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Archive for the ‘Social Innovation’ Category

Three Words That Will Alert You To Opportunities for Innovation and Growth

Posted by Plish on January 20, 2017

“I don’t understand how anyone could vote for Donald Trump.”
“I don’t understand how anyone could vote for Hillary Clinton.”
“I don’t understand how anyone can play Pokémon for that long”
“I don’t understand why anyone would want to buy an iPad when an Android works just as well”
“How can anyone listen to {Taylor Swift, Kanye West, etc….}?”  (This is a veiled way to say “I don’t understand.”)
I Don’t Understand…

 

Those three words represent a disconnect from people and objects. They represent a lack of understanding of how people are being served, or how their desires are (or aren’t) being met. They point to how we don’t understand how people’s aspirations may be enabled and thus they point to how we don’t understand the opportunities present.

But perhaps more importantly, those three words highlight that we haven’t taken the time to understand people. What does that say about us? We like to think of ourselves as well informed, as perhaps at The Cutting Edge, as caring human beings.  Yet, we are confronted with seemingly inexplicable phenomena where millions of people are fans of a product, service, or person.

There’s a lesson here regardless of what products we like, or what people we want for president, or what games we play. We need to be tuned in to what other people want. If we really want to build better communities, a better world, we need to understand each other. We need to know where people are coming from. We need to know what types of things are passionately driving people in their day-to-day lives.

Niches of (Not) Understanding

Those words, “I don’t understand…” alert us to niches.  When designing products and services, we must play in those niches . And as we’ve seen, those niches can be comprised of millions and millions of people.

Pay Attention

Pay attention to what people do. Pay attention to what people say. Understand what excites people. What makes people happy? What do people feel that they will lose if they don’t have something? What will people feel they will gain if they do have something or if they don’t?

Today the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump, is being sworn in. His election highlights the fact that there are millions upon millions of people in this country who don’t understand how somebody could vote for somebody else. That means that there are millions of people that’s simply don’t understand their fellow Americans people that’s too high a number.  If we’re designing a better country, (and that’s something that everyone seemingly wants), we need to rise above caricatures and start understanding each other’s motivations and pains.  We need to really understand and not lump everyone into neat little political, racial, socio-economic, etc. silos of categorization.

Misunderstanding

Thinking we understand is perhaps even worse than not understanding at all. When we misunderstand, we risk going down the unfruitful paths.  We risk spending money, time and energy on things that won’t resonate and hence won’t succeed.    Can anyone say “Edsel“?

Listen For Those Three Words

“I don’t understand”  Use those words as a springboard to exploring the relationships, needs, and desires, of people. Those words are the key to new products, services, and even in the bigger picture, a better world.  At at the end of the day, the best thing we can say is, “I understand why…” , or “I understand how…”

Once we understand, we grow.  When we’ve grown, we can get to work designing  solutions:  better products, better services, a better world.

Posted in culture of innovation, Design, innovation, observation, Politics, problem solving, Service Design, Social Innovation, The Future | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Innovator’s New Year Resolution

Posted by Plish on January 10, 2017

Twenty-Nine Percent

That’s the percentage of people that aren’t keeping their resolutions after 2 weeks.

What I’m going to propose a is pleasant and powerful resolution that Innovators of all types have implemented in their lives.

 

SIGNIFICANT THINGS

Great discoveries, great designs, innovations of all types,  occurred when people saw the significant hidden in the insignificant.  Be open to the unexpected and don’t belittle the insignificant!

SIGNIFICANT PEOPLE

In fact, the history of the human race is replete with people who have humble, insignificant beginnings, or were viewed as insignificant people because of the color of their skin, the country or caste of their birth, their religion, their sex – they were viewed as people who weren’t worth paying attention to.  Yet, these people changed the world.

OBSERVE

Pay attention.  Look deeply at the insignificant.  Don’t just cast it away and call it “waste”,”lesser”, “pointless”, “negligible”, “inconsequential”.

APPRECIATE EVERYTHING – AN INNOVATOR’S RESOLUTION

Only when you appreciate everything will you see opportunities for improvement, for elevation, for partnerships,  renewal, growth, friendships and more.  Missed opportunities will be few and far between.

AND WHEN IT’S NOT THERE, GIVE SIGNIFICANCE

Often the insignificant is only insignificant because it hasn’t been given the opportunity to be significant.  Empower.  Elevate.  Understanding the insignificance enables you to create significance.

BE AN INNOVATOR

Design a better world.  People are yearning to be more, experience more.  You are the one to provide it. It starts with open eyes, an open mind and an open heart.

