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Archive for the ‘Innovation Tools’ Category

How to Discover Opportunity in Negativity

Posted by Plish on February 24, 2017

Negativity.  It’s everywhere.

It seems no one can do anything right.  Whether in politics, business or design critiquing, the default reaction seems to be one of negativity.

In some ways people can be excused.  From an evolutionary perspective, seeing the negatives gives an advantage in fight or flight situations.

Reaction 1: That tiger’s going to eat us – RUUUN!!!! (NEGATIVE)

Reaction 2: That tiger is licking its lips no doubt because it had a giant meal and now she’s just resting.  We can walk right by her. (POSITIVE)

The negative clearly has the advantage.

But, we’re not in Fight or Flight most of the time

Modern society has eliminated most acute threats to our existences. But that doesn’t stop us from seeing the negative. The problem is that when everyone is seeing negatives, the positives escape notice.  In fact, when the crowd is seeing negatives, we have a greater tendency to reinforce the negatives present and even find new ones.  Misery not only loves company, it creates it!!

Be a contrarian!

While recently reading “The Art of Contrary Thinking” (by Humphrey B. Neill) i was struck by the following:

“Bring up almost any question – on domestic or foreign affairs – and you will hear voices at once chime in that “it won’t work,” “It can’t be done,” and so on….(Instead,)…If we start asking “what’s right?”about this or that question, we shall find  we are actually changing our whole method of thinking.”***

Changing how we think is not easy to do, but it is fruitful and it can be done.

Example 1: Of mice and men…

in 1979, there was a mouse driven graphical user interface in use at Xerox.  It wasn’t commercialized.  It was clunky, had three buttons, and was hardly ready for prime time.  Steve Jobs saw it, and most importantly, saw the good in it.  He saw past the clunky three button tethered box.  The rest, as they say, is  (Apple) history.

Example 2: All they’re doing is playing games!!

That’s a typical refrain of people when they see young people playing video games and even recording and sharing them on YouTube.  Yet, E-Sports are not just a fringe phenomenon.  They are a multi-multi -million dollar ‘sport’that involve millions of people worldwide (Gaming almost had 100 billion in revenues in 2016!!) .

You can mock it.  You can call it a fad.

Do that and one thing will be guaranteed:

You’ll miss out.

So Design for the good!

Before you can do that, you need to first see the good. You need to not agree with crowds.who will be pointing out the zillion things wrong.  You need to have enough character and confidence to look deep, see the good, and stand by the good in a product, service,  technology or cultural phenomenon.

Ask yourself: What’s good about ……?

Build upon that good thing! Use it as a spring board.  Innovate around it!

Opportunities will present themselves where others just see… well actually, they won’t see anything.  They’ll be complaining about this or that.

You, as a contrary thinker, will be making better products, and making the world a better place!

 

*** – This book was written in the 1950’s and he was bemoaning the negativity pervasive in discourse!!!

Posted in Design, Entrepreneurship 2.0, innovation, Innovation Tools, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What Makes Innovations Sticky and Contagious?

Posted by Plish on December 18, 2016

wiper salute

 

As I write this, temperatures are plummeting toward -5F (-21C) tonight and a high of 1F(-17C) tomorrow, punctuated by times of high winds and snow…

Windshield wipers frozen and locked to a windshield that’s caked in ice and snow

For those who live through winters where the temperature drops below the freezing point of water, it’s a frustrating and very real problem.  I personally solve this problem by covering the windshield and wipers with a gray, black and white snow leopard patterned sheet called FrostGuard.

Others, like in the picture shown above, do something elegantly simple:  Elevate the wipers so they aren’t wedged down at the base of the windshield.  This keeps the wipers free and makes cleaning the windshields after a snow storm easier. The wipers themselves aren’t caked in ice and are more useful on the ride home.

What is fascinating, is that this phenomenon perpetuates itself.  Just a couple years ago, I seldom saw this phenomenon.  Now, drive into a parking lot with impending snow and ice, and rows of car wipers salute me!

So, why does this practice catch on?

To answer this, let’s look to Jonah Berger’s, “Contagious:Why Things Catch On.” and “Made to Stick:Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip and Dan Heath.

