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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

How Monsanto Should Be Innovating

Posted by Plish on November 14, 2013

It seems that every week someone mentions something about Monsanto, and it’s very seldom good.  Doesn’t matter if it’s Facebook, or Twitter, or the news, someone is saying something.  A simple perusal of a Google Search of “Monsanto” can give one the impression that the company is a litigious giant  that doesn’t care about the well-being of people or the environment and instead is only concerned with making money.  Monsanto even has the dubious distinction of being named “The Most Evil Corporation” of 2013 in a Natural News poll.

Never the less, as far as corporations go, Monsanto is doing very well.  In spite of the bad press and mounting negative public opinion over GMO‘s, Monsanto continues to grow, innovating, patenting and licensing the agricultural technologies they develop.

Even though Monsanto  licenses its technologies to other seed companies,  many in the public perceive Monsanto as taking advantage of farmers as opposed to helping them.  After all, companies generally don’t sue their customers (even if any money won in a case does go to youth scholarship programs.)

To be fair, they really can’t be blamed for  protecting their intellectual property.  When a company invests millions of dollars a day in research, if it allowed people to use their technology in an unlicensed manner, the business could not sustain itself.

But, there is another way…

(Farmers are) the support system of the world’s economy, working day in and day out to feed, clothe and provide energy for our world. – Monsanto’s About Us webpage

There are literally millions and millions of farmers in the world. Small farms, large farms and everything in-between.  Ultimately, everyone wants the same thing: Improved, sustainable yields that don’t hurt people or the environment, but yet enable farmers to make a living.

Farmers are passionate about their calling. Each one is looking for an edge, for a way to get the most for the least amount of investment in time and money.  Each one is dealing with local microclimates, soil conditions, and pests; not to mention the economic climates.  They seek out new information, they build and utilize support networks, they experiment.  They are entrepreneurs. (Check out Farm Journal for just a tiny sample of the varied topics farmers digest)

Monsanto, as mentioned before, spends over 2 million dollars a day on research and patents are only good for 20 years (and some of the patents they’re defending now are expiring within the next few years.)  They employ 22,000 people worldwide. No matter how much they invest in R&D, or how many people they hire, they can never account for  all the variables farmers around the world deal with.

So what should they do?

Monsanto needs to begin Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Co-Creation, Design, Disruptive Innovation, Food, innovation, Open Source, Science, Sustainability, Sustainable Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Many Dimensions of Beauty

Posted by Plish on May 11, 2013

Sustainable innovation occurs when the mind dwells in the many dimensions of beauty,

where like breeds like…

A friend shared the following video on Facebook.

It’s simple and profound.

One could say:

It’s beautiful.

Posted in Arts, Biology, Design, innovation, nature, Science, Sustainability, The Senses | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Building Empathy on the Road to Innovation (and a Better World)

Posted by Plish on October 5, 2012

While the woman on the table braced herself for the extremely invasive transvaginal ultrasound, the technician tried to calm her:

“You know, when I was in school, they had us go through this exact same procedure so that we can understand what you’re feeling while you’re going through this.”

The woman smiled slightly, relaxed, and thought to herself, “At least this won’t be as bad as it could be…”

And it wasn’t…

Empathy goes a long way towards impacting how we behave with others, how we design products and services for others.  Sometimes, as with the ultrasound technician, a shared experience forms the empathic response.  However, we can likewise gain empathy by observing how others respond to certain situations – by reading people: looking at their faces, listening to their voices, watching how they fidget or stand still.

While responding to others’ expressions is somewhat ‘automatic’, the accuracy of our empathic responses can actually be improved.

Researchers at Emory University have developed a meditation protocol (Cognitively-Based Compassion Training, or CBCT) that trains people to be more effective in reading what others are feeling.

Study Co-author, Lobsang Tenzin Negi, director of the Emory-Tibet Partnership, had this to say:

“CBCT aims to condition one’s mind to recognize how we are all inter-dependent, and that everybody desires to be happy and free from suffering at a deep level.”

Build empathy and build a better world.

Sounds like mandatory training, not just for innovators, but for all humans…

 

Posted in Behavioral Science, Case Studies, cognitive studies, culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, Emotions, innovation, Innovation Tools, meditation, Research, Science, The Human Person, Wellness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 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 »

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…

~Creative~

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 »

Insights Into Innovation via the Way of the Mad Scientist

Posted by Plish on August 11, 2011

While at a client’s the other day, a colleague looked at the collection of new and failed prototypes, bits and pieces of scrap, notes, Ziploc bags with components,  and exclaimed, “Plishka, you’re a mad scientist, man!”

It wasn’t the first time I’ve been called that jokingly.  I’ve always considered it a compliment.  Yes, I know,  ‘bad’ mad scientists get much more billing than ‘good’ mad scientists so people tend to think of mad scientists as primarily ‘bad’.  But, since I don’t have people coming after me with torches and pitchforks, I can only surmise that I’m labelled with the moniker because I share certain traits with mad scientists in general - what we’ll call, ‘Common Mad Scientist Traits’ (CMST’s for short).

So, it got me to thinking about traits of mad scientists (good and bad), myself and about other creative people at innovative companies.  A compilation of CMST’s is as follows: 

  • Empathy for the human condition
  • Tenacious, passionate commitment to solving problems
  • Will prototype/experiment before committing to the bigger project
  • Customizes environment and tools to increase odds of success
  • Accepts failure as a learning opportunity
  • Leverages technology
  • Has assistants(team) that share(s) the vision
  • Finds ways to work around bureaucracy
  • Authentic - true to self

Does this list jive with the “Mad Scientists” you know?  How does your business empower  and foster these behaviours and perspectives? Which CMST’s do you have?

Posted in Authenticity, Creative Environments, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, innovation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Renaissance Souls, Science, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Breaking Down Creative Blockages and Dealing With Stress

Posted by Plish on March 11, 2011

We all get stuck.  

Dr. Stanley Block, over at Psychology Today, has a great process for breaking through the blocks, or rather the box that surrounds and constrains our psyches  –  in three minutes or less.  Rather than reproduce it here, I’m including a link to the process that you can read here. 

I’m a strong believer that the more relaxed we are, the better the quality of ideas.  Dealing with stress is important if you want to stay on top of your game. Here’s another interview with Dr. Herbert Benson,  founder of the Benson Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine.

What do you do to deal with stress and keep the creative juices flowing?

Posted in Authenticity, Behavioral Science, cognitive studies, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, idea generation, Interviews, meditation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Research, Science, stress, The Human Person, Wellness, Workplace Creativity, Yerkes-Dodson Curve | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Designing the Future – Check Out These Two Contests!

Posted by Plish on April 1, 2010

It’s that time of year again – time to Think FUTURE!

If mobile communications is your think then  the Design the Future of Mobile Communication Competition is for you.  Ssponsored by LG Mobile Phones in conjunction with CrowdSPRING and Autodesk, they’re offering over $80,000 of prizes  and Autodesk is throwing in a 15-day trial version of Sketchbook Pro so you can polish up your final submissions.

Prizes are as follows:

First Place: $20,000 Cash Award + 1 Wacom Intuos4 medium tablet (ARV of $349) + Autodesk industrial design software (ARV of $500)

Second Place: $10,000 Cash Award + Autodesk SketchBook Pro software (ARV of $100)

Third Place: $5,000 Cash Award + Autodesk SketchBook Pro software (ARV of $100)

Prop Master’s Choice: $3,000 Cash Award + Autodesk SketchBook Pro software (ARV of $100) + 1 non-working concept mock-up creation (ARV of $4,000)

37 Honorable Mentions: $1,000 Cash Award

Start and End Dates: The competition ends on April 26, 2010, at 9:00 a.m. PST

For more info click here.

The other competition is the Create the Future Design Contest sponsored by PTC, COMSOL and Tech Briefs Media Group.  Submit your design in six categories: Machinery Equipment and Component Technology, Consumer Products, Medical, Safety and Security, Transportation and Sustainable Technologies.  It runs through June 30, 2010.

Prizes are as follows:

Grand Prize (1)-$20,000 USD

First Prize in Each Category (6)-A workstation computer provided by Hewlett-Packard

Popular Vote Winners (10)-A SpaceNavigator 3D mouse from 3Dconnexion

Top 100 Entries (100)-Certificate of Achievement suitable for framing

All qualified entrants will be included in a random drawing for NASA Tech Briefs T-Shirts. Minimum of 1 per 50 entrants will win.

More info here.

Best of luck and may the best innovators win!

Posted in Contests, creativity, Design, imagination, innovation, Science, Society, Sustainable Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Let’s Design Healthier Hearts – American Heart Association Takes an Innovative Step

Posted by Plish on January 22, 2010

 

In an effort to increase cardiovascular health in the US and promote prevention of heart disease, the American Heart Association has taken an innovative step and defined ideal cardiovascular health using seven easy to understand measures.  In concert with this definition they’ve also created an aid to help people in understanding their cardiovascular health by launching a monitoring tool over at My Life Check

“A simple step-by-step approach has now been developed that delivers on the hope we all have – to live a long, productive, healthy life. We call it Life’s Simple 7,” said Dr. Clyde W. Yancy, President of the American Heart Association.

What are the seven things we should all be monitoring?

  1. Never smoked or quit more than one year ago;
  2. Body mass index less than 25 kg/m2;
  3. Physical activity of at least 150 minutes (moderate intensity) or 75 minutes (vigorous intensity) each week;
  4. Four to five of the key components of a healthy diet consistent with current American Heart Association guideline recommendations;
  5. Total cholesterol of less than 200 mg/dL;
  6. Blood pressure below 120/80 mm Hg;
  7. Fasting blood glucose less than 100 mg/dL.

Any improvements in any of these will help people to have healthier hearts and prevent heart disease.

Continues Dr. Yancy,

“Prevention should be a cornerstone of healthcare reform, a priority of our state and local legislatures, incorporated into our workplace policies, in our schools and our community environments, and a big part of our everyday lives. The American Heart Association is clearly focusing not only on reducing the burden of disease but, importantly, on prevention of disease. That should matter to everyone.”

Hmmm…there could be the makings of a problem here…actually two problems. 

First, we all know that heart disease can put heavy burdens on society, but we also know, though we don’t like to admit it, that prevention brings its own burdens.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Customer Focus, Design, Disruptive Innovation, Health Concerns, innovation, Science, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A Simple Method for Trend Forecasting

Posted by Plish on July 24, 2009

I came across this  article on trend forecasting and put together a little time-line to show approximately what is going on when new products come to market.

development process michaelplishka2009

Although the above chart is somewhat simplistic, it breaks down the phases of technology development.  I used a 20 year cycle as mentioned in the article although as soon as a product is introduced into the market the Refinement phase tends to get accelerated in an effort to gain full Acceptance quicker. 

That being said, 10 years of incubation in R&D for a ‘new to the world’ product is probably a good rule of thumb.  It may be longer or shorter depending on factors such as if the research is being done by private industry or the government.

So, how do you do your own trend forecasting?

1.  Got to Google News and do an advanced searchRead the rest of this entry »

Posted in Case Studies, Design, Disruptive Innovation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Science, Start-Ups, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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