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Archive for the ‘imagination’ Category

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

Posted by Plish on April 30, 2018

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

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

Sharing His Creative Process

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

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

A Little Bubbly

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

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

Stop Making Sense

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

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

Suspend judgement!

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

Don’t judge!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom Line: Collaborate!

“With whom?” you may ask.

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

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

Are More Better?

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

But you need to be you.

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

The Future of Innovation: The World is Your Controller

Posted by Plish on March 30, 2018

 

We interact with the world even when we don’t realize it. 

The act of breathing changes the chemical composition of the air in our immediate vicinity.  Standing in the sun casts a shadow – the area in the darkness gets momentarily deprived of light.  Jump up and down and the floor vibrates.  Walk in a crowd and other people magically move out of the way (hopefully 😉 ).  We tell people we love them (or we don’t) and they respond on an emotional level causing chemical and electrical processes to be initiated in their bodies and in ours.

Go to any Home Depot or Lowes, and there are countless switches, knobs, buttons, sliders and more, that are used to foster interaction with the world around us.

Unfortunately, we’ve gotten so used to these mechanisms of interaction that we think these are the only ways to interact.  We call them switches, knobs, buttons, etc., but we no longer call them what they really are:

Controllers.

Interact with something and it controls something.

To the extent we can measure how the world reacts to our interactions, we can use those measurements to control other things.

Everything has the potential to be a controller.

Some Gamers have taken this truism to an extreme by using objects as diverse as fishing reels to bananas to LED strips to control the games they’re playing.

This video shows the bananas in use.

 

What can we use as controllers in the game we all play: Life?

It’s important that we suspend all judgement of what makes a good controller, at least in the beginning.  It’s important that we play, that we experiment. After all, controllers are used in games.

In our increasingly connected world, the Internet of Things enables controlling systems in unimaginable ways.

The controllers of the future don’t need to have an obvious relationship to the things we want to control (bananas?!).  We only have to design the means for interpreting  our interactions with controllers and sending that information to whatever it is we want to control.

That’s my challenge to you.

Start seeing the everything in the world as a potential controller. Get wild with your ideas.  Think of it as a game, have fun!

Radical innovation may only be a banana away!

 

***If you’d like to learn more and want to structure a class on alternate controllers, take a look at this paper from the folks at the Rochester Institute of Technology who had a class in building alternative game controllers.

 

Posted in creativity, Design, Disruptive Innovation, games, imagination, innovation, Maker, Maker Movement, problem solving, product design, Service Design, The Future, toys, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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)

***

CREATIVITY!!!

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.

Be 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 »

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!

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 »

Three Guidelines For Enabling Innovation (Via a 7 Year Old Crossing the Street)

Posted by Plish on June 26, 2014

The crossing guard waved her arms and held up the stop sign.  On my way to a prototype shop to pick up some parts, I slowed, and stopped, and watched.

Behind the yellow vested guard, thirty to forty seven year olds began crossing the street in a relatively organized manner, except for one girl.  She wasn’t particularly tall as far as 7 year olds go.  She had straight, dirty blonde, just-past-shoulder length hair, and was wearing a white number 4, Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers jersey.  While her friends took a linear approach to street crossing, she took each step in a calculated manner.

With each step she reached with her little legs to the next reflective strip in the cross walk.  Like Indiana Jones crossing a foot bridge, this little girl took a step, rebalanced, shuffled to get to the edge of the strip and then s t r e t c h e d her leg, pointing her toes, landing on the next reflective strip.   Intensely concentrating on where she stepped and avoiding knocking into those around her, she wove her way across the street.

As I smiled at the beautiful play, I realized that this little girl, in this situation, embodies what’s necessary for there to be successful innovation.

1. Safe Space is Needed – She most likely couldn’t have done what she did if cars were whizzing through the crosswalk.  The crossing guard stopped traffic and created a safe area.  If you want people to be innovative, or for that matter, if you want to be innovative yourself, somehow the traffic has to be stopped.  Someone, or something, has to run interference and create a space and time for innovation.   Corporate politics and power plays are guaranteed innovation killers.  There needs to be insulation from NOISE and distraction. If an innovator has to worry about getting hit by proverbial cars, she can’t create.

2. Give the Minimum Direction Necessary – The little girl was likely told: “Cross the street with your friends when the guard says it’s safe. Be sure to stay in the crosswalk!”  She wasn’t told where to step, how many steps to take, or who she had to walk with.  She knew she had to get from Point A to Point B.  Too often there is a tendency to manage how people get from Point A to Point B.  Don’t.  There are infinite combinations of numbers that when added equal 4.  It’s not simply 2+2.  This goes for personal creativity as well.  When in a creative endeavor, ask yourself if you’re simply taking the shortest distance between two points or if you’re exploring options.  Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re taking the ‘easy’ way, or following everyone else, until we stop and ask ourselves what we’re doing.

