Where Science Meets Muse

Archive for the ‘Creative Thinking Techniques’ Category

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)



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.



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 »

Are You Doing This Simple Thing to Improve Your Creative Abilities?

Posted by Plish on May 6, 2015

To become a better writer – READ

To become a better cook – EAT

To become a better musician – LISTEN

In short, to become a better designer/maker/artist/engineer – OBSERVE

I recently started an Instagram page for ZenStorming.  It’s filled with tips for idea generation and creative inspiration, and it’s especially geared towards people that don’t always have someone around to bounce ideas off of.  (If you aren’t on Instagram, the posts are cross-posted to my ZenStorming Facebook page.)

Since Instagram is amazingly well suited to provide quick nuggets of information, I started a weekly series for helping people improve their observational skills.  It’s based on the premise that if you are primed with a certain concept before going on a walk or drive, your eyes will be opened to new things just because of the priming.

You don’t have to see new things, to see things new!

My first observation challenge was to look for right angles.

I took my own challenge, and that day while driving to a client, I was amazed at what I saw.  I saw patterns that I never noticed before, even though I had passed the same areas innumerable times. It also amazed me how right angles are largely the work of humans.  We build a world of right angles around us. Up, down, left, right.

We create an orthogonal world.

Which is kind of interesting given that so much of nature is anything but in 90 degree intersections.  But it’s what works.

Would love to get your thoughts on this observation challenge (as well as suggestions for a catchy hashtag!)

And remember,

You don’t have to see new things, to see things new!

If you see things in a new way, you can create new things!

Posted in Arts, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Maker, observation, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Do You Want to Be More Creative? Please Help Me Help You With Your Creative Problem Solving and Creative Thinking

Posted by Plish on April 25, 2015

Hi, it’s me!

I’ve always been fascinated with how things work: machines, products, nature, the universe, and yes, even people. (It’s the scientist in me).

At the same time, I’ve always enjoyed making things: products, games, art, music, food and more! (I’m inspired by the muses :) )

Most of my professional career I’ve been designing medical products for everything from family owned companies, to Fortune 500 companies, and I’ve done it well. These products are helping countless people live better lives, and their healthcare providers do their jobs more effectively.

I’m party to over 20 patents in the US and Internationally, and have been awarded multiple corporate awards for products that have made these companies millions in profits.  And, all the while, I was devising and refining my own methods of idea generation and product creation.

Working in the Corporate world was a great experience, but I wanted to grow and share my journey in creativity. So, in 2008 I ventured out on my own and formed ZenStorming™ LLC.

It’s science meeting muse.

I help companies come up with ideas for new products as well as share my methods for creative thinking and problem solving. I have an extensive network of talented designers, engineers and manufacturers that help me bring ideas from conception to reality. And I’m loving every minute of this creative ride!

I also develop tools (and often share those right here) to help people in their creative endeavors. I’m also developing some premium tools.  But, rather than assume I know what you need, I want to hear it from you.

I want to know what it is that you struggle with.

I want to know what could help you be more creative and grow as creative person.

Please take this uber-quick survey.  Your email address isn’t needed, but if you share it (It’s safe and secure and will be kept in confidence – I promise!) I may very well contact you to chat some more, and you’ll definitely be the first to know when these premium tools roll out, so you’ll get special deals!

Thank you so much for your time!!

Wishing you fruitful growth in your creative endeavors~

Plish a.k.a. Mike, Michael, Mickey, Plishka, Dude, Mickeyplish, Mikey, Misha, Myxash,

Posted in 3D Printing, Brain Stimulation Tools, brainstorming, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving | 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 »

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 »

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

Posted by Plish on February 27, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

I give myself a provocation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lake Villa-20130227-00790aa

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

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


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

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

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

That’s it!

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

Yet all is well in the Kingdom of Snow…


The Supremely Happy Snowman

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


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

Looking to Outliers For Innovative Brilliance

Posted by Plish on August 17, 2012

(Before reading please watch the above short video)

I can’t help but smile every time I watch this video.  The innocence of Butters (the character that sits ‘backwards’ on toilets,) is key.  He does something that seems totally normal and makes perfect sense.  With a little creativity he goes above and beyond what is commonly practiced.

If you’re going to read while on the toilet, you need a shelf to hold your reading material, right?

