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When You Need Ideas, Make Sure You Invite This Collaboration Partner

Posted by Plish on April 30, 2018

I’ve been reading artist David Byrne‘s book, “How Music Works.” For those of you who don’t know, he was the founding member of the band, Talking Heads.

It’s a fascinating book, part history, part autobiography, part music science, and totally fascinating.

Sharing His Creative Process

Byrne is wonderfully introspective when it comes to his songwriting process.  He clearly pays attention to himself when creating, which, incidentally, on its own is a good thing to practice while being creative.

While the book is, in itself, an exploration of his creativity, a few of the pages delve into the specifics of his songwriting.  I found much of what he wrote resonates with my own songwriting and the creative process in general.

A Little Bubbly

One of the most powerful things Byrne does, and perhaps the most difficult, is listen to his subconscious and let it bubble to the surface.

As he listens to musical frameworks, he uses them as springboards to lyrics.  He does this by singing passionate jibberish and writing it all down.  In essences, he’s sketching.

Stop Making Sense

He allows emotions, memories, sounds, patterns, to express themselves, even if they don’t make sense! Eventually those sung sounds will be transliterated into actual words and music, but not in the early stages.  Instead, he simply trusts that those sounds, the lyrical structure, all things being articulated, are connected to the music on a deep, visceral level.

However, all this is for naught if he judges his work too quickly.  He does his best to

Suspend judgement!

This is something that I always drive home to people when I am moderating brainstorming sessions.

Don’t judge!

Judging the ideas is for a later time, after the various ideas can be explored for their apropos-ness to the music.  For people who are innovating, the ideas should resonate on multiple levels, not just the physical, but the emotional as well.

“I try not to prejudge anything that occurs to me at this point in the writing process – I never know if something that sounds stupid at first, will in some soon-to-emerge lyrical context make the whole thing shine.  So no matter how many pages get filled up, I try to turn off the internal censor.”(Italics mine; pp. 219-220)

This can’t be overstated: What seems stupid at the beginning might be the key at a later time.

What if the internal censor doesn’t cooperate? (“…the conscious mind might be thinking too much.”)

“Exactly at this point…I most want and need surprises and weirdness from the depths.”

His goal here is to “distract the gatekeepers.” Go jog, cook, walk, drive, do whatever so that the conscious mind is occupied with something else, just enough to let the goodies come through.

Again, make sure you have a recorder, sketchpad, camera, clay, whatever, so that you can record these gems as they “gurgle up.”  Just a snippet of these pearls could be enough to connect everything and make the whole project come together.   What was once a garbled mess can become a pleasing coherent whole.

Bottom Line: Collaborate!

“With whom?” you may ask.

With yourself!  Access the emotions,  knowledge,  patterns, experiences and feelings of all that you are!  Each of us is a wonderful repository of so much more than we realize.  Just because we don’t think we remember something doesn’t mean that something we saw, heard, smelled, felt, tasted, learned, or even thought we experienced, didn’t leave a valuable experiential nugget in our beings.

Our imaginations and our experiences can work together to enable us to design a better future.  (For a fascinating article on how we imagine the past and the future in similar ways read, “Remembering the Past to Imagine the Future: a Cognitive Neuroscience Perspective.”) We just have to get out of our own ways.

Are More Better?

As I’ve written before, there are certain conditions in which small groups are good for collaboration, especially when participants are able to share their own unique perspectives and experiences.  However, at the root of that multi-person collaboration is the ability for each individual to collaborate with themselves, to not censor themselves.   Solo-brainstorming is indeed powerful! (See “Why Groups Are Less Effective than Their Members: On Productivity Losses in Idea-Generating Groups“)

But you need to be you.

Take these tips from David Byrne and internalize them.  Listen to yourself – your subconscious.  Access who you are. Sketch. Suspend judgement. Explore. Look for resonance between concepts. (Sometimes they’re in that order, sometimes not.  😉 )

Regardless of what you’re designing, your innovations will be more creative the more you’re willing to collaborate with yourself.

