Where Science Meets Muse

Archive for January, 2009

Poor Technology Designs Keep Getting in the Way? Think IDEALLY!

Posted by Plish on January 31, 2009

Is Poor Technology Getting In Our Way?

Is Poor Technology Getting In Our Way?

“Technology’s single most important obligation is to get out of the way.” –David Gelernter, Machine Beauty: Elegance And The Heart Of Technology

How often do we find ourselves getting frustrated with computers hanging up on us, forcing us to “save” at every turn because we might lose everything if we don’t? (As a matter of fact, at this moment I’m typing this blog with one web browser window ‘stuck’ open, eating CPU so my words don’t all show up when typed immediately, but I can’t close it because I might lose this blog!)

How often do we find ourselves sitting at some event only to have a Britney Spears ringtone pierce the silence, and then find out it’s our phone that we forgot to turn off? (and no, I don’t have any Britney ring tones!)

Technology doesn’t seem to get out of the way, it gets in the way, it makes us its servant-and why?


And this means, among other things:


Think about truly elegant, creative and innovative designs, how they often elicit the term “ideal” when describing them.  It seems that they only bring advantages and no disadvantages-they allow us to live life without interruption-they get out of the way!

People forget about ideal products because it seems technology has duped us into an, “it’s good enough” syndrome; we forget and often don’t even try to develop better methods, better processes, better technological products because some aspect of our lives is served well enough. 

That shouldn’t be good enough!

If you want great, creative solutions, strive for ideality-strive for the solution that’s ideal-literally.

If you want an idea of one way to solve a problem using ideality as your goal, check out this TRIZ technique based page that gives some great examples.

What do you think? Is most technology poorly designed so it gets in our way too often? Are the systems supported by technology poorly designed so that they encumber instead of liberate?

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, TRIZ | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pros and Cons of Traditional Brainstorming

Posted by Plish on January 30, 2009

(courtesy of clamlynch.com)

(courtesy of clamlynch.com)

I recently wrote a blurb on Five (Weak) Reasons to do Brainstormings.  Now, there’s some wonderfully stimulating discussion going on over at the Lateral Action Blog.  They are discussing if/why traditional brainstormings should be done and are they a waste of time. 

The first blog entry stimulated much discussion and the second, based upon some comments by Your’s Truly, has continued the discussion.  So cruise on over and join the fun!

Posted in Creative Environments, culture of innovation, idea generation, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Do Implementing “Best Practices” Stifle Creativity/Innovation?

Posted by Plish on January 26, 2009

The Future of Best Practice Adoption

The Future of Best Practice Adoption

 “Companies have defined so much ‘best practice’ that they are now more or less identical.” — Joseph Kunde, Unique Now…or Never

We all have seen, heard, or read references to “Best Practices”‘ as being a road to success.  Kunde’s astute observation challenges us.

Are we so involved in adopting “Best Practices” that we are losing our unique, tactical edges?  Can “Best Practices” result in all our solutions to big problems looking alike and do they really advance innovation?

Just today the Pfizer/Wyeth merger seems to answer “Yes”, “Yes” and “No” respectively.

Yes, there are times and places for instituting “Best Practices”.  They are to be used when the road is poorly marked, when the strategy is one of staying the course. 

But, when the goal is to bring new innovations to the world, to out-battle those bigger and stronger, to zig when others zag, the “Best Practices” enacted should be those that empower us, people, your team, 

to be authentic,



                                                                           dynamic individuals –

that together –

are greater than the sum of their parts.

Posted in Authenticity, Best Practices, Creative Environments, Creativity Leadership, culture of innovation, Disruptive Innovation, innovation, Tactics, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Fencing, Tactics and Disruptive Innovation

Posted by Plish on January 25, 2009

Yours Truly Getting a "Touch" While Fencing

Your's Truly Getting a "Touch" While Fencing

“The best swordsman in the world doesn’t need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn’t do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn’t prepared for him; he does the thing he ought not to do and often it catches the expert out and ends him on the spot.” — Mark Twain

I never like fencing against sword-wielding newbies.  True to Twain’s observation, they don’t know what they’re supposed to do, and worse, don’t know what they’re not supposed to do! 

Because I made tactical adjustments,  in general, I was able to beat them; but they would often frustrate me,  slash my knuckles or hit me in an unprotected area, and lead me to expend much more energy than I wanted to.  Their movements and unorthodox wielding of their weapon often resulted in touches that I would not experience if fencing with a more seasoned fencer.

