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Archive for the ‘Creative Environments’ Category

Six Rules to Keeping Your Innovation Spaces Innovative

Posted by Plish on July 24, 2016

46556-einstein-cluttered-desk-quote

 

 

An engineer on an interview walked into a pristine R&D lab and quipped, “Does anyone do any work in here?”

Turns out, that when creating environments conducive to creative thinking and problem solving, messy environments are more liberating and more conducive to coming up with novel ideas. (Study in Psychological Science)  It’s probably not a coincidence that in addition to Einstein, Steve Jobs, Mark Twain, and Alan Turing also had messy desks. (Great pics here)

“Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights.  Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.” – Psychological Scientist Kathleen Vohs

Messy environments are safe spaces for creativity.  Or perhaps it’s easier to think of it the other way.  When you walk into a room that’s pristine  and perfect, shiny and new,  are you willing to be the first one to mess it up?   Because of this, perfectly organized clean rooms have a tendency to perpetuate their cleanliness.  The expectations are that you need to exercise control and follow social norms.   There is a lack of freedom present which stifles the innovative spirit.   There is a sense that “I’m in someone else’s area and I need to play by their rules.”

On the other hand, walking into a disorderly area impacts everyone that’s exposed to it.  It doesn’t even need to be your mess!  People will tend to feel more at ease, thus more free to contribute, to create, to be unconventional!

So, the important thing is, if you want innovation to happen in your lab, it might behoove you to let things go a little bit.  Let certain areas become islands of creativity where people can play and invent, where they don’t have to play by the rules.

If you do organize, and you have more than one person that uses the lab, make sure that each person cleans his/her own messes.  I’ve heard horror stories of overzealous colleagues unwittingly throwing away  someone else’s valuable prototypes because they didn’t know what they were and they looked liked they didn’t have any value.

So, instead of cleaning parties, I suggest that you have innovation parties.  Spend a couple hours together in the lab with everyone showing everyone else what they’re working on.  Let people look at and touch stuff.  Ask, “What does this do?”.  Cross-fertilize!!

It’s also important to keep raw materials and tools within reach.  If you have to go upstairs or downstairs each time you need some component, there’s a problem in your lab organization.

Likewise, keep reminders of your current product lines in reach.  You have certain core competencies, certain products that define who you are.  Creating innovations that leverage your core competencies can create products that are ‘in your wheelhouse’, and thus accelerate their time to market.

So, in summary, here are the rules to keeping your innovation lab fruitful:

  1. Make sure there is a way for people to see what you’re working on.  Don’t hide prototypes or ideas from others or yourself!
  2. If you must keep the lab pristine, designate certain areas as innovation zones (some design firms create ‘war rooms’) where it’s free to be…
  3. The only people allowed to clean work areas are those who are responsible for that work.
  4. Keep raw materials and prototypes close at hand in cabinets, drawers, etc.  If you have to walk more than 20 feet to get something, or be reminded of something, the plan needs to be changed.
  5. If you have raw materials or prototypes that you must move, take pictures and post them.
  6. Keep your current product lines in view. Learn about what your company does well.

Do you have any other rules that help make your innovation works-spaces more fruitful?

PS. Clean areas have their place. They do promote healthy eating, conventionality and charitable giving.   So, make yourself a clean area for healthier, linear thinking, crank-through work.  After all, sometimes you just need to get a report written and sent.

PPS.  Unlabeled containers, open flammable substances, cutting machinery, in short, things that could hurt yourself or others, should always be properly stored and/or locked to prevent accidents.

PPPS Messy is not the same as dirty.  Working in a place with exposed mold, excessive dust, standing water, is not creating an environment that is healthy to function in.  Stay away from these. (I hope you didn’t need me to tell you this 😉 )

PPPPS Check out this link for some great environmental creativity hacks

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Creative Environments, Creative Thinking Techniques, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Uncategorized, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Making Lightning – The Creative Spark in All of Us

Posted by Plish on August 7, 2015

The sky went from sunset blue to thick blackness that the windshield wipers swiped at with futility.  The rain pounded the the car and an uneasy, queasy feeling filled the air as a tornado warning was issued.

I drove the rest of the way home and parked.  To the west the worst was already breaking and salmon patches of sunset backlit clouds.   To the north the blackness churned and lightning crackled from cloud to cloud as the thunder rumbled without pause.