Here’s to better solutions and a better world filled with better music 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, imagination, innovation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, product design, Service Design, Sketching, Social Innovation, The Future, The Human Person, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

There’s More to Hot Sauce than Meets the Tongue – How to Jumpstart Business Idea Generation

Posted by Plish on March 7, 2018

Hot sauces

They’re everywhere.  From mild to scorching, these heat packed condiments can perk up almost any dish – if perky is what you want.

How do we come up with new ways of growing a hot sauce business?

There are multiple ways to come up with new business ideas.  One of the processes I use for generating multiple ideas quickly is illustrated below.  It’s based on a simple process.

  1. List the traits/attributes of a specific product/service (I use VUE) Those are shown in purple in the concept map below. (Color coding helps tremendously in keeping track of ideas.  I could even do more color coding by group)
  2. Think of ways of enhancing or changing the attributes.  These are the ideas. These are shown in green.
  3. Let one idea lead to another – don’t censor yourself!

Hot Pepper Ideas-copy.pngThe PDF of the above document is here

 

This use of Attributes can be even further structured. While I just took traits as they popped into my mind, there are other tools that I use that are slightly more structured and they can be used to guide idea generation.

(In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m actually using these additional frameworks, it’s just second nature and I don’t think about it as much.)

It’s about POEMS

Not poetry, but POEMS. This acronym was developed by the folks over at the Illinois Institute of Technology-Institute of Design. The POEMS framework is not actually an idea generating tools per se.    It is a research framework. It provides a memorable way to code/categorize observations.  However, I use it  as a way to jump start ideation.

POEMS is an acronym for:

People

Objects

Environment

Messages/Media

Services

For each of the above, list everything you know about each one and then subtract, add or change the attribute.

People – Who uses this?  Using the Pepper Sauce example, people typically think of hot sauce as geared towards adults.  What about making a hot sauce for children?

Objects – What are the objects that people interact with?  Bottles, the sauce itself which is made up of vinegar, spices, sugar, peppers, etc.  Eliminate the bottles.  Eliminate an ingredient.

Environment – Where are the products or services used?  Where are hot sauces used? Kitchens, at the meal table, in a car.  Where can the use of hot sauces be extended?  Can where they’re made be changed?  

Messages/Media – What messages are typically conveyed?  What do labels and other media look like? For Hot Sauce, why do labels always using scary, intimidating images?  Can a container label be inviting and gentle?

Services – How are products delivered?  How are they sampled? How are they bundled?  What places have hot sauces?  There are health values to the capsaicin, what about selling that idea/product at boutique spas?  What about developing medicinally spike pepper sauces?  What could you add to give them more nutritional value?

If POEMS isn’t fruitful try AEIOU.

It’s similar to POEMS, but AEIOU gives a slightly different twist. Each framework can give you new ideas.

Activities – What do people want to accomplish, what needs to get done
Environments – The setting and context
Interactions – Are between people/people, people/objects, objects/objects
Objects – The things in the environment, things people use
Users – The people using the product, trying to accomplish something

So, there you have it.  What do you do to jump-start new ideas?

NOTE: If you actually want to try out a hot sauce idea, let me know 😉

Posted in brainstorming, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, Disruptive Innovation, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, product design, Service Design, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Use This Simple but Underused Technique for Being More Creative (and get a bonus!)

Posted by Plish on September 6, 2017

Wouldn’t it be great if solutions to our problems came to us from alternate universes? Places where the laws of nature may be different?  Where wonderful and fascinating things occur on a regular basis?

Guess what – they do.

They’re called our dreams.

All you have to do is remember and keep track of them.

Researchers have determined that logging dreams actually aids creative thinking.  From the abstract:

Enhanced dream recall through daily dream logging fosters aspects of creativity. Associations between creativity, dissociation, and thinness of boundaries, suggest that increased awareness to dreams increases creativity through a “loosening” of stereotyped thinking pattern.