In business, the smart innovators are tacticians- they’re either newbies or they’ve been able to forget what got them where they are.    They’re nimble and they come at you with the sword flashing!  To these truly belong, “disruptive innovation.”  These companies are made up of people who have a willingness to risk, to creatively improvise, to throw themselves passionately into battles they shouldn’t win…

Battles are won and fought one person at a time and all great innovation starts with creativity expressed and lived within the trenches. 

So the question is, are you, your team, your company, nimble enough to go toe-to-toe with those who dare you with their creative zeal?  Or are you planning your innovation strategy while the door to door battles for your business rages on?

Posted in Creativity Leadership, Disruptive Innovation, innovation, Tactics, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Book Alert! Innovating at the Top-The CEO as a Champion for Innovation

Posted by Plish on January 24, 2009

This will be in my library soon

This will be in my library soon

Nine CEO’s were interviewed about their perspectives on Innovation and the results are a new book entitled: Innovating at the Top: How Global CEOs Drive Innovation for Growth and Profit (International Management Knowledge)

 While I have yet to read it, the summary article is quite intriguing.   While innovation happens deep within the ranks, these CEO’s are totally on board and drive their companies by providing a culture favorable to innovation.  A summary of the top ten drivers is as follows:

  1. Appoint the CEO as the innovation champion
  2. Celebrate an innovation culture
  3. Engage more innovation partners by sharing knowledge
  4. Organise diversity to promote positive friction and cross-fertilisation
  5. Use customer needs to drive simultaneous R&D and Business Model Innovation
  6. Set high-quality standards and demanding challenges
  7. Encourage youth and keep a challenger mentality
  8. Appoint appropriate decision-makers and encourage transparent information-sharing
  9. Use processes judiciously
  10. Incentivise people to innovate continuously

I love this quote from Co-CEO of Research In Motion, Jim Balsillie,  (who brought us the Blackberry smartphone):

 “I think the key thing I have learnt on innovation, is that innovation lies much more in process than just having the right answers. So there’s a real premium on visibility, in transparency, in collaboration, and I think that goes a long way.”

With regards to these companies having a culture that contains processes to bring ideas from the drawing board to the market place, Co-author Soumitra Dutta observes:

“These (companies don’t use) processes in the negative bureaucratic sense of the word ‘process’, but much more as supporting environments for enabling virtually everyone in the organisation to come up with ideas and run with those.”

I’ll be adding this book to my library soon.

Posted in Books, Creative Environments, Creativity Leadership, culture of innovation, innovation, Innovation Metrics, Interviews, Research, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Five (weak) Reasons For Continuing To Use Team Brainstormings

Posted by Plish on January 22, 2009

The Five Reasons Why Team Brainstormings Are Still Done

The Five Reasons Why Team Brainstormings Are Still Done

Can any of us afford to not benefit from the creativity of every individual to the utmost?

If not, why then do we persist in using Team Brainstormings as the Gold Standard for idea generation?  

These are my top 5 reasons why people use team brainstorming:

  1. Team Building– That is true, brainstormings do build teams and create camaraderie.  But if the point of a brainstorming is to come up with lots of high quality ideas, then use the time for exactly that- albeit with some modifications. 
  2. Tradition!– The old, “It’s the way we always come up with great ideas around here,” syndrome.  That’s not a good reason.  That’s the reason why there’s still a market for cuff links.
  3. They Work – To a point, yes, they do.  But, there’s a deception going on because most people don’t have a “control” to compare to so they walk out of meeting with a stack of ideas and plan of attack and think that their well moderated meeting was a success.  The truth is that it could have been more successful!
  4. Two Heads Are Better Than One – This saying is also true to a point. The problem is that people think that if two heads are better, then 12 heads are sublime!  There is another phrase that is apropos for this situation: “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”
  5. They’re Fun! – I can’t really argue with this, but I know people who do, and they hate and fear team brainstormings!  Unfortunately, these people are super creative. Fortunately, they have been empowered to contribute in different ways so their talents aren’t lost.  This doesn’t mean that idea generation can’t be fun-it is!  But, there are other ways to have fun and come up with more quality ideas.

So, if team brainstormings aren’t the way to go, how should brainstorming be done?

I’ll leave it up to you to supply suggestions on how to increase the quality and quantity of ideas ala brainstorming. 

In the meantime, if you want to gain more insight into why team brainstormings don’t work, the first three pages of this study provide an excellent summary.

