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Archive for the ‘Lateral Thinking’ Category

Misoneist Nightmare #110711

Posted by Plish on November 7, 2011

Why Can’t Snack Food Be Healthier?

click for full size


Misoneist* Nightmares™ are provocations to innovation that I will publish at my own whim.  This first edition is being posted on what would have been my father’s 83rd birthday.  Dad, you respected tradition yet you were never afraid to embrace the new, encourage creativity and artistic expression, experiment and play.  In some ways, you were a misoneist’s nightmare. Thanks!


*A person with a hatred or fear of change/innovation


Posted in creativity, Design, Disruptive Innovation, Food, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, Lateral Thinking, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Creativity: Left Brain + Right Brain = WHOLE Brain

Posted by Plish on November 1, 2011

Came across an article originally published at The Conversation.  With all the talk of right brain vs. left brain, it turns out that recent research highlights that creativity is a whole brain process, or more specifically, creativity is a function of efficient communication between hemispheres.  I blogged recently about using music to improve creativity, and it turns out that musicians, as well as trained designers (people typically thought of as creative), tend to have more cross-talk between hemispheres than others.

In addition, researchers studying  cerebral blood flow in creative individuals concluded that,

“(creativity is) an integration of perceptual, volitional, cognitive and emotional processes.”

So, it looks like maybe we’re beginning to understand how our brains pull everything together and we act creatively!

Maybe not.

This recent review study  starkly states:

Taken together, creative thinking does not appear to critically depend on any single mental process or brain region, and it is not especially associated with right brains, defocused attention, low arousal, or alpha synchronization, as sometimes hypothesized. To make creativity tractable in the brain, it must be further subdivided into different types that can be meaningfully associated with specific neurocognitive processes.

In other words, creativity, is proving difficult to scientifically detect and study. But, don’t let that stop you, or anyone else from embracing life and what we are as humans…


Posted in Authenticity, Behavioral Science, Brain Stimulation Tools, Creative Environments, creativity, Emotions, imagination, innovation, Lateral Thinking, Nature of Creativity, Play, problem solving, Research, Science, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

One Way of Unsticking Brainstorming Sessions

Posted by Plish on December 10, 2010

It’s the silence.  Nobody has anything to say and you can almost smell  burning neurons as people twist and twirl things in their heads while they try and be original…

Your brainstorming session has hit a brick wall…

How do you get out of it, or around it – or through it?

One way is to change the perspective of the participants.

What does that mean?

All problems/solutions exist in some type of context.   The problem-solvers/solution-finders usually inhabit the same space.  It makes sense, right?  A problem with customer service in a bank will be solved by employees at the bank; improving the design of a surgical device is done by clinicians, designers and engineers in the medical realm; figuring out the best meal for a family dinner is the responsibility of those in the household.

“The secret of all effective originality in advertising is not the creation of new and tricky words and pictures, but one of putting familiar words and pictures into new relationships.” – Leo Burnett, The advertising father of The Marlboro Man, Toucan Sam, the Jolly Green Giant, Morris the Cat, Tony the Tiger, and the Seven Up ‘spot’ among other things.

We can replace the word ‘advertising’ in the above quote with the word, ‘brainstorming sessions’ and it’s just as apropos.  It’s about finding new relationships and one of the easiest way to do this is for  idea generators to leave the space the problem inhabits. By doing this the solutions will necessarily come from a different direction and novel relationships will be made. 

For example, let’s say that a team is thinking up ways of improving customer service in banks.  Instead of looking at it from a banking perspective, pretend you are all hippies and ask, “In what ways would a hippie improve the experience  in a bank?”  Some of the resulting conversation might look something like this:

” Incense- we need patchouli  in the air,”

“Flowers, we’d need flowers, maaaaan..”

“What about music?  A guy playing an acoustic guitar would be sweet, man…waiting in line is such a drag…”

“Music is about righteousness and truth..where’s the righteousness and truth in here?”

“And love…I don’t feel love. ”

“How can anyone feel anything with the colors in here? It’s all dark and heavy, and this chair, augh! It’s too heavy and cold- give me the floor (she says pouring out of her chair and on to the floor).”

There’s an entirely different perspective now about what constitutes a bank, what the lobby should look like, smell like, feel like.  Sure, maybe patchouli isn’t the way to go, but the brainstorming session has taken on an entirely new direction and ideas are flowing where only minutes ago there was  uncomfortable silence.

So, next time you’re stuck in a brainstorming session that’s stuck, try becoming someone else outside the context of the problem space.   You might be surprised at the results.

Posted in Creative Environments, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, idea generation, imagination, innovation, Lateral Thinking, problem solving, Traditional Brainstorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Are You Losing Your Hooks? – Lessons on Innovation from Fishing

Posted by Plish on July 22, 2009


The other day I went out on the lake to fish and had my bead on an extremely weedy corner of the lake.  I made up my mind I would venture directly into the middle of the pack of weeds, but in order to do so, I would need to forgo my motor and row my way there.

As I stepped into the boat I noticed two other fisherman on the outer fringe of the weeds slowly drifting towards me.  Judging by the size of their boat and the engine/motor combo, I figured they weren’t going to venture into the weeds but instead were going to stay on the fringes.  Call it a hunch.

I rowed quickly but quietly into the midst of the weeds and tied on a weedless floating frog and began fishing.

Five minutes later I had my first hit but missed the fish.  Fishing rules say that when you miss a fish in a spot on one type of lure switch lures and go back.  I ignored it and went back to the same spot with the same lure on the next cast…BAM! Largemouth bass number one, about 2.5 to 3 pounds. 

About ten minutes later I cast to a small opening between some weeds.  It barely touched the surface when a small explosion of water sucked my lure under.  Bass number two, 3 to 3.5 pounds.fishn2

Five minutes after that I placed a cast only ten feet from where I hooked the last one but in another open pocket.  Pause for about half a minute….twitch…SPLASH and a dive into the thickest part of the weeds.  But I kept the line taut and reeled it in.  Bass number three, 3.5 to 4 pounds.fish1

“What are you using over there?” I heard from the tandem still fishing not 40 feet away but at the fringe of the choking weed bed.

“Floating Weedless Frog Lure,” I responded.

“That’s what we have…”

Another 10 minutes passed and evening fell quickly; they left and I decided to head back home as well.  A successful day fishing indeed…

So what does this have to do with innovation?

I left multiple clues within the story but I’ll get right to the points. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Best Practices, Case Studies, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Disruptive Innovation, innovation, Lateral Thinking, Research, Tactics | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

First Ideas are Dangerous; Successive Generations Are the Stuff of Innovation

Posted by Plish on June 12, 2009

ideasa1 michaelplishka2009

“Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when it’s the only one you have”Emile Chartier

Humans are designed to come up with solutions quickly.  It’s a requirement for survival of the species.  We’re not terribly fast, not the greatest at swinging through trees.  But we are pretty efficient at sizing up situations quickly and making decisions and picking a course of action.  In general, these first solutions are great for everyday problems and our ability to sort through data efficiently means we expend minimal amounts of energy doing so.

However, when it comes to creatively solving a problem,  first and faster is not always better, or more innovative. 

The elegant idea, the truly innovative solution is not spawned in the casual relationships of cause and effect that intermingle in those areas of our brains subject to easy recall.

No, it is spawned in the obtuse, deeper thoughts that usually don’t associate with each other; it comes from the forced marriage of opposites…

When coming up with ideas, even if one of your first born seems like the ideal solution, put it to the side (you can always come back to it) and keep creating ideas.  When it seems like there are no more ideas, you’ve entered the realm of innovation.  Then…

Find a random word, grab a random picture and ask what it has in common with your problem.

The ideas that start flowing, those are the golden children of creativity.

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Disruptive Innovation, idea generation, imagination, innovation, Lateral Thinking, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Thou Shalt Have No Innovation Idols!

Posted by Plish on April 24, 2009

There Should Be No Sacred Cows When it Comes to Innovation

There Should Be No 'Sacred Cows' When it Comes to Innovation

You would think that in the realm of innovation there would be no ‘idols’ or ‘sacred cows’, yet there are.

What do I mean by this?

There are certain practices that people are afraid to challenge because…well you just don’t!

Two practices that come to mind right away are:

1. Brainstorming

2. Mind Mapping

One would think that people who are creative and innovative would be the most open to different techniques and processes to generate ideas – right?


For some reason, creative types seem to hold on to certain methods (or innovation personalities, or schools of thought) as if they’re sacred – treat them as a sort of ritual which simply should not be changed.

Don’t think it’s true? Just check this post here and my post regarding brainstorming and you’ll see the passion with which people argue for brainstorming.  It’s especially interesting how defensive people get. 

What they don’t realize is that by getting defensive they are in fact saying:

“The human race has no capacity for improving the process of idea generation (or creative buy-in, etc.) beyond that which we experience in brainstorming ( or through mind mapping, etc.).”

Think about that for a moment or two then think about this:

With all the advances being made in the cognitive sciences, with all the advances the human race has made in the 200,000 some years of its existence, can two techniques discovered within the last 100 years really be the pinnacle of human achievement regarding idea generation?

And think about this:

If you only use a certain technique for generating ideas- your ideas/solutions will have a similar pedigree and it might not be the best breed of solution for a particular problem.

Please don’t misunderstand – I use mindmaps, I use modified brainstorming.  But, I also think that there are better methods and technologies for idea generation/problem solving/etc., only we’ll never find them if we don’t let go of our inordinate belief in the sacredness of certain techniques.

What are your thoughts?

Posted in cognitive studies, Creative Thinking Techniques, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, Lateral Thinking, Mind Maps, problem solving, Traditional Brainstorming, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , | 10 Comments »

The Old Switcheroo! – Changing Routines to Help Creativity

Posted by Plish on April 16, 2009


The garbage man and the recycling guys came and went but this time they switched positions of the bins.

I’m an adult, I can see the difference so I figured I’d just leave them there, no big deal.

I was wrong.  It was a big deal.

Day One: Caught myself at the last second as I almost put garbage in the recycling bin and vice-versa.  It was good that I almost did this, it would prepare me for tomorrow.

Day Two: It didn’t.  This time I actually put garbage into the recycling bin and vice-versa.   So I tipped the garbage bin and pulled out the recyclables and swapped them with the garbage bag from the recycling bin.

Days Three through Seven: Lesson Learned.

We are amazing creatures of habit.  We have a tendency to stick with routines, to do what works.

This is a major issue if we’re solving problems.  If we keep doing things the same way, we seldom will come up with new solutions.

What can we do to keep ourselves sharp?

Try one or more of the following:

  1. Take a different way to work  or home from work.  (I’ve done this before during times when I knew I was stuck in a thinking rut.)
  2. Switch the order in which you put your shoes on.
  3. We all have a stronger side and weak side.  Use the weak hand, the weak foot, etc., when doing a task.
  4. If you have certain daily routines, try changing the order of tasks.
  5. Last but not least, switch the position of your garbage and recycling bins.

You’d be surprised how simple changes can spur new thinking by forcing your body and mind to interact with the world in new ways!

What ways would you recommend to break routine?

Posted in Brain Stimulation Tools, Creative Thinking Techniques, idea generation, Lateral Thinking, problem solving | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Philosophy, The Information Super-Highway and Innovation

Posted by Plish on April 14, 2009

Does the internet help or hinder philosophy?

Does the internet help or hinder philosophy?

Over at Linkedin, Paul Dowling, CEO of DreamStake, posed this poignant and thought provoking question:

“Has the internet killed the Philosopher?
It struck me that in the past knowledgeable individuals accumulated wisdom throughout their lifetime and formulated it to bring meaning to others. These philosophers have helped mankind to make sense of issues such as politics, religion, ethics and even the very meaning of life itself.
It has occurred to me that the rate of change facilitated by the internet and other technological innovations will preclude the linear building of ‘accepted’ wisdom by individuals over their lifetime.
We already talk about disruptive technology and business models. We see society changing in unpredictable ways brought on by these changes. Is philosophy dead or will it simply change to reflect the society we live in?”

First, let’s agree on some definitions.

Philosophy is Greek for, “Lover of Wisdom” (Philo – lover of;  Sophia – Wisdom).

In Greek, the word Epistamai means “to know” and “knowledge” is derived from this word. (It’s where we get Epistemology from)

In the Internet Age, access to information is unprecedented.   We are all harvesting, compiling and storing volumes of information.  We are philoepistomoi (Please forgive my Greek conjugation!) — lovers of knowledge!

Philosophy (of which I agree there is less of), is more properly a reflection upon the information or data.  In ancient Greece, to philosophize was even identified with knowing the mind of god(s) – it was searching for the method behind the madness. 

Philosophy, then, actually shares something with innovation. 

A philosopher, like an innovator, observes the world/human system and notices connections, patterns or trends where others don’t.   Build upon the connections by pulling disparate pieces of information together and what do you get?


It’s no accident that the Ancient Greeks were as innovative as they were.  Where there is philosophy, innovation can, and often will, follow.

So what does this all mean in today’s information age?

There are two routes we can follow. 

  1. We can be information hoarders
  2. We can be philosophers

But, to be effective philosophers and innovate on multiple levels we need to delve deeply into the problems of the world and the problems of the heart/mind.

It is the lack of reflection on the aspects of the human person that I believe is responsible for less philosophy in the world – less wisdom, less profound innovation. 

But, it is the human aspect that when plumbed leads to more powerful, emotive, wonderfilled innovations!

Here’s to Philosophy!

Posted in Authenticity, Design, innovation, Lateral Thinking, Philosophy, problem solving, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Five Steps to Do-It-Yourself Innovation

Posted by Plish on April 6, 2009

We’ve all done it before. 

We’re confronted with a problem so we work with what we have to  a create a solution – we innovate. 

Innovation is especially fertile in those situations where existing solutions are too complicated or expensive to utilize on a regular basis.

Here are some great examples of solutions to everyday problems.  Whether it’s dog walking, electrical sockets, ice cube trays, windmills,  spices, or easier ways to de-shell hardboiled eggs, someone saw a problem and thought of novel ways to fix it.

However, we all know that there are times we get stuck.  

To get unstuck try the following:

  1. Phrase your problem as, ‘In what ways can I… (deshell an egg, etc.)’
  2. Learn all you can about the physical principles governing your problem
  3. Go do something fun and relaxing or meditate
  4. Brainstorm ideas (If you need help here,  try these creative thinking techniques)
  5. After you think you have a great set of ideas – go back to Step 3 and try again without duplicating (Do this once or twice)

If you follow the above process and still can’t solve your problem in a cheaper/easier way, then you either:

  1. Didn’t phrase your problem properly
  2. Didn’t detach from your problem for a while

What?  I  didn’t relax and that is why I can’t solve my problem?

The short answer?


Long Answer: The Sub-conscious needs time to crank through your problem, look for relationships, connect dots, remember that toy you made in 5th grade, etc.  We need to relax, we need to actually disconnect from the problem for a while to get great ideas.

That’s why people have ideas in showers –  they’re relaxed, and often the shower follows a night of sleep. 

And what happened while you were sleeping?

Your brain was cranking away solving your problem while you dreamt you and your pet frog were flying over a field of singing poppies looking for Carl Sagan.

For another perspective on how quick fixes can lead to innovation read this.

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, Lateral Thinking, meditation, Nature of Creativity, Play, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What Does Innovation Sound Like To You?

Posted by Plish on April 2, 2009

Jane Mackays “Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto”


While reading, feel free to listen to a song I just wrote entitled “Innovation 1A” – it’s what innovation sounds like to me.

There is an excellent blog post here about a doctor who was able to discern the urine of a healthy person from the urine of a diseased person through translating the chemical makeup into sounds – a symphony of sorts.

When trying to come up with creative solutions to sticky problems, often it helps to look at the problem in a whole new way, as if through another sense.  In other words, ask the following:

  1. What color is this problem? How can this problem be translated into color? What color would you prefer the problem to be and how do you get there.
  2. What does this problem taste like? How can this problem be translated into taste? What taste would you prefer the problem to be and how do you get there.
  3. What does this problem sound like? How can this problem be translated into sound? What sound would you prefer the problem to be and how do you get there.
  4. How would you  describe the problem with regards to touch (Smooth, rough, round, sharp)? How can this problem be translated into touch? What tactile sensation would you prefer the problem to be and how do you get there.
  5. What does this problem smell like? How can this problem be depicted with smell? What smell would you prefer the problem to be and how do you get there.
  6. What emotion(s) does this problem elicit? How can you translate the problem into an emotion? What emotion do you want it to be and how do you get it there?

You can translate problems in other ways by resorting to the following list of types of synesthesia (Greek for Union of the Senses) from a lecture by Professor Leanne Boucher.


So I ask you, what does Innovation sound like to you?

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, idea generation, Innovation Tools, Lateral Thinking, Musical Creativity, problem solving, Science, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

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