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Posts Tagged ‘corporate creativity’

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 »

5 Insights Into Innovation From the Coyote

Posted by Plish on June 30, 2013

Graphic Courtesy of Nature.com (Click on it to read article on Coyotes)

Graphic Courtesy of Nature.com (Click on it to read article on Coyotes)

Every once in a while when I’m out jogging, I’ll come across a coyote. They look at me, turn, and go in the other direction – disappearing into a thicket along the trail.  I also hear them yipping with pups, or I hear local packs of coyotes join in with choruses of their own when a distant ambulance siren pierces the night.  Yet most people don’t see coyotes all that often.

But just because most people don’t see coyotes doesn’t mean they’re not around.  On the contrary, coyotes are, quite literally, everywhere.  In fact, coyotes, in spite of their habitats being modified, and open hunting seasons, are one of the few animals that has actually increased the extent of its domain over time.

Think of it.  They are competing for food and land under intense pressure and thriving!

So, what are the main reasons for this, and what can we learn from the wily Coyote? (The word itself is an Aztec derivative of the word meaning ‘Trickster.”)

1. Coyotes adjust their diet based upon what’s available.  When they find certain types of food getting scarce, they’re willing to go after other types of food.   How willing are most companies to venture out of the comfort space and adjust how they ‘feed’ themselves? What new channels do you utilize?

2. As coyotes spread Northeast, they mated with wolves, or more properly, allowed themselves to breed with wolves, who were in the decline due to hunting.  This resulted in bigger coyotes that could take on bigger prey. Now there is evidence that they’re breeding with domestic dogs – the results of which are unknown because this is still an experiment in the making.  Is your organization willing to intimately partner with others to create even more powerful ‘offspring’?

3. Coyotes breed quickly.  Compared to other predatory canines, coyotes reproduce more quickly.  This enables them to stay ahead of the game, even under predatory pressure and open hunting.  Is your organization reproducing itself, creating multiple channels to have a better chance at survival?  (Google is especially good at this.)

4. Coyotes are relentless in forcing others to play by their rules.  Where coyotes are taking advantage of clear-cut forests to prey on the young of an endangered caribou species, the only way to save the caribou right now, is to stop clear cutting the forest.  Is your company taking advantage of  market dynamics so effectively that you’re forcing the game to change?

5.  Coyotes constantly push the edges of their boundaries.  They look for opportunities to expand their domains. How effectively are you probing the edge of what you don’t know? 

Larry Ellis, in his essay, “Trickster: Shaman of the Liminal” perhaps summarizes innovation best when speaking of the Trickster genre (Replace the references to ‘Trickster’ with the word ‘Innovation’):”Trickster creates through destruction and succeeds through failure; his mythic and cultural achievements are seldom intentional. “Defining such a various creature,” writes Jarold Ramsey, “is a little like trying to juggle hummingbirds””

Yes, innovation can be like trying to juggle hummingbirds.  But, with these 5 insights into the method behind the coyote’s madness, the juggling becomes much more manageable and the results, intentional.

Posted in Best Practices, creativity, culture of innovation, Disruptive Innovation, Evolution, innovation, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Is Your Organization Built for Innovation? Try This Audit Tool

Posted by Plish on April 11, 2011

I put together this Innovation Checkmap.  It highlights the working relationships that should be present in healthy, innovative organizations; a visual checklist to guide an audit of the innovation capabilities in your organization.    The map is simple to use:

  1. Pick a group (and/or individuals) as your Implementing People (IP).
  2. Walk your way around the map asking the questions in bold with reference to your IP.
  3. Repeat steps 1-2 for every entity in the organization.

If you can’t really answer a question, it shows that your organization is most likely weak in that area.  Make sure that you actually have data of some type to back up your answers.  If all you have are your opinions, (as in, “Those people don’t need to have access to the order system.  Why would they?”) that’s a problem.

Some definitions are in order.

Implementing People (IP) – This represents anyone (or group) that is doing a task, whether it’s people in  the C-Suite, Finance, R&D, Operations, etc..  It’s intentionally vague but it’s put at the center of the map as it is the starting point for an innovation audit. Pick a group you want to analyze and they are your IP.

Internal Customers (IC) – These are people the IP interact with on a regular basis.  This can include stakeholders. 

External Customers (EC) – These are your customers, users, patients, clients.  They are people or organizations that are not part of your organization.  They are people you serve or provide products to.

