ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Archive for February, 2013

Tips for Innovative Problem Solving, or, How to Shovel Snow Without a Shovel

Posted by Plish on February 27, 2013

This past evening, just shy of midnight, I was getting ready to head outside for my second round of shoveling.  I had already shoveled a good 7 inches of snow around 5pm and it looked like another 5 or so had fallen since.

I glanced at the TV. A warning  scrolled across the bottom: more precipitation on the way and a caution to people who were going to shovel the heavy stuff. So, instead of heading outside, I paused and turned my shoveling into a small, innovative, problem solving project.

My goal was ultimately to remove snow from the walkways and from around the cars, so I asked: “In what ways can I remove the snow from walkways?” (Notice, I didn’t say, “In what ways can I shovel the snow?” My goal is snow removal, not necessarily shoveling.)

I then looked at what types of things were available to help me accomplish my goal:

  • snow
  • me
  • shovels
  • air
  • trees
  • sidewalk
  • cars
  • A house and garage full of tools, equipment, books, clothes
  • cell phone

Since the snow is heavy, ultimately, if I want to make my life easier, I would rather not shovel.

I give myself a provocation:

In what ways can I remove snow without using a shovel?

I look at what’s left: Snow, me and the house/garage/etc..

Picking up the snow doesn’t sound very easy. Hmmmm….

The snow is wet, and sticky, and sticky snow sticks to itself.  So, if I make a snowball, I can roll it and it’ll pick the snow up as it goes – I’ll clean the walkways and dig out the cars and never lift a shovel!

In the end, I’ll just have a giant snowball, or I can make multiples and make a snowman – I’ll clean the walks and have fun doing it!

So, I bundled up, went outside and started rolling.

The problem became apparent right away. Thought the snow was heavy, it didn’t stick together as well as it did earlier today. It wasn’t picking up the snow very efficiently. As you can see from the below pic,  the area where I started rolling is not terribly clean – it was only about 30% efficient, though, as the snowball got bigger, it got more efficient.

Lake Villa-20130227-00790aa

I continued rolling.  It started doing better. It was cleaning up around the cars pretty well.

It eventually started getting pretty darn big, and it was getting harder to get the traction to roll it.  I decided to roll it back into the yard.  I tried posing with it on my shoulders ‘Atlas’ Style, but alas, it was too heavy as you’ll see in the pic below.

snowball1

After extracting myself I calculated that the snowball was the result of approximately 250ft to 300ft of rolling. Not terribly efficient but I had the beginnings of a kick *** snowman.  I tried rolling the next part of the body, but unfortunately the snow was sticking even less effectively than before.  I would have to abandon this route and go back to the shovel.

While this project wasn’t quite as successful as I had hoped, it was enjoyable and it highlights the main steps that should be taken when trying to solve a problem in an innovative manner.

  1. Define what it is you’re trying to accomplish. (Remove Snow) Play with framings here.  Don’t be too vague but don’t be too specific.
  2. Start the ideation process with the phrase, “In what ways can we (Insert task from Step #1)” (In what ways can we remove snow?) If you start the phrase with “How can I…?” it isn’t as provocative.
  3. List everything that is present. These can be tools, objects, things in the environment. Interestingly enough, very often people forget to list themselves or any objects being acted upon.
  4. Use another provocation to get the ideas going.  A good one is to remove something essential from the list.  In my case, I removed the shovel and forced myself to think of ways to remove snow without using a shovel.
  5. Brainstorm
  6. Try an idea
  7. Assess effectiveness
  8. Modify to make it more effective
  9. Go back to #4 or #5 if needed

That’s it!

EPILOGUE: Oh, and this morning we received another 3-4 inches so I used the same technique to “shovel” and finish what I started last night, as well as create a small “King of the Mountain with Subjects” .  It worked alittle better than last night, but I still had to shovel…

Yet all is well in the Kingdom of Snow…

supremelyhappy

The Supremely Happy Snowman

The King of the Mountain and Subjects
The King of the Mountain and Subjects

 

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, design thinking, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Tactics, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Art, Lent(?), and Innovation

Posted by Plish on February 24, 2013

artlentinnovationmichaelplishka

“Art, after all, is about rearranging us, creating surprising juxtapositions, emotional openings, startling presences, flight paths to the eternal.”   – from The Art of Possibility by Benjamin, and Rosamund Stone, Zander.