Berger calls out six traits of contagious ideas:

  1. Social Currency – It makes you look cool or in the know
  2. Triggers – There are triggers in the environment that make you think about an idea
  3. Emotion – It involves emotional engagement
  4. Public – If it’s public people can see it and share
  5. Practical -Practical is better than obtuse.
  6. Stories – It’s conveyed in a story

The Heath Brothers point out these traits for sticky ideas:

  1. Simple -Has a core concept
  2. Unexpected – It surprises people
  3. Concrete – An idea can be grasped and remembered later
  4. Credible – It’s believable
  5. Emotional – Engages people
  6. Stories – It’s conveyed in a story

The elevated Windshield Wipers hit multiple points

  • Simple – Lift wipers to make your Post Storm Windshield Cleanup  (PSWC) easier
  • Social Currency – Dude, I know how to make the PSWC. Am I cool or what?
  • Unexpected -Whoa, check out the wipers standing in the rows of cars!
  • Triggers – It’s going to snow while I’m in the office (or shopping center, or…). Time to do something about it now so I don’t pay for it later.
  • Concrete – Just lift the wipers. How easy is that?
  • Emotion – We’ve all felt biting winds and frozen body parts while scraping ice off of windshields and cursed under our breaths when the wipers don’t clean the windows, even after we’ve sprayed a ton of wiper fluid!
  • Credible – Makes total sense to lift the wipers
  • Public – It’s in parking lots everywhere
  • Practical – In other words: easy to practice
  • Stories – This whole post is talking about this concept.  But the real story is told each time someone walks into a parking lot: Once upon a time,  a winter storm was coming.  As you exit your car after parking, you see multiple cars with wipers proudly standing perpendicular.  You go into the office.  Meanwhile, snows came and they were terrible!  When it’s time to leave, you’re greeted by a blast of arctic as you walk into the parking lot.  While you and others get frost bit, and curse over howling winds while cleaning your windshields, Wiper People spend less time in the cold, and are actually able to see out their windshields on the drive home.  And they lived happily ever after!

What’s the moral of the story?

Innovations get adopted when people’s paths cross.  And they need to be sticky and contagious.  Put them out there so they’re easy to try.  The best ones end up letting you see the world and yourself a little more clearly. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Case Studies, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

How to Make Sure Prototypes are Useful, Even When They Fail

Posted by Plish on November 28, 2016

It worked flawlessly for 4 minutes and 25 seconds…

And then it didn’t.  The VP smiled and said, “I get the idea.”  After getting through the embarrassment of the failure, the team learned what went wrong, and got to work testing variations of the failed component.  The new versions didn’t fail, and the product went on to eventually make millions…

 

“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” – Warren Buffet

Risk and fear walk hand in hand with lack of knowledge.  The best way then to minimize fear and minimize risk is to understand,  to know what’s happening.  Prototypes are part of that knowledge building process.

The knowledge base that takes shape through prototyping is equally, if not more, valuable than the actual mock-up itself.

The challenge in most organizations is to make the shift from being object/success based, to process/knowledge based.  Then, even if a product never gets commercialized, the knowledge that gets created can be used for other products, other projects, and make those into money-makers.  Knowledge creates a bolder approach to the future!

What do we do to make sure we’re after knowledge, not just results?

Whether you are creating products, services, or even a new business model, don’t think of prototyping as a ‘testing an idea’ event, but instead as a learning process.   The best way to change into a process based mentality is to ask questions, and then create prototypes that will get you that knowledge.   Three basic questions guide how you get that knowledge as efficiently as possible.   Notice that nowhere are we asking,”Will this work?”  Instead, ask yourself these questions and then start prototyping!

  1. Which answers can I get to easily?  Easy translates into fast answers.  It doesn’t necessarily mean cheap, it just means  that there are few moving parts, so to speak.  The relationships are clear cut – there are anticipated outputs for each input.  Subtract a dimension from your  concept and test that.  For example, if a knob has three dimensions but you want to see how easy it is to grab,  cut it out of cardboard and build a two-dimensional model. Sketch when you can.  Is there infrastructure in place, such as test equipment, that makes it easy to test something?  Quick answers, that’s what you’re after.  You might not be able to go to the moon with your prototype, but you might be able to get more confidence that it’s possible.
  2. Which answers can I get cheaply?  Low cost doesn’t mean quick or easy, though often it does. These prototypes also often aren’t highly accurate. But that shouldn’t matter.  Can you build something out of polymer clay instead of 3D printing it, or molding it?   Find ways to duplicate function using cheap materials or techniques.
  3. Which answers  will give the greatest bang-for-the-buck?  Getting these may be neither cheap to test, nor fast to create, but, at the end of the day, they yield potential answers that could unlock future decisions.  To find these, ask what part, system or sub-system, if you eliminated it from the design, would cripple it hopelessly?  What is key?  The movie “Victor Frankenstein” is playing in the background as I type this.  The electrical charging system is key to energizing Frankenstein’s creations as none of his creations are possible without electricity. Those electrical systems are his bang-for-the-buck systems.  Those are the types of things you want to prototype!

