Where Science Meets Muse

Archive for February, 2009

Slumdog Inspired Innovation Talk

Posted by Plish on February 28, 2009


A recent discussion in the “Front End of Innovation” group over at LinkedIn was inspired by the movie “Slumdog Millionaire.”

Mr. Amit Dharia, chimed in with some wonderful observations that I’d like to share with you.

The name “slumdog” was inspired from the phrase “underdog”.

True innovators prefer to be underdogs. Underdogs, stay below radar until ready to ambush to kill. Unlike “noise makers” they can stay in shadows for long and keep quiet. Both confidentiality and element of surprise is required.

The second feature of film is “focused opportuntinism” – whatever a path you have to take, be open minded and take it. Zigzag better than linear path. If a path needs to be changed, change it quickly.

The third feature is resourcefulness. Innovation needs not only creative mind and hopeful heart but also resourcefulness. Great innovations and great ideas need less money. Surprisingly, people who come to USA from underdeveloped countries do very well in IT and technologies where less resources are required. Lesser you have, mind works extra hard to fulfill the gaps.

The most important lesson is innovation cannot be born in structured environment. Innovation needs dramatically surprising and unconventional thinking.

Slumdog is also about pride with humility. Those of us who have seen slums of India, can bear witness to the fact that the heavenly hopes can only grow in human made hells. Wild flowers grow in jungles and not in well trimmed backyards.

 What do you think of Mr. Dharia’s observations?

Posted in culture of innovation, Disruptive Innovation, idea generation, innovation, Nature of Creativity, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Feb 27th, National Doodle Day in the UK

Posted by Plish on February 27, 2009

Click to go to the National Doodle Day page!

Click to go to the National Doodle Day page!

OK, so what’s the significance of this you may well ask?

Fascinating research shows that people who doodle while doing boring tasks actually had better recall of events that transpired during the doodle session than non-doodlers. 

Why does it work?

I have my own theory that diverges  from the theory proposed in the paper.  Instead of doodling being an attention focusing mechanism, I think the brains of the doodlers (if checked on a functional MRI) would show those areas of the brain responsible for written language lighting up-it’s like taking notes! 

Only no one can read what you wrote-but the act of writing helped burn info into your mind.

The important take-away is it shows the importance of doodling for retention of information. 

It would be a great study to look at doodling’s impact on idea generation; in other words, if someone doodled while trying to come up with ideas, does he/she come up with more ideas than non-doodlers? 

I would say, “yes.”

Do you find doodling helps with your memory retention?

Posted in Brain Stimulation Tools, cognitive studies, idea generation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Research, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Finding The Solution That’s Right Under Your Feet

Posted by Plish on February 26, 2009


Great blog entry here  that tells the tale of rollerblades- those rollerskates that look like hockey skates. 

The story is a good one:

Someone wanted to be able to “ice” skate outdoors in the summer.

Rollerblades were born.

People loved it so much they wanted to rollerblade year round -even in the winter (which is interesting in itself because that’s when they’d be ice skating)

But, there were no places for rollerblading, until…

…someone realized sports stadiums could be used on non game days because they have extensive, flat, concrete surfaces perfect for rollerblading.

Great ideas from the start and none of them are necessarily radical.   But they’re all innovative in that they use existing technologies in totally new ways to create new skates, a new sport, and new uses for unused buildings.

Pretty cool, huh?

Do you have any examples of innovations that followed this pattern of using existing things in new ways?

Posted in Case Studies, Creative Thinking Techniques, Design, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, Sports Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Guy Kawasaki On The Need To Innovate

Posted by Plish on February 26, 2009

Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki

Came across this interview with Entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki, who is the founder of alltop.com.

According to Kawasaki:

Innovation isn’t a lightning bolt of inspiration in the middle of a muse. More often than not, it’s a process of grinding, cogitating, and doubting. There truly is no shortcut to innovation.

True indeed!

He continues:

The most beautiful trend in innovation is that it’s getting cheaper to innovate for many types of products. Two gals in a garage using MySQL, PHP, Rails, and WordPress can do a lot of damage now-indeed, this puts large companies at risk. A second beautiful trend is that you can deploy innovation faster and cheaper now with Web-based products and services compared to the old days when you physically shipped out upgrade kits and manuals.

Very accurate as well.

What I would like to add though, is that people need to to innovate outside the internet as well and the road seems more rocky for them and harder to chart.    I realize this interview is in an IT magazine, but in general, it seems to me that innovation is become more synonymous with techinnovation.  I believe this is happening because, as Kawasaki pointed out, tech innovation is more accessible to the masses-  heck we use it every day!

