ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Archive for the ‘Play’ Category

Four Key Words That Open Doors to Innovation

Posted by Plish on February 15, 2017

Robots made of water.

No, those aren’t the four words.

Researchers at MIT developed a hydrogel robot.  It’s soft.  It grips.  It’s almost invisible underwater.  In short, it’s a totally cool technology.  (Hydrogels are cool materials on their own) Now, they’re trying to understand what it can be used for.

‘Let’s play with this’. – Hyunwoo Yuk, MIT Graduate Student

Those are the four words.

Let’s play with this.

Once a technology is discovered, the challenge is often one of finding a problem to the solution.  One of the best ways to do that is to play.

What is play comprised of?

It’s essentially saying, “What if…?” and exploring.

It’s a matter of taking something and just seeing what happens when it’s subjected to some other stressors.  It’s a collision of ideas.  It’s taking what is and exploring what it may be.

The inventor of cornflakes, Keith Kellogg, left boiled wheat out overnight.  Instead of throwing it out, he took the flaky dough (took ‘what is’) and decided to bake it anyway (exploring).  A crunchy  cereal and a business was born.

Take chances – Explore!

Keep your eyes peeled for new technologies.  Don’t necessarily use them for what they’re intended.  Try using them for something else.  That collision of metaphors, of what is and what may be when something is used differently, are fruitful soil for new products and new business opportunities.

What am I playing with now?

I saw the Walabot, and knew I had to get one for my lab.  A cool RF radar technology, seems like it can have myriads of uses.  The company’s website tag is: Create, Play, Discover.

Let’s PLAY with this!!!!!

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Posted in creativity, innovation, Play, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Maker Faire Coming to Milwaukee, Wisconsin!

Posted by Plish on July 24, 2014

 

At last!

Every year I’ve bemoaned the fact that there wasn’t a  large, local Maker Faire in Northern Illinois/Southern Wisconsin.

This year will be different.

Thanks to the vibrantly creative Milwaukee Community and the sponsorship of the Brady Corporation, Milwaukee will be home to a two-day Maker Faire. The event will be held at the Wisconsin State Fair Park on Sept. 27th and 28th, 2014.  Admission is FREE!!  If you’d like to do some making at the Faire, they are currently excepting applications.

For more info there is the official press release here, and be sure to check out the website.

If you plan on going, please let me know. I hope to see you there!

 

Posted in 3D Printing, Arts, Creative Environments, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Digital Manufacturing, Disruptive Innovation, innovation, invention, Maker Movement, Play, toys, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Innovation – It Was Never About Failure

Posted by Plish on May 29, 2013


In my last post about the IIT Design Strategy Conference, I mentioned that Bruce Nussbaum presented on what it means to move from a design centered, to a creativity centered, paradigm.  One thing in particular Nussbaum noted was the shift from celebrating failure (fail fast, fail often) to gaming/play!. He summarizes his perspective in a blog post about fetishizing failure.

When he first mentioned it at the conference, I wrote down, and circled, the following rebuttal in my notebook:

“Failure IS Play!”

I’ve been chewing on that for the last week, and while I understand the gist of what Nussbaum was getting at, in the context of design and innovation, it’s an oversimplification to simply say we need to move from failure to gaming.

A couple weeks back I wrote a piece entitled, “When Success is Bad – The Math Behind Why Failure is Essential.”  I used the word ‘failure’, but in actuality it’s probably closer to a Nussbaumian perspective.

You see, no one really thinks failure is what’s happening when we say, “Fail Early, Fail Fast, Fail Often.”   What we’re really saying is:

The quicker we can understand the interplay between all the variables in a system/product, the quicker we get ahead of the competition. 

Learn Early, Learn Fast, Learn Often…

Failure, as Nussbaum points out in the above article, is indeed painful and can be limiting.  There is a finality to the term failure that is unforgiving.   When a bridge ‘fails’ it goes down and people get hurt. When there’s a power ‘failure,’ electricity simply isn’t there. Failures are an absence of  success, and as voids they carry no information other than there’s no success to be found there.

Success, contrary to Nussbaum’s assertion that one can learn as much or more from success, is, as I pointed out in my “Why Success is Bad…” post, not educational at all if things work and we don’t know why they work.  We’ll go along happy as larks thinking all is well until things go bad.

Success can also be a void.

No, strictly speaking, we learn not from failure or success.  We learn from probing, through curiosity, tinkering, experimenting.   The instant we allow there to be voids of  ‘failure’ and ‘success’, there is no possibility for learning, for growth.  It’s only when we step back and ask, “Where am I going? How will I get there? How does this event help or hinder the journey?” that design/innovation can occur.

“Where am I going? How will I get there? How does this event help or hinder the journey?”  What do these questions look like?

They look like the type of questions we would ask when playing a game! No one fails or has success in a game because favorable or unfavorable outcomes can change the next time the game is played.   Like the computer in the movie ‘WarGames,’ running through multiple scenarios, one could say it was failing early, failing fast, and failing often. That wouldn’t be entirely accurate however, because the computer was only playing – and therein lies my beef with Nussbaum (if it can even be called a ‘beef’. )

People use the word ‘failure’, but they’ve never really meant the word ‘failure.’  Failure was never really a part of the old design paradigm, (but it is a part of our language.)  If people were designing, they were playing all along…

When I was a kid, my mom or dad would call from the other room, “What are you doing?” Sometimes I was purposefully moving toys or figurines, or designing and building worlds that blended reality and imagination, coloring, creating and appreciating beauty, sometimes taking clocks apart to see what makes them tick… but regardless, my response would be:

“I’m playing!”

Posted in Creative Environments, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, games, innovation, Innovation Tools, Play, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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 »

Empowering the Co-Creation of a Better World – Check out the “Shaping the Future Global” Web-Based Conference

Posted by Plish on December 6, 2012

Today I pre-recorded my interview for the Shaping the Future Global Conference. The talk is entitled, “Empowering the Co-Creation of a Better World.”  It will go live at 9pm EST on Friday, Dec. 7.  You can listen below.

The rest of the schedule, with the archive of the previous two days’ worth of presentations is here. There are some amazing presentations there on health, education, wellness and human rights.

It’s free.

It’s exciting.

It’s a chance to join a global conversation.

Please let me know your thoughts.

Posted in Authenticity, creativity, Crowdsourcing, culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, Entrepreneurship 2.0, innovation, Interviews, Play, problem solving, Social Innovation, Society, The Future, The Human Person, Web 2.0, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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 »

Goooooooooooal!!! An Innovation that Impacts Life Beyond the Soccer Field

Posted by Plish on June 7, 2012

Soccer is a sport that’s loved worldwide (where it’s often known as futbol/football/kickball). Just like this image I took when I was in Ukraine a few years back (which is co-hosting the Euro Cup this year), scenes like this one are playing out all over the world, even in countries that have crippling economic hardships. 

Being the son of Ukrainian born parents and living next door to folks born in Germany, I was playing soccer  early in life (long before “Soccer Mom” was even a phrase) and later played in Chicago’s Semi-Pro leagues.   I could never figure out why soccer wasn’t more common among my peers here in the US.   It’s a sport that is easy to outfit. All you need is a ball and somewhere to kick it.  And, like the above picture shows, the space doesn’t even need to be grass-covered.

So when I saw this innovation, I was blown away.

It’s all about the ball.

These two entrepreneurs hatched this brilliant idea as part of an ‘engineering for non-engineers’ class.  Check out the video.

 

Leveraging things you wouldn’t normally connect (that’s the key to great innovations!) – soccer and the need for energy in parts of the world that don’t have easy access to it – this amazing and fun innovation was born.

In this age of “There’s an app for that”, it truly is refreshing to see a fun innovation that fits so seamlessly into kids daily lives and provides a benefit going well beyond those that exercise provides.   And, if you donate one of these balls, you don’t just contribute to the well-being of kids, you contribute to the well-being of the communities they belong to.

Well done!!!

Posted in children, Customer Focus, Design, games, innovation, Play, Social Innovation, Sports Creativity, Start-Ups, Sustainable Technology, toys, Wellness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Leap – A New, Very Cool Way of Interacting With Computers

Posted by Plish on May 22, 2012

 

“The Leap” has serious ‘fun’ potential; and if something is fun, coolness and utility follows.

*I’ve already pre-ordered one. Stay tuned…

Posted in Design, innovation, invention, Play, software, User Interface | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Three Building Blocks of Indie Capitalism – Ignore Them at Your Own Risk

Posted by Plish on December 8, 2011

Bruce Nussbaum over at fastcodesign.com has been blogging lately on creativity and what he coins is a new trend: Indie Capitalism.

The four traits of the Indie Capitalism are:

  1. It’s local, not global, and openly cares about the community and jobs.
  2. It’s not transactionally, but socially, based.
  3. It’s a maker system of economics based on creating new value, not trading old value.
  4. Materials and products are embedded with heightened meaning.

When I look at these four traits of indie capitalism, three foundational building blocks can be extracted:

  1. Relationships – Between people, cultures, the world and its raw materials.
  2. Emotional Import – People have histories and they live in contexts that can sometimes dehumanize. People need to feel!
  3. Value – This is often tied into the emotional level of experience.  When products or services uniquely meet needs, and they’re shared in the context of relationships, they have value.  This goes beyond technological value.  Things have value because of the story they tell.

How well does your organization emphasize, or enable REV! ?

Relationships – Emotion – Value 

Society is enabling people to conduct business in ways that build upon these.

It’s intimate and it’s provocative.

It pulls people in as opposed to pushing product out.

Ignore it at your own risk…

 

Posted in Authenticity, creativity, culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, innovation, Play, Social Innovation, Social Networking, Social Responsibility, Start-Ups, Sustainability, The Future, The Human Person, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How Not to Run a Brainstorming (And, How to Be True to Your Brand)

Posted by Plish on November 29, 2011

I was driving to a client today, and an ad for Duluth Trading Company came on the radio.  Duluth Trading prides itself on creating ingenious solutions for the working person while having a sense of humor advertising those products.  Some of those solutions include jeans that enable men to crouch without singing soprano, firehose cotton pants and shirts that fix plumber’s butt.  The latter is the focus of the below ad that spoofs a brainstorming session intent on solving the scourge of plumbers butt.  It’s an entertaining exercise in being true to your brand.

It’s also an example of how not to have a brainstorming.

What’s wrong with it?

Before you give it a listen, here are the rules I use for brainstorming sessions:

  1. Don’t judge. Every idea is equal.
  2. “Yes, and…” Build on the ideas of others (If you violate #1, this won’t happen)
  3. Encourage wild ideas (If you violate #1, this also won’t happen)
  4. Go for quantity of ideas
  5. Respect each person who’s speaking. One person speaks at a time – no interruptions. Each person is equal.
  6. Don’t just talk about ideas, sketch them up.  Articulating ideas by drawing (or building/prototyping!) helps concretize thoughts.  This also helps document the session and facilitates #2.
  7. Prepare for the brainstorming and then ideate before and after the team session.
  8. Stay on topic (the answer to “why are we brainstorming?”) but allow for #3 and if something seems too off track, invoke #2.

So give it a listen, and tell me what you think is wrong with this brainstorming:

 

Posted in Authenticity, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, idea generation, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Play, problem solving, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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