints”

“We need to have boundaries to get the most out of creativity.”

Well…. Yes….

…and No.

Constraints =  Stress

Stress only helps to a point.  A gander at the Yerkes-Dodson curve shows when we get overstressed our performance trails off. 

Yerkes-Dodson Curve Shows Optimum Stress for Optimum Results

Yerkes-Dodson Curve Shows Optimum Stress for Optimum Results

Over stressed can be one of two things.

High Load Over a Short Time

High Load Over a Short Time


A Small Load Over a Long Time

A Small Load Over a Long Time

What can we do to optimize creative output?

Get used to dealing with situations that are constrained.  This will change your stress threshold so that it takes more stress to make your performance decline.  What types of things indicate that our productivity will start falling off? 

Look for feelings of boredom, procrastination, frustration, anxiety and anger, to name a few.

Be careful though – Many (if not most) of us have a tendency to think we deal with stress better than we do.

Posted in cognitive studies, idea generation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity, Yerkes-Dodson Curve | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Wiffiti as a Brainstorming Tool

Posted by Plish on December 22, 2008

What a wiffiti page looks like

Click this image to see my LIVE Wiffiti screen!

When great ideas strike it’s important to record them ASAP.  In a brainstorming session it’s important to capture ideas as they materialize.  It’s also important to build off of other people’s ideas on an anonymous basis.

Enter Wiffiti.

This tool enables you to capture ideas via text messages.  You simply text a message to an address and it shows up on the screen.  You can use it for yourself or as a team.  If each team member is texting their ideas (and no name codes-anonymous is better!) when they get back to their offices they can look at the screen and use it to create more ideas.

I’ve created a page for this blog so you can see it in action. You can click the above picture (or here) to see the live Zentest Screen.  Start your message with “@zentest” and then type in your message.  Send it to 25622. 

Wiffiti still isn’t configured for USCellular (which is what I have) so I have to rely on your messages to get this going.

Locamoda is the developer of Wiffiti, you can check out ways other companies have used it here.

Posted in idea generation, Innovation Tools, Traditional Brainstorming, Web 2.0, Wiffiti, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Creating a Creative Team -First Step Towards Innovation

Posted by Plish on December 18, 2008

Your Next Brainstorm Location? (Courtesy of GothamGazette.com)

Your Next Brainstorming Room (Courtesy of gothamgazette.com)

Excellent article here continuing the theme of empowering people to be creative so that innovation thrives.

I love the fact that there is a Nike team that brainstorms on a Subway once a week. I think it’s a great way to get people to interact and come up with ideas.

He also mentions two innovations- one well executed, the other not. The well executed one is the Listerine breath strip which took Asian spermicide technology and adapted it to a totally new market. That technology is now being used for medicine delivery as well.

The poorly executed innovation is, you guessed it: everyone’s favorite non-favorite technology…the Segway. That says it all right there.

Key take-aways from the article:

  • Creativity in the business world is a habit that can practiced and honed.
  • The practice of creativity in business should not be limited to so-called “creative types.”
  • Everybody in the company has the ability to be creative and should be encouraged.
  • Creativity in business has to add to the bottom line. That requires focus and discipline as well as skills.
  • Businesses need to give employees the skills and structure to bring change to marketplace.

In other words, don’t ignore the best thing you have going for you-Your people.

Posted in Case Studies, Creativity Leadership, culture of innovation, innovation, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Mathematics of Innovation

Posted by Plish on December 18, 2008

I’ve been reading and re-reading The Innovation Equation . It is an excellent book and I highly recommend it.

One of the things I love about this book is that they define Innovation with an equation: Innovation= Creativity x Risk Taking.

I think there is merit to this formula as I also believe, with the authors, that true innovation is possible for anyone.

Being the person I am, I decided to dig deeper into this formula and try stretching the mathematics to see what can be learned from its manipulation. (If you’re math averse, please skip to the bottom for the DISCUSSION)

Innovation doesn’t occur out of the context of time, so I figured, why not differentiate the formula with respect to time and see what impact that has and what it can perhaps teach us about innovation. The formulas are below:


By differentiating we can determine how Innovation changes with respect to time as Creativity and Risk Taking change with respect to time. I summarized the results using various functions in the table below. The lines represent the rough shapes of the curves of what the variable is doing over time. So a straight line means the variable is constant over time. A slant means a linear increase. A curve means the form of y= ax^2 + bx +c (but it could be a higher order as well but thiswould impact the results)


So what does this all mean?


A- When Creativity and Risk Taking are constant in a company, Innovation is constant. This means there is no Innovation Velocity and no Innovation Acceleration

B- When Creativity is constant and Risk Taking increases over time, Innovation increases because of Risk Taking. This means Innovation over time changes at a constant rate – the Innovation Velocity changes. There is still no Acceleration.

C- When Risk Taking is constant and Creativity increases over time, Innovation increases because of increases in Creativity. This means Innovation over time changes at a constant rate – the Innovation Velocity increases. There is still no Acceleration.

