ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

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 »

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 »

Use This Simple Innovation Technique to Create Better Pizza….er, Products!

Posted by Plish on May 20, 2015

We’ve all had this experience:

You order a pizza for pickup.  You get home and open the box and find the cardboard under the pizza is wet and soggy.  You dig into the pizza but find out that, unfortunately, the flavor of  the wet cardboard  transferred to the pizza’s crust.

I’ve had the same experience on pizzas that were delivered as well.  Anything more than 10 minutes and the soggy cardboard effect kicks in.

How do we fix it?

Let’s use the time honored technique of re-ordering the sequence of events to create a different, and better, product, er…pizza.

Very often certain events get canonized as the way to create a product.  In some ways this is a good thing as it virtually guarantees repeatability in end products.  In the case of pizza the following happens :

  1. Take order
  2. Take crust and spread tomato sauce evenly
  3. Place cheese on tomato sauce
  4. Add  other toppings (If applicable)
  5. Place in oven at 425F for 15 minutes.
  6. Pull pizza out of the oven
  7. Place on hard surface
  8. Cut pizza
  9. Place on cardboard and slide into pizza box
  10. Give to customer
  11. Drive home
  12. Open Box
  13. Take slices of deliciousness out and eat!

Now, the steps in red are what the restaurant typically sees.  They are pretty much oblivious to steps 11-13 as they are busy doing steps 1-10 for other customers.  The problem is that the restaurant can keep doing 1-10 flawlessly, but the fact of the matter is that step 11 is especially critical to 13 being a pleasurable, or not so pleasurable, experience.  If the drive home is more than 10 minutes, the quality of the pizza could start going downhill.  The longer the ride, the  dark, steamy, cheesy, oily environment inside the box takes its toll as cheesy oil and moisture soaks through the cut marks in the pizza and soils the cardboard.

That in turn starts soaking back into the crust and impacting the flavor.

We could solve this problem by adding substances to the crust that will repel, or mask, the cardboard taste but let’s do something easier.

Change the sequence of events.  There is one step in particular that directly impacts how the pizza crust will survive the ride home.

How about:

  1. Take order
  2. Take crust and spread tomato sauce evenly
  3. Place cheese on tomato sauce
  4. Add  other toppings (If applicable)
  5. Place in oven at 425F for 15 minutes.
  6. Pull pizza out of the oven
  7. Place on cardboard and slide into pizza box
  8. Give to customer
  9. Drive home
  10. Open Box
  11. Cut Pizza!
  12. Take slices of deliciousness out and eat!

Yes.  Let the customer cut the pizza.  Not only will that help the crust quality, it takes a step, and some time, out of the pizza making process.

It may not seem like a lot, but a couple of seconds with every pizza baked will add up by the end of the year.  Heck, if the restaurant wants to, it can sell branded pizza cutters, or give one away with every 10 pizzas purchased.  Make it a game: “We make it and bake it, but you cut it and love it!”

So, if you want better tasting pizza, try this simple innovation.

When you order your pizza, tell them to not cut it.

But, don’t expect old habits to die hard.  In the restaurant that I’ve been testing this theory with (Thank you Salutos for unknowingly providing the pizza for these experiments!🙂 ), even when I’ve given them instructions not to cut the pizza, often they’ve cut it anyway,

More important, next time you’re trying to improve a product that’s based on a process, look at rearranging the steps.  You might just end up with a tasty new product!🙂

PS. I shared this tidbit on Instagram first.  Feel free to follow me there for more on innovation and creativity!  Just click on the pic to go to my ZenStorming on Instagram.

Posted in Best Practices, Design, design thinking, Food, innovation, Innovation Tools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Cannoli – Designing a Great Experience

Posted by Plish on February 3, 2015

A cannolo (singular of cannoli) Courtesy of Wikipedia

Today I was savoring one of the two cannoli I bought (it looked just like the picture above.) It suddenly dawned on me that this food perfectly represents the ideal product experience.

Bite one: Chocolate chips (or pistachios) creamy filling and crunchy roll.

