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

Posted by Plish on July 12, 2014

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*******

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Designing a Better World in the New Year

Posted by Plish on January 13, 2014

“The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.”

― Frederick Buechner, The Hungering Dark

The Life Influence Continuum - Click to see full size

Click To See Full Size

A New Year – New Beginnings in the Life Influence Continuum

Each person

A unique combination of genes

Growing in family that grows

Surrounded by friends (sometimes more, other times less)

At work

In society

Touching others

Being touched

Love and Trauma

Changing the now (and future generations!)

What are we designing?

Humans become Light through the touching of souls

Yet we limit embraces (Do we fear the Unique?)

Impoverishing the Continuum(s) –

Still, the Singularity calls…

~~~

What is the name of the Stream we swim?

Chaos? Where all is chance buffeting of semi-conscious molecules?

Time?  With Einstein’s pavers beneath oblivious feet?

Shadow?  We Dancing Projections of something beyond?

Hate? Tar and stenches of sulphur, inescapable…?

Love? Crystal aromas of joy, refracting soul Light – lifting, empowering…?

The Stream awaits its name –

live wisely…

~~~

People often say that Christmas isn’t about the gifts.

I disagree.

Christmas is about gifts.

It is ultimately about a gift of giving Self.

It is a Gift that can keep on giving – every day, every minute, every second…

Everyone can share that Gift…

Start today!

~~~

 

Posted in children, Co-Creation, Design, Evolution, Human Rights, innovation, Life Stages, Parents, Social Innovation, Social Responsibility, The Future, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

5 Insights Into Innovation From the Coyote

Posted by Plish on June 30, 2013

Graphic Courtesy of Nature.com (Click on it to read article on Coyotes)

Graphic Courtesy of Nature.com (Click on it to read article on Coyotes)

Every once in a while when I’m out jogging, I’ll come across a coyote. They look at me, turn, and go in the other direction – disappearing into a thicket along the trail.  I also hear them yipping with pups, or I hear local packs of coyotes join in with choruses of their own when a distant ambulance siren pierces the night.  Yet most people don’t see coyotes all that often.

But just because most people don’t see coyotes doesn’t mean they’re not around.  On the contrary, coyotes are, quite literally, everywhere.  In fact, coyotes, in spite of their habitats being modified, and open hunting seasons, are one of the few animals that has actually increased the extent of its domain over time.

Think of it.  They are competing for food and land under intense pressure and thriving!

So, what are the main reasons for this, and what can we learn from the wily Coyote? (The word itself is an Aztec derivative of the word meaning ‘Trickster.”)

1. Coyotes adjust their diet based upon what’s available.  When they find certain types of food getting scarce, they’re willing to go after other types of food.   How willing are most companies to venture out of the comfort space and adjust how they ‘feed’ themselves? What new channels do you utilize?

2. As coyotes spread Northeast, they mated with wolves, or more properly, allowed themselves to breed with wolves, who were in the decline due to hunting.  This resulted in bigger coyotes that could take on bigger prey. Now there is evidence that they’re breeding with domestic dogs – the results of which are unknown because this is still an experiment in the making.  Is your organization willing to intimately partner with others to create even more powerful ‘offspring’?

3. Coyotes breed quickly.  Compared to other predatory canines, coyotes reproduce more quickly.  This enables them to stay ahead of the game, even under predatory pressure and open hunting.  Is your organization reproducing itself, creating multiple channels to have a better chance at survival?  (Google is especially good at this.)

4. Coyotes are relentless in forcing others to play by their rules.  Where coyotes are taking advantage of clear-cut forests to prey on the young of an endangered caribou species, the only way to save the caribou right now, is to stop clear cutting the forest.  Is your company taking advantage of  market dynamics so effectively that you’re forcing the game to change?

5.  Coyotes constantly push the edges of their boundaries.  They look for opportunities to expand their domains. How effectively are you probing the edge of what you don’t know? 

Larry Ellis, in his essay, “Trickster: Shaman of the Liminal” perhaps summarizes innovation best when speaking of the Trickster genre (Replace the references to ‘Trickster’ with the word ‘Innovation’):”Trickster creates through destruction and succeeds through failure; his mythic and cultural achievements are seldom intentional. “Defining such a various creature,” writes Jarold Ramsey, “is a little like trying to juggle hummingbirds””

Yes, innovation can be like trying to juggle hummingbirds.  But, with these 5 insights into the method behind the coyote’s madness, the juggling becomes much more manageable and the results, intentional.

Posted in Best Practices, creativity, culture of innovation, Disruptive Innovation, Evolution, innovation, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Into the Dynamic Locus of Sustainable, and Impactful, Innovation

Posted by Plish on October 12, 2012

“Let us establish ourselves in the divine milieu. There we shall find ourselves where the soul is most deep and where matter is most dense. There we shall discover, where all its beauties flow together, the ultra-vital, the ultra-sensitive, the ultra-active point of the universe. And, at the same time, we shall feel the plenitude of our powers of action and adoration effortlessly ordered within our deepest selves.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin,The Divine Milieu

This is the place from which to create; the font of beauty, understanding.  To experience the world from this perspective is to be swept up the in the creative making of the New.  This is from whence enduring change is born, where innovative design does not harm people or planet.  It is that place and disposition that encourages and makes possible, the infinite possibilities of the human spirit.

How is, or how can, this quest be fostered in educational, corporate, social, political and religious structures of the world?  In short, how can this orientation towards self, and all, be fostered in day-to-day living for people of all walks of life?

Posted in Authenticity, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Evolution, Human Rights, innovation, love, Nature of Creativity, Social Responsibility, Spirituality, Sustainability, The Future, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Animals, Architecture and Design – Are We Losing the Connection?

Posted by Plish on September 22, 2011

There’s something about animals.  They can evoke fear, joy and myriads of other emotions.   Once upon a time, gargoyles and various other creatures were regularly incorporated into the design of buildings.  But now?

With the exception of clothes, how often do you see them in modern architecture and products?

Other than the Milwaukee Art Museum’s , Quadracci Pavilion,  which evokes a bird with its flapping wings and soaring demeanor, I can’t think of any other buildings.

Marketing campaigns have not been shy about using animals.  And for good reason.  It’s probably the same reason that older/ancient architecture utilized animals in both serious and whimsical fashions (and why people are attracted to furry, animal patterned garments).

Human brains are hardwired to respond to animals.

The above study shows that animals evoke pretty strong reactions in our amygdala’s – that older part of our brains that is largely responsible for emotional responses.

Which brings me back to my original question:

Why aren’t animals used more prominently in modern architecture and innovative products?  Sure, we use the mechanisms of animals to improve our products and ventilation systems, but we still insist on soaring glass and steel, monoliths with gold accents.  In a world that is trying to recapture a respect for nature, shouldn’t there be less techiness in our structures, and more ‘down-to-earthinesss’? Shouldn’t we celebrate our connection to animals in ways that doesn’t cheapen them or make them solely articles of (literal) consumption?

What do you think?

 

 

Posted in Architectural Design, Biology, Design, Evolution, innovation, nature, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Predicting the Future – Maybe It’s What We Make It

Posted by Plish on July 23, 2011

I came across this great little blurb at Impact Lab where Seagrams distillery  made predictions in the 1940’s about what life would be like in the future.  One of the pictures, shown below, shows what is essentially a Sport Bar with flat screen TV’s. 

What’s missing from this scene?  See what you come up with and then continue reading….

The first obvious feature is that the hockey players, including the goalie, are not wearing any protective headgear.

The other aspect is that there are no other races (or women) shown in the image, only white men.

Why do television sets and bars get ‘modernized’ but behaviors don’t?

First, helmets for players.  It was considered uncool for players to use head protection.  It’s a macho thing!   Helmets would get in the way of fans identifying the players!   Why would players in the future be less macho? If anything they’d be more macho, right?  (The natural  question to ask is: are hockey players of the present less macho because they wear helmets?)

I suspect that macho-ism explains the fact that it’s all men in the bar as well.   It’s interesting that a more racially diverse crowd wasn’t considered part of the future.

Let’s shift gears from people to objects – the TV’s. Why did flat screen TV’s in bars get predicted?

Think about the attributes of any product – things like size, weight, speed, flavor, temperature, etc.  The future tends to hold products that are smaller, thinner, lighter, faster, more flavorful, hotter/colder,… well, you get the idea. 

These physical, touchy-feely aspects come into being because we want things to be better.  We imagine them better and make them better. In a way, we make the future.

People, on the other hand, are harder to figure out. 

But then, maybe it’s not that much different.  If we want to predict how people will behave, maybe we should just imagine ourselves better, more open, more loving, more concerned about safety, more concerned about each other…

Then we should just make the future that way.

Posted in Design, Evolution, imagination, innovation, The Future, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Want to Increase Creativity and Innovation? Touch and be Touched

Posted by Plish on August 5, 2010

We’ve all experienced the gentle pat on the back, or touch on the hand when things aren’t going well.  Well, it seems that these touches are helpful in more ways than we typically think.

Research has shown that touching is helpful in  a myriad of ways.

 According to the article:

A warm touch seems to set off the release of oxytocin, a hormone that helps create a sensation of trust, and to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

In the brain, prefrontal areas, which help regulate emotion, can relax, freeing them for another of their primary purposes: problem solving. In effect, the body interprets a supportive touch as “I’ll share the load.”

“We think that humans build relationships precisely for this reason, to distribute problem solving across brains,” said James A. Coan, a a psychologist at the University of Virginia. “We are wired to literally share the processing load, and this is the signal we’re getting when we receive support through touch.”

Some of my thoughts on applying this?

  1. Team building events can accomplish a lot more than just bring people together, but…
  2. Building teams needs to be done all the time.  There needs to be an active, ongoing building of esprit de corps, but…
  3. Perspectives regarding the touching of coworkers might need to be reassessed.  It’s interesting to think that current  ‘hands off’ practices might actually be hurting innovation.
  4. It seems obvious to say, but personal lives, the relationships people have outside of work, do make a difference in the workplace.
  5. People who are more tactile, more ‘touchy-feely’ might be a good addition to a team.
  6. Although it’s not directly mentioned in the article, the touching phenomenon might help explain the benefits of why having pets is a good thing.  Pets in the workplace, anyone?
  7. Customer service (think healthcare) should be open to allowing and fostering touching in the proper contexts so as to better treat people as whole beings.  This could also give customer service people more credence and build better bonds between customer and company.
  8. Massage therapy shouldn’t be seen as a luxury, but as a necessity in the workplace.
  9. I’d be interested to know if things like brushing hair, or touches like those experienced at beauty parlors or hair dressers, has positive effect.   It does in senior care facilities, why not use it in other places?
  10. How might technology be used to foster human interaction and touch?

What are your thoughts on this?

Posted in Authenticity, Biology, creativity, culture of innovation, Evolution, innovation, love, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Research, Society, stress, Team-Building, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

What’s to Come of Present Innovations in the Future? It’s All in the Beginnings

Posted by Plish on June 25, 2010

Here’s the scenario: 

You play the piano. You need to come up with a system for transferring musical notes into something that a computer and other keyboards and electronic instruments will understand. 

Odds are, you’ll come up with something like MIDI.  MIDI stands for “Musical Instrument Digital Interface.”    It’s a protocol that enables electronic instruments to communicate with each other.  Go to any non-classical music concert and odds are, somewhere in the mix, MIDI is playing a role (The pun really isn’t intended).  The interesting thing is that  MIDI doesn’t actually transmit any music per se.  It transmits information such as when a certain note stops and starts, its pitch, loudness and what type of instrument is sounding the note. 

So, what does MIDI look like? 

When people see MIDI instruments working, all people usually see are a bunch of cables connecting everything together.  What they don’t see is what the information looks like when depicted on a screen. 

When writing songs and depicting a piece in MIDI you use something called a piano roll.  

Piano Roll Courtesy of Musikality.net

 

The piano is depicted along the left hand side.  Time moves from left to right.  The above example shows each measure of four beats. You hit a virtual key on the piano at the left (or on an actual electronic piano connected to the computer) and a corresponding square at the proper time gets colored in indicating that note.  Those little squares, along with some instrument identifiers (even drums can be communicated via MIDI) ,  contain the information that dictates what you’re going to hear coming out of the speakers. 