If you want to have a drink, you need a shelf, so why not the same one used for your books?

And best of all?

Flushing is easy; The handle is conveniently located on the left. No getting up, twisting, or turning!

Everybody looks at Butters as if he’s nuts.  Everybody looks at him as if their awkward, minimally functional method of using the toilet is the right way!  But, nevertheless, there’s a wisdom in Butters’ approach – a simple, elegant, wisdom.

Looking to Butters for ideas for improving the toilet experience would be an example of positive deviance.  What is positive deviance?

“Positive Deviance is based on the observation that in every community there are certain individuals or groups (the positive deviants), whose uncommon but successful behaviors or strategies enable them to find better solutions to a problem than their peers. These individuals or groups have access to exactly the same resources and face the same challenges and obstacles as their peers. ” (From Positive Deviance website)

In other words, often times solutions to problems come from the fringes.  Solutions come from the people who see what everybody else sees and yet they behave differently.  These people find ways of making the most out of what others see as mundane.

Think about the product opportunities that would exist if we redesigned the toilet experience with Butters’ insights!

How would the toilet look? Where would the toilet paper go?  What would be the best way to deal with the pants around the ankles?

It’s questions like these that can get the ideation ball rolling even if the majority of people won’t use the toilet ‘in reverse.’

Questions based upon the behaviors of positive deviants can be great provocations in designing unique solutions.

But, there is one slight hitch to gaining the insights of these folks:

The Butters of the world usually aren’t in a room boldly offering up their visions of the way things could be…

They’re on the fringes…

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Customer Focus, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Great New Tool for Collaboration (and More!) – Use a ‘Big Marker’

Posted by Plish on July 19, 2012

What do GoTo Meeting, Dropbox, and Ning have in common?

Not much really.

So, if you want to web conference, share files and create a community presence on the web, you need to subscribe to all the above services and maybe more.

Enter Big Marker.

BigMarker.com is a one-stop shop – and the majority of features are free.  Those that aren’t are very reasonably priced. And, there’s nothing to download; it’s all web-based.

Seth Godin describes a tribe as, “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader and connected to an idea;” it’s people with, “a shared interest and a way to communicate.”

Big Marker is essentially a tribe builder.

Public or private, project management or social widgets, educate or elucidate, Big Marker can help you innovate!

~Would love to hear your experiences using Big Marker~

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, culture of innovation, Disruptive Innovation, Education, innovation, Innovation Tools, Project Management, Start-Ups, Team-Building, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Censoring the Censor – The Key to Increasing Creativity

Posted by Plish on May 12, 2012

Inside your brain there’s a creativity censor.  With finger poised above the ‘Bleep’ button, he’s constantly protecting you from ideas that he deems useless, or worse: foolish.  He knows what every boss wants, what every friend thinks of you, what strangers see when they look at you.  He knows what’s best for you and the best way to get it.

On more than one occasion I’ve seen this censor, singlehandedly, dull brilliance and turn a symphony into an energy sapping drone.

Why would the censor do this?  Because he’s protecting you!  Give him a free rein and you will comfortably reside in the Status Quo.  You won’t look like a fool, you won’t push the envelope, you won’t feel uncomfortable.

Your creativity and the potential for great ideas will also come to a screeching halt.

Ideas build upon ideas – yours and others.  They are stepping-stones.  Remove one and things might be okay…might.  Remove two or three and you’re constrained to walking on one plane.

So, what can you do?

You need to teach yourself to not listen to the censor, but instead to listen to the ideas. When you hear the “BLEEP!” you need to ignore it.  Instead, write the idea down and play with it. See where it leads.  Nowhere?  That’s okay!  But, the very act of acknowledging that idea has now given you a stepping stone to another idea, and another, and….

Don’t get me wrong.  There is still a time and place to listen to the censor.  But, when you’re trying to come up with ideas, looking for new possibilities, exploring the unknown, your imagination is your friend, your light.  Work together with your ideas!

This is exemplified beautifully in this blog post over at Thoughts on Theater.  I’m going to end this piece with  a quote directly from her post, as it’s a wonderful read (as is her entire blog).  It’s about Academy Award winning screenwriter, Robert Pirosh.  He was a copywriter that wanted to become a Hollywood screenwriter. Here’s how he finally landed his dream job:

(Pirosh) sent the following note to all of the major studios, received a slew of interview requests, and finally accepted an offer as a junior writer at MGM. From there he went on to win an Academy Award and write for some of the best and brightest (including the Marx Brothers). Just another testament to the fact that you should not water yourself down in order to obtain the dream job. Do not censor the you that just might land you the gig.