Posted in cognitive studies, culture of innovation, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Research, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | 17 Comments »

Creativity, Love and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Posted by Plish on January 20, 2009


We often think of creativity and innovation in terms of the needs of business.  Yet, in everyday life, people are continually being creative, risking and innovating.  This type of daily creativity, driven directly by the needs of others can result in powerful innovation and the betterment of humankind.

This beautiful story of graciousness is about a man, who upon seeing a guest at his table eating peas with a knife, also eats peas so as not to make the guest feel badly. 

What the man in the story did was more than graciousness, it was  Love – a profound, deep act of love that was willing to break rules of etiquette so that the other person would feel acknowledged, respected…

… loved.

Dr. Martin Luther King (whose birthday we just celebrated) once said of this love in his sermon, “Loving Your Enemies,”

“(this deep love) is something of the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love…”

He uses the word “Creative” and it is fitting. 

There were many ways the man in the story could have taught his family about loving others, about respect, about graciousness, yet in a moment’s twinkling he led by example, in simplicity, by eating his peas with a knife!

Dr. King continued:

“…when you start hating anybody, it destroys the very center of your creative response to life and the universe; so love everybody. Hate at any point is a cancer that gnaws away at the very vital center of your life and your existence. It is like eroding acid that eats away the best and the objective center of your life.”

 Truly powerful words and they should be taken to heart. 

While Love creates an environment of creativity, hate inhibits creativity because it destroys the core of the human which is called to Love.  A person who is diminished in this way is not operating, creating, innovating from a position of power, but from a position of weakness and frailty – the person is no longer being authentic to the depths of human beauty.

When there is a lack of beauty within, the corresponding lack of an authentic generative creativity leads to a world  devoid of innovation, devoid of graciousness, devoid of justice, devoid of peace, devoid of Love.

So next time you’re struggling, lacking in creativity, try digging deep and seeing everyone, including yourself, through the eyes of Love.

Posted in Authenticity, Creativity Leadership, culture of innovation, Great Creative Minds, Human Rights, innovation, love, Nature of Creativity, Politics, problem solving, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Toyota’s “Why Not?” Innovation Contest

Posted by Plish on January 17, 2009

Click the pic to check out Toyota's "Why Not?" Contest

Check out Toyota's "Why Not?" Contest

Always looking  out for the next best thing, Toyota has developed an innovation webportal where people can suggest innovations and possibly win a tour of their Kentucky plant plus a meeting in NY City with some of the most influential innovators in the country.

The website is pretty cool and it’s nice to just listen to the sounds of nature there…

The contest ends March 31, 2009.

Posted in Contests, innovation, nature, Sustainable Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 9 Comments »

The Sashimi Tabernacle Choir – A Lesson In Innovation

Posted by Plish on January 14, 2009

Sometimes, you scratch your head and just look at something and say…”Hmmm….”

Richard Carter of Texas hunkered down and created this mechanized symphony.  Not sure why.

However, hidden in his explanation is a pearl, no, a diamond of wisdom on innovating:

“What is really required is enough lack of common sense to start a project like this, and think you can pull it off.  If we had any conception about how much work we would eventually put into it, we never would have started it. But we naively dived into it; we had enough vision or something to keep on going.”

How often does the “not knowing what you don’t know” card foster innovation?

Posted in Authenticity, Case Studies, innovation, Nature of Creativity, toys | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Warning: Open Plan Offices Are Hazardous To Your Health

Posted by Plish on January 13, 2009

Open Office Layout (courtesy of turbosquid.com)

Open Office Layout (courtesy of turbosquid.com)

 There is something appealing in open floor plans.  The soaring ceilings and open layout scream creative collaboration.  While research shows that higher ceilings are more conducive to blue-sky type creativity, this meta-study shows that any collaborative benefits come with a very hefty price.

Ninety percent of the studies reported major negatives of the open layout such as:

  • Increased turnover
  • Higher stress levels
  • Higher blood pressure
  • More interpersonal conflicts
  • Higher levels of insecurity
  • Higher noise levels which leads to:
    • Impaired concentration
    • Lower productivity
  • Easier germ transmission
  • Loss of personal identity
  • Lower job satisfaction

For comparison, it might be worth looking at Mark Twain’s perspectives on his writing hutch here.


The Writing Hut of Mark Twain (courtesy of workalicious.org)

The Writing Hut of Mark Twain (courtesy of workalicious.org)

So how might we get collaboration without sacrificing health?

One way would be to place a kitchen or inviting communal area in the office that people would naturally congregate around during the course of a day. 

What would you propose?

Posted in Creative Environments, Health Concerns, Nature of Creativity, Research, stress, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , | 9 Comments »

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