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Archive for the ‘Tactics’ Category

Communicating The New – A Book Review

Posted by Plish on December 30, 2013

I recently finished reading, Communicating The New: Methods to Shape and Accelerate Innovation by IIT Institute of Design Professor, Kim Erwin.

The premise of the book is simple but it’s a point that gets missed.  If someone is trying to communicating a new idea, the typical way is to use concepts, techniques and metaphors that are familiar. I’ve seen it in many industries.  In music we hear people say, “The music is a cross between Joan Jett and Enya.”  While the statement is provocative, it falls short because people are forming an idea of what the “Joan/Enya” amalgam sounds and looks like, a perception that is likely inaccurate in some, if not many, ways.  In business I’ve seen products described as “XYZ product but it does it in a different way and better.”  Again, this type of comparison rings hollow and doesn’t do justice to what may truly be a ground breaking concept.

So what to do?

As the book points out: If you want to communicate The New, it should be done in ways that get the message across and at the same time pave the way for bringing the idea to fruition.  It’s not just about transmitting information, it’s about bringing information alive and making it engaging on myriads of levels.  Hence the subtitle of the book: “Methods to Shape and Accelerate Innovation.”

While the book is about communication, it’s about much more than that, it’s about creating and cocreating – bringing things to actualization.  This book is about innovation tactics; it’s about dream-storming.  We all have heard and seen great ideas that don’t get a chance to spread their wings because the idea was  ineffectively communicated.  This book shares tools to give an idea wings.  In addition, it provides tools that will excite and empower stakeholders/team members so that they engage with, and develop, fledgling ideas.  The more these people are engaged, the more they feel confident and enthusiastic about pushing an idea out of the nest expecting it to fly!

The book is easy to read and is aesthetically pleasing as well.  There are multiple case studies and insights from innovators – it adds breadth to the content.  One minor complaint I have is that there are some great graphics that span adjacent pages. As a result, some of the content in the graphics is hard to see because it disappears in the seam between the pages.  Granted, the content of these ‘page spanning graphics’ are from case studies and they aren’t really pertinent to the content of the chapters, but the graphics were interesting and it drove me nuts to not be able to see the entire graphic.  If I can read part of a graphic, I want to be able to read all of it.  Just a personal pet peeve. The remainder of the graphics are well done and helpful, illuminating the text.

The resource section of this book, what people would normally consider the end notes of a book, are outstanding and provide links and directions to sources for further research.  This chapter is a gem and should be read.

A final point is that a book about communicating The New, should perhaps be more than a book. The webpage is a step in the right direction, but somewhere in the back of my mind, this book is screaming for new ways of being shared.   I am also looking forward to more case studies of people who are successfully (and unsuccessfully!) communicating The New.  This book is just getting the conversation started!

Erwin’s book is a welcome addition to the libraries of innovators and entre/intrapraneurs alike.  I highly recommend “Communicating the New” for anyone who has ideas and knows it’ll take more than an army of one to make them reality.

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Posted in culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, Entrepreneurship 2.0, innovation, Tactics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Tips for Innovative Problem Solving, or, How to Shovel Snow Without a Shovel

Posted by Plish on February 27, 2013

This past evening, just shy of midnight, I was getting ready to head outside for my second round of shoveling.  I had already shoveled a good 7 inches of snow around 5pm and it looked like another 5 or so had fallen since.

I glanced at the TV. A warning  scrolled across the bottom: more precipitation on the way and a caution to people who were going to shovel the heavy stuff. So, instead of heading outside, I paused and turned my shoveling into a small, innovative, problem solving project.

My goal was ultimately to remove snow from the walkways and from around the cars, so I asked: “In what ways can I remove the snow from walkways?” (Notice, I didn’t say, “In what ways can I shovel the snow?” My goal is snow removal, not necessarily shoveling.)

