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Archive for the ‘Nature of Creativity’ Category

Ramifications in Innovation (Lessons from Bonsai)

Posted by Plish on February 17, 2016

Screenshot_2016-02-11-18-12-20 (Copy)

When people say, “There will be ramifications if you do that,” most people interpret that to mean that there will secondary, negative consequences to an action.  In the world of Bonsai,  ramification is good; it means (often artist assisted) branching, and a healthy tree branches, and branches, and branches, with leaves growing from the smallest branches.  More leaves means more sunlight gathering capacity and that translates into more energy being captured and sent to the roots.  Stronger, finer roots means strength during lean times and stability in storms.

Without ramification, a tree will be a one trick pony.  It will have few branches and large leaves.  Young trees start out with little ramification.  However, older trees, like those pictured above, optimize their light capturing ability with multiple little branches and many leaves.  At the heart of this growth is a battle – the survival of the fittest branch.  You see, as a tree branch grows, cells at the tip of the branch stimulate growth and simultaneously create hormones that inhibit the growth of branches below it.  It’s a tree’s way to ensure that the strongest branches get to the light, and keep it.

In the world of innovation, the same thing happens.  Certain projects or products, certain mindsets start soaking up energy -they grow at the expense of other projects sucking up money and personnel.  The lead projects can often send signals, cultural hormones if you will, that stifle the growth of other projects.  It’s a self-sustaining cycle.  Even though the energy obtained from success goes back to the roots of the company, a tree doesn’t grow stronger from one branch and a couple of leaves. It needs many branches, many leaves.  It needs ramification.

But, contrary to trees growing in the wild, bonsai are constrained in vessels.  This puts stressors on the plant, and if you don’t make adjustments for these stressors, the tree won’t thrive, and in fact, may die.  So, you need to optimize the leaf output because that means you optimize energy capture, thus helping optimize  the root system, effectively giving the tree physical support and a place to store energy in lean times. (Not to mention, a tree with ramification looks nicer :))

How do you do it?

You create ramification by cutting off the ends of strategic branches. By doing this, you are giving the plant the opportunity to change direction. You’re effectively telling the bonsai tree that even though it is growing in a certain direction, you now give the tree freedom to grow somewhere else; in fact, you’re forcing it. New branches, and hence new leaves, will come out near where you had cut, but these branches will take different directions. In addition, since the inhibitory hormone is temporarily inactive, the tree will sometimes find some other place to bud from where, for reasons known only to the tree, there is a perceived better opportunity.

In the world of innovation and creativity, the equivalent process is to give people opportunities to take things in new directions.  It’s telling people to forget what’s gotten them this far, forget the direction they’re going, and let the dormant ideas sprout and be nurtured.  Just as ramification unleashes new growth in a tree, in a company (and in people!), active branching out fosters creative growth.   When the tip of a branch is trimmed, the dormant buds respond to the environment, to changes in sunlight and moisture.  Similarly, when creative ideas are no longer subject to inhibitory cultural hormones, they are free to respond and grow, sensing and responding to the light of market moving trends and needs.

One way of achieving ramification is to do what some companies call the 20 percent rule (or 10%, 15% depending on the company).  Dave Myers, an engineer in one of W.L. Gore’s medical product facilities, spent his 10% time working on his mountain bike.  From this seemingly disconnected activity, Gore developed Ride-On bike cables and Elixir guitar strings.

Remember, ramification, is a subtler process in contrast to more aggressive pruning. Pruning can take away major resources from a tree and causes gross restructuring.    Once a major branch is gone, it’s gone and not coming back any time soon.  Conversely, ramification is gentler way of reallocating  the way a tree receives energy and expends it in growing.  In organizations of all types, ramification is about recognizing the organic structure that is present and fostering the growth of those organisms (i.e. people) within it.    Organic growth occurs when there’s abundant nourishment and a lack of inhibitory signals – growth finds its way to the light.

What steps can you take to start the process of ramification?

Start by asking some key questions:

Ask yourself what your people are doing.  Heck, ask the people themselves! (see the Innovation Audit.) Do they have opportunities to grow organically and hence help the company grow organically?  Are there signals being sent by the culture at large that stifle the growth of latent potential within the company? Do people mock what others are doing? Is there an acceptance of what people do and what they bring to the table? Are there projects that have great promise but are consuming large amounts of energy with little to show for it?  If things start growing are they given opportunities to continue to grow?

Have people ask themselves if they are hitting a wall; perhaps even more importantly, ask yourself!  The best way to stop hitting it is to stop going in the direction of the wall!  Re-route yourself, forget what direction you’re going, and go in the direction you want to go. Learn anew!!

Dormant buds are present in trees and they never sprout because dominant branches stifle with their inhibitory hormones.  In a creative culture, innovation occurs when people’s understanding of the markets are allowed to percolate; let them feel the light and give them support by giving little opportunities for people to feel part of the bigger organism.  Nourish people!

I remember in high school our principal, Dr. Duffy, pointed out that we were green going into the world.  “That’s okay,” he said, “because green things grow.”

The same holds in a company.  You want ramification.  You want people learning alternate ways of branching out and finding success.  One branch, one project, isn’t sustainable.  Ramification in some ways is synonymous with diversification.  Abundant ‘leaves’ means more ways of absorbing energy from the markets of the world, and more energy means stronger roots. Become lush with greenery, foster the growth of many branches and the results will not only benefit your company, but people (employees and customers), their families, and the world, in richer and more diverse ways.

 

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Posted in creativity, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, 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 »

Swimming in Wonderful Robin Williams Streams of Consciousness

Posted by Plish on August 21, 2014

When I conduct brainstormings (and even when I’m looking for ideas) I find that one of the biggest enemies is the internal censor that each of us has.  I’m sure you’ve succumbed to that voice.

You come up with an idea and before you’ve even spent time examining it, you’ve jettisoned the thought:

“That’s stupid!”

“That’ll never work!”

“How could I have thought that?”

“That thought came out of me? No one can ever know I thought THAT!”

One of the amazing gifts that Robin Williams had was his ability to turn off the censor.  He trusted himself, and even when riffing with others, he allowed himself to follow the promptings of lesser ideas knowing that greater ideas were coming. The results were nothing short of astounding and amazingly hilarious.  While Williams’ verbal stream didn’t seem to even afford him time to breathe, his audience couldn’t breathe because they were laughing so hard.

In the world of comedy, following the stream of consciousness is considered acceptable because, well, it’s comedy.  However, in the corporate world, such thinking is considered out of place, too bold, not politically correct – perhaps even offensive.

Unfortunately, when the censor kicks in, creativity, and perhaps the next seed of a groundbreaking innovation, gets kicked out.

People have a tendency to think that those ideas judged as ‘bad’ or ‘improper’ should just be jettisoned and forgotten.  Yes, not all ideas are ready for prime time; however these ideas are essential to the creative process – a process that builds upon that which came before.  Ignore what comes before and there’s nothing to build upon.

Robin Williams lived this brilliantly.  Not everything that Robin said was earth-shatteringly funny, but just around the corner, rest assured, mirth was imminent.

Creative thought in the corporate world follows the same process.  Not every idea is worthy of patent or should be invested in.  But, if the ideas are built upon, eventually, things will come together in a wonderful way.

So, how do we train ourselves to be creative in this way?

Practice!!!

Listen to all ideas as they bubble up!  Things pop up for a reason!!  Write everything down. Sketch!  Play with the ideas!

The idea that seems totally unusable may provide the seed that enables you, or someone else, to make a connection to an even better idea!    In my own experience, some great ideas have surfaced after someone had the courage to share a half-baked idea.  This simple and profound act of sharing provided the building blocks for others.  If the internal censor would’ve won out, these breakthrough ideas would never have been born. 

Remember this next time you’re coming up with ideas, alone or with others. Better yet, even if you’re not coming up with ideas, examine your thoughts as they are percolating to the surface. Learn to get comfortable with the flow; the more at ease you feel with the stream’s current, the less likely you’ll be to throw out ideas as they bubble up.

I love the following Robin Williams interview with Craig Ferguson.   The two of them highlight the above process – they both just grab an idea, follow it to the next, and continue the process with wonderfully entertaining results.    Notice how certain ideas become seeds for the next.  This is improvisation at its finest.  

In closing, I’d just like to thank you, Robin Williams, for creating so many wonderful, bubbling streams of consciousness, and for being a part of the Stream of which we all swim.  Tragic circumstances helped push you into different waters.  May you find the New Waters fine.  While ours are impoverished by your passing, they are also forever enriched!

Posted in Creative Environments, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Great Creative Minds, idea generation, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Chef Guy Fieri on Innovation

Posted by Plish on April 1, 2014

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

What does innovation mean to you?

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

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

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

What are your thoughts on Chef Fieri’s approach?

~~~

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

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

Ideas Aloft – A Reflection on Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Posted by Plish on October 28, 2013

Winds rustled the trees and chilled me as I walked through the woods.  A marsh bordered my path and I was amazed by the volume of white fluffy seeds, swirling and dancing on the winds.

It got me thinking about the need for seeds to leave where the place they were grown so that they could begin again.  I thought about ideas and a metaphor presented itself:

What if ideas were seeds?

I filmed what I saw and wrote a haiku to get myself (and you!) to think about the process of getting ideas implemented, of the powers that need to be present to move an idea to fruition.

Alas, I’m writing too much. Here’s the short 24 second video.  Enjoy, and spend some time with the images and thoughts!

I’d love to hear yours…

Posted in creativity, Design, innovation, meditation, nature, Nature of Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New Directions in Innovation and Design – Insights from IIT’s Design Strategy Conference

Posted by Plish on May 18, 2013

I was at the IIT Institute of Design’s Design Strategy Conference this week.

This is, no doubt, one of the best, little known, innovation and design conferences.  Every year I get to meet people, learn, think, dream and be empowered to do and be more.

Thoughts*…

Carl Bass gave wonderful insights into software for crafting, and some interesting business challenges that the proliferation of apps has created. ( Hint- He gets more letters from people complaining about a $3 app than a $5000 software package)

Kim Erwin emphasized that innovation is about more than making things reality.  Her book, Communicating the New, promises to provide vital insights into an often neglected and yet vital aspect of the innovation process: Communication.

Mark Tebbe provided insights into how tech will impact business.  Ultra-personal, social, local, mobile, sensors, wearable, 3D printing, brain extending, photo and video capturing, nano-generators, flexible displays, voice control, robotics, virtual education…an empowering and amazing world is being co-created as you read this…

Stepan Pachikov – the founder of Evernote.  Time machines, virtual and real. It’ll happen. He said so.

Amory Lovins, of the Rocky Mountain Institute shared a feasible way of creating a new energy era without impacting the economy in a negative way. It’s possible…

Laura Hartman and Connie Duckworth emphasized that humans living in poverty or challenging conditions, are indeed, capable market partners. ‘For Profit’ and ‘Not for Profit’ companies can work together and do amazing things to educate children and adults and build economies to the benefit of all.  The key messages? Walk in other’s shoes. Think like an insider and outsider. Play to strengths. Create impact then scale and  larger scale will create additional impact.

CC= Catherine Casserly=Creative Commons. #tryopen  Dream of what we can do together. Share.

Brian Love (and a team of students) and sharing the craft of crops.  Yes, growing and developing crops is a craft. What was especially powerful were the tools that enabled communication and mutual education.  Check out betterat/ – a platform for mentoring and personal growth.

A wonderful reflective talk by Vijay Kumar. His new book, 101 Design Methods, is a must have in any innovation library.

Confused and depressed by too many choices?  Barry Schwartz shed light on the Paradox of Choice (great vid-check it out!).  More choices is not necessarily a good thing.

Then there’s the story of Detroit, Gary Wozniak, and the vision driven people who are innovatively re-designing the once bustling, dynamic locus of the automotive industry; converting empty space to food and providing employment for those that aren’t easily employable.  I encourage you to read the story of Recovery Park.  Support it if your heart leads you to.

Creating harmony between the urban and the rural.  Professor Lou Yongqi shared an ongoing evolving experiment, that is doing exactly that – and doing it in an economically beneficial and sustainable way. I especially loved the metaphor of acupuncture in this project: one stimulated point can create harmony in the system…

And finally, I leave you with a slide from Bruce Nussbaum’s presentation – a summary of what it means to move from Design to Creativity.  Some wonderful perspectives to ponder…

Click to see full size

Click to see full size

I hope to see you there next year!

* – Apologies to any missed presenters/presentations

Posted in Arts, Authenticity, Books, Co-Creation, Conveying Information, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, Education, Entrepreneurship 2.0, Experience, Human Rights, innovation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Social Innovation, Social Networking, Social Responsibility, Stories, Sustainability, The Future | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Music, Art, Creativity, Nature and More – An Interview with Jon Anderson of YES

Posted by Plish on February 13, 2013

Check out this recent interview with Jon Anderson of YES.   (There is a sign-in on the page but you can click the ‘x’ and listen to the interview without registering if that is your choice.)

He shares perspectives on life, creativity, nature, music and more.

From the webpage:

Millions of enthusiastic concert goers during the 1970′s and early 1980′s had a marvelous treat on their hands, going from one progressive rock concert to another. Whether it was a live concert or gazing into the magnificent dreamlike artwork of Roger Dean or the sounds of Pink Floyd, Emerson Lake and Palmer, King Crimson, Nektar or Yes, the music evoked beautiful images of the night sky, where we could gave at the shining stars and create our own “Wondrous Stories.”

Verge Multimedia’s Steven Zuckerman had the opportunity to spend about 40 minutes in conversation with world renown singer, songwriter and artist Jon Anderson who spent a majority of his career as the front-man of YES, bringing the audience into a world of beautiful imagery and ideas that resonated in the hearts of the band members.

Jon told (Zuckerman) that the music begins with the creator, and, in other words, flows through him. Composing and singing songs about the earth, environment, peace, love, harmony and beauty are not personal songs for the composer, but they’re Wondrous Stories (no pun intended) to arouse curiosity and confirm that as human beings, as part of this place we call our home, (we) need to be in balance with Nature, for without Nature, we are nothing. We are all part of the same material.

Said Zuckerman, “(While I) originally penned out several questions before the conversation, I tossed them aside to “just have a conversation.” We hope you will enjoy the conversation we had.”

Enjoy!

Posted in Arts, Creative Environments, creativity, Great Creative Minds, innovation, Interviews, meditation, Musical Creativity, nature, Nature of Creativity, Play, Social Responsibility, The Future, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Into the Dynamic Locus of Sustainable, and Impactful, Innovation

Posted by Plish on October 12, 2012

“Let us establish ourselves in the divine milieu. There we shall find ourselves where the soul is most deep and where matter is most dense. There we shall discover, where all its beauties flow together, the ultra-vital, the ultra-sensitive, the ultra-active point of the universe. And, at the same time, we shall feel the plenitude of our powers of action and adoration effortlessly ordered within our deepest selves.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin,The Divine Milieu

This is the place from which to create; the font of beauty, understanding.  To experience the world from this perspective is to be swept up the in the creative making of the New.  This is from whence enduring change is born, where innovative design does not harm people or planet.  It is that place and disposition that encourages and makes possible, the infinite possibilities of the human spirit.

How is, or how can, this quest be fostered in educational, corporate, social, political and religious structures of the world?  In short, how can this orientation towards self, and all, be fostered in day-to-day living for people of all walks of life?

Posted in Authenticity, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Evolution, Human Rights, innovation, love, Nature of Creativity, Social Responsibility, Spirituality, Sustainability, The Future, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Creativity, Innovation and Chemistry Sets

Posted by Plish on August 4, 2012

I fondly remember my chemistry set.  Actually I had a couple of different types of sets, one was chemistry based, another was geology based and the third had a biological theme.  Nevertheless, my memories go back to my chemistry set and the wonders of phenolphthalein solution.  Changing solutions from pink to clear and back again, it was magical.

I performed countless other experiments but in particular,  I remember my attempt at re-creating a mini-scale ‘Hindenburg’ in my garage.  It created a glorious flame but since the shell was a rubber balloon, it took less than a second and it was gone…

I came across this article bemoaning the disappearance of chemistry sets – something I’ve often personally pondered as well while walking down the aisles of hobby stores.  As the article points out, chemistry sets are about more than chemistry.

Chemistry sets promote behaviors that are key to creative thinking, key to innovating.

  1. Combination is king – By combining two or more things we create something brand new.
  2. Experimentation is queen – What if I try mixing that with this, what will happen? What if I change the ratio, will it still work?
  3. Getting beyond the failure – Sometimes experiments don’t give the results we expected.  What went wrong?
  4. Actions in science have consequences – Yes, even with chemistry sets people can get hurt and property damaged.  Think and be safe!
  5. It’s nothing if it’s not fun – This is obvious but often ignored.

I sometimes wonder if there is a correlation between lack of chemistry sets and the seeming decline in innovative thinking in the US.

What do you think?

Posted in Brain Stimulation Tools, children, Creative Environments, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, Nature of Creativity, Play, problem solving, Science | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Censoring the Censor – The Key to Increasing Creativity

Posted by Plish on May 12, 2012

Inside your brain there’s a creativity censor.  With finger poised above the ‘Bleep’ button, he’s constantly protecting you from ideas that he deems useless, or worse: foolish.  He knows what every boss wants, what every friend thinks of you, what strangers see when they look at you.  He knows what’s best for you and the best way to get it.

On more than one occasion I’ve seen this censor, singlehandedly, dull brilliance and turn a symphony into an energy sapping drone.

Why would the censor do this?  Because he’s protecting you!  Give him a free rein and you will comfortably reside in the Status Quo.  You won’t look like a fool, you won’t push the envelope, you won’t feel uncomfortable.

Your creativity and the potential for great ideas will also come to a screeching halt.

Ideas build upon ideas – yours and others.  They are stepping-stones.  Remove one and things might be okay…might.  Remove two or three and you’re constrained to walking on one plane.

So, what can you do?

You need to teach yourself to not listen to the censor, but instead to listen to the ideas. When you hear the “BLEEP!” you need to ignore it.  Instead, write the idea down and play with it. See where it leads.  Nowhere?  That’s okay!  But, the very act of acknowledging that idea has now given you a stepping stone to another idea, and another, and….

Don’t get me wrong.  There is still a time and place to listen to the censor.  But, when you’re trying to come up with ideas, looking for new possibilities, exploring the unknown, your imagination is your friend, your light.  Work together with your ideas!

This is exemplified beautifully in this blog post over at Thoughts on Theater.  I’m going to end this piece with  a quote directly from her post, as it’s a wonderful read (as is her entire blog).  It’s about Academy Award winning screenwriter, Robert Pirosh.  He was a copywriter that wanted to become a Hollywood screenwriter. Here’s how he finally landed his dream job:

(Pirosh) sent the following note to all of the major studios, received a slew of interview requests, and finally accepted an offer as a junior writer at MGM. From there he went on to win an Academy Award and write for some of the best and brightest (including the Marx Brothers). Just another testament to the fact that you should not water yourself down in order to obtain the dream job. Do not censor the you that just might land you the gig.

Dear Sir:

I like words. I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady. I like solemn, angular, creaky words, such as straitlaced, cantankerous, pecunious, valedictory. I like spurious, black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde. I like suave “V” words, such as Svengali, svelte, bravura, verve. I like crunchy, brittle, crackly words, such as splinter, grapple, jostle, crusty. I like sullen, crabbed, scowling words, such as skulk, glower, scabby, churl. I like Oh-Heavens, my-gracious, land’s-sake words, such as tricksy, tucker, genteel, horrid. I like elegant, flowery words, such as estivate, peregrinate, elysium, halcyon. I like wormy, squirmy, mealy words, such as crawl, blubber, squeal, drip. I like sniggly, chuckling words, such as cowlick, gurgle, bubble and burp.

I like the word screenwriter better than copywriter, so I decided to quit my job in a New York advertising agency and try my luck in Hollywood, but before taking the plunge I went to Europe for a year of study, contemplation and horsing around.

I have just returned and I still like words.

May I have a few with you?

Robert Pirosh

385 Madison Avenue, Room 610

New York Eldorado 5-6024

 

Posted in Authenticity, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, imagination, innovation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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