(Mouse over and Click the play arrow and continue reading on the other side)

***

CREATIVITY!!!

It’s in you!

That same power.

You’ve experienced those shocks that startle when you touch a doorknob on a dry day.

This is bigger and can change the world.

Lightning bridges gaps – tremendous expanses of space.  It’s possible because of the difference in charge, a difference in potential.   Lightning finds its way.

But you need to provide the stuff for creativity to happen.

Observe, read, smell, taste, listen, touch, dream!  Understand the challenges you want to solve and then look at them from a different perspective, and then another, and then another!

Allow those differing perspectives to mix  together and the clouds will rumble, the sky will flash, creativity will happen.

It’s in you.

Be YOU!

 

Posted in Authenticity, brainstorming, Creative Environments, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, imagination, innovation, Nature of Creativity, observation, problem solving, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Swimming in Wonderful Robin Williams Streams of Consciousness

Posted by Plish on August 21, 2014

When I conduct brainstormings (and even when I’m looking for ideas) I find that one of the biggest enemies is the internal censor that each of us has.  I’m sure you’ve succumbed to that voice.

You come up with an idea and before you’ve even spent time examining it, you’ve jettisoned the thought:

“That’s stupid!”

“That’ll never work!”

“How could I have thought that?”

“That thought came out of me? No one can ever know I thought THAT!”

One of the amazing gifts that Robin Williams had was his ability to turn off the censor.  He trusted himself, and even when riffing with others, he allowed himself to follow the promptings of lesser ideas knowing that greater ideas were coming. The results were nothing short of astounding and amazingly hilarious.  While Williams’ verbal stream didn’t seem to even afford him time to breathe, his audience couldn’t breathe because they were laughing so hard.

In the world of comedy, following the stream of consciousness is considered acceptable because, well, it’s comedy.  However, in the corporate world, such thinking is considered out of place, too bold, not politically correct – perhaps even offensive.

Unfortunately, when the censor kicks in, creativity, and perhaps the next seed of a groundbreaking innovation, gets kicked out.

People have a tendency to think that those ideas judged as ‘bad’ or ‘improper’ should just be jettisoned and forgotten.  Yes, not all ideas are ready for prime time; however these ideas are essential to the creative process – a process that builds upon that which came before.  Ignore what comes before and there’s nothing to build upon.

Robin Williams lived this brilliantly.  Not everything that Robin said was earth-shatteringly funny, but just around the corner, rest assured, mirth was imminent.

Creative thought in the corporate world follows the same process.  Not every idea is worthy of patent or should be invested in.  But, if the ideas are built upon, eventually, things will come together in a wonderful way.

So, how do we train ourselves to be creative in this way?

Practice!!!

Listen to all ideas as they bubble up!  Things pop up for a reason!!  Write everything down. Sketch!  Play with the ideas!

The idea that seems totally unusable may provide the seed that enables you, or someone else, to make a connection to an even better idea!    In my own experience, some great ideas have surfaced after someone had the courage to share a half-baked idea.  This simple and profound act of sharing provided the building blocks for others.  If the internal censor would’ve won out, these breakthrough ideas would never have been born. 

Remember this next time you’re coming up with ideas, alone or with others. Better yet, even if you’re not coming up with ideas, examine your thoughts as they are percolating to the surface. Learn to get comfortable with the flow; the more at ease you feel with the stream’s current, the less likely you’ll be to throw out ideas as they bubble up.

I love the following Robin Williams interview with Craig Ferguson.   The two of them highlight the above process – they both just grab an idea, follow it to the next, and continue the process with wonderfully entertaining results.    Notice how certain ideas become seeds for the next.  This is improvisation at its finest.  

In closing, I’d just like to thank you, Robin Williams, for creating so many wonderful, bubbling streams of consciousness, and for being a part of the Stream of which we all swim.  Tragic circumstances helped push you into different waters.  May you find the New Waters fine.  While ours are impoverished by your passing, they are also forever enriched!

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

Brainstorming Using Google Docs

Posted by Plish on August 6, 2014

I’ve never been a big fan of Google Docs.  Mostly because the majority of my clients don’t like having stuff in Google’s Cloud.  Nevertheless, I do see the value in having a common, online portal for collaboration.

