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Archive for the ‘creativity’ Category

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. 🙂

 

 

 

 

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

Four Key Words That Open Doors to Innovation

Posted by Plish on February 15, 2017

Robots made of water.

No, those aren’t the four words.

Researchers at MIT developed a hydrogel robot.  It’s soft.  It grips.  It’s almost invisible underwater.  In short, it’s a totally cool technology.  (Hydrogels are cool materials on their own) Now, they’re trying to understand what it can be used for.

‘Let’s play with this’. – Hyunwoo Yuk, MIT Graduate Student

Those are the four words.

Let’s play with this.

Once a technology is discovered, the challenge is often one of finding a problem to the solution.  One of the best ways to do that is to play.

What is play comprised of?

It’s essentially saying, “What if…?” and exploring.

It’s a matter of taking something and just seeing what happens when it’s subjected to some other stressors.  It’s a collision of ideas.  It’s taking what is and exploring what it may be.

The inventor of cornflakes, Keith Kellogg, left boiled wheat out overnight.  Instead of throwing it out, he took the flaky dough (took ‘what is’) and decided to bake it anyway (exploring).  A crunchy  cereal and a business was born.

Take chances – Explore!

Keep your eyes peeled for new technologies.  Don’t necessarily use them for what they’re intended.  Try using them for something else.  That collision of metaphors, of what is and what may be when something is used differently, are fruitful soil for new products and new business opportunities.

What am I playing with now?

I saw the Walabot, and knew I had to get one for my lab.  A cool RF radar technology, seems like it can have myriads of uses.  The company’s website tag is: Create, Play, Discover.

Let’s PLAY with this!!!!!

Posted in creativity, innovation, Play, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Innovator’s New Year Resolution

Posted by Plish on January 10, 2017

Twenty-Nine Percent

That’s the percentage of people that aren’t keeping their resolutions after 2 weeks.

What I’m going to propose a is pleasant and powerful resolution that Innovators of all types have implemented in their lives.

 

SIGNIFICANT THINGS

Great discoveries, great designs, innovations of all types,  occurred when people saw the significant hidden in the insignificant.  Be open to the unexpected and don’t belittle the insignificant!

SIGNIFICANT PEOPLE

In fact, the history of the human race is replete with people who have humble, insignificant beginnings, or were viewed as insignificant people because of the color of their skin, the country or caste of their birth, their religion, their sex – they were viewed as people who weren’t worth paying attention to.  Yet, these people changed the world.

OBSERVE

Pay attention.  Look deeply at the insignificant.  Don’t just cast it away and call it “waste”,”lesser”, “pointless”, “negligible”, “inconsequential”.

APPRECIATE EVERYTHING – AN INNOVATOR’S RESOLUTION

Only when you appreciate everything will you see opportunities for improvement, for elevation, for partnerships,  renewal, growth, friendships and more.  Missed opportunities will be few and far between.

AND WHEN IT’S NOT THERE, GIVE SIGNIFICANCE

Often the insignificant is only insignificant because it hasn’t been given the opportunity to be significant.  Empower.  Elevate.  Understanding the insignificance enables you to create significance.

BE AN INNOVATOR

Design a better world.  People are yearning to be more, experience more.  You are the one to provide it. It starts with open eyes, an open mind and an open heart.

It starts with you…

 

 

 

 

Posted in creativity, Design, innovation, problem solving, Social Innovation, The Future, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Autodesk’s “Innovation Genome”: A ‘How-To’ Primer and Resource

Posted by Plish on November 8, 2016

I love it when folks share their insights into innovation, especially when they share as prolifically as the folks over at Autodesk do.

If you, like I have, have checked out the new products in Autodesk Labs, you probably wonder how they are able to create really cool product after cool product.  The reason is simple: it’s because they don’t innovate in a chaotic manner.  They have a process that guides and informs their product development efforts: the Autodesk Innovation Genome.

