Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘Albert Einstein’

Six Rules to Keeping Your Innovation Spaces Innovative

Posted by Plish on July 24, 2016




An engineer on an interview walked into a pristine R&D lab and quipped, “Does anyone do any work in here?”

Turns out, that when creating environments conducive to creative thinking and problem solving, messy environments are more liberating and more conducive to coming up with novel ideas. (Study in Psychological Science)  It’s probably not a coincidence that in addition to Einstein, Steve Jobs, Mark Twain, and Alan Turing also had messy desks. (Great pics here)

“Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights.  Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.” – Psychological Scientist Kathleen Vohs

Messy environments are safe spaces for creativity.  Or perhaps it’s easier to think of it the other way.  When you walk into a room that’s pristine  and perfect, shiny and new,  are you willing to be the first one to mess it up?   Because of this, perfectly organized clean rooms have a tendency to perpetuate their cleanliness.  The expectations are that you need to exercise control and follow social norms.   There is a lack of freedom present which stifles the innovative spirit.   There is a sense that “I’m in someone else’s area and I need to play by their rules.”

On the other hand, walking into a disorderly area impacts everyone that’s exposed to it.  It doesn’t even need to be your mess!  People will tend to feel more at ease, thus more free to contribute, to create, to be unconventional!

So, the important thing is, if you want innovation to happen in your lab, it might behoove you to let things go a little bit.  Let certain areas become islands of creativity where people can play and invent, where they don’t have to play by the rules.

If you do organize, and you have more than one person that uses the lab, make sure that each person cleans his/her own messes.  I’ve heard horror stories of overzealous colleagues unwittingly throwing away  someone else’s valuable prototypes because they didn’t know what they were and they looked liked they didn’t have any value.

So, instead of cleaning parties, I suggest that you have innovation parties.  Spend a couple hours together in the lab with everyone showing everyone else what they’re working on.  Let people look at and touch stuff.  Ask, “What does this do?”.  Cross-fertilize!!

It’s also important to keep raw materials and tools within reach.  If you have to go upstairs or downstairs each time you need some component, there’s a problem in your lab organization.

Likewise, keep reminders of your current product lines in reach.  You have certain core competencies, certain products that define who you are.  Creating innovations that leverage your core competencies can create products that are ‘in your wheelhouse’, and thus accelerate their time to market.

So, in summary, here are the rules to keeping your innovation lab fruitful:

  1. Make sure there is a way for people to see what you’re working on.  Don’t hide prototypes or ideas from others or yourself!
  2. If you must keep the lab pristine, designate certain areas as innovation zones (some design firms create ‘war rooms’) where it’s free to be…
  3. The only people allowed to clean work areas are those who are responsible for that work.
  4. Keep raw materials and prototypes close at hand in cabinets, drawers, etc.  If you have to walk more than 20 feet to get something, or be reminded of something, the plan needs to be changed.
  5. If you have raw materials or prototypes that you must move, take pictures and post them.
  6. Keep your current product lines in view. Learn about what your company does well.

Do you have any other rules that help make your innovation works-spaces more fruitful?

PS. Clean areas have their place. They do promote healthy eating, conventionality and charitable giving.   So, make yourself a clean area for healthier, linear thinking, crank-through work.  After all, sometimes you just need to get a report written and sent.

PPS.  Unlabeled containers, open flammable substances, cutting machinery, in short, things that could hurt yourself or others, should always be properly stored and/or locked to prevent accidents.

PPPS Messy is not the same as dirty.  Working in a place with exposed mold, excessive dust, standing water, is not creating an environment that is healthy to function in.  Stay away from these. (I hope you didn’t need me to tell you this 😉 )

PPPPS Check out this link for some great environmental creativity hacks






Posted in Creative Environments, Creative Thinking Techniques, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Uncategorized, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New Solutions Require New Viewpoints

Posted by Plish on March 3, 2009


“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

When confronted with problems the first reaction is just that:


When we react we fall back quickly into the mode of  trying to use that which worked successfully before.  Not that reactions can’t be creative and innovative- the mind is an amazing thing.

However, new, innovative, creative solutions are usually the result of deliberate alternative thought processes – using different thought processes to get different solutions.

The folks over at Lifehack share some examples of how alternative thinking techniques resulted in novel solutions.  My favorite example from the article is:

The spectators at the Olympic Games in Mexico City in 1968 were amazed to see a young athlete perform a high jump with his back to the bar. Until then, every high jumper ‘rolled’ over the bar with his or her face down. Dick Fosbury, an American, introduced an entirely new approach, the ‘flop’, leaping over with his back close to the bar and his face up. Fosbury was ranked 48th in the world in 1967; yet in 1968 he caused a sensation when he won the Olympic Gold Medal with his unprecedented technique and a leap of 2.24metres. What he introduced was literally a leap of the imagination – and it revolutionized high jumping. Nowadays all the top jumpers use his method. He thought what no-one else thought and conceived a new method.

 The paragraph ends on an interesting concept: Universal Use.

A technique is so successful everyone uses it.  But, if everyone uses it, an edge to succeed has to come from somewhere else – in this case, perfecting the technique, diet, workout regime, etc.   Creative thinking has ground to a halt from a brilliant success! 

Lesson:  Radical Success breeds “fine-tuning” as opposed to more radical thinking.

So what can we do to keep thinking radically?

My favorite technique is to flip the approach over like the high jumper who went stomach first who asked , “What would happen if I went over backwards?”

Other equally good approaches would be:  What would happen feet first?  What would happen if we flapped our arms? What if we tumbled?

Another fantastic technique (but one that is often frowned upon in Corporate America) is to rephrase the problem in a way that no one else does.

For example, hospitals could ask:

“How do we improve the experience of the patient?”


“How do we control costs of care?”

What are your favorite techniques for approaching problems in different ways?

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, Disruptive Innovation, Great Creative Minds, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, Lateral Thinking, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Embracing the Mystery – Being More Human and More Creative

Posted by Plish on December 24, 2008

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, and die gallantly.

Specialization is for insects.

Robert A. Heinlein from The Notebook of Lazarus Long
I found this quote while perusing this blog.  The reason I post it is that it hits on the amazing qualities that the human person has and is – grandiose and little known. 

It points out that the capacity for extraordinary human authenticity is not something foreign to us- it is part and parcel to our condition.  

Albert Einstein said:
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.
He also said:
The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.
To approach life with the wonder of a child, to embrace the mystery that surrounds us each day, is to be a human living to the fullest.  It is in this context of being a “wonder-seeker” that we become more fully creative,  more innovative,  and in a mysterious and wonderful way… even more loving. 

May you all have a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, holiday season. 


Posted in Authenticity, Great Creative Minds, innovation, Nature of Creativity, The Human Person, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Paradox- again…

Posted by Plish on October 15, 2008

How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress. -Niels Bohr

In Bohr’s mind, the paradox was an essential part of coming up with solutions to problems.  This point cannot be overstressed.  Paradox is the nursery from which the most brilliant ideas come forth.     When we are confronted with a problem is which increasing “A” decreases “B” and yet we need A and B to both increase, we are forced with having to redefine the problem and find solutions outside the way we’ve been thinking. 

Einstein once said,

 “You can never solve a problem on the level it was created.” 

This goes hand in hand with Bohr’s statement.  Where do you see problems that are seemingly insurmountable?  Look beyond the origins of the problem, into the paradoxes present, and then you’ll truly start seeing solutions.

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, Great Creative Minds, idea generation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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