So, when I saw this post at CrossWebIdeas on using Google Docs as a brainstorming hub, I was intrigued and excited.  It reminded me of days of yore when I used Posterous (remember Posterous?)  in a similar way.

It’s a pretty simple process actually: Upload a core document/drawing that functions as a seed to start the brainstorm and have people join in whenever they want to add or modify the document.

That’s pretty much it!

Check out how Google Docs was used for the ‘Novel In A Day’ Project.

One of the main things I want to look at is anonymity.  Some people are intimidated by other people’s personalities and/or status.  They are more likely to share their thoughts in low visibility situations.  Granted, there is some distance afforded via a web interface, but it’s still not perfect.  If Person A intimidates Person B, and Person A already has expressed an opinion in the forum, Person B may not write anything at all if it seems to contradict Person A.

I also prefer the power of drawing to text, so Google Drawings could be used instead of Google Docs, but, entering text on a laptop is much easier than creating a picture, so that’s the price paid for smoother collaboration.

Bottom Line: Using Google Docs in this way is fresh and innovative, and with the right group, I’ll give it a try.

What do you think?  Is this something you’ll do or have done?  If so, please share your thoughts!!

Thanks again to Don McLeman and Triberr for bringing this to my attention!

Posted in Co-Creation, Creative Environments, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Maker Faire Coming to Milwaukee, Wisconsin!

Posted by Plish on July 24, 2014

 

At last!

Every year I’ve bemoaned the fact that there wasn’t a  large, local Maker Faire in Northern Illinois/Southern Wisconsin.

This year will be different.

Thanks to the vibrantly creative Milwaukee Community and the sponsorship of the Brady Corporation, Milwaukee will be home to a two-day Maker Faire. The event will be held at the Wisconsin State Fair Park on Sept. 27th and 28th, 2014.  Admission is FREE!!  If you’d like to do some making at the Faire, they are currently excepting applications.

For more info there is the official press release here, and be sure to check out the website.

If you plan on going, please let me know. I hope to see you there!

 

Posted in 3D Printing, Arts, Creative Environments, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Digital Manufacturing, Disruptive Innovation, innovation, invention, Maker Movement, Play, toys, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Fostering Organically Grown Innovation – Insights From the Art of Bonsai

Posted by Plish on March 16, 2014

I just got done trimming some of my bonsai trees.  What always fascinates me is how branches seem to show up in the most unlikely places.   Yet, while the origin of a particular branch baffles me, to the branch growing out of the tree, it made sense.

Somehow, the protobranch saw an opportunity.

Somehow that tree responded to the amount of light being received, the overall stress levels, temperature, soil conditions, nourishment demands, and it sent out branches in the most unlikely, and sometime unwanted(!), places (at least for the artist). Not all these branches will become large, at least without some eventual outside help. But, these branches spring up and, while they take up resources, they also contribute to the overall health of the tree as they leaf, flower and sometimes, even bear fruit.

From a bonsai perspective, these branches are sometimes pruned away so they don’t take energy away from other parts of the tree that, at least in the bonsai artist’s mind, need more.  But, many times, these rogue branches are left – precisely because of the reason mentioned in the previous paragraph – they contribute to the well-being of the tree.  These fledgling branches, while pulling nourishment from the tree’s roots, also send nourishment back to the entire tree.  In the process they contribute to building up the vascular system of the tree and ‘fattening’ up the trunk and all the rest of the branches.   They help make the tree more robust and able to withstand lean times, or environmental stressors in the future.

Innovation efforts in many companies are like these branches.  They pop up, seemingly without rhyme or reason, and often avoid detection until someone finds out about them and then wants to eliminate them.

Don’t!

These budding innovation efforts are organic – it’s not an accident that they showed up inside a specific company at a specific time! They should be welcomed and examined, not elicit shock and disdain (“What are you working on this for!?”).  After all, they came from the company’s roots.  Somehow these proto-innovation efforts sensed an opportunity.  Due to internal or external stressors, market dynamics, serendipitous inter-employee communications, or any combination of myriad variables, a person sensed that now was the time to start making an idea manifest in the world.

An innovation branch is born…

What’s next?

Leave it alone and let it grow for a while where it started.

Again, it’s an organic growth in a specific time and place, trying to mature where it started.  Try and put more light on that dark nook where the tiny branch is budding, try and cut it off and transplant it somewhere else, trim too much of the surrounding foliage, and it’ll die, or start growing in a different manner.  Same thing with new innovation efforts.  Shine corporate spotlights on it, try and move it somewhere else, put other people on it, change the corporate structure and it could very well die.  If nothing else, it will stumble.

New efforts need to grow where they start, at least for a while.  They will contribute to the corporate whole in subtle but real ways. The knowledge being obtained from the budding effort, the synergies being developed, these all feed back into the organic whole and contribute to its growth – if they’re allowed to.

Another reason to let these innovation branches grow for a while is that the world is unpredictable.  A sudden storm, intense winter, drought, animals, a move to another location, or a combination of many other issues, can cause severe damage to a bonsai tree.  After the dust clears, often those branches that played the main role are damaged beyond repair.  Those little branches in the sheltered nooks, that grew in the shadows, they are the ones that survive and enable the tree to continue its life. Will it look like the old tree?  Most likely not, but, the tree will survive.

So too with innovation efforts.  When market dynamics change, sometimes quickly, a company can’t adjust quickly enough and it’s the little innovation efforts that are well poised to take the corporation into the next era.  Those little, pesky, organic, innovation projects, that were perhaps unwanted, are the very projects that will enable a corporation to survive.

There are times and places to trim back branches, sometimes heavily.  But, if you want innovative diversity, resiliency and robustness, pay attention to those new little buds popping up.  They are a sign of life, a sign that the company is interacting with the world around it, a sign that people are thinking, interacting, and dreaming.

Then…

…leave them alone for a while…

Posted in Creative Environments, culture of innovation, Design, Disruptive Innovation, Funding Innovation, innovation, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Want to be More Creative? Change the Lighting

Posted by Plish on September 27, 2013

Posted in Creative Environments, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Creativity Videos, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Research, The Senses, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Innovation – It Was Never About Failure

Posted by Plish on May 29, 2013


In my last post about the IIT Design Strategy Conference, I mentioned that Bruce Nussbaum presented on what it means to move from a design centered, to a creativity centered, paradigm.  One thing in particular Nussbaum noted was the shift from celebrating failure (fail fast, fail often) to gaming/play!. He summarizes his perspective in a blog post about fetishizing failure.

When he first mentioned it at the conference, I wrote down, and circled, the following rebuttal in my notebook:

“Failure IS Play!”

I’ve been chewing on that for the last week, and while I understand the gist of what Nussbaum was getting at, in the context of design and innovation, it’s an oversimplification to simply say we need to move from failure to gaming.

A couple weeks back I wrote a piece entitled, “When Success is Bad – The Math Behind Why Failure is Essential.”  I used the word ‘failure’, but in actuality it’s probably closer to a Nussbaumian perspective.

You see, no one really thinks failure is what’s happening when we say, “Fail Early, Fail Fast, Fail Often.”   What we’re really saying is:

The quicker we can understand the interplay between all the variables in a system/product, the quicker we get ahead of the competition. 

Learn Early, Learn Fast, Learn Often…

Failure, as Nussbaum points out in the above article, is indeed painful and can be limiting.  There is a finality to the term failure that is unforgiving.   When a bridge ‘fails’ it goes down and people get hurt. When there’s a power ‘failure,’ electricity simply isn’t there. Failures are an absence of  success, and as voids they carry no information other than there’s no success to be found there.

Success, contrary to Nussbaum’s assertion that one can learn as much or more from success, is, as I pointed out in my “Why Success is Bad…” post, not educational at all if things work and we don’t know why they work.  We’ll go along happy as larks thinking all is well until things go bad.

Success can also be a void.

No, strictly speaking, we learn not from failure or success.  We learn from probing, through curiosity, tinkering, experimenting.   The instant we allow there to be voids of  ‘failure’ and ‘success’, there is no possibility for learning, for growth.  It’s only when we step back and ask, “Where am I going? How will I get there? How does this event help or hinder the journey?” that design/innovation can occur.

“Where am I going? How will I get there? How does this event help or hinder the journey?”  What do these questions look like?