This Innovation method is the result of 10+ years of analyzing over 350 innovations from the history of the world (their goal is to examine 1000!).  The wisdom from these innovations is then distilled and codified to enable them use the insights repeatably. (This is very similar to how the TRIZ problem solving methodology was developed)

How Does It Work?

The process is essentially five steps.

Steps One and Two establish Context and Direction.

Step Three is at the heart of this process – the Seven Questions.

(While there are 7 buckets here, I find them a little too abstract on their own. They do have a 49 question chart – shown below – that is  much more useful in my opinion.)

(The above chart includes questions from other idea prompting methods like SCAMPER. )

Of course, ideas don’t mean anything without a method to commercialize, so steps four and five are about prioritizing and executing.

I could go into this even more, but really, just head over to the Innovation Genome and check it out for yourself. There are multiple excellent resources there. Study, learn, modify/apply, share.

The world awaits your innovations…

Posted in creativity, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

Don’t Worry About the Elephant in the Room, Look for the Chameleons

Posted by Plish on June 30, 2016

 

color-changing-chameleon-lizards

Photo Courtesy of momtastic.com

 

You’ve got multiple experts in a room.  They’re all giving their opinions on the state of a market, or a new product.  Very often this leads to the manifestation of proverbial Elephant in the Room – the obvious issue no one wants to mention because it’s embarrassing, or taboo, as it has implications that could impact the project in a negative way.

While no one wants to talk about the elephant, the good news is that it’s there.  Yes, no one is talking about it (yet), but if  the culture is such that accountability is valued more than meeting deadlines, the elephant will be revealed and it will get talked about.  (If there are negative ramifications for saying something important just because it will negatively impact a product launch, you’ve got bigger problems than the elephant*.)

But very often, there are insights in your Voice of Customer (VOC) feedback that aren’t obvious, that won’t get talked about or dealt with – they’re Chameleons.

Chameleons are more dangerous to your project than elephants (I’m speaking with regards to VOC type data, or any situation where people are interpreting what others believe or are doing. I realize chameleons are cute benign reptiles 🙂 )  .  This is because people don’t know what they don’t know.  But, just because something isn’t known, doesn’t mean it can’t be known, or that there aren’t tell-tale signs present.

Since you can’t see the Chameleon directly, you have to look indirectly for the shadows –  Shifting shadows, a glimpse of movement.  It’s things that are implied, not things that are obvious.  It’s the nebulous things, the directions that are inferred from what is being said and done, not the words themselves.

This is important, because the words themselves are going to be the same words that members of the VOC panel will use when describing the situation to your competition.   If you want to have a product or service that is different and superior to what everyone else does, look for the Chameleon.

What are some tricks for seeing the Chameleon?

When dealing with VOC, a textual analysis is a great place to start.  It can reveal underlying dispositions and assumptions.  It can also show what types of metaphors, and thus what contexts people are using when they talk about your product.  I was once part of VOC feedback and noticed that certain subgroups of clinicians consistently referred to certain medical devices using military-like terms: cocked, captured, loaded, etc.  No one really noticed it because those terms are ubiquitous.   I did some textual analysis and noticed that there was another subgroup that rarely used those terms.  This was a Chameleon!

So I raised the question, do we want people using a war/battle metaphor for this surgical device, or do we want the market to use, and experience, a different, more healing metaphor?

The other tip is to pay close attention to what people do, not only what they say.  Body language, rituals, procedures, actions of any type, can give tremendous insight and reveal the Chameleons that everyone else will miss.

I once researched  a medical procedure and realized the doctor used a particular motion again and again.  The doctor never mentioned he made the movement, but he did it every procedure.  The kicker is that no products on the market leveraged that particular movement.  So I rolled that motion into the product design, creating a more ergonomic, simple, and cost effective to make, product.

Remember, do textual analysis and analyze what people do.  By being cognizant of these two tips, you’ll be well on your way to recognizing the Chameleons when they become present.  It’s well worth looking for them.  Sometimes they hide right next to the elephants. 😉

 

 

*- Actually this is a Cultural, or Corporate Chameleon.