I then looked at what types of things were available to help me accomplish my goal:

  • snow
  • me
  • shovels
  • air
  • trees
  • sidewalk
  • cars
  • A house and garage full of tools, equipment, books, clothes
  • cell phone

Since the snow is heavy, ultimately, if I want to make my life easier, I would rather not shovel.

I give myself a provocation:

In what ways can I remove snow without using a shovel?

I look at what’s left: Snow, me and the house/garage/etc..

Picking up the snow doesn’t sound very easy. Hmmmm….

The snow is wet, and sticky, and sticky snow sticks to itself.  So, if I make a snowball, I can roll it and it’ll pick the snow up as it goes – I’ll clean the walkways and dig out the cars and never lift a shovel!

In the end, I’ll just have a giant snowball, or I can make multiples and make a snowman – I’ll clean the walks and have fun doing it!

So, I bundled up, went outside and started rolling.

The problem became apparent right away. Thought the snow was heavy, it didn’t stick together as well as it did earlier today. It wasn’t picking up the snow very efficiently. As you can see from the below pic,  the area where I started rolling is not terribly clean – it was only about 30% efficient, though, as the snowball got bigger, it got more efficient.

Lake Villa-20130227-00790aa

I continued rolling.  It started doing better. It was cleaning up around the cars pretty well.

It eventually started getting pretty darn big, and it was getting harder to get the traction to roll it.  I decided to roll it back into the yard.  I tried posing with it on my shoulders ‘Atlas’ Style, but alas, it was too heavy as you’ll see in the pic below.

snowball1

After extracting myself I calculated that the snowball was the result of approximately 250ft to 300ft of rolling. Not terribly efficient but I had the beginnings of a kick *** snowman.  I tried rolling the next part of the body, but unfortunately the snow was sticking even less effectively than before.  I would have to abandon this route and go back to the shovel.

While this project wasn’t quite as successful as I had hoped, it was enjoyable and it highlights the main steps that should be taken when trying to solve a problem in an innovative manner.

  1. Define what it is you’re trying to accomplish. (Remove Snow) Play with framings here.  Don’t be too vague but don’t be too specific.
  2. Start the ideation process with the phrase, “In what ways can we (Insert task from Step #1)” (In what ways can we remove snow?) If you start the phrase with “How can I…?” it isn’t as provocative.
  3. List everything that is present. These can be tools, objects, things in the environment. Interestingly enough, very often people forget to list themselves or any objects being acted upon.
  4. Use another provocation to get the ideas going.  A good one is to remove something essential from the list.  In my case, I removed the shovel and forced myself to think of ways to remove snow without using a shovel.
  5. Brainstorm
  6. Try an idea
  7. Assess effectiveness
  8. Modify to make it more effective
  9. Go back to #4 or #5 if needed

That’s it!

EPILOGUE: Oh, and this morning we received another 3-4 inches so I used the same technique to “shovel” and finish what I started last night, as well as create a small “King of the Mountain with Subjects” .  It worked alittle better than last night, but I still had to shovel…

Yet all is well in the Kingdom of Snow…

supremelyhappy

The Supremely Happy Snowman

The King of the Mountain and Subjects
The King of the Mountain and Subjects

 

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, design thinking, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Tactics, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Three Principles for a Creative, Innovative and Impactful 2013

Posted by Plish on January 4, 2013

I read this amazing little piece written by Steven Zuckerman.  Steven reflected on his experiences planning a celebratory event honoring the great musician and inventor, Les Paul.

It’s an extremely short piece and worth reading in its entirety.  It can however, be summarized in three short principles:

  1. “No one told me I couldn’t do it” – Steven Zuckerman
  2. Doing good things will touch people’s hearts and the results will reverberate like ripples on a pond.  (One of those ripples touched Paul McCartney.)
  3. “It wasn’t there and it should be.” – Les Paul

Think about it.

If you go through life, trying to touch people’s’ hearts with goodness…

If you’re bold enough to initiate new projects without needing permission…

If your eyes are open to needs and your hands ready to craft something to fill those needs…

Think about what you could accomplish!

Or better yet,

– stop thinking, start doing –

 

 

Posted in Authenticity, creativity, Creativity Leadership, Customer Focus, Design, imagination, innovation, invention, problem solving, Social Innovation, Tactics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Looking for the Secret to Successful Problem Solving? Banish the “…but…”

Posted by Plish on August 27, 2011

Try this concept when problem solving, in brainstormings, in your personal life. 

It’ll work wonders.

Posted in Behavioral Science, Best Practices, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, idea generation, innovation, problem solving, Tactics, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity | 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 »

Embracing Scope Creep

Posted by Plish on July 23, 2010

We’ve all experienced it.

We’re cranking along in a project and someone comes in with a ‘brilliant’ idea or a new documentation requirement. 

AUGHH!  Time is ticking, money is being spent.  Why couldn’t this have been brought up at the beginning of the project?!?!

There are basically three responses:

  1. Ignore the request and move forward promising to fold features into the next version
  2. Agree to the request and try and get more time/money
  3. Agree to parts of the request and move the rest into the next version.

All three of these cause angst to the team, to management, and perhaps even the users.  They result in more time and money being spent.  Creativity likewise drops as people go into crunch mode trying to accomplish more with less. 

It’s Scope Creep.

So, why would anyone want to embrace this?

Let’s step back a moment.

We all have a tendency to look at projects as totally linear processes.  Everyone  agrees up front what needs to be done,  money is allotted, a timeline is set and everyone is off to the races.  The project moves into execution mode – efficient execution.

But, we also know that projects aren’t linear phenomena.  They’re a combination of fits and starts, looping back, problems and solutions.

So what happens?

When we first embark on projects, we keep our fingers crossed and hope that nothing gets in the way of launching the product  – that there is no Scope Creep.  As the project progresses we continue with the same mentality, constantly moving forward but at the same time looking over our shoulders, trying to anticipate what might occur before it does.   We hope nothing will knock us off our tenacious trek towards launch – especially no new product requirements.   Nevertheless, these new requirements seem to come and wreak havoc. 

But, there is a bright side.  

Scope Creep is more than something that should be avoided and/or grudgingly dealt with because where there is Scope Creep, there are opportunities to Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Authenticity, Creative Environments, culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, design thinking, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Project Management, stress, Tactics, Team-Building, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Intuitive Guiding of Iterative Design Research to Expedite Product Development

Posted by Plish on May 14, 2010

Wednesday,  at the final day of the Design Research Conference,  a panel discussion was held on the topic of design research and its role.  One panelist, Don Norman, was particularly animated about the need for design research to better serve industry by providing the results of the research in an expedited manner.  

While listening to Norman I found myself in total agreement with his assessments.  I also resisted the urge to jump up, wave my arms and say, “We’ve already done it!!!!”

What is ‘it’?

‘It’ is: Expediting design research to help industry develop products faster.   This technique may or may not work with non-product design but thinking about it, I’m not sure there’s a reason why it shouldn’t. 

So what is this process?  Here’s a diagram of the comparison between how design research is done in traditional programs and in expedited programs.

Click for Full Size

The typical Research and Development (R&D) process holds science in the highest esteem.   It consists of a research phase, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Authenticity, Best Practices, Creative Environments, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, innovation, Innovation Tools, Market Assessment, problem solving, Research, Tactics, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

The Value of Divergent Thinking – An Analogy From Sports

Posted by Plish on April 25, 2010

Having played goalie in hockey and soccer for most of my life, I’ve spent a lot of time experiencing opposing teams converging upon me. 

In business, converging is considered a skill par excellence.  Find a problem, name your destination and throw everything you have at it to (hopefully) converge on a solution.  In reality, innovations and good design occur when teams and individuals learn to diverge, to see the bigger picture and thus see multiple opportunities for success. 

Here’s a little video I put together that talks about what converging and diverging looks like to a team attacking the obstacle – the goalie.