Dear Sir:

I like words. I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady. I like solemn, angular, creaky words, such as straitlaced, cantankerous, pecunious, valedictory. I like spurious, black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde. I like suave “V” words, such as Svengali, svelte, bravura, verve. I like crunchy, brittle, crackly words, such as splinter, grapple, jostle, crusty. I like sullen, crabbed, scowling words, such as skulk, glower, scabby, churl. I like Oh-Heavens, my-gracious, land’s-sake words, such as tricksy, tucker, genteel, horrid. I like elegant, flowery words, such as estivate, peregrinate, elysium, halcyon. I like wormy, squirmy, mealy words, such as crawl, blubber, squeal, drip. I like sniggly, chuckling words, such as cowlick, gurgle, bubble and burp.

I like the word screenwriter better than copywriter, so I decided to quit my job in a New York advertising agency and try my luck in Hollywood, but before taking the plunge I went to Europe for a year of study, contemplation and horsing around.

I have just returned and I still like words.

May I have a few with you?

Robert Pirosh

385 Madison Avenue, Room 610

New York Eldorado 5-6024


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

Is There a Will For The “Why?” – Uncovering Innovative Product Opportunities

Posted by Plish on May 4, 2012

One of the best ways to generate innovative ideas is, in some ways, the simplest (but not necessarily the easiest!)

When confronted with a problem, don’t just brainstorm to solve the problem.  Ask, “Why is it important to solve this problem?”

For example, if someone asks you to design and build a boat, the typical response would be, “Okay, what type of boat?”

But, if you really want to generate some innovative solutions ask him, “Why?”

The answer might be, “I want to get from here to Hawaii and I can’t fly.” Or it might be, ” Only rich people have boats and I want people to respect me.”  Or, “I’m going fishing with a friend on a small lake and we need something for us to fish from.”

Too often, we let the problems, or stated needs, morph into the problem statement without much of a challenge.  Someone says she needs a boat, so let’s build her a boat!

Occasionally that’s the right way to go. But, when we need to generate creative solutions, and we really want to shake things up, it’s important to find out what it is that’s really needed.

If, as per the example above, someone wants more respect, is a boat really the way to go?  Similarly, a boat to get to Hawaii is nice, but is it prudent? Why can’t the person fly?  And, there are other ways to fish.  Depending upon the body of water, a boat may actually be limiting! Is it needed?

Getting answers to these questions will open our eyes to alternate products or services that meet deeper needs.   We see that we may not need to design boats at all; we need a way to bolster self-esteem!

But, what if we are boat builders by trade? 

We then are confronted with two choices.  One, we simply get the specifications for the boat, build it and get paid.  The other choice is more of a challenge, but its rewards could be magnitudes greater: We stretch ourselves with the goal of delivering products or services that will meet those, until now, unspoken needs.

This stretching means that we may need to partner with new suppliers or even restructure how we currently do business.  That is why the title of this piece is, “Is There a Will For The ‘Why?'”

Finding out these needs and then acting on them will take some serious will power and maybe even soul-searching. The following are types of questions and solutions we might have to wrestle with.

How can we, as a company, help people feel good about themselves?  What if instead of building a boat, we provided a service whereby sponsors pay for the building of fishing boats for families who lost their livelihoods to a hurricane?  What if we sent “Thank You!” videos from these families to their sponsors, or maybe even made the sponsors part of their businesses so that they got a small percentage of the profits until the boat is paid off?

For those afraid of flying to Hawaii, what if we held a series of workshops for people on conquering their fears?  These workshops could include conquering fear of water, boating, flying, etc.

Similarly, what if we held workshops on, ‘How to Fish Various Bodies of Water?”  What if we partnered with another company to design a line of fishing waders?  What about creating a division to provide rental boats based upon the type of water a person intends to fish?

All these opportunities to differentiate ourselves from the competition would be lost if all we did was take a customer’s money and build a boat.

It ultimately comes down to answering the question:

Is there a will for the”Why?”

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, Disruptive Innovation, Emotions, Experience, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Service Design | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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