Then there is the financial allure of getting out of the corporate craziness…

So, given what Kawasaki points out about innovation, especially in the tech realm, my challenge to all is this:

How can innovation that is not web based get the same leverage as web-based, tech innovations with low start up costs, low overhead, etc?

Posted in Disruptive Innovation, Funding Innovation, Guy Kawasaki, innovation, Interviews, Start-Ups | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Funding Innovation – A Plan That People Will Support

Posted by Plish on February 24, 2009

(Michael Plishka 2009)

copyright 2009

I don’t remember who it was that turned me on to this Facebook group.  Whoever it was, “Thank You!”

The plan is simple: Provide millions of dollars to fund start-ups through venture capitalists (or other efficient mechanisms) instead of trying to bailout the BIG Failures (GM, etc.).  If even a small percentage of these start-ups hits, that’s some major job creation. 

No hocus pocus, no waste…Just innovation at work.

Thomas L Friedman over at the New York Times wrote this  op-ed piece that consolidates and solidifies the plan. Says Friedman:

If we are going to be spending billions of taxpayer dollars, it can’t only be on office-decorating bankers, over-leveraged home speculators and auto executives who year after year spent more energy resisting changes and lobbying Washington than leading change and beating Toyota.

I personally am in touch with multiple start-ups in the High-Tech and Medical markets that are screaming for funding.  A million spent on each of these would do more than a billion in the pockets of GM.

What are your thoughts on this innovative plan and use of tax payer money?

Posted in culture of innovation, Disruptive Innovation, Entrepreneurship 2.0, Funding Innovation, innovation, Politics, Start-Ups | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Meditating/Praying Your Way to Creativity

Posted by Plish on February 24, 2009

Patricia Spurio meditates while having her EEG measured. Credit: © Maharishi University of Management

Patricia Spurio meditates while having her EEG measured. Credit: © Maharishi University of Management


Learning, living, partying, studying, depression, socializing….


Researchers have shown that college students who meditated on a regular basis for 10 weeks had more integrated brains, were less jumpy,  and less sleepy. 

“The pressures of college can be overwhelming-44% of college students binge drink, 37% report use of illegal drugs, 19% report clinical depression, and 13% report high levels of anxiety,” said Fred Travis, lead author and director of the MUM brain research center.

Travis said the data from the non-meditating control group showed the detrimental effects of college life on the students. “The control group had lower Brain Integration Scale scores, indicating their brain functioning was more fragmented-which can lead to more scattered and disorganized thinking and planning. The controls also showed an increase in sympathetic reactivity and sleepiness, which can correspond to greater anxiety, worry and irritability” he said.

The lesson?

When in high stress situations humans need to find their centers, get in touch with peace and quiet, become a monk for 20 minutes or so.

The ability to think clearly is key to the success of athletes, businessmen; all people who have to make good decisions and/or perform certain tasks flawlessly.

To be creative/innovative means being able to see relationships where seemingly none exist, to ponder new realities. 

Try watching two bubbles of foam on the waves of a churning sea. 


Drop a pebble in a still pond and observe…

What do you do to find your center?

How does clarity of mind impact your creative endeavors?

How can industry improve creativity in light of this research?

Posted in Authenticity, Brain Stimulation Tools, cognitive studies, Health Concerns, innovation, meditation, Nature of Creativity, prayer, problem solving, Research, Spirituality, stress, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Optimizing Your Environment for Creativity

Posted by Plish on February 23, 2009

Courtesy of creativeenvironments.biz

Courtesy of creativeenvironments.biz

Researchers have found that the color blue does a better job of bringing out the creativity in people while red drives accuracy.

Interesting study.  I would guess that while there may be cultural component to this (in China, Red is good luck and success), I think there might be some universal aspect in that blue is the natural appearance of the sky and of water. Blue sky is also related to country environments, and perhaps this is also related to the ability to be able to relax.  In other words, blue has alot going for it.

The bigger picture here (colored blue of course) is that our surroundings can and do influence our work and our play. 

Think of how stepping into a room with cathedral ceilings inspires an open spirit and how low ceilings feel limiting.

Think of how natural lighting seems so pleasing and conducive to work while fluorescent lighting seems sterile and cold.

Research in schools show that natural lighting increased productivity, reduced health problems, and didn’t negatively effect stress hormones.

Then there’s the Feng Shui school of thought-that room design be optimized for energy flow.  Regardless of one’s philosophical beliefs in Feng Shui, rooms and spaces organized according to it have a nice harmony to them-they’re pleasing to the senses.  That can only be a good thing.

