Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘corporate culture’

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.


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

Can Too Many People be Creative?

Posted by Plish on November 16, 2009


According to this blog over at MIT, the answer is “yes”.

Researchers broke down society into creators and imitators.  Their task was to see what optimum amount of creativity is needed to benefit society through the dissemination of innovations.

Turns out that if creators are doing their thing 50% of the time, and imitators imitating 100% of the time, approximately 30%-40% of the population should be creators, the rest imitators.  As the quality of ideas goes up, less creators are needed.

While it’s an interesting study and worthy of some pondering, three shortcomings bother me.

1. The study assumes all creative ideas are meant for sharing. 

In fact, most of our creativity isn’t ‘public’ but is meant for us personally-meant to make our own lives easier.  Most ideas don’t get disseminated and hence don’t get built upon; nevertheless, these people are part of society and so indirectly improve society through their hidden innovations. 

2. Each creative idea does not result in negative repercussions.

Most solutions that get adapted result in unwanted consequences of some sort. This results in additional idea generation, often by others who at some earlier time were only bystanders (imitators) but could very well have been creators in a different realm.

3. The study assumes there is a portion of the population that is only imitating.

I don’t think this is a valid assumption (see Point 1).

While, I realize that this fascinating attempt to model the impact of creativity on society is not meant to be 100% accurate, if we apply this model to corporate cultures, we realize that only a small percentage of people in a company could truly be called creators -most are imitators and (gasp!) are expected to be imitators. 

Therefore, according to this model, those few creators in the company need to be amazingly brilliant and doing their creation the overwhelming majority of the time.   But, given that the minutiae of day-to-day workings insidiously creep in on most people without their knowledge, those creators are probably not even working on creating as much as they should be (imitating?) and not contributing to the overall level of corporate fitness.

The result (at least according to this model) is that most corporate cultures never reach their optimum level of fitness. 

This is something that, unfortunately, most people would not argue with.

Posted in Authenticity, culture of innovation, Design, Disruptive Innovation, idea generation, innovation, problem solving, Research, Society, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Tips for Spotting, Hiring and Retaining Innovative Talent

Posted by Plish on March 15, 2009


Do You See People in Black and White or...?

Do You See People in Black and White or...?

In the Mid 1980’s, Lotus was having a tough time coming up with new products.  In spite of the new influx of talent, many with MBA’s and resumes that included the likes of Procter and Gamble and Coca-Cola, Lotus was losing its luster and many of the original hires were jumping ship because they no longer felt they fit in.

CEO Mitchell Kapor and  Head of Organizational Development and Training, Freada Klein, decided to look more deeply at the hiring practices to see if maybe something had changed.

In a brilliant experiment, they took the resumes of the first 40 people hired and doctored them up to disguise the identities contained therein, while leaving untouched more unconventional aspects of their resumes (such as their experiences as clinical psychologists, community organizers, meditation teachers, etc.)   They then submitted these people to the applicant pool to see what would happen.  Incidentally, Kapor’s resume was also included.

The result?

None of the original 40 employees were asked for an interview!

Lotus was screening out the innovative, multi-talented people and had created a narrow minded culture.

This scenario is hardly unique to Lotus.  It’s all too common in the corporate world.  Yet, at a time when innovation is needed more than ever, multi-faceted individuals need to be appreciated for what they bring to the table.  The result will be the building of a culture that is intellectually diverse and able to tackle the unique problems of the day.

So, what can managers and hiring personnel do to make sure they don’t slip into the Lotus trap? 

For that we turn to Margaret Lobenstine, author of: The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One.   (The  following in PDF format is here):

DON’T MISS Such Potentially Valuable Employees:
• Don’t automatically rule out resumes that show a “checkered work history”
especially if the references are all positive
• Be careful about the questions used in interviews. For example, the familiar
question “Where do you see yourself in five years?” rarely brings out the best in
Renaissance Soul candidates. They are far more likely to get good ideas for next
steps as they move along rather than having a set plan for themselves that goes
that far into the future. While this flexible quality may produce a stilted answer in
the interview, it may be your company’s key to staying alive in an ever-changing
work environment.

PLACE Renaissance Souls Where They Can Be The Greatest Asset:
• in the brainstorming, product creating, ground-breaking areas of your business;
• as inter-departmental team leaders
• where creative trouble-shooting is needed

Think About STAFFING PATTERNS For Such Employees:
• Consider using Renaissance Souls as mentors for employees who need help
developing their ability to see the big picture, to problem-solve, to innovate
• Pair Renaissance Soul employees with detail-oriented, follow-through staff and
get the best from both!

Focus In On WAYS TO KEEP Valuable Renaissance Souls:
• Pay more attention to the language used in work assignments. Instead of
implying a singularity of focus “Find out the cause of this problem and fix it!” try
framing things in terms of multiples: “What combination of things do you think may
be causing this problem and what solutions can be applied?”
• Allow as much flexibility as possible in terms of when and where the
Renaissance Souls work; in the long run, they are far more likely to be workaholics
than shirkers if given free rein to follow their own rhythms
• Often times Renaissance Souls will be more interested in a horizontal move that
offers them a chance to learn a new area of the business than in a vertical one,
where they are essentially doing the same type of work, only with greater
responsibility. Create ways to make such horizontal moves as respected and
rewarding as vertical ones.
• Encourage asking Renaissance Souls to explore a variety of relevant
journals/periodicals/web sites and funnel relevant info to the right people in the
• Give help in areas of typical weakness for such employees: distractibility,
tendency to take longer than expected on projects that they find interesting
because they get too interested

What other practices would you recommend for making sure you’re hiring and retaining innovative people?

Posted in Authenticity, Creative Environments, culture of innovation, innovation, Renaissance Souls, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

%d bloggers like this: