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Thinking of the Ideal will Design the Beautiful (Happy Birthday, “Bucky”!)

Posted by Plish on July 12, 2014

When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I only think about how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution isn’t beautiful, I know it is wrong.
— Richard Buckminster Fuller

 

Today is the birthday of Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller.  For those of you who don’t know him, he was an amazing architect, systems thinker, writer,  inventor, designer, and futurist.  In short he was a thinker and doer.  He considered himself, “an experiment to find what a single individual can contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity.”

For Fuller, beauty wasn’t just something nice to look at.  It was something to strive for when designing things, services and ourselves.

To many, Fuller was perhaps too utopian in his thinking.  What they fail to realize is that this ‘utopian’ tendency was fundamental to his design capabilities.  His goal was not to make something that was ‘good enough.’  His goal was to contribute to designing a world in which 100% of the human population could reach its highest potential with 0% negative impact on the environment and larger systems in which humans are integrally intertwined.

This concept of “ideality” is an important concept to remember and one of my favorite ways to generate innovative ideas.  (Ideality is essentially the ratio of all the positive benefits of something divided by the sum of  all the negatives. ) A more practical way to think of ideality is to think of it as a machine that does everything you need it to do but without any negative consequences.  For example, a bicycle that moves me from Point A to Point B without pedaling is an ‘ideal’ bicycle.  From a personal energy standpoint, a motorcycle is an ideal bicycle.  However, in order to be truly ideal, there should be no negative impacts at all levels of the system.  While a motorcycle is ideal with regards to conserving personal energy, it’s not ideal with regards to impacting the environment with its exhaust, and when its lifespan is over and it needs to be disposed of.  (Learn more how Ideality is at the root of designing products in the highly recommended book:  Cradle to Cradle .)

Ideality is powerful in that it forces people to think of the ramifications of what they are doing.  It also forces designers (us) to look at contradictions in the problem solving process.  The longer we can hold on to those contradictions and bounce them off of each other with the goal of designing a solution that transcends the contradictions, the better the chances we can come up with solutions that are closer to the ideal solution.  Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management, in his book, “The Opposable Mind“, calls it Integrative Thinking.

An often overlooked benefit of designing towards to the ideal is that it forces us to look inside the problem itself for the solution.  (Want to create the ultimate experience of eating chocolate and drinking your favorite cordial but you hate washing the glasses afterward?  Make the drinking vessel out of chocolate!)  It is this quality that makes the Ideal solutions beautiful.  Once you experience it, you just know.

This quest for the ideal was key to Fuller’s thinking, and in this day and age, we shouldn’t be satisfied with half-solutions that cause more problems than they solve.  We need to start embracing the Ideal in politics, society, businesses and in our personal lives.  The future of “Spaceship Earth”, (as Bucky called it), may very well depend on it.

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If you’d like to learn more about Buckminster Fuller’s thinking, below are some resources:

Design Science – A Framework for Change – A fascinating and insightful presentation on Fuller’s Design Process thinking.

Everything I Know: 42 Hours of Buckminster Fuller’s Visionary Lectures Free Online (1975) – There’s a link to the transcripts if you’d rather read.

Buckminster Fuller Gives a Lecture About Semantics at San Quentin State Prison (1959) (At one point he told the inmates: There are no throw-away resources,and no throw-away people.” )

Critical Path – Perhaps the best and most accessible summary of his thought.

The Buckminster Fuller Institute – A great resource on everything Bucky!

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Posted in Books, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Evolution, Human Rights, imagination, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Social Innovation, Society, Sustainability, Sustainable Technology, The Future, The Human Person, TRIZ | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Acclaimed Author and Home Chef, Anupy Singla, on Innovation

Posted by Plish on April 15, 2014

Every time I get the opportunity, I ask great chefs this simple question:

What does innovation mean to you?

This year at the International Home and Housewares Show, I had the great pleasure of chatting with Anupy Singla.  While her website says she is a ‘journalist turned foodie turned author,’ she could not have written the books she had if she wasn’t a chef.  Anupy’s book, “The Indian Slow Cooker” is also part of the distinguished “Beyond Bollywood, Indian Americans Shape the Nation” at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History! (You can read an interview with the curator here.)

Her response to the question: “What does innovation mean to you?” is shown below.  Give it a watch and join me below the video and I’ll share my thoughts.

 

Anupy highlights a facet of innovation that’s one of my favorites.  The process is simple.  Take a product that is useful in one context and use it in  similar context where the product is unknown.  This principle is basically what underlies the creative problem solving process called, TRIZ.  She has applied it and combined multiple technologies to create an improved, stackable and patented, Spice Tiffin with spice levelers built into each bowl.

What are your thoughts on Anupy Singla’s view of innovation?

Posted in Books, creativity, Creativity Videos, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, Interviews, problem solving, TRIZ | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Getting Naked…Innovation!

Posted by Plish on November 5, 2013

If you’d like to read a comprehensive, yet very readable book on the innovation process and the tactics of designing for people, I highly recommend the book Naked Innovation by Zachary Paradis and David McGaw.

How much does the book cost?  Right now it’s less than I paid for it when it first hit the shelves of an IIT Design Conference.  In fact, it costs nothing!  That’s right – it’s free.  The authors want to make an already good book even better, so they are re-releasing it for free, one chapter at a time, and asking for feedback from the readers.

What do you need to do?

First step: Head to  NakedInnovation.com.

Second step: Download individual chapters of the book.

Third step: Read…

Fourth step: Give your feedback.

This book is an excellent addition to your innovation library, and now is the best time to pick up a copy and contribute to making the next version even better!

Let me know your thoughts when you read it.

Posted in Books, Crowdsourcing, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, innovation, Innovation Tools, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How to be Interesting (and Innovative, and Creative, and…) – A Book Review

Posted by Plish on June 10, 2013

Howtobeinteresting

 

What really struck me about, Jessica Hagy’s, “How to be Interesting (in 10 Simple Steps)“, was both its simplicity and profundity.

Through the use of her trademark simple, ‘index card’ sketches, and wonderfully succinct text, Ms. Hagy shows the reader what it takes to become an interesting person. What I found particularly wonderful was that you can replace the word, “Interesting” in the title with, “Innovative”, “Creative”, “Designful” or any other type of change agent type term and the book would still be apropos.

Therein lies the profundity of the book.

One could be tempted to simply quick flip through the book – after all, it’s just pictures, right?

Wrong.  Just because I said the book was ‘Simple’ does mean it’s ‘easy’, per se.  I purposely took my time with this little gem.  It deserves the 3 R’s: Reading, Reflection, Re-Reading.  That process of reflecting takes effort and if someone really wants to grow, it’s never going to be easy.

Being interesting, an innovator, a designer, a change agent – all those require stretching the self.  This book is a great reminder of that.

If you want to be more, create more, experience more,  share more, make-the-world-a-better-place-more, this book is for you.

Enjoy!

 

PS When you read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

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Posted in Authenticity, Books, creativity, Design, Experience, innovation, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New Directions in Innovation and Design – Insights from IIT’s Design Strategy Conference

Posted by Plish on May 18, 2013

I was at the IIT Institute of Design’s Design Strategy Conference this week.

This is, no doubt, one of the best, little known, innovation and design conferences.  Every year I get to meet people, learn, think, dream and be empowered to do and be more.

Thoughts*…

Carl Bass gave wonderful insights into software for crafting, and some interesting business challenges that the proliferation of apps has created. ( Hint- He gets more letters from people complaining about a $3 app than a $5000 software package)

Kim Erwin emphasized that innovation is about more than making things reality.  Her book, Communicating the New, promises to provide vital insights into an often neglected and yet vital aspect of the innovation process: Communication.

Mark Tebbe provided insights into how tech will impact business.  Ultra-personal, social, local, mobile, sensors, wearable, 3D printing, brain extending, photo and video capturing, nano-generators, flexible displays, voice control, robotics, virtual education…an empowering and amazing world is being co-created as you read this…

Stepan Pachikov – the founder of Evernote.  Time machines, virtual and real. It’ll happen. He said so.

Amory Lovins, of the Rocky Mountain Institute shared a feasible way of creating a new energy era without impacting the economy in a negative way. It’s possible…

Laura Hartman and Connie Duckworth emphasized that humans living in poverty or challenging conditions, are indeed, capable market partners. ‘For Profit’ and ‘Not for Profit’ companies can work together and do amazing things to educate children and adults and build economies to the benefit of all.  The key messages? Walk in other’s shoes. Think like an insider and outsider. Play to strengths. Create impact then scale and  larger scale will create additional impact.

CC= Catherine Casserly=Creative Commons. #tryopen  Dream of what we can do together. Share.

Brian Love (and a team of students) and sharing the craft of crops.  Yes, growing and developing crops is a craft. What was especially powerful were the tools that enabled communication and mutual education.  Check out betterat/ – a platform for mentoring and personal growth.

A wonderful reflective talk by Vijay Kumar. His new book, 101 Design Methods, is a must have in any innovation library.

Confused and depressed by too many choices?  Barry Schwartz shed light on the Paradox of Choice (great vid-check it out!).  More choices is not necessarily a good thing.

Then there’s the story of Detroit, Gary Wozniak, and the vision driven people who are innovatively re-designing the once bustling, dynamic locus of the automotive industry; converting empty space to food and providing employment for those that aren’t easily employable.  I encourage you to read the story of Recovery Park.  Support it if your heart leads you to.

Creating harmony between the urban and the rural.  Professor Lou Yongqi shared an ongoing evolving experiment, that is doing exactly that – and doing it in an economically beneficial and sustainable way. I especially loved the metaphor of acupuncture in this project: one stimulated point can create harmony in the system…

And finally, I leave you with a slide from Bruce Nussbaum’s presentation – a summary of what it means to move from Design to Creativity.  Some wonderful perspectives to ponder…

Click to see full size

Click to see full size

I hope to see you there next year!