Each group has needs.  They’ve been broken down into, ‘What they need to feel,’ What they need to do,’ ‘What they need to have.”  These are distinguished from what they actually feel, do, and have.  The phrase, “How does your organization determine ‘what IP need to feel’?” means, “How does the organization determine the affective needs of the IP?”  For example, individuals in a certain group may need to feel wanted, feel pride, feel challenged, etc.  Also, disconnects between what people need to feel and what they are actually feeling, or what they need to have and what they actually have, are signs that something is amiss. 

I’ve also included a question regarding understanding what people say they do in addition to what they are actually doing.  If these aren’t the same, that’s an issue.

Another way to look at this map is as a source of metrics for gauging your innovation effectiveness.  Traditionally, most metrics are in the financial realm (ROI, Gross Profits, etc.) with a few from the Creativity side (Number of patents, etc.). Push your organization to have metrics of some type for each node/question in this map.   

This chart can also be used as a culture change guide.  Changing how nodes work and the relationships will impact your culture.

Innovation Audit Checkmap

Any questions or comments are welcome!

Posted in Creativity Leadership, culture of innovation, Customer Focus, design thinking, innovation, Innovation Metrics, Innovation Tools, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Solving Problems and the Benefits of FUN!

Posted by Plish on January 26, 2011

FUN!  is something that all animals, to some extent engage in. 

Humans have the ability to design it.

Volkswagen has recognized the innate value of fun and developed this great website.  It’s dedicated to the premise that “something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better.”   

But, FUN! does more than change behavior. 

“I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.” -Thomas A. Edison

Work = 1/(FUN!) where FUN!=Passion x Freedom. 

To increase the level of FUN! and decrease the perception of work, find ways of increasing passion and/or freedom. Make sure people are playing to their strengths, and give them the responsiblity to make things happen; responsibility to make decisions.

Do this and the FUN! level will increase, the perception of work will decrease and the results will be amazing.


Posted in Authenticity, creativity, culture of innovation, innovation, Play, problem solving, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

We Need Innovation in Government – Share Your Ideas!

Posted by Plish on February 12, 2009


Original B&W from brentoons.com

Original at brentoons.com


New CEO says we must innovate and create new opportunities.

There is agreement from Senior Management that this is true, but disagreements over methodology.

Meetings come and meetings go. Arguments ensue over where to put money and resources.

CEO tries to rally all those around her :

“Look, these are difficult times and we need to stop the bleeding.  I know every plan isn’t perfect but if we keep bickering and arguing we’ll pass the point of no return. Bottom line: I was picked to lead this company and I have to do what I believe is right. The buck stops here!”

“Anyone who argues by referring to authority is not using his mind but rather his memory.” Leonardo da Vinci

Plan is not communicated well enough to create buy-in through the ranks. In fact, there’s doubt plan will even work. Personal agenda items seem to creep into discussions. Innovation is something that is expected to occur once plan is in place but there’s doubt.

Plan gets pushed through.

Half-hearted support throughout the ranks results in serious stalls. Those at lower levels are talking at the lunch table:

“Man, with the new CEO you would think something would change around here.”

“What did you expect? The CEO can only do so much. She’s got all those other folks around her that still think the same old way.”

“And, act the same old way.”

This company is in trouble. So what should management do?

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” -Albert Einstein

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” -Albert Einstein

This failure of an innovation initiative is Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Creative Environments, culture of innovation, Disruptive Innovation, Great Creative Minds, innovation, Innovation Metrics, Politics, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

Do Implementing “Best Practices” Stifle Creativity/Innovation?

Posted by Plish on January 26, 2009

The Future of Best Practice Adoption

The Future of Best Practice Adoption

 “Companies have defined so much ‘best practice’ that they are now more or less identical.” — Joseph Kunde, Unique Now…or Never

We all have seen, heard, or read references to “Best Practices”‘ as being a road to success.  Kunde’s astute observation challenges us.

Are we so involved in adopting “Best Practices” that we are losing our unique, tactical edges?  Can “Best Practices” result in all our solutions to big problems looking alike and do they really advance innovation?

Just today the Pfizer/Wyeth merger seems to answer “Yes”, “Yes” and “No” respectively.

Yes, there are times and places for instituting “Best Practices”.  They are to be used when the road is poorly marked, when the strategy is one of staying the course. 

But, when the goal is to bring new innovations to the world, to out-battle those bigger and stronger, to zig when others zag, the “Best Practices” enacted should be those that empower us, people, your team, 

to be authentic,



                                                                           dynamic individuals –

that together –

are greater than the sum of their parts.

Posted in Authenticity, Best Practices, Creative Environments, Creativity Leadership, culture of innovation, Disruptive Innovation, innovation, Tactics, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Mathematics of Innovation

Posted by Plish on December 18, 2008

I’ve been reading and re-reading The Innovation Equation . It is an excellent book and I highly recommend it.

One of the things I love about this book is that they define Innovation with an equation: Innovation= Creativity x Risk Taking.

I think there is merit to this formula as I also believe, with the authors, that true innovation is possible for anyone.

Being the person I am, I decided to dig deeper into this formula and try stretching the mathematics to see what can be learned from its manipulation. (If you’re math averse, please skip to the bottom for the DISCUSSION)

Innovation doesn’t occur out of the context of time, so I figured, why not differentiate the formula with respect to time and see what impact that has and what it can perhaps teach us about innovation. The formulas are below:


By differentiating we can determine how Innovation changes with respect to time as Creativity and Risk Taking change with respect to time. I summarized the results using various functions in the table below. The lines represent the rough shapes of the curves of what the variable is doing over time. So a straight line means the variable is constant over time. A slant means a linear increase. A curve means the form of y= ax^2 + bx +c (but it could be a higher order as well but thiswould impact the results)


So what does this all mean?


A- When Creativity and Risk Taking are constant in a company, Innovation is constant. This means there is no Innovation Velocity and no Innovation Acceleration

B- When Creativity is constant and Risk Taking increases over time, Innovation increases because of Risk Taking. This means Innovation over time changes at a constant rate – the Innovation Velocity changes. There is still no Acceleration.

C- When Risk Taking is constant and Creativity increases over time, Innovation increases because of increases in Creativity. This means Innovation over time changes at a constant rate – the Innovation Velocity increases. There is still no Acceleration.

D- When Creativity over time is increasing in a non-linear second order fashion, and Risk Taking is constant over time, Innovation increases, Innovation Velocity increase linearly and Innovation Acceleration stays constant. But there is Acceleration!

E-When Risk Taking over time is increasing in a non-linear second order fashion, and Creativity is constant over time, Innovation increases, Innovation Velocity increase linearly and Innovation Acceleration stays constant. But there is Acceleration!

F-When Risk Taking and Creativity both are increasing linearly, Innovation increases, Innovation Velocity increases and Innovation Acceleration stays constant. But there is Acceleration!

DISCUSSION: In those cases where there is constant Creative output and constant Risk governing strategies, Innovation occurs but isn’t accelerated. In fact, it’s not moving, dynamic Innovation. It’s Innovation by definition-that’s all.

Dynamic Innovation (Innovation Velocity) is constant or increases only when Risk Taking gets riskier and/or Creativity increases. There needs to be a constant effort to either get riskier or be more creative to get Innovation moving. The problem is that according to the research of Dr. Byrd, as people get more encultured by the corporation, there is a tendency for creativity to decline (p.127) – they become prisoners of their culture. Innovation will suffer as a result.

Is it possible to Accelerate Innovation? Yes, but it’s not easy. You either need Hyper-Creativity, (second-order or higher Creativity), Super High Risk Tolerance (also of the second-order or higher), or everyone firing on all cylinders (which is probably the likelier path). Even when this occurs, though, Innovation Acceleration is constant.

So what’s the take away?

Remember, Risk Taking in most corporations rarely gets more aggressive with time and success. If anything, it grows more cautious. There may be times when this or that project may be more risky, but somewhere there are usually safety nets. If a project is too risky it gets killed.

The implications of killing projects and the signals sent by mitigating risk can directly impact creativity in a negative way and based upon the results above, we don’t want that! After all, if Risk Taking is constant or declining, Creativity is all that’s left to keep Innovation moving!

There are two solutions.

1. Individuals start exercising more risk and go out on limbs to keep projects going. If they succeed, great. If they fail, unless the company knows what it means to be innovative (and too many companies aren’t sure), the person pays the consequences and again, Creativity could take a hit on the Corporate level. Death Spiral…

2. Start treating each individual as a unique source of brilliance, training and enabling people to be more fully alive, fully authentic humans who utilize their creativity freely. (The culture that does this is itself being creative–a two-fer!)

When confronted with the choices, can we afford not to start investing in the creativity of people?

Posted in cognitive studies, Creativity Leadership, culture of innovation, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Research, The Human Person, The Innovation Equation, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Cup Noodles – More Than Sodium in a Cup

Posted by Plish on November 29, 2008


The following video is a great summary of the creative process and the innovation of Cup Noodles

Simplicity is key to this product.  There’s some great marketing ideas in here as well.

Posted in Case Studies, Creativity Videos, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, innovation | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Finding and Grooming Innovators

Posted by Plish on November 25, 2008

Good article here from the Harvard Business Review.

In general, the article is right on.  I’ve personally (and unfortunately) seen much of what this article says must be done (or its lack thereof.)  I disagree, to some extent, with the section on giving innovators responsibility and the reward structure.  The argument is made that once innovators are found they should be given a chance – rewarded if they succeed and not given another chance if they fail. 

Since the article discusses “finding” innovators, I can see the rationale behind the need to give them a chance.  On the other hand, if a company has to “find” innovators, is it truly a company with an innovative culture, or a company that is efficient at keeping positive cash flow? I would argue there should be a difference. Perhaps not in the needed result but in orientation and execution.

In line with this is my dislike of the “one-strike-you’re-out” rule that most companies mentioned here seem to use.  By definition within the article, innovators are those who take risks.  A high risk project might fail- it’s what makes it high risk!  Having said that, risking once is relatively easy.  Risking twice or thrice after a former failure takes guts and courage.  The approach in this article cuts true innovators off at the knees. 

If somebody fails, (or as I prefer to say, “Increases his/her experiential database”, which coincidentally increases odds of future success!) analyze the situation, learn, cross-pollinate and keep moving forward!  What do I mean by cross-pollinate?

Any Innovator that is turned loose will innovate – new products, processes, systems, sub-systems will be developed in the course of any project.  Odds are HUGE that something developed during a “failure” can and will be used somewhere else in the company and perhaps with even greater payback than the original project had! That person should be rewarded not barred from future attempts.

What are your thoughts?


Sustaining innovation, many agree, is crucial for a company’s long-term success. But truly innovative people are rare: They have excellent analytic skills, never rest on their laurels, and can identify the solutions likeliest to win over top leadership. They are socially savvy and can bring a diverse group of constituents into alignment. They tend to be both charming and persuasive.

The right talent-management procedures can help in spotting potential innovators. Reuters, for example, interviews candidates one-on-one and gives them complex, real-world scenarios in which they must reach and defend decisions, accommodate new information, and convincingly sell their point of view. Starwood and McDonald’s require would-be innovators to lead cross-functional teams in developing promising ideas and then to present those ideas to senior management. One global industrial products company in the UK insists that they do a stint in the sales department.

Developing breakthrough innovators requires mentoring and peer networks. Mentors provide insight into the motivations, goals, mind-set, and budget constraints of managers in a variety of relevant functions. At Allstate, for example, the CEO coaches and supports the mentors themselves, sending a strong signal about the importance of the program. Peer networks provide a sense of solidarity and a uniquely fertile environment in which to exchange ideas, impart information, and instill hope.

Companies that excel in developing innovative leaders often remove them from revenue-generating line positions and plant them in the middle of the organization, where they form “innovation hubs,” with easy access to influentials, more autonomy, and broader job responsibilities.

Practices like these keep companies open to new ideas and prepare them to respond nimbly to innovation from elsewhere in their industries.

Posted in Case Studies, Creativity Leadership, culture of innovation, innovation, Innovation Metrics, problem solving, Research, Uncategorized, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Latest on Innovation Metrics

Posted by Plish on November 14, 2008

InnovationLabs has published a white paper on innovation metrics.  While intriguing in its breadth, I’m not totally sold on the proposed metrics contained therein.  Too many of these metrics can be “padded” so that when it comes times to performance reviews people will be rushing to fill their quotas of “customers seen” or “ideas generated” just so they can claim they’re innovative.

Many of the other metrics are based upon  “what was done”, or “what was the return on x project”.  While necessary to somehow measure, these types of metrics lag and are like reacting to a fever of 105F after the person’s fever dropped to room temperature  becaue he/she cooked.


Posted in Creativity Leadership, innovation, Innovation Metrics, Nature of Creativity, patents, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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