A friend of mine read the above quote and said, “Sounds like the purpose of Lenten Services.”

Brilliant!

She juxtaposed art and spirituality in a wonderful manner.

I’m taking it one step further.

The purpose of being rearranged is so that people can improve their relationships with each other, with the Eternal and with themselves.

So, if we become open and have flight paths to the eternal, are emotionally vulnerable, become aware of others and their needs, what types innovations would we bring into the world?

“Every good painter paints what he is.” -Jackson Pollock

I would say that every person creates from what she is.  If we become rearranged as mentioned above, our creations naturally reflect that which we are realizing in our lives.

Try this thought experiment:

What would a doctor’s office look like if it were designed by the Dalai Lama? How would people be treated? What would waiting rooms look like? Would people feel more nervous or less than they do now? What would it sound like? What would the air taste like?

Every good painter paints what he is.

And that’s the key.  Whether in art or spirituality (and many would say there is no dichotomy in art/spirituality) we have to be willing to be rearranged.  If we aren’t willing to be open to going in new directions, to explore, to feel the discomfort of stepping off precipices and trusting we will fly, then we won’t be rearranged, and not only will we not be elevated from glory to glory, but the world will not experience light which only we can share.

So what does that mean?

Listen to music…go to the theater…meditate…pray…taste fruit you just picked off a tree and write a haiku of the experience…sculpt…sing a song…

…Paint the world with what you are…Show the world that being rearranged isn’t a singular exercise in destruction, but an empowering act of creation…

Think of what the world would be if each person lived as a surprising juxtaposition, an emotional opening, a startling presence, a flight path to the eternal…

…Start becoming rearranged…

…now…

 

Posted in Arts, Authenticity, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, meditation, prayer, Religion, Service Design, Social Innovation, Social Responsibility, Spirituality, Sustainability, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Music, Art, Creativity, Nature and More – An Interview with Jon Anderson of YES

Posted by Plish on February 13, 2013

Check out this recent interview with Jon Anderson of YES.   (There is a sign-in on the page but you can click the ‘x’ and listen to the interview without registering if that is your choice.)

He shares perspectives on life, creativity, nature, music and more.

From the webpage:

Millions of enthusiastic concert goers during the 1970′s and early 1980′s had a marvelous treat on their hands, going from one progressive rock concert to another. Whether it was a live concert or gazing into the magnificent dreamlike artwork of Roger Dean or the sounds of Pink Floyd, Emerson Lake and Palmer, King Crimson, Nektar or Yes, the music evoked beautiful images of the night sky, where we could gave at the shining stars and create our own “Wondrous Stories.”

Verge Multimedia’s Steven Zuckerman had the opportunity to spend about 40 minutes in conversation with world renown singer, songwriter and artist Jon Anderson who spent a majority of his career as the front-man of YES, bringing the audience into a world of beautiful imagery and ideas that resonated in the hearts of the band members.

Jon told (Zuckerman) that the music begins with the creator, and, in other words, flows through him. Composing and singing songs about the earth, environment, peace, love, harmony and beauty are not personal songs for the composer, but they’re Wondrous Stories (no pun intended) to arouse curiosity and confirm that as human beings, as part of this place we call our home, (we) need to be in balance with Nature, for without Nature, we are nothing. We are all part of the same material.

Said Zuckerman, “(While I) originally penned out several questions before the conversation, I tossed them aside to “just have a conversation.” We hope you will enjoy the conversation we had.”

Enjoy!

Posted in Arts, Creative Environments, creativity, Great Creative Minds, innovation, Interviews, meditation, Musical Creativity, nature, Nature of Creativity, Play, Social Responsibility, The Future, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Makers – The New Industrial Revolution (Book Review)

Posted by Plish on February 7, 2013

The other day I picked up a copy of Makers – The New Industrial Revolution, by Chris Anderson.

It’s an exploration of the Maker movement and its place on the world-wide stage.

If I could sum up this book with one word it would  be:

Inspirational

Yes, inspirational.

He makes a good case for the argument that the Maker movement is here to stay and it’s buttressed by enthusiastic people who are empowered by the democratization of manufacturing technologies worldwide.  Indeed, as one chapter is entitled, “We Are All Designers Now.”