With each of these three types of prototypes, make sure that you have back-up plans.  Make extra parts.  Make variations. Confirm that you understand why things are happening the way they are.

When do I prototype the final product?

Even though it’s often tied to ‘go/no-go’ decisions about a product, prototyping the final version is part of the prototyping process spectrum.   It’s still about knowledge creation, so if you’ve learned what you can about the systems in simple, cost effective methods, and you’ve learned about the ‘bang-for-the-buck’ systems, there shouldn’t  be many surprises.  Still, expect the best, and prepare for the worst.  Have plans in place to deal with those surprises.

Remember, prototyping is about knowledge creation!  That’s why failure is okay. (In fact,  believe it or not, you want some level of failure!)

Let’s summarize what it takes to make sure prototypes are useful.

Make various types of prototypes to answer questions:

Make easy prototypes.  Learn.

Make cheap prototypes.  Learn.

Make prototypes of your key components and sub-systems.  Learn.

Document your learnings.  Build upon what you know.  Experiment to find out what you don’t know, and document it so it can be shared.

Follow this process and your prototypes won’t just be an artifact tested in a one-time event.  They will be doorways to knowledge, and knowledge eliminates fear, allows you to deal with risk, and ultimately, leads to success.

 

Posted in 3D Printing, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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

Posted by Plish on November 8, 2016

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

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

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

How Does It Work?

The process is essentially five steps.

Steps One and Two establish Context and Direction.

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

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

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

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

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

The world awaits your innovations…

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

How to Use A.C.E. to Improve the Quality of Your Ideas

Posted by Plish on September 16, 2016

 

Name at least 10 ways to use a brick.  Take a couple minutes and write them down.  If you don’t get 10, that’s ok.

Here’s a list I quickly made up.

  • paperweight
  • window breaker
  • block for building a wall
  • Weight for muscle training
  • shoes for a low gravity planet
  • Sundial (if stood on end)
  • Writing Utensil on a rough surface
  • Toy Boat for a sea of mercury
  • Temperature regulator (Hot Pack/Cold Pack – Freeze the brick to keep things cold or heat it up and drop it in a container to keep it warm)
  • Electrical Insulator (Use for a capacitor or transformer)
  • Thermal Insulator -keep Hot from Cold
  • Serving Tray in Kitchen

Odds are, the first few ideas on your list are the same as mine.  You also probably had a tough time getting past the first four or five, right?  That’s actually totally normal.  The first ideas are the ones that everyone has.  The next ones are the ones that are the money-makers, the ideas others didn’t think of.  But getting that next batch of ideas is hard work. It takes time and effort.

So, how do you get past the first few ‘meh’ ideas and get to the good ones?

Before we look at that, let’s look at what we do to get the first 4 or 5.

In our Mind’s Eye, we hold the brick in our hand, looking at it from 2 to 3 feet away, simultaneously thinking how this is good building material. In other words what we do is, (a) focus on one main trait/attribute and let that guide our ideation process.  In the case of a brick we focus on the weight and/or hardness. We also put the brick where we typically see it.  We (b) see it in a specific context: in this case, the construction realm. Thirdly, we (c) look at the wholeness of the object – in this case the brick as a rectangular block of material.

The way to get better ideas is to vary each one of the above three perspectives: A.C.E. –  (Attributes, Context, Everything (not the Whole thing))

Doing this will break through the ‘meh’ stage and give you much more creative ideas.

(a) Look at various Attributes

So, what are the attributes of a brick, or any object for that matter (I realize there is some overlap between these but sometimes it helps to call the attributes different things)?