Then there’s this fascinating work by an artist seeking to beautify  a New York subway tunnel. The entire paper talks about the interplay of  light and environment in public places.

Last but not least, it seems crime decreases in those neighborhoods that are kept clean and orderly as opposed to dishevelled.

The impact of environment is huge when it comes to creative endeavors.

So when you’re frustrated, feeling ill at ease, not feeling creative,  there may be some elements of your environment that are not encouraging to your endeavors.

Use the list below to do an environmental check next time you’re stuck and find a way to immerse yourself in the optimum environment.  

Color -Seek out blue environments, or at least brightly colored environments

Light – Seek out natural lighting, the light of day

Boundaries – Seek out open spaces and higher ceilings

Smell – Seek out those areas that have neutral or positive smells; pleasing without inducing hunger or displeasure

Temperature – If too hot or too cold, seek the moderate, temperate areas

Sound – Seek out music that inspires and elevates; natural environments and sounds.

Peace/Harmony/Beauty – Seek out areas that represent peace, external and internal peace, quietude, orderliness, flowing

What would you add to this list?

What makes your optimum creative environment?

Posted in Authenticity, cognitive studies, Creative Environments, Health Concerns, idea generation, nature, Nature of Creativity, Research, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Keeping the Creative Fires Burning

Posted by Plish on February 20, 2009


Jump in with Both Feet and Follow Your Dreams

Bill Buxton, author of  Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design   has a great article over at BusinessWeek on keeping the creative edge.

When I read it I immediately thought, “YES!” and realized that not only did I agree with him, I already practice and recommend much of what he subscribes to.

The main take-aways:

  • Always be a passionate beginner – Start new things and jump in with both feet. 
  • Be an “80% Person” – Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia clothing, describes himself in this way.  When you reach 80% of your expertise in something, move on to something new.  You’ll constantly get new insights from these new endeavors that will help you in life.
  • Make room for new endeavors by phasing out other endeavors – This prevents you from being overextended.  However, new endeavors may actually lead you in totally new directions.  You also may find synergies between past and present passions that open onto new opportunities.
  • Find good teachers – Seek those out the masters and learn.
  • Be a sponge – This means being able to learn from anyone, putting pride aside and realizing that others have something to contribute.

When we live following the above guidelines, we are constantly getting new inputs, new data from experiences that fuels and builds our creative capabilities; not to mention we will feel, and be, more authentically human!

So how do you get started?

Write up a passion bio (you can use mine as an example).  Look at it hard and see what you’ve gotten good at, what you’re still working on and then pause —

…and dream…

What does your spirit thirst for?

… begin anew…

Posted in Authenticity, Books, Design, innovation, Nature of Creativity, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Nanotechnology Resource Site

Posted by Plish on February 17, 2009



It’s essential to fuel your creative engine with knowledge.  The more connections to disparate phenomena present, the better your chances of coming up with really cool solutions to problems.

I came across this sweet nanotechnology site that qualifies as “Hi-Octane” Creativity Fuel.

Their credo:

OUR MISSION: To build hope & optimism, one atom at a time.

This website is dedicated to increasing the awareness and understanding of nanoscience, nanotechnology and the concept of the “Singularity”.

Great primers, and information on how nanotechnology is being used and can impact your life.

Cruise on over and check out the future (and now!) of nanotechnology. 

Your creative muse will thank you!

Posted in innovation, Nanotechnology, nature, Research, Science, Sustainable Technology | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Alpha Dog That Isn’t All That

Posted by Plish on February 16, 2009



Excellent article over at TIME magazine.  Turns out that dominant personalities have a tendency to be viewed as experts in groups and drive the group, regardless of the level of expertise they possess.  They are not only faking it, but making it, for themselves and for others.

“Dominant individuals behaved in ways that made them appear competent,” the researchers write, “above and beyond their actual competence.” Troublingly, group members seemed only too willing to follow these underqualified bosses. An overwhelming 94% of the time, the teams used the first answer anyone shouted out – often giving only perfunctory consideration to others that were offered.

The ramifications of this for group brainstorming sessions is obvious.  Of course brainstormings are moderated, but still, this is a cautionary tale that again reinforces that when it comes to interpersonal dynamics in a group setting, there is much we are still learning, and often the relationships and influences within the group are less than positive.

The plus side is that there is something to be said for “faking it until you make it”.  Act the part well enough and you may get it!

What do you think about this?

Posted in Case Studies, Creative Environments, Creativity Leadership, culture of innovation, idea generation, Research, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

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