* – Apologies to any missed presenters/presentations

Posted in Arts, Authenticity, Books, Co-Creation, Conveying Information, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, Education, Entrepreneurship 2.0, Experience, Human Rights, innovation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Social Innovation, Social Networking, Social Responsibility, Stories, Sustainability, The Future | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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.

 

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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 »

G.R.A.S.P. The Solution – A Book Review

Posted by Plish on February 22, 2012

I had the privilege of recently reading the book,  Grasp the Solution: How to Find the Best Answers to Everyday Challenges , by Chris Griffiths with Melina Costi.

G.R.A.S.P. stands for the various stages and types of thinking:

G-Generative

R-Reactive

A-Analytical

S-Selective

P-Proactive

In general, the book takes an in-depth look at the above thinking processes and couples them with a method called the “The Solution Finder”.  When used in tandem, they provide a scaffold for finding creative solutions.

While the book is dedicated to the explanation of GRASP and the Solution Finder, the authors state that there’s one thing that they hope readers take away from the book: It’s that they start thinking about thinking.

Without doubt, this book will get you pondering about how you think.  However, if you think thinking about thinking is difficult to do, perhaps it’s even more difficult to write about.

Therein lies the one negative about this book – the authors’ discussion of a recursive process can, at times, be difficult to follow.

However, there are many positives to this book and I consider it a welcome addition to any entrepreneur/innovator’s bookshelf.  I particularly was impressed with the various tools discussed as they are clearly and concisely explained.

By the authors’ own admission, there’s not really anything new, per se, in this book.  What they have done, however,  is provide a cogent methodology for creative thinking and compiled and explained the tools/resources that support it.  This is no small feat and should be commended.  (Also, if you’re a newbie to mind-mapping this book gives a quick but, as with the other tools, utterly thorough primer.)

Overall, I give this book a ‘thumbs up’ and recommend that you give it a read.

If you do, please drop me a line, or post your thoughts here.  I’d love to hear what you think.

Posted in Books, Creative Thinking Techniques, innovation, Innovation Tools, Mind Maps, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Want to Spark Innovative Thinking? Check Out “Exploiting Chaos” – A Free e-Book on Innovation

Posted by Plish on October 24, 2011

I’ve always been a fan of Trendhunter.com and contribute on occasion when I’m able.  Last week, Trendhunter Founder, Jeremy Gutsche, released his book, “Exploiting Chaos – 150 Ways to Spark Innovation During Times of Change,” as a video enhanced, e-book.  I read the paperback version as it was coming off the presses and was pleased with this little gem.  While it is an easy read, there’s much in this book to ponder and be inspired by.  Now, with the release of this video enhanced e-book version, you can watch and listen to Jeremy explaining and elaborating upon the topics contained in the pages of the book.  His perspectives add color and further depth to the text without being redundant.

If you haven’t bought the print version, or even if you have, hop on over to Trendhunter.com and check out Exploiting Chaos.  It’s a welcome addition to the library of anyone interested in innovation.

And, best of all?

It’s free.

Posted in Books, creativity, Creativity Videos, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

What is Shibumi?

Posted by Plish on October 22, 2010

“Rise above it!”

We’ve all heard the phrase.  When circumstances around us threaten to destabilize our world at work or at home, we are told that we can “Rise above it!” –  Transcend the problems as it were.

But, as we find ourselves being churned and spun by the waves of the world, pulling ourselves out of the swirling waters and rising above requires some serious energy expenditures.  In fact, there are times that we may even wonder if the effort is worth it.

That doesn’t mean that we need to let ourselves be swamped, though.  We have another choice:

We can live in the waves

Experience the beauty of the swirls

Catch glimpses of sun through foam

We can ask “why?”; not with anger but with curiosity

We can move in and through the water of which we are

Feeling the currents that pull, carry and caress

We create…

opportunities, movement, intention, beauty

from the wisdom of chaos…

There is no need to rise above-

In fact, the beauty and elegance of your creations would not be possible

were you not part of the waves…

 

 “The Shibumi Strategy” is a story of one man’s struggle, growth and change, through difficult  circumstances.   It’s an easy read yet it’s filled with wisdom that author Matthew May distilled from his eight years of working with and for Toyota.   These tidbits can be applied to solving problems and fomenting change both at work and at home. 

It’s worth reading, if for no other reason than to make us think less about doing and more about being and becoming.  Interestingly, when we shift our thinking in this way, we end up doing more, or more precisely, we design more beauty…

The The Shibumi Strategy: A Powerful Way to Create Meaningful Change becomes available on November 16th. The ebook version  is available now.

Posted in Authenticity, Books, creativity, Design, imagination, innovation, problem solving, Stories, Tactics, Team-Building, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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