The challenge then is to be able to remember what the heck we dreamed in the first place.  I researched multiple sites but at the end of the day, Amy Cope summarized the best ways to remember dreams here. I’ll paraphrase below with a few supplements 🙂

  1. Write the dreams down.  Don’t worry about catching every aspect of the dream.  Words, images, fragments, feelings, concerns associated with the dream, all are important.
  2. Seems obvious,  but make sure the journal is handy.
  3. Avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine prior to sleep
  4. B-Vitamins
  5. Various herbs also increase vividness of dreams (the more vivid the better the chances of remembering them).  Calea Zacatechichi is one such herb.
  6. Eat foods high in melatonin
  7. Prime yourself for remembering your dreams.  Tell yourself: “I will remember my dreams” or “In the morning I will remember my dreams.”
  8. Set your alarm 20 minutes early.  This could in theory interrupt a dream and thus make it easier to remember.  However, some people get too startled when woken from a dream and they are so rattled they ‘shake loose’ the dream and forget it.
  9. Don’t move when getting out of bed. Use gentle movements to record the dreams.  Sometimes assuming the position you were in prior to waking  up and closing your eyes can take you back to the images/etc. of your dream.  Keep your eyes closed. Stay with the dream for a while. Meditate on the meanings.
  10. If you don’t remember anything, think of other dreams you’d had, or common images, movies you’ve seen, anything that might provide a connection to what you just saw.

The Mindful Dreamer site has this great tip (In addition to many of the above tips): If you’ve got a problem that you need answered, write it down before going to bed.  It gives you something to start with before sleep and something to pick up on when you wake up.

Dreamstudies.org has this Snooze Method for remembering dreams.  It’s pretty much summarized above, but for the detailed method, check here.

Oh, and what’s the bonus I mentioned in the headline?

In addition to being more creative, if you practice the above regularly, the quality of your sleep will go up as well. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, innovation, problem solving, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Want Better Brainstormings?

Posted by Plish on October 11, 2016

I came across this interesting article over at FastCompany.  The title of the article is “You’re Probably Not Brainstorming Long Enough.”   The short of it is that just when things get tough, and the ideas start drying up, that’s the time when the great ideas are just around the corner.  Just go longer, do a “Brain marathon.”

I definitely agree that often the great ideas start coming after the obvious ideas are exhausted.  Heck, my last post was about this very topic. 🙂  However, the problem with the marathon concept is that it’s unnecessary.  I’ve said it before:

Brainstorming should be a process, not an event.

Give yourself, and others, time to plan and ideate.

Your brain, >YOU< need to take time to understand the problem, process it, think of alternatives, sketch, prototype, play.  There’s no need to force it to occur in the span of an 8 hour day.

Instead of pushing everyone into a room for a half day or more, spend some time setting up the actual ‘event’.  Give people the problem statement.  Prime the pump, get people thinking about the problem and possible solutions on their own or in small groups of two. (If you want a copy of the template I use for initiating and planning a brainstorm, click here and send me a message 🙂 )  Then, and only then, after everyone has had a chance to ruminate, then have the actual session.

But Plish, why brainstorm if everyone has already thought of ideas?  

Isaac Asimov sums it up nicely (from his, “How do people get new ideas?“):

It seems to me then that the purpose of cerebration sessions is not to think up new ideas but to educate the participants in facts and fact-combinations, in theories and vagrant thoughts.

No two people exactly duplicate each other’s mental stores of items. One person may know A and not B, another may know B and not A, and either knowing A and B, both may get the idea—though not necessarily at once or even soon.

Furthermore, the information may not only be of individual items A and B, but even of combinations such as A-B, which in themselves are not significant. However, if one person mentions the unusual combination of A-B and another the unusual combination A-C, it may well be that the combination A-B-C, which neither has thought of separately, may yield an answer.

In other words, the focus of the actual session is to cross-pollinate, to share ideas, to create new combinations from existing ideas.  What I’ve also noticed is that brand new ideas also surface during this time.

But perhaps most important, when people think in little portions well in advance of an ideation session, they don’t have to drink from a marathon fire-hose.  Instead of a full day event, 2-4 hours is sufficient.   No one gets worn out and the quality of the ideation session is much better.

After this shorter session, combine all the ideas, redistribute them to all the team and let them make even more new connections.

After that, then pick the ideas that are worth moving forward on and prototype some more.