We can all take part in designing and manufacturing products, and even help each other in the process.  The internet is the great equalizer and it enables people to reach each other, and niches that, while perhaps not in the millions, are substantive enough to enable the development and growth of business.  The internet also gives access to manufacturing methodologies such as 3-D printing, laser cutting, and CNC machining, making the machine shop as close as your laptop.

He cites multiple case studies of companies (including his own) that leverage technology and the power of crowds (which is also the power of individual dreams) to build sustainable businesses.

The book is an easy, clean read.  There is some minor redundancy in writing style but it’s not off-putting.  Also, if you already are familiar with manufacturing technologies like 3-D printing, there are small chunks of the book that won’t give you any new information.

I’ve already shared this book with a friend who is involved in artistic co-creation, and this book excited him as well.

If you’d like to learn more about the Maker movement, if you’d like to be inspired by stories of how Makers are redefining manufacturing business worldwide, if you want to understand how Maker businesses have the potential to expand and become disruptive economic machines, you do want to read this book.

Ignore it at your own risk.

 

************

There’s a great interview with Chris Anderson, about the Maker movement, over at Wharton.

 

Posted in Arts, Books, Case Studies, Co-Creation, creativity, Crowdsourcing, culture of innovation, Design, Disruptive Innovation, Entrepreneurship 2.0, Innovation Tools, invention, Open Source, problem solving, Reviews, Social Networking, Start-Ups, The Future, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Finding the Real Niches for 3D Printing

Posted by Plish on February 3, 2013

3-D printing is cool and it has its place, but we keep asking it to do everything.  We want it to be the go-to technology for making toys, utensils, art, food, etc.   And yes, there are companies like Ponoko that are built around these technologies, and they’re quite successful, but the question still needs to be asked:

Are we using 3-D printing tech to its strengths?

Neil Gershenfeld of MIT, and author of Fab:The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop, sums it up well by saying:”…The killer app for digital fabrication is personal fabrication. Not to make what you can buy in Wal-Mart, but to make what you can’t buy at Wal-Mart.”

To “make what you can’t buy at Walmart.”

That’s exactly the point!

Yet, if you look at what 3-D printing is being used for, with the exception of some creative art and its use by architectural and design firms, 3-D printing is, by and large, being used to make what can be bought at Walmart, or some other store.

Recently Nokia, in its attempt to ride the buzz of 3-D printing, started providing files so that people can print their own phone cases. Yes, people with some 3-D design software acumen can make their own cases, and no doubt will come up with some really cool ideas.  But, the point remains, these same parts can be bought finished and then customized with colors, overlays, etc., and (this is a biggie) no software knowledge is required.

So that brings me to the main point of this post.

If 3-D printing is ever going to truly blossom and be a force to reckoned with, it needs to be more than just another way to do something that is already being done.  It needs to stand on its own as a technology that says, “Only I can do this and without me you will never see this come to fruition!”

For that statement to be made, we first must truly understand the strengths of 3-D printing technologies.  Once we know what can and can’t be done, we can then look for those problems for which 3-D printing is the ultimate solution.  It’s a little bit backward to think this way, but it often happens that new technologies start as solutions looking for problems.

So, let’s put the power of the web to work and crowdsource the future of 3-D printing. To do that, we need to answer the following questions:

What is it that 3-D printing can do that other technologies can’t?

Where are 3-D printing’s strengths?

What can 3-D printing do that molding technologies or machining, or thermoforming can’t do?

Here’s a quick, short list to get the ball rolling:

  • Make things in layers
  • It can create by controlled melting/bonding and curing type processes
  • Can make hollow objects
  • Can make objects within objects
  • Can reproduce digital data in 3-D (This enables us to hold something that otherwise can’t be held, i.e. Using CT scan data to build skulls for surgical planning)
  • ???

I’m sure there is more that can be added to this list.  Please share what you think 3-D printing does well.   Feel free to either comment here or on twitter, use  #3Dstrengths.  I’ll compile the responses and let’s see if we can’t find a niche for 3-D printing that brings real, sustainable value beyond what 3-D printing is being used for today. If you have a niche idea, use #3Dniches.

Thanks and looking forward to the responses!!

Posted in Arts, Design, Disruptive Innovation, innovation, Innovation Tools, Open Source, problem solving, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

 
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