Bite two and three: More creamy goodness and crunch.  An occasional chocolate chip.

Bite Four: Abundant chocolate chips, creamy filling and more crunch.

Cannoli, like a good song, a good show, a good product, starts strong, has a middle that is enjoyable and then ends on a high note with a bang!

It’s important to remember that even if the middle was empty, (an unfortunate problem with rookie cannoli makers), the fact that the experience ends with crunch, chocolate chips and creamy filling, helps redeem the experience.

What happens if a cannolo falls apart before someone is done eating?

While it’s a pleasant experience, the fact that the crunchy parts can’t really be eaten with a fork means that a person has to use his/her fingers to eat the rest of the parts.  While not quite a game breaker, part of the appeal of intact cannoli is that the entire eating experience is clean and yet delectable!

So what are the key takeaways?

Flavors aren’t everything. Color, aroma, crunch, all key.  And paramount?? Making sure the shell is crunchy enough to give a great culinary experience, but not so crunchy that it crumbles into a mess that prevents it from being eaten using one’s fingers.

Next time you’re designing a product or service, think cannoli.  Better yet, eat a cannoli and experience great design!🙂

Posted in Design, Experience, Food | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Chef Guy Fieri on Innovation

Posted by Plish on April 1, 2014

Every time I get the opportunity, I ask great chefs this simple question:

What does innovation mean to you?

This year at the International Home and Housewares Show, I caught up (quite literally as you see from the video,) with Chef Guy Fieri.  His response to the question: “What does innovation mean to you?” is shown below.  Give it a watch and join me below the video and I’ll share my thoughts.

Chef Fieri’s thoughts echo, I think, what many people believe innovation is:  The willingness to “step outside the box” and try new things, the willingness to experiment.  Undergirding this willingness, though, is a key acceptance of failure.  He realizes that not everything will be great but we won’t know unless we try.

It’s quite simple really, if we think something, try it and see what happens.  Small changes can have huge impacts; wolves can change the course of rivers.

What are your thoughts on Chef Fieri’s approach?

~~~

Thank you, Chef Fieri!  You’re schedule was fast paced and packed with action (like your food!) and taking the time to chat was most gracious.  Thank you, and keep rocking!

Posted in creativity, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, Food, innovation, Interviews, Nature of Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Thoughts on Innovation From Chef Aaron Sanchez

Posted by Plish on March 27, 2014

 

Every time I get the opportunity, I ask great chefs this simple question:

What does innovation mean to you?

This year at the International Home and Housewares Show, I was able to watch Chef Aarón Sanchez at work, and then chat briefly with him.  His response to the question: “What does innovation mean to you?” is shown below.  Give it a watch and join me below the video and I’ll share my thoughts.

Chef Aarón was true to his Buddhist beliefs.  His short and sweet answer hit on a theme that I’ve heard from other chefs, namely, going back to the roots, understanding where you are and where you can go.    There is both constraint and open-ended-ness to “understanding where (your roots) take you.”  Inherently the roots have a potential energy. They provide the foundation from which innovations can grow.   At its core, this statement is about understanding your raw materials, about their potential, about how they can be manipulated to get the results you want. This doesn’t just mean actual brick and mortar substances.  It also applies to philosophies and ideas.  This is especially true if you want an innovation to fit in your portfolio.  If you want your innovation to be recognized as having ties to certain roots, you need to understand those roots.

At first when he said, “Always use the best ingredients,” I was stumped.  Was this supposed to be a koan?  What do good ingredients have to do with innovation?  And then it hit me.

The questions isn’t “what?”, it’s “why?”

Why are the best ingredients important?

It’s a question of fidelity.  If ingredients are poor, if the raw materials are poor, people experiencing the innovation may not get what the innovation is trying to say.  A milk  flavored with a gentle herbal blend will not convey subtle flavors if the milk is old and sour.   That innovation will be rejected.  It’s not that the innovation is a bad idea.  On the contrary, it may be a great idea, but because I didn’t use the best ingredients, the innovation in the glass doesn’t resemble the innovation in my head.  Something was lost in the translation from idea to reality.

It’s important then for innovations to have a level of fidelity that is appropriate for what needs to be communicated/experienced.  This can only occur if the ‘ingredients’ in your innovation are the best.  My maternal grandmother used to say with regards to cooking: “Put good things together and it’ll be good.”  This doesn’t mean that if you take 2000 of the best ingredients and stir them in a pot they’ll taste good.  No, it is about context.  Combine good things, in the appropriate way, and the flavors in your mind will be faithfully reproduced in the eating experience.

This, interestingly enough, closes the loop and brings us back full circle to understanding one’s roots.  You can’t be true to your understanding of your roots, and communicate innovations that come from them, if you don’t use the best ingredients.

What do you think about Chef Aarón’s philosophy on innovation?

~~~

I want to thank you, Chef Sanchez, for putting up with me and taking the time to chat.  You were most gracious and considerate, even with multiple people and commitments pulling you in myriad directions.  You were being true to your roots, and you only used the best ingredients.  Thank you!

 

Posted in creativity, Creativity Videos, Design, Food, innovation, Interviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How Monsanto Should Be Innovating

Posted by Plish on November 14, 2013

It seems that every week someone mentions something about Monsanto, and it’s very seldom good.  Doesn’t matter if it’s Facebook, or Twitter, or the news, someone is saying something.  A simple perusal of a Google Search of “Monsanto” can give one the impression that the company is a litigious giant  that doesn’t care about the well-being of people or the environment and instead is only concerned with making money.  Monsanto even has the dubious distinction of being named “The Most Evil Corporation” of 2013 in a Natural News poll.

Never the less, as far as corporations go, Monsanto is doing very well.  In spite of the bad press and mounting negative public opinion over GMO‘s, Monsanto continues to grow, innovating, patenting and licensing the agricultural technologies they develop.

Even though Monsanto  licenses its technologies to other seed companies,  many in the public perceive Monsanto as taking advantage of farmers as opposed to helping them.  After all, companies generally don’t sue their customers (even if any money won in a case does go to youth scholarship programs.)

To be fair, they really can’t be blamed for  protecting their intellectual property.  When a company invests millions of dollars a day in research, if it allowed people to use their technology in an unlicensed manner, the business could not sustain itself.

But, there is another way…

(Farmers are) the support system of the world’s economy, working day in and day out to feed, clothe and provide energy for our world. – Monsanto’s About Us webpage

There are literally millions and millions of farmers in the world. Small farms, large farms and everything in-between.  Ultimately, everyone wants the same thing: Improved, sustainable yields that don’t hurt people or the environment, but yet enable farmers to make a living.

Farmers are passionate about their calling. Each one is looking for an edge, for a way to get the most for the least amount of investment in time and money.  Each one is dealing with local microclimates, soil conditions, and pests; not to mention the economic climates.  They seek out new information, they build and utilize support networks, they experiment.  They are entrepreneurs. (Check out Farm Journal for just a tiny sample of the varied topics farmers digest)

Monsanto, as mentioned before, spends over 2 million dollars a day on research and patents are only good for 20 years (and some of the patents they’re defending now are expiring within the next few years.)  They employ 22,000 people worldwide. No matter how much they invest in R&D, or how many people they hire, they can never account for  all the variables farmers around the world deal with.

So what should they do?

Monsanto needs to begin Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Co-Creation, Design, Disruptive Innovation, Food, innovation, Open Source, Science, Sustainability, Sustainable Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Brilliant and Innovative Idea for Restaurateurs (and Other Businesses)

Posted by Plish on September 18, 2012

 

Want to start your own restaurant but don’t know the business “ins” and “outs”?

Head over to Finland and check out the “Open Kitchen” initiative.

It’s purpose?

Open Kitchen is a programme that demystifies the business of food by creating a forum for you to learn from the city’s experienced food business people who’ve been there and done that, and then working with your peers to build and run a prototype restaurant for a week.

What do you think of this? Could it be used for other industries?