When all is said and done, there’s no reason for a single, exhausting marathon session (remember, legend has it the first marathon runner died after delivering news of a military victory!).

Put some planning into the process and not only will you save frustration getting  great ideas, you save time.

 

 

Posted in brainstorming, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, idea generation, innovation, problem solving, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How to Use A.C.E. to Improve the Quality of Your Ideas

Posted by Plish on September 16, 2016

 

Name at least 10 ways to use a brick.  Take a couple minutes and write them down.  If you don’t get 10, that’s ok.

Here’s a list I quickly made up.

  • paperweight
  • window breaker
  • block for building a wall
  • Weight for muscle training
  • shoes for a low gravity planet
  • Sundial (if stood on end)
  • Writing Utensil on a rough surface
  • Toy Boat for a sea of mercury
  • Temperature regulator (Hot Pack/Cold Pack – Freeze the brick to keep things cold or heat it up and drop it in a container to keep it warm)
  • Electrical Insulator (Use for a capacitor or transformer)
  • Thermal Insulator -keep Hot from Cold
  • Serving Tray in Kitchen

Odds are, the first few ideas on your list are the same as mine.  You also probably had a tough time getting past the first four or five, right?  That’s actually totally normal.  The first ideas are the ones that everyone has.  The next ones are the ones that are the money-makers, the ideas others didn’t think of.  But getting that next batch of ideas is hard work. It takes time and effort.

So, how do you get past the first few ‘meh’ ideas and get to the good ones?

Before we look at that, let’s look at what we do to get the first 4 or 5.

In our Mind’s Eye, we hold the brick in our hand, looking at it from 2 to 3 feet away, simultaneously thinking how this is good building material. In other words what we do is, (a) focus on one main trait/attribute and let that guide our ideation process.  In the case of a brick we focus on the weight and/or hardness. We also put the brick where we typically see it.  We (b) see it in a specific context: in this case, the construction realm. Thirdly, we (c) look at the wholeness of the object – in this case the brick as a rectangular block of material.

The way to get better ideas is to vary each one of the above three perspectives: A.C.E. –  (Attributes, Context, Everything (not the Whole thing))

Doing this will break through the ‘meh’ stage and give you much more creative ideas.

(a) Look at various Attributes

So, what are the attributes of a brick, or any object for that matter (I realize there is some overlap between these but sometimes it helps to call the attributes different things)?

  • Shape
  • Size/Dimensions
  • Roughness/Smoothness
  • Hardness/Softness
  • Color/Reflectivity/Optical Properties
  • Smell
  • Taste
  • Density
  • Sharpness
  • Mechanical Properties (will it behave differently when we push on it, pull on it or shear it)
  • Fracture Properties (How it breaks)
  • Thermal properties
  • Fire Resistance
  • Electrical Properties
  • Magnetic Properties
  • Acoustic Properties
  • Porosity
  • Chemical Properties
  • Emotions it elicits
  • All of the above at various scales – from macro to micro.  Bricks aren’t perfectly homogeneous. Different parts of a brick can behave differently.

Look at the various attributes and ideate around those – individually or in aggregate.  Truly observe!  Understand what goes into the product.  Once you understand the brick your eyes will be opened to ways you can modify and leverage what the brick is.

What’s the shape of the brick?  Is the brick REALLY hard, or does it has softness to it?  What does it take to deform the brick and mar the surface?  Bricks can hold and/or prevent temperature transfer depending on the context.  They also don’t conduct electricity all that well.  Do they change color under certain circumstances?  Do they change their smell under certain stresses?  Do bricks fracture at certain loads so that they can be used as indicators?  What do they taste like? (You lick a brick at your own risk. 😉 )

(b) Look at alternate Contexts

Put the brick into various contexts and you’ll be surprised how quickly the ideas start flowing.  Is it a yard, a different planet, an imaginary place, a street, a kitchen, an operating room?  Are these contexts cold, hot, well lit, dimly lit, windy, calm, etc.?  All these variables will impact the types of ideas you come up with.