It starts with you…

 

 

 

 

Posted in creativity, Design, innovation, problem solving, Social Innovation, The Future, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Innovation and Independence Both Start with”I” (Happy 4th!)

Posted by Plish on July 4, 2016

Innovation and Independence both start with “I”. It’s not a coincidence!

This country was founded by people who said, “I am going to make a difference!”

Those are the same words spoken by entrepreneurs and innovators world wide.

Not to mention that research shows that when fear is low, innovation is high.  So work to make your country, your work, neighborhood, homes, and your self, less fear filled!  Work towards creating a world where each person, each “I” can say with the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Provide safe spaces where people (yourself included!) can innovate and grow.   Allow innovation to flourish and you will indeed make the world a better place, one innovation at a time!

Happy Independence Day!!  Happy 240th Birthday, USA!

 

 

 

Posted in culture of innovation, Design, Human Rights, innovation, Social Innovation, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | 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.

Capturea.PNG

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 »

Are Crowd Powered Apps a New Invasive Species? – Innovation Creating Collateral Damage

Posted by Plish on December 15, 2014

What do the Cane ToadMosquito Fish  and the traffic app Waze have in common?

Cane Toads (Pic Courtesy of Sydney.edu.au)

Mosquitofish (Pic courtesy of National Geographic)

Waze (Courtesy of Waze)

 

Give up?

The are all innovations that created collateral damage.

Cane Toads were introduced to Australia in an effort to control the Cane Beetle which was destroying sugar cane.  The problem is that the can toad loved the environment and preferred eating anything other than the Cane Beetle.  As a result it is the ‘poster child’ for failed invasive species control measures.

Mosquito Fish were introduced to control mosquitos and in fact were instrumental in controlling Malaria outbreaks in South America, Ukraine and Southern Russia. However, they are extremely aggressive and if not watched, they can wreck aquatic ecosystems because of their competitive nature.

Waze?  I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Heck,  I’ve used it on occasion.  But, it too has solved one problem (helps people get to destinations more efficiently by leveraging the power of the crowd,) and created another: turning quiet streets into major thoroughfares.  As people travelling on the highways of California hit bad traffic, they turn to Waze to find alternate routes.  The result?  Nice, quiet neighborhoods that never used to see heavy traffic now have stifling traffic patterns.

A solution created a problem.

Collateral damage isn’t the only issue here.  The more I thought of this situation, something struck me.  Two of the three above are considered invasive species.  Is the third, Waze, also an invasive species?

Can an app be an invasive species?

An invasive species is a plant or animal that is not native to a specific location (an Introduced species); and has a tendency to spread, which is believed to cause damage to the environment, human economy and/or human health.

Using the above definition, (if we allow for the fact that apps aren’t plants or animals, but instead are used by animals,) can crowd powered apps be classified as a new type of invasive species (Appicus Crowdpoweredus) ?   If so, how are they controlled?  Should they be controlled?  Or the ultimate question:

Can they be controlled?

 

Would love your thoughts!!

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Thinking of the Ideal will Design the Beautiful (Happy Birthday, “Bucky”!)

Posted by Plish on July 12, 2014

When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I only think about how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution isn’t beautiful, I know it is wrong.
— Richard Buckminster Fuller

 

Today is the birthday of Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller.  For those of you who don’t know him, he was an amazing architect, systems thinker, writer,  inventor, designer, and futurist.  In short he was a thinker and doer.  He considered himself, “an experiment to find what a single individual can contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity.”

For Fuller, beauty wasn’t just something nice to look at.  It was something to strive for when designing things, services and ourselves.

To many, Fuller was perhaps too utopian in his thinking.  What they fail to realize is that this ‘utopian’ tendency was fundamental to his design capabilities.  His goal was not to make something that was ‘good enough.’  His goal was to contribute to designing a world in which 100% of the human population could reach its highest potential with 0% negative impact on the environment and larger systems in which humans are integrally intertwined.

This concept of “ideality” is an important concept to remember and one of my favorite ways to generate innovative ideas.  (Ideality is essentially the ratio of all the positive benefits of something divided by the sum of  all the negatives. ) A more practical way to think of ideality is to think of it as a machine that does everything you need it to do but without any negative consequences.  For example, a bicycle that moves me from Point A to Point B without pedaling is an ‘ideal’ bicycle.  From a personal energy standpoint, a motorcycle is an ideal bicycle.  However, in order to be truly ideal, there should be no negative impacts at all levels of the system.  While a motorcycle is ideal with regards to conserving personal energy, it’s not ideal with regards to impacting the environment with its exhaust, and when its lifespan is over and it needs to be disposed of.  (Learn more how Ideality is at the root of designing products in the highly recommended book:  Cradle to Cradle .)