  • Shape
  • Size/Dimensions
  • Roughness/Smoothness
  • Hardness/Softness
  • Color/Reflectivity/Optical Properties
  • Smell
  • Taste
  • Density
  • Sharpness
  • Mechanical Properties (will it behave differently when we push on it, pull on it or shear it)
  • Fracture Properties (How it breaks)
  • Thermal properties
  • Fire Resistance
  • Electrical Properties
  • Magnetic Properties
  • Acoustic Properties
  • Porosity
  • Chemical Properties
  • Emotions it elicits
  • All of the above at various scales – from macro to micro.  Bricks aren’t perfectly homogeneous. Different parts of a brick can behave differently.

Look at the various attributes and ideate around those – individually or in aggregate.  Truly observe!  Understand what goes into the product.  Once you understand the brick your eyes will be opened to ways you can modify and leverage what the brick is.

What’s the shape of the brick?  Is the brick REALLY hard, or does it has softness to it?  What does it take to deform the brick and mar the surface?  Bricks can hold and/or prevent temperature transfer depending on the context.  They also don’t conduct electricity all that well.  Do they change color under certain circumstances?  Do they change their smell under certain stresses?  Do bricks fracture at certain loads so that they can be used as indicators?  What do they taste like? (You lick a brick at your own risk. 😉 )

(b) Look at alternate Contexts

Put the brick into various contexts and you’ll be surprised how quickly the ideas start flowing.  Is it a yard, a different planet, an imaginary place, a street, a kitchen, an operating room?  Are these contexts cold, hot, well lit, dimly lit, windy, calm, etc.?  All these variables will impact the types of ideas you come up with.

For example, I put it the brick in a kitchen and hence came up with using it as a serving tray and/or thermal stabilizer. (Also, bricks can exhibit efflorescence.  Salts can come to the surface, so this can flavor food – provided the rest of the materials in the brick aren’t poisonous 😉 ) When I thought of it in a street, I thought of rubbing it on the street to make drawings.   In an operating room I thought of it being heated up and placed under the surgical drapes to keep patients warm. (I came up with another idea but I’ll include it below.)

(c) Look at Everything (not the whole thing)

Finally, what can we change – modify, add, subtract, etc. from any of the above attributes, components, systems or sub-systems to make it useful?  (Place these in various contexts to multiply the power of this exercise.)  Look beyond it simply being a block held at arms length.  Re-imagine it!

Can we change its usefulness by breaking it up? (I often take brick chunks, break them more and use the fragments to line the bottom of planters.  Broken shards of brick can also be amazingly sharp!)

We could also grind it up and add it to food to change the way it’s cooked and digested. (Depending on the chemical composition of the brick this might not be a safe idea so don’t try this at home/work/etc.!) Revisiting the operating room context,  we could grind up the brick and weave it into the material of the surgical drapes to make the drapes more effective insulators.

The whole purpose of using A.C.E. is to get us past the obvious and into the realm of innovation.   Just using one of these will help, but when you use all three in conjunction, your ideas will flow and be more original.

Try it!  Would love to know your thoughts!

 

Posted in brainstorming, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Are you Using This Simple 3 Step Process to Create Products that Leverage Existing Trends?

Posted by Plish on August 9, 2016

There’s no question that we are living in exciting times.  There are multiple trends, technological and otherwise, that are blossoming and can be leveraged if you take the time to put in some work.  Follow this simple three step process and you’ll be much better equipped for leveraging the power of trends in your business.

Step One:

Research and understand trends that are shaping the landscape.

As a primer, here’s a quick list of some trends that are shaping the world right now.

 

Via MarketWatch

  • Virtual and Augmented Reality
  • Wearables
  • Smart Cars
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Drones
  • Phone (and batteries) That Charge at a Distance

Some other Consumer Retail Trends:

  • Leveraging the Crowd
  • Subscription Services (Dollar Shave Club)
  • 3-D Printing
  • Maker Movement
  • Product Personalization
  • Sharing Economy
  • Uberization (I agree with Fast Company. Uber isn’t Sharing Economy but it is a new model)
  • Multiple Platform Sales
  • Social Media and Online Communities
  • Preference for Ethically Responsible Brands
  • Eco-Awareness
  • Product Co-Creation
  • Increased Biometric Use

Also check out Trendhunter (where I contribute from time to time 😉 ) Trendwatching, and Cassandra with their Cassandra Daily Newsletter.  The trends on these sites can be quite provocative and are great for jump-starting creative thoughts.