For example, I put it the brick in a kitchen and hence came up with using it as a serving tray and/or thermal stabilizer. (Also, bricks can exhibit efflorescence.  Salts can come to the surface, so this can flavor food – provided the rest of the materials in the brick aren’t poisonous 😉 ) When I thought of it in a street, I thought of rubbing it on the street to make drawings.   In an operating room I thought of it being heated up and placed under the surgical drapes to keep patients warm. (I came up with another idea but I’ll include it below.)

(c) Look at Everything (not the whole thing)

Finally, what can we change – modify, add, subtract, etc. from any of the above attributes, components, systems or sub-systems to make it useful?  (Place these in various contexts to multiply the power of this exercise.)  Look beyond it simply being a block held at arms length.  Re-imagine it!

Can we change its usefulness by breaking it up? (I often take brick chunks, break them more and use the fragments to line the bottom of planters.  Broken shards of brick can also be amazingly sharp!)

We could also grind it up and add it to food to change the way it’s cooked and digested. (Depending on the chemical composition of the brick this might not be a safe idea so don’t try this at home/work/etc.!) Revisiting the operating room context,  we could grind up the brick and weave it into the material of the surgical drapes to make the drapes more effective insulators.

The whole purpose of using A.C.E. is to get us past the obvious and into the realm of innovation.   Just using one of these will help, but when you use all three in conjunction, your ideas will flow and be more original.

Try it!  Would love to know your thoughts!

 

Posted in brainstorming, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Are you Using This Simple 3 Step Process to Create Products that Leverage Existing Trends?

Posted by Plish on August 9, 2016

There’s no question that we are living in exciting times.  There are multiple trends, technological and otherwise, that are blossoming and can be leveraged if you take the time to put in some work.  Follow this simple three step process and you’ll be much better equipped for leveraging the power of trends in your business.

Step One:

Research and understand trends that are shaping the landscape.

As a primer, here’s a quick list of some trends that are shaping the world right now.

 

Via MarketWatch

  • Virtual and Augmented Reality
  • Wearables
  • Smart Cars
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Drones
  • Phone (and batteries) That Charge at a Distance

Some other Consumer Retail Trends:

  • Leveraging the Crowd
  • Subscription Services (Dollar Shave Club)
  • 3-D Printing
  • Maker Movement
  • Product Personalization
  • Sharing Economy
  • Uberization (I agree with Fast Company. Uber isn’t Sharing Economy but it is a new model)
  • Multiple Platform Sales
  • Social Media and Online Communities
  • Preference for Ethically Responsible Brands
  • Eco-Awareness
  • Product Co-Creation
  • Increased Biometric Use

Also check out Trendhunter (where I contribute from time to time 😉 ) Trendwatching, and Cassandra with their Cassandra Daily Newsletter.  The trends on these sites can be quite provocative and are great for jump-starting creative thoughts.

Steps 2 and 3!

2.  List the main positive and negative attributes of your product.

3.  Look for intersections between your product attributes and the trends and create products that enhance the positives or negate the negatives

For example.  Let’s say that your company makes paper-based notebooks.

Positive Attributes: Convenient; Creates hard copy; Can be used with various media (pen, pencil, paint, crayon, etc.);  Highly secure; Can be digitally copied (copy machine, phone picture, etc.); Difficult to forge; Low-cost; Recyclable; Personal

Negative Attributes: Needs to be on hand to use; Must do additional work to digitally archive; Uses/wastes paper; If recycled then must be copied; Have to purchase at stores either in bulk or as needed but then have to run to the store; ???

 

Ideas:

  • Have a QR code 10 pages from the end of the notebook that automatically orders (when scanned) more notebooks before running out (Better than a subscription service because it’s on-demand) This data can be used to then understand ordering patterns.
  • Enable customization of notebooks (paper designs -lined/graph/etc, covers, etc.) via online portal or app
  • Have a sensor embedded 10-20 pages from the end that when written on automatically purchases another notebook and mails it
  • Use non-wood pulp papers
  • Create an online community where people can design notebook covers for each other
  • Deliver notebooks by drone
  • Create notebooks from text messages
  • Create an augmented reality app that enables someone to ‘write’ on various products/locations/etc. to capture ideas virtually
  • Create a wearable that can tell what you’re writing and store it digitally, automatically
  • Provide notebooks that are customized for online courses and heighten student interactivity
  • Notebook covers contain solar panels and/or batteries for recharging digital devices.  These can also be charged via movement/carrying.
  • Use biometrics to lock/unlock paper notebooks
  • Create luxury notebooks
  • Personalize notebooks with a chamber that contains a friend/family member’s DNA from a kiss (think lipstick on an envelope…remember snail mail? 😉 )
  • Create Notebooks from pulp made from trees or branches that grew on property that held emotional import
  • Grow bamboo (at home?) or more likely,   you pay an amount to lease a portion of a bamboo field from which pulp is harvested to create your own notebooks. It’s a notebook/paper co-op (I LOVE this idea.  Anyone that wants to do it, please contact me 🙂 )

As you can see, just by bouncing notebook attributes against the various trends, I came up with 16 ideas for new products.  (Not only does this process supplement existing product lines, but you can use it to create brand new markets.  Just start with some existing product line attributes, bounce it against trends and create new products irrespective of what your industry is!)

There’s no excuse for being left in the dust of technology and an evolving world.  Follow this simple 3 step process, and you’ll find yourself successfully creating products as the world changes. 🙂

***

 

Here are some other tech trends for your reading enjoyment 🙂

Inc.com

  • 3d Printing
  • Active Participation in Advertising
  • Changes in Healthcare Funding
  • Reshaping Education via Online Training
  • Online Portals Reshaping Retail

Forbes

  • The Device Mesh (Connected products of all kinds)
  • Ambient User Experience (Seamless experiences spanning devices)
  • 3d Printing Materials
  • Obtaining Information from Everything
  • Advanced Machine Learning
  • Autonomous Agents and Things (Next gen Siri, Cortana, etc.)
  • Adaptive Security Architecture
  • Advanced System Architecture (Computers that function more like brains)
  • Mesh App and Service Architecture
  • Internet of Things Architecture and Platforms

A pdf Report from Deloitte touches on much of the Forbes stuff and more

 

 

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing, brainstorming, Co-Creation, Creative Thinking Techniques, culture of innovation, Disruptive Innovation, innovation, Innovation Tools, Maker Movement, problem solving, Social Responsibility, Sustainability, The Future, Trends, Uncategorized, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

Lessons on Innovating Using Cornstraints (It’s Not a Typo)

Posted by Plish on June 6, 2016

Now that we’re in the season of barbecues and beer, let’s delve into innovating using constraints.  For this post we’ll look at innovating how we eat corn on the cob, so we should probably call them “Cornstraints” (Sorry, couldn’t resist 😉 )

Typically, eating corn on the cob is a delicious but messy process because the cob can be slathered with butter, salt, pepper, mayo, pepper sauce, etc. (Corn must be delicious! – User applied constraints).  Most people don’t want this on their fingers (Keep fingers clean –A user applied constraint).  Not to mention, corn cobs are remarkably efficient at retaining heat (an inherent constraint), so holding them at the ends can be challenge if they were recently plucked out of boiling water.

Doing a quick Google search shows people are pretty much dealing with these constraints already.

Capturea.PNG

Most innovations in this space deal with ways of holding the corn.  Inserting sticks or holding the ears of the corn seem to be the most common solutions.  Using napkins or some other intermediate device are also ways of minimizing mess, improving grip, and increasing comfort.

How else can we improve the eating experience?

  1. Who says we have to hold it?  It’s a choice – a user applied constraint.  We can, as some people with dental work do, cut off the corn and eat it with a fork.  We can also use a power drill (as has been done by some folks on YouTube)  but this brings up whether we should ignore another  user applied constraint: All the kernels need to end up in the mouth .  We could also design a corn stand that holds the cob for us; or for that matter, we could ask a friend to hold it for us so we don’t get our own hands gummed up.  This then brings up a possible constraint: Eating Corn on the Cob shouldn’t cause us to lose friends.
  2. Since the center of the cob is often hot, what if we cook the corn without heating the core?  Think of ways to do this and have fun with solar heaters or blow torches!  For that matter, let’s work with the reverse of the constraint (Corn needs to be served hot) and create a delicious COLD corn dish!  What about chemically ‘cooking’ the corn?  We can use enzymes or chemicals to convert the corn into something delectable and yet cool.   Or what if we slice the corn cob into 1/4″ slices so that corn chips takes on a new meaning? 😉  Since they’re thinner, the centers will cool faster and be easier to hold.  Plus, the corn can now be dipped into whatever sauce we want!  We ignore one user constraint (Corn cob must be whole) and turn another on its head (The entire cob must be slathered with the same substance)
  3.  The center of the cob is typically not edible (Inherent Constraint).  So let’s make it edible!  Can we inject it with something prior to cooking it so that it softens and tastes good?

I could go on, but let’s take a look at what I’ve done.

At the heart of all the above ideas is a questioning of the constraint.  Why do we have to buy in to the constraint?  Let’s change it.  Who cares if it’s inherent in the product – work around it!   Personally I like looking at the opposite of what the constraint implies and then find a way to make that reality.  What’s very interesting (and fruitful!) is that as one starts playing with the alteration of constraints, new constraints inevitably pop up.  This makes sense because once constraints get changed, the whole context can change.  This change in context demands that we ask new questions and probe the new constraints that are formed.

So, the next time you’re eating corn on the cob, think about ways of changing the eating experience.  It might make for a great discussion at a party!  I’d love to hear your ideas for changing the experience by experimenting with cornstraints. 🙂

 

 

 

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, design thinking, Disruptive Innovation, Food, innovation, Innovation Tools, Service Design, Social Innovation, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Are you doing this simple thing to help think “Big Picture”?

Posted by Plish on May 12, 2016

We’ve all done it. We forward reams of information to people in preparation for a meeting.  It’s convenient and it saves trees.  But there’s a problem.  We may be unwittingly influencing how the reader thinks about the information.

Researchers have found that how we consume information  determines how we think.  In short, when we view information in a digital format, we tend to hone in on details and think more concretely.

On the other hand, when we consume the same information in an analog fashion (on paper), we have a tendency to think much more abstractly and ‘big picture ‘.

Now, when CEOs were asked what the most important leadership quality is, the majority cited  creativity.  The second quality -integrity, and third, global thinking.  Those are all pretty abstract concepts. Yet, we are consuming so much of our information digitally and accidentally narrowing our thought processes.

So what’s the one thing we should do to make sure we look at the big picture?

Think about why we’re reading what we’re reading.

In other words, ask yourself if what you’re reading needs laser focused thinking or big picture, abstract thinking.

If you need to think ‘big picture’, then print out your email/presentation/document/etc.  If you are totally committed to not using tree-derived paper, then you can start using tree-free papers made from alternate materials.   If you don’t want to print stuff out at all, then gather information that helps establish the context of what you’re reading.  Deeply understand the context before starting to read.  This will help you deal with the information in a more broad-minded way.

If you’re prepping for a brainstorm, or in a brainstorm, pass things around in paper format.  Make copies and circulate them around.  Make it easy for people to make notations, mark things up, to encounter ideas without the borders of a screen.

If you’d like to be laser focused, if you need to understand the facts, then just read digitally.

Remember, reflect on your purpose for reading information. It’ll make you a better thinker and a better do-er.

 

 

 

Posted in Brain Stimulation Tools, brainstorming, cognitive studies, Conveying Information, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, Information Visualization, innovation, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Uncovering and Creating Innovation in a Sequence of Events (Even the Most Familiar)

Posted by Plish on March 4, 2016

Sequences of events are often taken for granted.

It’s winter.  It’s 2 degrees Fahrenheit and there are 20 mile per hour winds outside.  The fridge is empty.  You need to make a food run.

So, you go to the car, insert the key in the door, unlock the door, sit in the car, put the key in the ignition and turn it.  You then sit in a freezing cold car and watch your breath frost the windows as the defrost won’t work until the car gets warmed up…

The above sequence of events can be most unpleasant to experience, and it was a pretty typical winter experience for many people until…

Someone invented the Remote Control Key Fob.  Simply press a button and the car is unlocked from inside the house! Now that it’s open, you can run outside into the cold and open the door quickly.  No need to fumble for the keys with frozen fingers.  Just open the door and sit down and start the car.

But….

You still need to wait for it to warm up.

The solution?

While the Remote Control Fob is a great invention for unlocking car doors, it’s an even better invention for starting the car before going outside!

In this case, the value of the innovation comes not so much from snazzy remote control technologies, but from changing the sequence in which various events occur: turning the car on before opening the door (A similar value comes from opening a garage door remotely without having to get out of the car.)

Juggling the sequence of events, or looking at technologies that enable us to change the sequence of events, are often very powerful (and sometimes surprisingly simple!) ways of innovating creative solutions.

One place where creative solutions are always needed are with regards to public health.

The proper washing of hands is one of the easiest ways to minimize the transmission of diseases of many types. Yet, a survey of 100000 people showed that 60+ percent of men and 40 percent of women don’t even bother to wash their hands when leaving the rest room (and these were people that admitted it!)  To make you feel even more uncomfortable, most people who do wash their hands don’t do it as thoroughly as they should.

In bathrooms, washing hands and drying hands are actually part of the same process.  Do a lousy job of washing or drying, and the chances of germ transmission go up.  Not to mention, most bathrooms have doors and other surfaces that people touch on their way into and out of the bathroom, so even if they’ve washed and perhaps dried, they may still touch these surfaces and pick things up or leave things behind.

The solution then is to go into a bathroom, wash, dry and leave without touching anything on your way out.

🙂

Being the type of person I am, while recently in a bathroom I realized it was configured almost perfectly to enable the primo handwashing solution. A new technology wasn’t really needed.  However, a little creative event shuffling yielded a simple and very effective solution.

View this post on Instagram

#cleanhands or #dirtyhands : #innovation by changing the #sequence of events. One of my favorite ways of innovating is to look at a sequence of events and rearrange them in time. This bathroom is a perfect example. By changing the sequence (ejecting the paper but NOT tearing it before using the urinal or toilet) I can use the urinal, wash my hands, tear the paper, dry them, open the door using the soiled paper towel and throw it away. Granted, this isn't perfect. The ideal would be to leave the water running and turn it off using the paper towel, use the door handle, and then throw it away when walking out the door. #handwashing #sanitation #germs #bathroom #washroom #design #processdesign #processflow #systemdesign

A post shared by Michael Plishka (@zenstorming) on

In the upper picture I’ve shown the order a person typically follows when entering a restroom (the lightswitch is not always a part of the equation 😉 .)

The lower picture shows how simply changing the sequence enables someone to come in, wash, dry and leave without touching anything dirty on the way out.  No need for any new technology.

But, there is a dark side…

Just as technology can enable us to change the sequence for the better, the introduction of a technology into the bathroom can negatively impact the sequence and perhaps create ramifications outside the door.  What happens when we replace the paper towel with an electrical hand dryer?

All types of questions then arise:

Will someone’s hands really be clean when he/she leaves?  Is saving trees a greater good than public health impacts from dirty hands?  Should doors open electronically?  Can a plate be placed at the base of the door to enable someone to open it with a foot? Should a hired person be there to open and close the doors? Should there be a soap that forms an active protective film that is only activated after drying in a hand dryer?

As you can see, (and as all time travelers will tell you) tampering with time has its consequences.  In the above example, the introduction of one technology has spawned the need for other technologies or additional (or less) steps.  Each of these are an opportunity for a product or service.

So, next time you’re having a difficult time solving a problem, or if you’re looking for a new space to play, look at the sequence of events that are part of the situation and ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Can we change the sequence of events to thus create a better outcome?  If we can’t, or sometimes even if we can….
  2. Can we leverage or develop a technology that enables us to reshuffle the sequence of events so that a better result is achieved?

These two questions can lead to tremendous innovations, but first we need to stop taking the sequence of events for granted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, Disruptive Innovation, Healthcare, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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