Posted in Behavioral Science, Best Practices, Case Studies, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Disruptive Innovation, ethnography, innovation, Innovation Tools, observation, problem solving, Service Design, Surveys | 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 »

Six Essential Guidelines to Failing Forward — Relishing Failure (Even When it Tastes Disgusting)

Posted by Plish on April 26, 2016

In the span of a couple seconds a wonderful orange, blackberry fragrance turned caramely, then malty, then char…

I quickly turned around and saw that my blackberry sauce had become a gooey burning mess.  Taking it off the heat I scraped it into a container and set it on the garbage can to cool.  I then promptly washed the pan and started another batch of my sauce – after all, the French Toast was already done.

As I went to throw away the failure, I grabbed a spoon and tasted this mess.  Who knows, maybe something good came out of it…

 

Carbonized berries with a hint of charred honey – bitter and brown – there really was nothing redeemable from this.  My takeaway?  Perhaps use a little more liquid, a little less sugars, or more importantly, just pay attention better!!

People always talk about failing fast, failing forward, etc.  But failing is only beneficial if we take the time to analyze, or in this case taste, our failures.

What’s needed first when we analyze?

A willingness to look!  If I was simply interested in making the French Toast and plating it; or if I was only interested in getting rid of a smoky mess and throwing it out, I wouldn’t have found out what the gooey stuff tasted, looked, smelled and felt/acted like.

Be curious about the failures no matter how mundane or common they may appear.  As noted in the classic, “The Art of Scientific Investigation“:

 

Discog40

The Art of Scientific Investigation, by W.I.B. Beveridge, Pg. 40

 

The trick then is to look and really question whatever you can’t explain (and sometimes even questioning the things you (think you) can explain can be very useful!) Multiple people can see the same phenomenon and yet see different things.

Some years back, a veteran engineer was convinced that a plastic part was failing because of something happening in the mold.  I was brought in to take a look at the situation as they were short on resources.  Not taking the veteran engineer’s word, I looked more closely under a microscope.  Something didn’t seem right. After looking at the part, and the entire manufacturing and testing process more closely, I realized that the failure was actually due to a testing fixture applied to the part after it was molded.  Good parts were being made bad!  A change in the testing procedure resulted in weeks of saved time and the product was able to launch on time.

So,  while fruitful failing starts with observation, there are actually six points you should think about next time you burn a berry sauce, or something fails. Pay attention to these six points and you’ll be guaranteed to be failing-forward:

  1. Practice being curious about why things fail.  Ask questions, observe, taste, feel, smell.  If you can’t explain something, if something seems odd, follow up!
  2. Can this failure actually be used?  In other words, is it truly a failure? The charred goop may have tasted good – maybe I could’ve used it in its new form? (I couldn’t but I asked this question 🙂 )
  3. Can some aspect of the failure be used?  Okay, so maybe it tastes disgusting, but does this mean that it’s totally a loss?  Maybe charred, seasoned berry goo is good for digestion? (I don’t know if it is, but I’d venture it isn’t.)  Maybe the sticky sugar is a biofriendly adhesive?
  4. What did I do? How did I get here?  Understand the full width and breadth of what was done to create the failure.  Look at the ingredients that went into the failure, the tools and fixtures, the timing, the context/environment.  Understand what truly caused the failure.
  5. Document it!  Jot it down, put it into your phone, take pictures, make recordings. At the very minimum, commit what you can to memory.  Be conscious about remembering what happened so that it doesn’t happen again.
  6. Can you recreate the failure?  At the end of the day, we should be able to recreate the failure (I am quite confident I could burn my sauce again and create the same brown goop).  If we can’t recreate it, we didn’t understand it.

Failing is the easy part.  Turning it into something to build upon takes a conscious, concerted effort.  However, the more you are cognizant of these six points, the more fruitful and the more repeatable your product development efforts will become.

Then the fun REALLY starts!

🙂

POST SCRIPT

~~~The second batch of blackberry sauce was sublime ~~~

🙂

Posted in creativity, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, Food, innovation, Innovation Tools, observation, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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