Posted in culture of innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship 2.0, Food, innovation, Service Design, Start-Ups | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How To Build an SMS/Text Support Group to _________(Lose Weight, Stop Smoking, Be Green…)

Posted by Plish on March 25, 2012

Texting is everywhere.  Which got me to thinking: Wouldn’t it be great if there was an app  that would leverage SMS to help people support each other in their quests to improve?

Need to lose weight?  Get this app.  Need to stop smoking?  Try this app.  Want to do a better job of conserving energy or recycling?  This is the app for you and your friends.

But then I thought, “Why bother with an app?”  Everything needed to make a virtual support group already exists on our mobile phones.  All that is needed are friends, common goals, passion, and a little know-how.

I assume you have the first three. Here’s the how:

Build the Group

1. – What type of people should be in your virtual group?

  • They share concern for the issue you’re working on.  In fact, it should be a passionate concern!
  • They’re within 100 miles (This isn’t necessary, but it’s always a plus if you can sometimes meet in person!)
  • You trust these people implicitly, and they trust you!

2.- Group size should be between 2 to 10 people. You can have more but the goal is to support each other. More than 10 and things could get quite unwieldy. Small groups are better for this.

3. – Once you and your friends are committed to this journey, make sure you have each other’s phone numbers.

4. – Create a Group out of your friends’ numbers. This is so you can text everyone at once. Oh sure, you can text the individual people one at a time, but the true power of finding and giving support, lies in the ability to contact everyone at once and the easier this is to do, the better. If you need help doing this you can check out the following references based upon the phone type:

5. – It may be worthwhile to write, and store, various ‘pre-written’ messages (for example: “I’m feeling weak and really want to eat this!”, “I did it!! I resisted!” or “Just finished exercising – feel gr8!”) But be careful. Correspondence should be authentic and heartfelt. Don’t overuse pre-canned messages!

 Working Together…

6, – Now that your group is built, contact each other, via text, at key moments.  Here are some examples of times when sharing would be apropos:

  • Challenges.  When someone in the group feels the urge to eat more than he/she should, or the wrong type of food, or doesn’t feel like exercising, grab one of the pre-written texts, or write one on the spot, and send it to the group.
  • Successes.  If you’ve just resisted that cigarette, or resisted the “Ice Cream Brownie Fudge Surprise!” share it.
  • Did you sneak something from the fridge in the middle of the night? Share it. You need to be open with each other. Remember, you’re in this together to improve not to judge. (No judging!!) 
  • Come across an article, quote or event that might help you all reach your goals? Send it out!

7. – The group’s reason for existence is to support each other. You are committed to each other. When a text comes from someone in the group, respond. Help each other out. Cheer each other on! It’s the feedback and interaction that will help people meet their goals and grow.

8. – If distance permits, get together in person to touch base, see each other, and smile (or cry). You’re in this together, and you’ll succeed together.

That’s all there is to it! 

And remember, this is more than just about weight loss.  It’s about helping each other grow and be more!

Please let me know how this goes, or if you meet any specific challenges.  I’m especially looking forward to hearing how else this could be applied..

Good luck!!

Disclaimer: Any healthcare information is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care providers with any questions that you may have regarding a specific medical condition. Never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking medical advice or treatment because of something you have read on this site.

Posted in Design, Food, Health Concerns, Healthcare, Social Innovation, Social Networking, The Human Person, Wellness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

When Inspiration Meets an Apron

Posted by Plish on March 18, 2012

I was at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show the other day.  The theme was “Hort Couture”; a stimulating mix of fashion and flowers/gardening.

One exhibit was called, “Aprons: Myth, Memory, Fantasy in the Kitchen.” The artists on display represented the  Women’s Journeys in Fiber project.  Among many of the fascinating aprons, one in particular, done by Janette Gerber, caught my eye.  I put together the below video so you could see and read her journey through the creative process.  The text in the video is hers, and it gives some context to the work.

If you want to see more pictures from the show, click on the below pic of Yours Truly  after I snuck into one of the exhibits to do some designing. (The page will open in a new window).

Click to see more pics from the show

Posted in creativity, Design, Food, innovation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Research | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: