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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.

 

 

 

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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 »

Designing and Curating Perceptions of Vodou (Part Deux)

Posted by Plish on November 8, 2014

At the end of my last post on the Vodou Exhibition at Chicago’s Field Museum, (you might want to click the link and give it a read if you want to come up to speed,) I mentioned that I’d visit the exhibition again  and see if my thoughts changed.

I did.

They didn’t.

Friday night was an event in which Chicago’s Haitian community welcomed the new exhibit with delicious verve (See Figure 1 below).  It was a great opportunity to speak with artists and others about the exhibit, to get their opinions.

Many of theirs were similar to mine.

However, I did do something different this time. I spent more time looking up at the banners, and I spent more time on the artifacts that didn’t appear to be from secret societies.  (I didn’t just look, I studied, read, worked at really trying to understand.) In the end, this lightened the experience considerably, but did it dispel the overall dark vibe of the exhibit?

No.

What will help?

My suggestions for event would be the following.

  1. Change the banners that are used for publicity.  They contain Secret Society Lwa.  Do something lighter.
  2. Tell a story with the exhibition.  Start with the misconceptions you want to dispel, the points you want to get across. Then start dispelling and telling the story of Haiti and Vodou. Explain the day to day in Haiti and where Vodou fits.  Show how it interacts with other religions – perhaps even how families often practice Catholicism and Vodou simultaneously.
  3. Build an elevated area that is behind a red curtain (or make the curtain look like a forest covered mountainside. )  Entitle that section: “Inside Vodou’s Secret Societies”.  Maybe put a small disclaimer at the beginning saying small children might be disturbed by what’s inside.  Put those Secret Society artifacts (an example of which is in Figure 2 below), behind the curtain and out of the main stream of the exhibit.  Make sure it’s not somewhere in the middle of the exhibit.  The Secret Societies are not mainstream and mixing these artifacts in with the everyday artifacts mischaracterizes what many people experience in everday Vodou.  However, Secret Societies need to be referenced in the everyday exhibits- after all, they did indeed impact Haitian life. I also believe that ‘hiding’ the Secret Society artifacts will do another thing: people will slow down.  When people are in fearful situations, they tend to move more quickly. If you want people to move slowly and observe – hide the dark stuff.
  4. Children are noticeably absent from many of the videos and explanations.  Of the Haitians I spoke with, all of them had non-intimidating memories of Vodou as a child.  They remember the brightness, the music, the activity on Holidays.  If a child can feel it, adults will too.
  5. Move explanations closer to artifacts and make them readable without having to bend neck or body.  Bring banners closer to eye level.  Create exhibits that allow the most visitors to stand straight and tall.  Haitians wanted this (and still do!) and Vodou helped them.
  6. Include more ways for people to interact and touch.  Granted, the artifacts at the exhibition are were used in Vodou and as such, are not open to touching.  But, there are other ways to help people to hear, taste, feel, smell, touch.  Drumming is key to Vodou.  Let people make virtual drums (or real ones!) Get innovative!
  7. Provide more of the beauty of Haiti! More green, more color, breezes, salt water aroma, music, you get the idea.  Vodou is about the interconnectedness of all things, life, death, sky, earth, plants, water, etc.  Set more of the context, not just socio-politically (which incidentally, this exhibition did a better job of doing.)
  8. End the exhibition showing how Haiti is growing (albeit slowly and painfully at times) and what challenges lie ahead.  Reiterate how Vodou has been a misunderstood part of the process, that Vodou comes from the heart of the Haitian culture and it’s been responsible for establishing a spirit of  (and physical!) freedom in a nation.  Show bright artwork that comes from Haitian artists, even those works from those mounted by spirits.

With the above changes, I believe the exhibit would better accomplish its goal of dispelling misconceptions of Vodou.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and what you’d do!