3.  Space for Fun/Exploration – To me, fun and exploration are largely synonymous.  I alluded to this earlier.  The girl was playing while accomplishing what was asked of her: crossing the street and staying in the cross-walk.  As safe space is needed, so is space for playing.  People need to explore, to try things out, to play and have fun while they innovate.  At least they should.  If someone isn’t having fun going from Point A to Point B, you should ask yourself if that person is the right person in the right place in the project.  But, it’s not always the person!  If someone isn’t having fun, this could also be an indication that above points 1 and 2 haven’t  been implemented.  If they haven’t, fun is much less likely to occur.  Use this check for yourself as well.  Are you passionate about what you’re doing? Are you having fun?  If not, find out what it is that’s blocking the fun.

When you’re trying to create the best environment for innovation for yourself or others, picture the little girl in the Brett Favre jersey stepping from reflective strip to reflective strip while crossing the street.  Remember the three guidelines and you might just find yourself coming up with more creative work and having fun doing it!

 

Posted in children, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, imagination, innovation, problem solving, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Creative Milwaukee @Work – My Summary in Words and Pictures

Posted by Plish on November 20, 2013

A couple weeks back, I was at the Creative Milwaukee @Work Conference.

I’ve put together a social media summary at Seen.

To Be

 

 

Posted in Arts, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, imagination, innovation, Innovation Tools, Social Innovation, Sustainability, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Thoughts from the “Inside 3D Printing Conference and Expo” in Chicago

Posted by Plish on July 13, 2013

I was extremely excited to check out the Inside 3D Printing conference.  I had forgotten to put it into my calendar and almost missed it.  While the speaker lineup for the conference looked interesting and provocative, for someone like myself who has been using 3D rapid prototyping technologies for somewhere between 10 and 15 years, there wasn’t enough to catch my eye for the price tag. So, I opted for registering at the door and walking the ‘expo’ portion of the conference. Besides, I had a few questions on some newer materials that I was hoping someone could answer.

When I walked through the doors I was, to say the least, underwhelmed.  I believe I counted 14 exhibitors. Some of the exhibitors I was already well acquainted with (e.g. Stratasys, 3DSystems, netfabb), others, not so much.  Nevertheless, there was some cool stuff at the show and below are some things I found really interesting, as well as some pictures of the event.

First and foremost, I was really impressed by the folks of www.thre3d.com. Check out the website.  There you’ll find what they call (and what most likely is!), “The biggest interactive 3D printing directory.”  It is a great resource for all things 3D printing.  Research manufacturers, compare products, learn about different types of 3D printing.  It’s a great resource.  While you’re browsing, if you see something that you think needs improving, let them know via the feedback tab.  They are very open to improving the service and genuinely nice people!

When you want to communicate to others what a finished design might look like, high-caliber rendering requires some serious computing power.  It’s not uncommon to start a render before going to sleep and hope that when you wake up, the rendering program hasn’t crashed and you can see the finished result.   Lagoa changes all that.  Lagoa is a cloud based rendering system – lightning fast (minutes and seconds, not hours!), real-time, reasonable pricing and even has a free subscription!  This needs to be seen to believed.  I already have a free account and am starting to play with it.

There was also a very cool 3D paper printing technology from Mcor Technologies. Using a regular ream of copy paper, this technology is much cheaper than plastic printing and great for form and fit type models – plus you can print models in full color.  You can also use them to make investment castings.  And when your model isn’t needed anymore?  Recycle it or compost it. Check out these models, and remember, that’s paper!

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Here is a video of me using this slick Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in 3D Printing, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Digital Manufacturing, imagination, innovation, Innovation Tools, Maker Movement, Open Source, Sketching, The Future | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Three Principles for a Creative, Innovative and Impactful 2013

Posted by Plish on January 4, 2013

I read this amazing little piece written by Steven Zuckerman.  Steven reflected on his experiences planning a celebratory event honoring the great musician and inventor, Les Paul.

It’s an extremely short piece and worth reading in its entirety.  It can however, be summarized in three short principles:

  1. “No one told me I couldn’t do it” – Steven Zuckerman
  2. Doing good things will touch people’s hearts and the results will reverberate like ripples on a pond.  (One of those ripples touched Paul McCartney.)
  3. “It wasn’t there and it should be.” – Les Paul

Think about it.

If you go through life, trying to touch people’s’ hearts with goodness…

If you’re bold enough to initiate new projects without needing permission…

If your eyes are open to needs and your hands ready to craft something to fill those needs…

Think about what you could accomplish!

Or better yet,

– stop thinking, start doing –

 

 

Posted in Authenticity, creativity, Creativity Leadership, Customer Focus, Design, imagination, innovation, invention, problem solving, Social Innovation, Tactics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Thoughts on 3D Printing and…

Posted by Plish on November 14, 2012

Zintro recently blogged on the future of 3D printing. My thoughts are quoted in the article along with those of some colleagues.

In short, 3D printing (in all its facets) still isn’t on the ‘verge’ of launching into the mainstream.  Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a place for 3D printing in the world.  I use it myself for testing product fit and function.  But, even with newer materials being developed all the time, there are still limitations, especially for the ‘home printing’ demographic.

There’s also the problem with designing parts on your computer.  Before anything can be printed it needs to first exist in the digital realm. In other words, the part needs to be built twice- virtually before it can be made in actuality.

The expertise to do this isn’t there yet.  Computer Aided Design programs are pretty complicated.  Even newer ones like Autodesk 123D, while they’re simpler, are not suited to anything other than the simplest parts.   At the end of the design process, if someone isn’t willing to plunk down from $500-$5000,  the model has to be sent to a place like Ponoko to be made.

So what does that mean?

There are some cool applications for 3D printing, especially in the medical realm. Still, the perfect fit for something that’s built layer by layer hasn’t been found.

Which brings me to another technology that’s slipped under the radar.  While 3D printing’s promise of “You can make anything for yourself at any time!” is capturing headlines, this other technology is low-cost and capable of creating more than just toys.

~Arduino~

Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform.  The parts are easy to find at a Radio Shack or online.  To bring those parts to life, one needs to learn to program, and programming is a language.

Learning this language is within the reach of anyone with access to the internet or bookstore.  With some basic knowledge, and tapping into a wealth of online expertise, you can design interactive products and environments.

Here’s a video from one of the founders of Arduino.  He echoes many of my sentiments but one line is particularly memorable:

“You don’t need anyone’s permission to make something great.”

The whole concept of intellectual property and patents will face some serious reckoning in the next 10 years.

Posted in creativity, Design, Disruptive Innovation, Entrepreneurship 2.0, Funding Innovation, idea generation, imagination, innovation, Innovation Tools, Open Source, software, The Future | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Innovating Healthcare Using Dieter Rams’ 10 Principles of Good Design

Posted by Plish on October 26, 2012

The above scene is from the home of a person who has some pretty serious lung problems.  This equipment is sitting next to the front door.  This is what the inhabitants of the house see every day.

It’s what guests see when they come in – when they sit down to play cards on a Friday Evening.

It’s the last thing people see as they leave the house.

It also epitomizes what’s wrong with healthcare, what’s wrong with a system that is about fixing things gone bad; about drugs, compliance, tests, equipment, data, insurance, doctors and hospitals.

Oh sure it works, but there is general agreement that it could be better – way better.

So it got me to thinking: What would a better designed healthcare system look like?

Instead of trying to visualize every detail of what revamped healthcare might look like,  let’s look at Dieter Rams‘ ’10 principles of good design’ (applied to healthcare) to inform our creative processes.

GOOD HEALTHCARE DESIGN…

  • Is innovative – What is really innovative in the above picture? The technology is decades old.  However, it’s not only innovative technology that’s needed, but innovative approaches to problems.
  • Is useful – By and large, people go to doctors and interact with healthcare systems because they need to – not because they want to.   Using innovative approaches (See above), there needs to be an element of usefulness that pulls people in to being healthier.
  • Is aesthetic – The rooster in the above picture has more going for it than the rest of the products.  Things that are aesthetically pleasing pull people in, making people touch, explore, even showcase! A doctor once remarked how he loved using a certain product because the packaging was cool.
  • Conveys understandability – What’s understandable in the above picture?  In a perfectly designed world, instruction booklets wouldn’t be needed.  Intuitiveness would reign.  The How’s and Why’s are conveyed via the design itself.
  • Is unobtrusive – In healthcare this is huge.  When it comes down to it, people don’t want reminders of health problems, or hospital payments, present at all in their lives, let alone being obvious.  Being healthy and interacting with healthcare should have a certain transparency and utility – it’s flexible enough to do what needs to be done with minimal fuss and muss.
  • Is honest – Many objects and systems in healthcare, even those in the above picture, are brutally honest.  But honest healthcare needs to be seen in light of the other principles of good design.  It needs to be true to itself in that people need to know that certain interactions result in certain results.
  • Is long-lasting – Health care is about long-lasting results. It shouldn’t be about ‘trendy’.  It should be about results that last.
  • Is thorough down to the last detail – It’s obvious that in the healthcare realm,  detail is paramount.  There shouldn’t be arbitrariness.
  • Is environmentally friendly – There’s a lot of room for improvement in healthcare, especially in the US.  Paperwork, drug and waste disposal, visual pollution (See picture above,) sustainable and yet disposable products, all these are challenges that only now, are beginning to be addressed.
  • Is as little design as possible – It comes down to providing what’s essential to do the job, nothing more, nothing less.  This is related to being unobtrusive and detailed.  On a systems level this is particularly difficult to address because of organizational tendencies to make sure arses are covered.  The good news is that if all the above principles are used, the need to cover arses should all but disappear.

Is it possible to design healthcare according to the above principles?    With current healthcare systems being stressed to the point of breaking, a redesign of the various facets of healthcare systems is not only possible but sorely needed.    While people are trying to live their lives as abundantly and authentically as possible, their interactions with clinicians and health care systems are a fertile ground for innovation.  Rams’ 10 principles for good design are as good a place to start as any.

What are your thoughts?

Posted in Authenticity, creativity, culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, Healthcare, imagination, innovation, Medical Devices, problem solving, Service Design, Social Innovation, The Future, The Human Person, Wellness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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