Ideality is powerful in that it forces people to think of the ramifications of what they are doing.  It also forces designers (us) to look at contradictions in the problem solving process.  The longer we can hold on to those contradictions and bounce them off of each other with the goal of designing a solution that transcends the contradictions, the better the chances we can come up with solutions that are closer to the ideal solution.  Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management, in his book, “The Opposable Mind“, calls it Integrative Thinking.

An often overlooked benefit of designing towards to the ideal is that it forces us to look inside the problem itself for the solution.  (Want to create the ultimate experience of eating chocolate and drinking your favorite cordial but you hate washing the glasses afterward?  Make the drinking vessel out of chocolate!)  It is this quality that makes the Ideal solutions beautiful.  Once you experience it, you just know.

This quest for the ideal was key to Fuller’s thinking, and in this day and age, we shouldn’t be satisfied with half-solutions that cause more problems than they solve.  We need to start embracing the Ideal in politics, society, businesses and in our personal lives.  The future of “Spaceship Earth”, (as Bucky called it), may very well depend on it.

*******

If you’d like to learn more about Buckminster Fuller’s thinking, below are some resources:

Design Science – A Framework for Change – A fascinating and insightful presentation on Fuller’s Design Process thinking.

Everything I Know: 42 Hours of Buckminster Fuller’s Visionary Lectures Free Online (1975) – There’s a link to the transcripts if you’d rather read.

Buckminster Fuller Gives a Lecture About Semantics at San Quentin State Prison (1959) (At one point he told the inmates: There are no throw-away resources,and no throw-away people.” )

Critical Path – Perhaps the best and most accessible summary of his thought.

The Buckminster Fuller Institute – A great resource on everything Bucky!

Posted in Books, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Evolution, Human Rights, imagination, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Social Innovation, Society, Sustainability, Sustainable Technology, The Future, The Human Person, TRIZ | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“What Can I do? I’m One Person.” How About Build a Country? That’s Innovative Design!

Posted by Plish on July 4, 2014

Courtesy of History.com

Today is the 4th of July.  I sat down and re-read the Declaration of Independence.  Read it for yourself.

Brilliant Simplicity.

The Beginnings of something great and glorious.

Empathy

Introspection and Self-Knowledge

Reflection on the Human Condition

Keen understanding of the current situation in the country and the world

Knowledge of other domains, other political systems

~Courage~

This is great design!

This is Innovation!

(Reflect upon what these individuals did.  They began building a country and a way of government that the world had never seen before!)

Who are you?

What is the stuff you are made of?

Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness

The 4th of July is not about what the government did, it’s about what people did!

Start designing…

Happy Independence Day!

 

Posted in Authenticity, Design, Human Rights, innovation, Politics, Social Innovation, Social Responsibility, Society, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Inspiration from “The Rebbe” into Redesigning Healthcare, Starting with the Word We Use

Posted by Plish on June 14, 2014

While driving to a 24 hour Walgreens in the wee hours of the night, I was listening to the radio and heard an interview with Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History.

Rebbi Telushkin pointed out that the Rebbe believed in the power of words and he made it a point to use optimistic, positive words.   So strong was the Rebbe’s belief that it influenced the author, Rabbi Joseph, to use the words “due date” as opposed to “deadline” when talking about projects.  “Due dates” are synonymous with births, “deadlines” with, well, death.

The Rebbe carefully chose his words and therefore used the phrase beit refuah, when he spoke of a hospital.  Translated it means ‘house of healing.’  Most people used the term beit cholim, which means ‘house of the sick’.

Think about that.

When you hear the word “hospital” what do you think of?

If you’re like most people, you’ll probably say, “That’s where the sick people are.” Maybe you’ll mention something about people getting better but, odds are, the first thing that’ll  probably come to mind is sickness, not healing.

That’s interesting because the word “hospital” comes from the Latin word hospes. The word meant a foreigner/stranger or guest.  It’s actually the root word for “hospitality”, “hostel”, “hotel”, and “hospice”.

Do you consider hospitals synonymous with hospitality?  While the Ritz-Carlton has given customer services lessons to healthcare facilities, and many hospitals are upgrading their food quality and redesigning their interiors, the cultural change hasn’t occurred yet.  People still don’t identify hospitality with hospitals.  For that matter, unfortunately, I don’t believe that healing is identified with hospitals. I’ve even heard of hospitals being described as those places where people get sick!