Consul General of Haiti, Lesly Conde

Figure 1. Consul General of Haiti, Lesly Conde

Secret Society Lwa

Figure 2. Secret Society Lwa

Yes, I even spent more time looking at the mirrots

Figure 3  Yes, I even spent more time looking at the mirrors.  This was one of the more mellow looking mirrors

Posted in Arts, Authenticity, Conveying Information, creativity, curation, Design, Education, Experience, Information Visualization, Politics, prayer, Religion, Spirituality, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How Curation and Design Didn’t Dispel the Darkness of Vodou (Which is NOT Voodoo)

Posted by Plish on November 3, 2014

I had an opportunity to go to a Member’s Only night at Chicago’s Field Museum.  The event was in honor of the opening of a new exhibition entitled: Vodou – Sacred Powers of Haiti.

One of the highlights of the night was a discussion led by Field Museum Exhibit Project Manager, Janet Hong. On the panel were Dr. Serge Pierre Louis and Kira Tippenhauer.  Both people are Haitian born, and brought unique perspectives on Vodou (which is considered different from Voodoo, which is identified with New Orleans)

From Left to Right: Dr. Serge Pierre Louis, Kira Kira Tippenhauer, and Janet Hong.

Figure 1  From Left to Right: Dr. Serge Pierre Louis, Kira Tippenhauer, and Janet Hong.

To start the discussion, Ms. Hong asked for Dr. Serge’s and Kira’s impressions of the exhibit.  Their answers were not, judging from the reaction of Ms. Hong, what she expected.

Kira’s first word was “dark”, and she spoke the word with a hint of disappointment in her voice.  Clearly she did not want to say those words.  She struggled for more words…  Dr. Serge chimed in and agreed, and used the word “ferocious”, to which Kira agreed it was the word she’d been searching for.

Dark…Ferocious…

Those are the types of words you’d expect to hear from people who are unfamiliar with Vodou.  Those words describe my impression of the exhibit and the impressions of others I spoke to as well. Unfortunately, those were the impressions that the exhibition team was trying to dispel: “…the exhibition team made a concerted effort to eschew the image of vodou as a “scary” or “spooky” subject…seemingly-macabre motifs like skulls, bones, skeletons and weaponry are represented in a reverent light, similar to the role of decorated and candy skulls as part of Dia de los Muertos in Mexican culture. Images of Vodou as dark and death-centric stem from misrepresentations the exhibition aims to dispel.”

So, where did the exhibition go wrong?  How does something that’s supposed to dispel perceptions of darkness, perpetuate it? How does darkness permeate when Haitians live in perpetual summer, lush greenery, flowers and nature, and live life filled with joyous dance, song, and savory foods?

It’s not like the exhibit was designed in an asympathetic manner.  The exhibit was co-designed by Rachel Beauvoir-Dominique, who is a PhD anthropologist and practicing Vodou priestess.  Yet, design and curation did not harmoniously weave an experience that dispelled misrepresentations of Vodou, and instead, darkness prevailed over experiential light.

Why did this happen?

The exhibition is not brightly lit. (The pictures I took below give the impression lighting was quite bright. This is a side-effect of the camera settings used because flash is not allowed)

While not necessary per se, there is scant multimedia and no interactive technology  at all.  Again, Vodou seems to be very tactile and sensory based.  Not having ways to interact in some way was a negative.

The layout was not easy to take in.  There is a wall explaining the history of Haiti’s struggles and victories and it runs into a wall at the end.  When you finish reading you are right next to the entrance to the exhibit. (This is visible in Figure 4. below.  The ending is behind the lwa in the corner by the drapes.) You literally have to start the exhibit over again, and you’re put into the flow of those entering.

Then there’s the  upper and lower displays.  Even though everything is on one floor, it is actually split into two halves, either by accident or by design.  Sculptural works are on ground level, and beautifully decorated, brightly colored ceremonial banners, as well as many artifacts, are hung high above.  As a result, artifact descriptions are not correlated directly to their artifacts in an intuitive manner, hence there’s confusion about what description belongs with what.   The descriptions are also written with uncomfortably small letters.   It forces people to bow their heads and/or hunch their shoulders and/or bend ever so slightly to read.  This posture is uncomfortable and is also one of vulnerability, and people don’t like to be vulnerable in front of something that they don’t know, especially if it looks scary!

Forcing people to look down also had an unfortunate side effect.  Beautiful, sparkling banners that radiate light,   Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Arts, Case Studies, Conveying Information, curation, Design, Experience, Information Visualization, Politics, Religion, Society, Spirituality, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Systems Thinking Tools for Understanding, Visualization and Communication!

Posted by Plish on February 16, 2014

Innovations often have multiple repercussions both intended and unintended.  Systems modelling is a powerful means to  understand interactions and their consequences.  It can give insights into what types of solutions work and what types of variables create impacts and which don’t.  Not only should it be required teaching for design, engineering and business professionals, there should be a mandatory course in systems thinking held on Capitol Hill.

Personally, I’ve been extremely busy with a project lately modelling a physiological system as a prerequisite to optimizing a medical product design.  I’ve been using Insight Maker, which I blogged about before.  Check out the SystemsWiki, very cool and full of tons of info.  Insight Maker is simple to understand, very powerful, and since it’s web-based, it’s a great tool for collaborative system analysis, modelling and design.

There are two other modelling tools that are both free and have newer releases recently:

1. TRUE  It stands for  Temporal Reasoning Universal Elaboration  This package is amazing!  I haven’t used it extensively but it actually enables modeling of physical systems  and how they move(think articulated robots and multi-body interactions!)  I want to learn the interface as this looks extremely powerful.

2.Sphinx SD Another free tool that is also somewhat simpler to get a hang of than TRUE.  It’s still not at version 1.0, but seems to be going in the right direction.  Documentation doesn’t seem extensive, but it’s still work checking out.

Finally, there is a new tool called Kumu. It’s also free if you make your work public.  In some ways it’s a hybrid between a concept map  (I love  Cmap and VUE, both of which keep getting better and better!)and a mind map.  (A great list of Mind Mapping and Concept Mapping software is here.)  If you want to easily build representations of systems, Kumu is for you. Some great informational tutorials there as well.

I’m sure there are other tools out there, but the above are key to my work and they don’t cost a thing.  Would love to hear what you use! If you’re not using any system modelling tools, check out this video that highlights how a seemingly innocuous change can make a huge difference in an ecosystem.

 

 

Posted in Conveying Information, Design, Information Visualization, innovation, Innovation Tools, Open Source, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

An Amazing, Innovative Way to Collaboratively Manipulate 3D Objects and Data – The (T)ether from MIT

Posted by Plish on June 20, 2012

I’ll let this video of the (T)ether from the MIT Media Lab speak for itself

From their website:

T(ether) is a novel spatially aware display that supports intuitive interaction with volumetric data. The display acts as a window affording users a perspective view of three- dimensional data through tracking of head position and orientation. T(ether) creates a 1:1 mapping between real and virtual coordinate space allowing immersive exploration of the joint domain. Our system creates a shared workspace in which co-located or remote users can collaborate in both the real and virtual worlds. The system allows input through capacitive touch on the display and a motion-tracked glove. When placed behind the display, the user’s hand extends into the virtual world, enabling the user to interact with objects directly.

Posted in Conveying Information, Information Visualization, innovation, Innovation Tools, User Interface | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Infographics Need to be More than Illustrated Fact Sheets

Posted by Plish on June 2, 2012

For those who are championing innovations, inspiring dreams, or just trying to educate, a well put together infographic can be indispensable to generating an emotional, engaging and memorable response.  This is because, at their root, good infographics tell stories.  The pictures in them are worth a thousand, or more, words.

Unfortunately, the ‘graphic’ aspect of infographics, often lack depth.   Illustrations on many infographics don’t add anything and in fact, often create confusion.

What do I mean?

Two out of three people reading this will agree with me

What does the graphic above add to the text?  Nothing.  Take a gander at infographics over at Daily Infographic  and you’ll see the equivalent of the above graphic all too frequently.  Most infographics are illustrated sheets of factoids. Sure there is information being conveyed and yes, there are graphics present, but a cohesive elegance is lacking.

Here’s another example where the graphics confuse and really don’t add much to the story being told:

How can you tell if a graphic is unnecessary? The rule is simple: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Conveying Information, Design, Information Visualization, innovation, Innovation Tools, Stories, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Simulating Systems with This Intuitive (and Free!) Tool

Posted by Plish on March 8, 2012

Many years ago while working in the Rehab.-R&D wing of the Hines VA hospital, I was modelling how urinary bladders fill and empty.  The goal was to better understand what was going on so that we could design appropriate interventions.

I used a software package called TUTSIM.  It was a relatively easy to use package and it opened my eyes to the powers of system simulation.  I still do system modelling, mostly using spreadsheets.  It’s adequate, but it lacks the intuitiveness of something like TUTSIM.  I’m always on the lookout, then, for something easy to use, and yet, low-cost.

Yesterday, I came across Insight Maker.  This free, web-based simulation site fits the bill nicely.  Its self-explanatory, graphical interface enables people of all experience levels to program simulations of varying complexities.  Best of all, these simulations can be shared via the web.  This means people can change the variables and see the results for themselves.  (Yes, seeing is believing, especially when you can manipulate a model, and see how the results were reached!)

As with any software, the more extensive the support community, the more you can usually get out of the application.  Insight Maker is no exception, and thankfully there are plenty of resources. First off, you can always check out the Insight Maker Wiki .  For more extensive training, take advantage of these free webinars.

The Insight Maker website has multiple support groups, as well as premade simulations that you can tap into and use in your own simulations.

On LinkedIn? Check out the LinkedIn group on Systems Thinking (where I found out about Insight Maker) and there’s even a Systems Thinking Wiki.

So, never fear! If you get stuck with Insight Maker, there are plenty of  ‘ropes’ you can grab to pull yourself to safety.

In closing, if you’re modelling systems(biological, social or otherwise), or if you’d like to start, check out Insight Maker.  I think you’ll be excited by the possibilities.

(If you’d like to check out a simulation, here’s a classic “Predator/Prey” simulation.  Enjoy!)

Posted in Design, Information Visualization, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Service Design, Social Innovation, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Want to Share Data and Interact With it on the Web?

Posted by Plish on March 1, 2012

Well presented data tells a story.    When viewers can interact with the data, it goes beyond storytelling and encourages discussion and a search for insight into why x happened to y but not to z.

Enter Tableau Public.

This free tool (yes, free!) enables you to take data and share it on the web in visually attractive ways.  Once published, others can interact with, and ultimately, discuss it.

I’ve often struggled with elegant ways of depicting data so that others can interact with it.  I’ve tried using various Excel add-ins and websites. However, after going through the Tableau site and playing with some data depictions, this seems to fill a need that up to now has been woefully underserved.

If you’re more interested in deploying this tool in your company,  you can get that here.  It’s no longer free, but also does not appear unreasonably priced.

I have already downloaded Tableau and am looking forward to trying it out.  If you have tried it, or after you’ve tried it, I’d love to see the fruit of your labors.

In the meantime, feel free to play around with this graphic on the perils of eating undercooked food.

Posted in Conveying Information, Information Visualization, innovation, Innovation Tools, Social Innovation, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Proposed Solution for Wrong Site Surgeries

Posted by Plish on June 24, 2011

Came across this article about how current measures aren’t addressing wrong site surgeries as much as hoped.  So it got me to thinking that perhaps something like the below solution could be used to help minimize these adverse events.  The patient’s bar code is scanned and the surgery team is presented with the preferred orientation of the patient for that surgery, and the location of the surgery on the patient.  Three people, including the surgeon, have to cross-check the patient with the information presented. When all check boxes are filled, the surgery can proceed and hopefully at the proper site.

Suggestions and thoughts are welcome!!

Click for Full Size

Posted in Customer Focus, Design, Health Concerns, Healthcare, Information Visualization, innovation, software, User Interface | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Pen *IS* Mightier Than the Keyboard!

Posted by Plish on May 11, 2011

 

click to see full size

Langen and Velay– This is a GREAT article on writing and the haptic experience.

Two summaries worth reading: Better Learning Through Handwriting and How Handwriting Boosts the Brain.

Posted in Authenticity, Behavioral Science, children, cognitive studies, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, imagination, Information Visualization, innovation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Sketching, The Human Person, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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