They look like the type of questions we would ask when playing a game! No one fails or has success in a game because favorable or unfavorable outcomes can change the next time the game is played.   Like the computer in the movie ‘WarGames,’ running through multiple scenarios, one could say it was failing early, failing fast, and failing often. That wouldn’t be entirely accurate however, because the computer was only playing – and therein lies my beef with Nussbaum (if it can even be called a ‘beef’. )

People use the word ‘failure’, but they’ve never really meant the word ‘failure.’  Failure was never really a part of the old design paradigm, (but it is a part of our language.)  If people were designing, they were playing all along…

When I was a kid, my mom or dad would call from the other room, “What are you doing?” Sometimes I was purposefully moving toys or figurines, or designing and building worlds that blended reality and imagination, coloring, creating and appreciating beauty, sometimes taking clocks apart to see what makes them tick… but regardless, my response would be:

“I’m playing!”

Posted in Creative Environments, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, games, innovation, Innovation Tools, Play, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 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 »

Death to the Project Post-Mortem!

Posted by Plish on November 30, 2012

Turn to any business magazine, look in project management books, (Microsoft’s site even has a template for it!) and one of the best practices of project management is to conduct a post-mortem just after a project has been completed, and right before it’s officially ‘closed.’ The purpose is to get everyone on the team together to examine what went well in the project, what went wrong, and record this information so that others can learn.

Don’t get me wrong, the concept is a good one and should be practiced.  What I have a problem with, in particular, is use of the phrase, ‘post-mortem.’

By now you know that I’m a big fan of the power of words and metaphors – they shape how we solve problems and approach the world.  So it probably won’t surprise you then that my aversion to the phrase is tied to all the meaning around the words, ‘post-mortem.’

Think about it.

The term literally means: after death.  But what’s dead?  You just finished something that myriads of people put their hearts and souls into, and now that that something is impacting the world, you call it dead?  The project is closed, not dead. As a matter of fact, all projects, even those that resulting in the closing of a chapter, are births, not deaths! They are the beginning of something new.

By bringing the concept of death into the mix, there is a meaning conveyed that what just happened was not life-giving.  It’s a not-so-subtle reminder that what just happened needs to be dissected and analyzed, and perhaps even robbed of deeper meaning and import*.  Perhaps worst of all, it creates a sense that no continuity with this ‘dead thing’ is required.

On the contrary, the work of marketing, manufacturing, sales and product monitoring is kicking into full gear!

My point here is that it’s not about ending something, as much as it’s about a continuity of learning!  Sure, one project ends, another begins.  It’s a never-ending cycle. The commonality is that before, during and after a project, there needs to be a recursive aspect, a learning process that is ingrained into the culture.  That mindset only comes about if there’s less emphasis on analyzing ‘that which died,’ and more emphasis on learning each day what works, what doesn’t, and growing from that. And, for that to happen, we need to put the term,”Project Post-Mortem” to death, and replace it with a more forward thinking term.

I like: ‘Lessons Learned.’

What would you call it?

 

 

*

One day after sleeping badly, an anatomist went to his frog laboratory and
removed, from a cage, a frog with white spots on its back. He placed it on a
table and drew a line just in front of the frog. “Jump frog, jump!” he shouted.
The little critter jumped two feet forward. In his lab book, the anatomist
scribbled, “Frog with four legs jumps two feet.”

Then, he surgically
removed one leg of the frog and repeated the experiment. “Jump, jump!” To which,
the frog leaped forward 1.5 feet. He wrote down, “Frog with three legs jumps 1.5
feet.”

Next, he removed a second leg. “Jump frog, jump!” The frog
managed to jump a foot. He scribbled in his lab book, “Frog with two legs jumps
one foot.”

Not stopping there, the anatomist removed yet another leg.
“Jump, jump!” The poor frog somehow managed to move 0.5 feet forward. The
scientist wrote, “Frog with one leg jumps 0.5 feet.”

Finally, he
eliminated the last leg. “Jump, jump!” he shouted, encouraging forward progress
for the frog. But despite all its efforts, the frog could not budge. “Jump frog,
jump!” he cried again. It was no use; the frog would not response. The anatomist
thought for a while and then wrote in his lab book, “Frog with no legs goes
deaf.”

Posted in Best Practices, Creative Environments, culture of innovation, innovation, Innovation Tools, Project Management, Team-Building | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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