Some places are making the change and trying to change peoples’ impression of what healthcare facilities represent.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America has taken the step of using green colors and logo that has a tree and a person playing and a dog.  They clearly want to convey their commitment to life and living.  Their facilities are even designed in V-shapes, almost like open arms.  They really don’t look ‘hospitally’. Check them out some pictures here.

The lesson here is that language is important.   From healthcare terms, to renaming strategic plans, to renaming project ‘post-mortems’, I believe it’s important that we use terms that take us in positive directions and make us think of what it really is that we want to accomplish.  Too often we just use common phrases, seldom taking the time to understand the impact of those terms in shaping our worldviews and how we approach problems.

Whether it’s healthcare or a relationship you’re trying to improve,

think about the words you use,

think about the metaphors that describe your challenges,

think about the ramifications of words,

and choose words that build up, that inspire, that give life, that cause you to look at people and situations in new and exciting ways.

The Rebbe would be happy…

 

 

Posted in Customer Focus, Design, Healthcare, innovation, Religion, Service Design, Social Innovation, The Human Person, Wellness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

EPA (and all of us) Need to Walk the Talk on Earth Day, with an Emphasis on “Walk”

Posted by Plish on April 22, 2014

Earth Day is a perfect day for people and organizations to ‘walk the talk’ about being ecologically friendly with their products and services.  It’s an opportunity to be innovative, to be creative with ways of making an impact on the world, to show that it’s not just talk.

I was extremely surprised then, when I saw that the EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy, is jetting on  a week long, Earth Day themed tour.  Seriously.  Jetting?  When the EPA “ask(s) Americans to act on climate change through simple actions to reduce carbon pollution in their daily lives,” shouldn’t the EPA lead the charge by doing things to reduce pollution?

With a little technology and marketing savvy, much more could be accomplished with much less environmental impact.

What would you think of these ideas?

  • A week long walking/bicycling caravan, with blogging of the entire trip.  Participants would be on “Good Morning America”, and other such shows.
  • A week of Skyping various news, daytime  and cooking shows. (Cooking? Heck yeah!! How much food is wasted, and waste created, in kitchens?)   Punctuate the week by having an open brainstorming discussion with Ms. McCarthy to allow the public to share ideas for ways to be more green.
  • Spend each day giving an interview from a mode of public transportation that’s more environmentally friendly.

 St. Francis of Assisi is the Catholic Church’s Patron Saint of the environment (I’ve created a non-denominational pledge to protect the environment, based upon the one in the hyperlink, below) .  There is a saying that is attributed to him that says: “Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary use words.”  In other words, a lived message is more powerful, and preferred, to a spoken one.  Not that words aren’t necessary, but they are the secondary means of getting a message across.

Since environmental change begins within the hearts of people who change their behaviors, encouraging others to take “simple actions to reduce pollution,” while not living that message, is at best a lost opportunity, and at worst, a damaging activity – hurting the message and the environment.

What do you think of the EPA doing this?  What would you suggest would be more powerful from a messaging standpoint?

THE PLEDGE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

I / We Pledge to:

MEDITATE and reflect on the duty to care for the environment and how our decisions can also impact the poor, vulnerable, and voiceless in the world.

LEARN about and educate others on the causes and moral dimensions of damaging the environment.

ASSESS how we-as individuals and in our families, and other affiliations-contribute to environmental damage through our consumption, waste, etc.

ACT to modify our choices and behaviors to reduce the ways we contribute to environmental damage.

BE AN ADVOCATE for environmentally protective principles and priorities in environmental discussions and decisions, especially as they can impact people who do not have a voice in these discussions.

Posted in Co-Creation, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, nature, Social Innovation, Social Responsibility, Sustainability, Sustainable Technology, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Thoughts and Images from FUSE14

Posted by Plish on April 11, 2014

The FUSE conference has come and gone.  Due to circumstances beyond my control, I missed the last day, but the first two days were pretty amazing.  It was a conference of great insights into the power of Design in creating powerful, memorable experiences of products/services/brands.

I made concept maps of all the presentations I sat in on.  You can check them out on SlideShare.

Day 1

Day 2

There’s a mashup from Twitter here and here.

If you can make this conference in the future, it’s well worth it. The speakers are top-notch, the facility is beautiful, and the food was excellent as well.

Some of my pics are below:

The conference was not just about the past and present.  It was about the future as well.   There are challenges presented by technology and human nature, challenges that could demean instead of elevate people if not addressed.

The conference was exciting, precisely because it acknowledged the multifaceted challenges that await those who seek to design better experiences, better products, a better, more human, sustainable future.

Posted in Best Practices, Brands, creativity, Customer Focus, Design, Experience, innovation, Research, Service Design, Social Innovation, Sustainable Technology, The Future | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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