It’s actually pretty minimalistic and elegant.  

It’s also based on the piano (and the piano roll comes from player pianos!). All digital instruments, whether they’re guitars, trumpets, vuvuzelas, or drums, somehow are described by the same basic parameters (note on, note off, loudness, pitch) that are present when someone hits a key on a piano. 

What really is fascinating though is how the MIDI technology, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in creativity, Customer Focus, Design, Evolution, innovation, Musical Creativity, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Sustainable Technology, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Your Ideas: Your Gift of Beauty to The World

Posted by Plish on May 10, 2010

I was recently reading the new, Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality,  by  Soctt Belksy, the founder and CEO of Behance.

The book is about bringing ideas to frution and it’s chock full of techniques and  pearls of wisdom.  One that really got my attention , was this:

“Please take yourself and your creative pursuits seriously.  Your ideas must be treated with respect because their importance truly does extend beyond your own interests. Every living person benefits from a world that is enriched with ideas made whole – ideas that are made to happen through your passion, commitment, self-awareness, and informed pursuit.

Challenge yourself to withstand the self doubts and societal pressures that will rally against you. When they do, take comfort in the knowledge that you are in good company.  We all struggle, but we persevere.  Adversity makes us stronger.  Relish the fact that you are on an important path, emboldened by both the opportunity and grave responsibility to create something of value – a value that is rewarding for you and enriching for all.”

Step back…

Breathe…

Think about it…

In the day to day grind it’s too easy for us to lose track of the fact that what we’re providing to our families, employers, clients and the world,  are not faceless concepts. 

We enflesh ideas – our gifts come with a face!

We need to fight for our ideas, to stand by them, to even let them go if need be.   We need to realize that humans are privileged with the supranatural capacity to bring beauty into the world.

What is this supranatural capacity?

A flower drops its seeds to guarantee more beauty next year.  It is the natural way for a flower to bring beauty into the world.  Humans bring beauty into existence through the work of our minds, hearts, hands and relationships. Sure, by nature we have this capacity, but it’s also a choice we make.  It’s a both/and type of situation.  We are able to create outside of, or above, the natural order, all the while still being a part of it.   It’s supra (above) – natural.

Sound pretty awesome?

It is!

A fish brings its beauty of ‘fishness’ to the world even while dropping its waste products into the water it swims in.  But it has no choice and it can’t improve the situation on its own.  If it over-populates and over-pollutes its waters, its population naturally dies back to bring the system back into balance.

If a bunch of  fishes had the supranatural capacity of humans they would realize that their actions impact the environment and respond accordingly.   But they don’t.  They’re fishes that are part of, and act  naturally within, their system.   Humans willingly ignoring their supranatural capacity (and interestingly enough not acting ‘naturally’ any more)   will be at the mercy of the system (and vice-versa!), and like the above mentioned fishes,  throw the system out of whack until the people die back. 

So you see, acknowledging the supranatural aspect of human nature isn’t an option.  It’s a necessity.

It’s a prerequisite to bringing beauty to the world through our ideas; to building  sustainable cultures of innovation that respect people and the world.

Before my mother died she told me, ‘You’ve been given so many gifts, you bring beauty to the world in so many ways; never stop bringing beauty to the world.”

My mom’s desire for me, is also my desire for you.

Please take your responsibility seriously.

Posted in Authenticity, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Evolution, Human Rights, imagination, innovation, love, nature, Nature of Creativity, Society, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Walking Backwards to a Solution

Posted by Plish on August 14, 2009

Dutch researchers found walking backwards may help with problem solving.

Posted in Biology, cognitive studies, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Creativity Videos, Evolution, idea generation, innovation, nature, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Research, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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