What are your thoughts?

Posted in Best Practices, Creative Environments, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, innovation, problem solving, Sports Creativity, Tactics, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Are You Losing Your Hooks? – Lessons on Innovation from Fishing

Posted by Plish on July 22, 2009

Innovationintheweedsmichaelplishka2009

The other day I went out on the lake to fish and had my bead on an extremely weedy corner of the lake.  I made up my mind I would venture directly into the middle of the pack of weeds, but in order to do so, I would need to forgo my motor and row my way there.

As I stepped into the boat I noticed two other fisherman on the outer fringe of the weeds slowly drifting towards me.  Judging by the size of their boat and the engine/motor combo, I figured they weren’t going to venture into the weeds but instead were going to stay on the fringes.  Call it a hunch.

I rowed quickly but quietly into the midst of the weeds and tied on a weedless floating frog and began fishing.

Five minutes later I had my first hit but missed the fish.  Fishing rules say that when you miss a fish in a spot on one type of lure switch lures and go back.  I ignored it and went back to the same spot with the same lure on the next cast…BAM! Largemouth bass number one, about 2.5 to 3 pounds. 

About ten minutes later I cast to a small opening between some weeds.  It barely touched the surface when a small explosion of water sucked my lure under.  Bass number two, 3 to 3.5 pounds.fishn2

Five minutes after that I placed a cast only ten feet from where I hooked the last one but in another open pocket.  Pause for about half a minute….twitch…SPLASH and a dive into the thickest part of the weeds.  But I kept the line taut and reeled it in.  Bass number three, 3.5 to 4 pounds.fish1

“What are you using over there?” I heard from the tandem still fishing not 40 feet away but at the fringe of the choking weed bed.

“Floating Weedless Frog Lure,” I responded.

“That’s what we have…”

Another 10 minutes passed and evening fell quickly; they left and I decided to head back home as well.  A successful day fishing indeed…

So what does this have to do with innovation?

I left multiple clues within the story but I’ll get right to the points. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Best Practices, Case Studies, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Disruptive Innovation, innovation, Lateral Thinking, Research, Tactics | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

An Innovation Checklist Based Upon Sun Tzu’s, “Art of War”

Posted by Plish on April 10, 2009

 suntzu

“…A skilled Commander seeks victory from the situation and does not demand it of his subordinates.”-Sun Tzu, The Art of War

This wisdom is brilliant. 

Success isn’t about demands placed on your people, it’s about creating the circumstances and environment in which it is the natural result of the fullness of your work.

OK, what does that mean?

When you demand success from people, in general there is a linear thinking: do x, y, and z and whatever it takes, make it happen.

The difference with this approach is that there is a holistic view of the entire situation – a view that honestly accounts for modes of possible failure, but more importantly frames and drives execution of the campaign such that the end result is success.

How do you implement this approach?

Run through the following checklist:

  1. Are you commited towards a bias of maximum success – Or are projects “do or die?” (This translates to, “Do you really, REALLY, have every person’s back or do you need to make points at others’ expense?”) Does your team trust you? Is there a common vision?
  2. Look at the lay of the land; what obstacles (physical, mental, procedural, organizational, etc.) stand in the way of an idea and its commercialization? Can you move quickly or do you have to move slowly? Are you better off developing this product here or in the barn down the street?
  3. What is the mood of the market like?  Is it easy to entice? Excitable? Cautious? Cheap?
  4. What is the competition up to? Are they doing what you’re doing?  Do they know what you’re up to?

If the four points above are examined at the start of (and throughout the execution of!) any endeavor, and all questions answered honestly and frankly along the way, success will be built into your process!

Success is there for the taking because every aspect of your endeavor is biased towards and, in fact, contains, the potential (and forming) successful outcome. 

All that is needed then is execution, not victory per se.

But,

Victory will be yours!!

Posted in Books, Creativity Leadership, culture of innovation, Disruptive Innovation, innovation, Tactics, Team-Building, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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