D- When Creativity over time is increasing in a non-linear second order fashion, and Risk Taking is constant over time, Innovation increases, Innovation Velocity increase linearly and Innovation Acceleration stays constant. But there is Acceleration!

E-When Risk Taking over time is increasing in a non-linear second order fashion, and Creativity is constant over time, Innovation increases, Innovation Velocity increase linearly and Innovation Acceleration stays constant. But there is Acceleration!

F-When Risk Taking and Creativity both are increasing linearly, Innovation increases, Innovation Velocity increases and Innovation Acceleration stays constant. But there is Acceleration!

DISCUSSION: In those cases where there is constant Creative output and constant Risk governing strategies, Innovation occurs but isn’t accelerated. In fact, it’s not moving, dynamic Innovation. It’s Innovation by definition-that’s all.

Dynamic Innovation (Innovation Velocity) is constant or increases only when Risk Taking gets riskier and/or Creativity increases. There needs to be a constant effort to either get riskier or be more creative to get Innovation moving. The problem is that according to the research of Dr. Byrd, as people get more encultured by the corporation, there is a tendency for creativity to decline (p.127) – they become prisoners of their culture. Innovation will suffer as a result.

Is it possible to Accelerate Innovation? Yes, but it’s not easy. You either need Hyper-Creativity, (second-order or higher Creativity), Super High Risk Tolerance (also of the second-order or higher), or everyone firing on all cylinders (which is probably the likelier path). Even when this occurs, though, Innovation Acceleration is constant.

So what’s the take away?

Remember, Risk Taking in most corporations rarely gets more aggressive with time and success. If anything, it grows more cautious. There may be times when this or that project may be more risky, but somewhere there are usually safety nets. If a project is too risky it gets killed.

The implications of killing projects and the signals sent by mitigating risk can directly impact creativity in a negative way and based upon the results above, we don’t want that! After all, if Risk Taking is constant or declining, Creativity is all that’s left to keep Innovation moving!

There are two solutions.

1. Individuals start exercising more risk and go out on limbs to keep projects going. If they succeed, great. If they fail, unless the company knows what it means to be innovative (and too many companies aren’t sure), the person pays the consequences and again, Creativity could take a hit on the Corporate level. Death Spiral…

2. Start treating each individual as a unique source of brilliance, training and enabling people to be more fully alive, fully authentic humans who utilize their creativity freely. (The culture that does this is itself being creative–a two-fer!)

When confronted with the choices, can we afford not to start investing in the creativity of people?

Posted in cognitive studies, Creativity Leadership, culture of innovation, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Research, The Human Person, The Innovation Equation, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

A Great, Creative Modeling Tool – Bendaroos

Posted by Plish on December 16, 2008

I received an email I knew was SPAM. It was entitled “Re: Amazing Flexible Building Sticks.”

I opened it and the kid inside me jumped up and down.  I clicked and went to the Bendaroo website

I was greeted by an obnoxious promo video, but I looked past that and was smitten by the coolness of this product.

Why am I high on this?

It’s a great tool for brainstorming and idea generation.  Anytime you can play with things with your fingers you can and will increase your creative output.  The fact that this stuff is reusable is a bonus.

Unleashing your playful side is a must if you want to optimize your creativity.  A product like this (which I get no money for promoting I might add!) get’s two thumbs up and deserves to be in any creative person’s toolkit.

Posted in Brain Stimulation Tools, Creativity Leadership, idea generation, toys, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Creativity and Innovation at the Speed of Vulcanized Rubber

Posted by Plish on December 14, 2008

We look to sports for entertainment, but we can also learn from sports.  This blog entry here, discusses what soccer can teach us about innovation. 

There is much brilliance in it.  I used to play semi-pro soccer (I was a goalie)  and the article is right on when it says:

“Ultimately, the most visible and arguably most impactful innovation lies in the feet of the players. Notwithstanding the team’s culture, strategic formation, and tactical fitness, innovation on a micro-level is still the biggest competitive advantage, and it is engrained in soccer’s DNA.”

As a hockey goalie (yes, I enjoyhaving people shoot pucks and balls at me!!) I would argue that hockey and soccer share this philosophy of innovation/creativity. 

Even moreso than soccer,  hockey’s pace demands quicker actions, quicker responses to threats, and the development of  quicker attacks.  The entire team, acting as a whole, (and even with players changing every minute or so in hockey!) greater than the sum of its parts, lives and breathes with creative boldness.

There is much we can learn from soccer and hockey about innovation/creativity once we start asking questions like:

What makes innovation possible at breakneck speeds?

What are the traits of innovative players and coaches?

It just dawned on me.

Rather than just talking about this, let’s live it!  Let’s have an Innovation/Creativity Seminar based around a trip to a hockey game.  If you’re interested let me know your thoughts!

Posted in Case Studies, culture of innovation, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Sports Creativity, Team-Building, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

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