Steps 2 and 3!

2.  List the main positive and negative attributes of your product.

3.  Look for intersections between your product attributes and the trends and create products that enhance the positives or negate the negatives

For example.  Let’s say that your company makes paper-based notebooks.

Positive Attributes: Convenient; Creates hard copy; Can be used with various media (pen, pencil, paint, crayon, etc.);  Highly secure; Can be digitally copied (copy machine, phone picture, etc.); Difficult to forge; Low-cost; Recyclable; Personal

Negative Attributes: Needs to be on hand to use; Must do additional work to digitally archive; Uses/wastes paper; If recycled then must be copied; Have to purchase at stores either in bulk or as needed but then have to run to the store; ???

 

Ideas:

  • Have a QR code 10 pages from the end of the notebook that automatically orders (when scanned) more notebooks before running out (Better than a subscription service because it’s on-demand) This data can be used to then understand ordering patterns.
  • Enable customization of notebooks (paper designs -lined/graph/etc, covers, etc.) via online portal or app
  • Have a sensor embedded 10-20 pages from the end that when written on automatically purchases another notebook and mails it
  • Use non-wood pulp papers
  • Create an online community where people can design notebook covers for each other
  • Deliver notebooks by drone
  • Create notebooks from text messages
  • Create an augmented reality app that enables someone to ‘write’ on various products/locations/etc. to capture ideas virtually
  • Create a wearable that can tell what you’re writing and store it digitally, automatically
  • Provide notebooks that are customized for online courses and heighten student interactivity
  • Notebook covers contain solar panels and/or batteries for recharging digital devices.  These can also be charged via movement/carrying.
  • Use biometrics to lock/unlock paper notebooks
  • Create luxury notebooks
  • Personalize notebooks with a chamber that contains a friend/family member’s DNA from a kiss (think lipstick on an envelope…remember snail mail? 😉 )
  • Create Notebooks from pulp made from trees or branches that grew on property that held emotional import
  • Grow bamboo (at home?) or more likely,   you pay an amount to lease a portion of a bamboo field from which pulp is harvested to create your own notebooks. It’s a notebook/paper co-op (I LOVE this idea.  Anyone that wants to do it, please contact me 🙂 )

As you can see, just by bouncing notebook attributes against the various trends, I came up with 16 ideas for new products.  (Not only does this process supplement existing product lines, but you can use it to create brand new markets.  Just start with some existing product line attributes, bounce it against trends and create new products irrespective of what your industry is!)

There’s no excuse for being left in the dust of technology and an evolving world.  Follow this simple 3 step process, and you’ll find yourself successfully creating products as the world changes. 🙂

***

 

Here are some other tech trends for your reading enjoyment 🙂

Inc.com

  • 3d Printing
  • Active Participation in Advertising
  • Changes in Healthcare Funding
  • Reshaping Education via Online Training
  • Online Portals Reshaping Retail

Forbes

  • The Device Mesh (Connected products of all kinds)
  • Ambient User Experience (Seamless experiences spanning devices)
  • 3d Printing Materials
  • Obtaining Information from Everything
  • Advanced Machine Learning
  • Autonomous Agents and Things (Next gen Siri, Cortana, etc.)
  • Adaptive Security Architecture
  • Advanced System Architecture (Computers that function more like brains)
  • Mesh App and Service Architecture
  • Internet of Things Architecture and Platforms

A pdf Report from Deloitte touches on much of the Forbes stuff and more

 

 

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing, brainstorming, Co-Creation, Creative Thinking Techniques, culture of innovation, Disruptive Innovation, innovation, Innovation Tools, Maker Movement, problem solving, Social Responsibility, Sustainability, The Future, Trends, Uncategorized, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Six Rules to Keeping Your Innovation Spaces Innovative

Posted by Plish on July 24, 2016

46556-einstein-cluttered-desk-quote

 

 

An engineer on an interview walked into a pristine R&D lab and quipped, “Does anyone do any work in here?”

