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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.


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 »

Infographics Need to be More than Illustrated Fact Sheets

Posted by Plish on June 2, 2012

For those who are championing innovations, inspiring dreams, or just trying to educate, a well put together infographic can be indispensable to generating an emotional, engaging and memorable response.  This is because, at their root, good infographics tell stories.  The pictures in them are worth a thousand, or more, words.

Unfortunately, the ‘graphic’ aspect of infographics, often lack depth.   Illustrations on many infographics don’t add anything and in fact, often create confusion.

What do I mean?

Two out of three people reading this will agree with me

What does the graphic above add to the text?  Nothing.  Take a gander at infographics over at Daily Infographic  and you’ll see the equivalent of the above graphic all too frequently.  Most infographics are illustrated sheets of factoids. Sure there is information being conveyed and yes, there are graphics present, but a cohesive elegance is lacking.

Here’s another example where the graphics confuse and really don’t add much to the story being told:

How can you tell if a graphic is unnecessary? The rule is simple: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Conveying Information, Design, Information Visualization, innovation, Innovation Tools, Stories, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

A Trio of Manifesto’s For Creative Inspiration – Rock the World with You!

Posted by Plish on April 4, 2012

Over at Revive Your Creativity I found the following manifesto, and was struck by its simplicity.  Replace the words, ‘storytellers’, ‘story’, etc., with ‘designer’, or ‘innovator’ or ‘musician’, and it still applies. Great bits of wisdom.  (An Audience does exist for what you do!)

The storytelling manifesto was inspired by two other brilliant compositions.  The first is from Expert Enough.  The other is from Holstee.

Soak it all in and live…


Posted in Authenticity, creativity, Design, innovation, Musical Creativity, Nature of Creativity, Stories, The Human Person, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

What is Shibumi?

Posted by Plish on October 22, 2010

“Rise above it!”

We’ve all heard the phrase.  When circumstances around us threaten to destabilize our world at work or at home, we are told that we can “Rise above it!” –  Transcend the problems as it were.

But, as we find ourselves being churned and spun by the waves of the world, pulling ourselves out of the swirling waters and rising above requires some serious energy expenditures.  In fact, there are times that we may even wonder if the effort is worth it.

That doesn’t mean that we need to let ourselves be swamped, though.  We have another choice:

We can live in the waves

Experience the beauty of the swirls

Catch glimpses of sun through foam

We can ask “why?”; not with anger but with curiosity

We can move in and through the water of which we are

Feeling the currents that pull, carry and caress

We create…

opportunities, movement, intention, beauty

from the wisdom of chaos…

There is no need to rise above-

In fact, the beauty and elegance of your creations would not be possible

were you not part of the waves…


 “The Shibumi Strategy” is a story of one man’s struggle, growth and change, through difficult  circumstances.   It’s an easy read yet it’s filled with wisdom that author Matthew May distilled from his eight years of working with and for Toyota.   These tidbits can be applied to solving problems and fomenting change both at work and at home. 

It’s worth reading, if for no other reason than to make us think less about doing and more about being and becoming.  Interestingly, when we shift our thinking in this way, we end up doing more, or more precisely, we design more beauty…

The The Shibumi Strategy: A Powerful Way to Create Meaningful Change becomes available on November 16th. The ebook version  is available now.

Posted in Authenticity, Books, creativity, Design, imagination, innovation, problem solving, Stories, Tactics, Team-Building, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Tackling an Obese Nation – Making “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” a Design Competition!

Posted by Plish on April 8, 2010

I’ve been watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.  At first I wasn’t too keen on the show.  I didn’t like the premise: Guy from a different country comes to the US to make the US healthier as part of a reality TV show. The motive is good but it’s still Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.  Deep down I feel that for this to be uber-successful it needs to be called something like, “The USA’s Nutrition Revolution – Living Life!”  Revolutions belong to the people, never to one person. (Yes, I realize that one person often starts a  revolution and that others join in – yet, I think this might get more traction if  the focus were changed.  I do need to point out that it seems clear to me that Jamie isn’t in this for his own glory.  He genuinely cares about the issue of obesity, especially in children)

Well, I’ve seen a couple of episodes, and I have to say that I’m intrigued and actually enjoy watching.  I’m shocked though by what I’m seeing: Kids that can’t name basic vegetables, bureaucracies that favor cheap pre-fab food over fresh foods, parents that have given up providing their kids with healthy food.  Every episode reveals something new and not always flattering about the nutritional delivery system in this country.

It also struck me that this show/movement  could be viewed as a design project. 

What do I mean? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Best Practices, Case Studies, children, Contests, creativity, Design, design thinking, Education, Food, Health Concerns, innovation, Life Stages, Parents, Politics, problem solving, Social Networking, Society, Stories, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

The Secrets to Effective Rumors (Insights into Innovative Marketing?)

Posted by Plish on December 11, 2009

I came across some amazing tidbits recently while visiting agendainc.com

In particular, I was fascinated by this document, penned by the Office of Strategic Services, which is a manual for creating effective and believable rumors/stories.

So why is it in my blog?

First, It’s fascinating and cool history!

Second, it provides insight into human nature and the more insights we have into that, the more effective, creative and innovative we can be in design and marketing (among other things).

How would you use these insights?

Posted in cognitive studies, creativity, Design, Disruptive Innovation, innovation, Innovation Tools, Research, Stories, The Human Person, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pecha-Kucha: Getting Your Point Across With Power

Posted by Plish on September 24, 2009

pechakucha michaelplishka2009

I don’t think there are very many people that enjoy presentations, at least typical presentations. 

You know what I mean.  The ones where you walk into the conference room and see a stacked printout of what your senses are about to experience for the next 4 hours. 

Then there are the times when someone tells you about a great Slideshare presentation and you click on the link and see that it’s 83 slides long.  The first thing that goes through my mind is, “Who were the poor people who had to sit through this?” Then with all the strength I have I hit the arrow key to advance from slide #1 and begin the march through PowerPoint oblivion.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are amazing presenters that could make an 83 slide presentation interesting and engaging for two hours.  I just haven’t come across any.

Thankfully, there is a better way.

Enter Pecha Kucha.

Twenty Images  x  20 Seconds Each = Six Minutes and Forty Seconds.

That’s it.

The presenter has to distill her message down and the listeners are not forced to have to find valuable information buried in hours of presentations. 

By keeping presentations short and sweet, you can have multiple presentations, and most of all, you can have more time for discussion – which hopefully is why you’re in on the presentation in the first place.

Another reason why Pecha-Kucha is great is that it is an example of innovation and good design.  It’s a presentation trimmed down – all the fluff is blown off leaving the core behind.   The only downside (if it can even be called that) is that the presenter has to do more work.  As Mark Twain said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

In the end, that’s okay because each presentation is less of an exercise in endurance and more a work of art.

So give Pecha-Kucha a try.  I think you’ll find yourself sold on the concept.  If you’d like to see it in action, check on line to see if there’s a Pecha-Kucha Night near you.

You might never look at presentations in the same way again.

Posted in Best Practices, Conveying Information, Design, Education, innovation, Innovation Tools, Stories, The Senses, Workplace Creativity, Writing | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

The First Step to Creative Innovation – Learning to Observe

Posted by Plish on June 5, 2009

This Picture is Your Assignment

This Picture is Your Assignment

When we’re awake, our eyes are taking everything in – everything!  However, we basically ignore the majority of the incoming data so that we can focus and accomplish the tasks at hand. 

Yes, we are ignoring most of what we see in the world.

This is an issue because the first step to solving a problem is seeing, or more precisely, observing a situation in its fullness.   So, if we’re not observing, we’re depriving ourselves of the ‘stuff’ that enables us to come up with creative and innovative  solutions. 

So how do we improve our abilities to observe?

Seeing turns into observing when there is some type of internalized reflection about what we’re looking at.  When we start asking Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?, while experiencing something with our eyes, we leave the world of passive seers and join the ranks of active observers.

It’s in observing that we see things more profoundly. 

It is in observing that we understand the context of what we see. 

It is the process of sifting through and connecting disparate observations that leads to creative problem solving and innovation.

So, here’s the lesson.  Pick a picture to look at.  I’ve attached one for your convenience.  Now, simply follow the rules below:

  • Try to approach everything you see with a “Wow!”  Be in awe of it, expect to be surprised by it.  Then…
  • Look at it. Look at all aspects of it.  Start from the foreground and move in to the background taking note of what you see.  Don’t draw conclusions yet, just take it all in.  Be sure to document what you see; these are the bones you will build upon.
  • Once you’ve spent some time doing that, start asking questions about what you’ve documented.  Journalists approach stories by asking Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?   Remember, there’s a story in what you’re looking at and by asking these questions you’re putting flesh on the bones.
  • Finally, pull together your answers to your questions and start drawing conclusions; start understanding the story behind what you see.  You’re giving the enfleshed bones life!! Also, don’t ignore your gut feelings; use them and recognize their connections to what you’re observing.  If you’re feeling something, odds are others will too.   Great solutions often have an emotional component to them; it’s why people fall in love with things like iPods.

Don’t be afraid to repeat the exercise looking at the art from different perspectives –  perhaps from the perspective of an older person, a person of the opposite sex, or a person from another culture.   When you’ve done this exercise a couple of times, you’ll soon realize that even though your eyes haven’t changed, you’re now seeing the world in a whole new way.

Posted in cognitive studies, creativity, Design, idea generation, imagination, innovation, problem solving, Stories, The Senses, Writing | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

9 Lessons in Creative Problem Solving From South Park

Posted by Plish on March 31, 2009

Me in South Park (Courtesy of http://www.sp-studio.de/)

Me in South Park (Courtesy of http://www.sp-studio.de/)

The book Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design  describes the attributes of a sketch as:

  1. Quick
  2. Timely
  3. Inexpensive
  4. Disposable
  5. Plentiful
  6. Clear Style – It suggests it’s a sketch
  7. Distinct – Not tight and precise, open and free
  8. Only Includes Detail Needed to Convey Information
  9. Appropriate Degree of Refinement
  10. Suggest and Explore Direction – Initiate conversations
  11. Ambiguity

It dawned on me the other day that in some way, shape or form, the animated show, South Park  , meets all the above criteria for being a “sketch”. 

Why is this important? 

Because as a sketch, it is saying, “Here’s a problem and a possible solution; what do you think? Don’t like that answer? What about this one?”

Because these sketches are actually animated stories, they also contain a “formula” for bringing about resolution of problems contained therein.

So, what I’ve done is look at the South Park ‘sketch’ formula and find 9 lessons we can apply to our own quests to creatively solve problems, generate ideas, and innovate.

  1. Frame your problems/solutions in the context of a sketch.  Remember, a sketch can take multiple forms.
  2. Don’t pre-judge what you put into the sketch.  Let it be fodder for discussion.
  3. Always ask “What if?”  What if we killed a character every episode and brought him back (i.e. What if we made some aspect of our device reusable?)?  What if a mechanical larynx could be programmed with an Irish accent?  What if ground up cash was anti-viral? What if human excrement could talk?  Again, DON’T judge the ideas – play them through to their logical conclusion!
  4. Look at problems through childrens’ eyes and minds; children usually provide common sense answers.
  5. Don’t let political correctness be the automatic solution to a problem.
  6. Culturally diverse personalities/perspectives are a good thing.
  7. Ask questions. (See #4)
  8. Make the most of the resources you have on hand
  9. Always learn something from a process/problem/solution/situation.

What else could you add to this list?

How do you use sketches to solve problems?

Posted in children, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, Play, problem solving, Sketching, Stories | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Using Stories to Help Your Creativity, Generate Ideas and Solve Problems!

Posted by Plish on March 13, 2009


“Individual creativity is very intimate and personal. So, it’s important to learn how to listen to your own instincts, to listen to your inner voice-or find your inner voice-so that your self-expression becomes authentic and grounded and not simply a function of what you think people want to hear,what’s fashionable or what you think you should do as a life-long task…. Creativity is very much about being intimate with yourself, but also a number of things that, frankly, are difficult, if not sometimes impossible, to articulate.”
John Kao -Innovator, Artist, Author of “Innovation Nation”

“When people ask me where I get my ideas, I laugh. How strange – we’re so busy looking out, to find ways and means, we forget to look in…All that is most original lies waiting for us to summon it forth. And yet we know it is not as easy as that….Embarrassment, self-consciousness, remembered criticisms, can stifle the average person so that less and less in his lifetime can he open himself out.”
Ray Bradbury-Author

Based upon the two perspectives noted above, it seems amazing that anyone is creative in a productive manner.

Yet, as Ray Bradbury says, it’s all there, waiting…


calling out –

to be shared with the world!

How do we tap into the depths of creativity within?

The Links of Creativity Websites on this page and the Resource page are good places to start.

But, there is an intimate, and effective way to tap into the authentic voice.


Think of great authors like Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke. They envisioned solutions long before they existed. The looked inside themselves, embraced the wonder, and saw it as more powerful and empowering than Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Authenticity, Creative Thinking Techniques, idea generation, Innovation Tools, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Stories, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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