Turns out, that when creating environments conducive to creative thinking and problem solving, messy environments are more liberating and more conducive to coming up with novel ideas. (Study in Psychological Science)  It’s probably not a coincidence that in addition to Einstein, Steve Jobs, Mark Twain, and Alan Turing also had messy desks. (Great pics here)

“Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights.  Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.” – Psychological Scientist Kathleen Vohs

Messy environments are safe spaces for creativity.  Or perhaps it’s easier to think of it the other way.  When you walk into a room that’s pristine  and perfect, shiny and new,  are you willing to be the first one to mess it up?   Because of this, perfectly organized clean rooms have a tendency to perpetuate their cleanliness.  The expectations are that you need to exercise control and follow social norms.   There is a lack of freedom present which stifles the innovative spirit.   There is a sense that “I’m in someone else’s area and I need to play by their rules.”

On the other hand, walking into a disorderly area impacts everyone that’s exposed to it.  It doesn’t even need to be your mess!  People will tend to feel more at ease, thus more free to contribute, to create, to be unconventional!

So, the important thing is, if you want innovation to happen in your lab, it might behoove you to let things go a little bit.  Let certain areas become islands of creativity where people can play and invent, where they don’t have to play by the rules.

If you do organize, and you have more than one person that uses the lab, make sure that each person cleans his/her own messes.  I’ve heard horror stories of overzealous colleagues unwittingly throwing away  someone else’s valuable prototypes because they didn’t know what they were and they looked liked they didn’t have any value.

So, instead of cleaning parties, I suggest that you have innovation parties.  Spend a couple hours together in the lab with everyone showing everyone else what they’re working on.  Let people look at and touch stuff.  Ask, “What does this do?”.  Cross-fertilize!!

It’s also important to keep raw materials and tools within reach.  If you have to go upstairs or downstairs each time you need some component, there’s a problem in your lab organization.

Likewise, keep reminders of your current product lines in reach.  You have certain core competencies, certain products that define who you are.  Creating innovations that leverage your core competencies can create products that are ‘in your wheelhouse’, and thus accelerate their time to market.

So, in summary, here are the rules to keeping your innovation lab fruitful:

  1. Make sure there is a way for people to see what you’re working on.  Don’t hide prototypes or ideas from others or yourself!
  2. If you must keep the lab pristine, designate certain areas as innovation zones (some design firms create ‘war rooms’) where it’s free to be…
  3. The only people allowed to clean work areas are those who are responsible for that work.
  4. Keep raw materials and prototypes close at hand in cabinets, drawers, etc.  If you have to walk more than 20 feet to get something, or be reminded of something, the plan needs to be changed.
  5. If you have raw materials or prototypes that you must move, take pictures and post them.
  6. Keep your current product lines in view. Learn about what your company does well.

Do you have any other rules that help make your innovation works-spaces more fruitful?

PS. Clean areas have their place. They do promote healthy eating, conventionality and charitable giving.   So, make yourself a clean area for healthier, linear thinking, crank-through work.  After all, sometimes you just need to get a report written and sent.

PPS.  Unlabeled containers, open flammable substances, cutting machinery, in short, things that could hurt yourself or others, should always be properly stored and/or locked to prevent accidents.

PPPS Messy is not the same as dirty.  Working in a place with exposed mold, excessive dust, standing water, is not creating an environment that is healthy to function in.  Stay away from these. (I hope you didn’t need me to tell you this 😉 )

PPPPS Check out this link for some great environmental creativity hacks

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Creative Environments, Creative Thinking Techniques, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Uncategorized, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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

Posted by Plish on June 30, 2016

 

color-changing-chameleon-lizards

Photo Courtesy of momtastic.com

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are some tricks for seeing the Chameleon?

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

Lessons on Innovating Using Cornstraints (It’s Not a Typo)

Posted by Plish on June 6, 2016

Now that we’re in the season of barbecues and beer, let’s delve into innovating using constraints.  For this post we’ll look at innovating how we eat corn on the cob, so we should probably call them “Cornstraints” (Sorry, couldn’t resist 😉 )

Typically, eating corn on the cob is a delicious but messy process because the cob can be slathered with butter, salt, pepper, mayo, pepper sauce, etc. (Corn must be delicious! – User applied constraints).  Most people don’t want this on their fingers (Keep fingers clean –A user applied constraint).  Not to mention, corn cobs are remarkably efficient at retaining heat (an inherent constraint), so holding them at the ends can be challenge if they were recently plucked out of boiling water.

Doing a quick Google search shows people are pretty much dealing with these constraints already.

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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 »

 
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