Posted by Plish on June 26, 2014
The crossing guard waved her arms and held up the stop sign. On my way to a prototype shop to pick up some parts, I slowed, and stopped, and watched.
Behind the yellow vested guard, thirty to forty seven year olds began crossing the street in a relatively organized manner, except for one girl. She wasn’t particularly tall as far as 7 year olds go. She had straight, dirty blonde, just-past-shoulder length hair, and was wearing a white number 4, Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers jersey. While her friends took a linear approach to street crossing, she took each step in a calculated manner.
With each step she reached with her little legs to the next reflective strip in the cross walk. Like Indiana Jones crossing a foot bridge, this little girl took a step, rebalanced, shuffled to get to the edge of the strip and then s t r e t c h e d her leg, pointing her toes, landing on the next reflective strip. Intensely concentrating on where she stepped and avoiding knocking into those around her, she wove her way across the street.
As I smiled at the beautiful play, I realized that this little girl, in this situation, embodies what’s necessary for there to be successful innovation.
1. Safe Space is Needed – She most likely couldn’t have done what she did if cars were whizzing through the crosswalk. The crossing guard stopped traffic and created a safe area. If you want people to be innovative, or for that matter, if you want to be innovative yourself, somehow the traffic has to be stopped. Someone, or something, has to run interference and create a space and time for innovation. Corporate politics and power plays are guaranteed innovation killers. There needs to be insulation from NOISE and distraction. If an innovator has to worry about getting hit by proverbial cars, she can’t create.
2. Give the Minimum Direction Necessary – The little girl was likely told: “Cross the street with your friends when the guard says it’s safe. Be sure to stay in the crosswalk!” She wasn’t told where to step, how many steps to take, or who she had to walk with. She knew she had to get from Point A to Point B. Too often there is a tendency to manage how people get from Point A to Point B. Don’t. There are infinite combinations of numbers that when added equal 4. It’s not simply 2+2. This goes for personal creativity as well. When in a creative endeavor, ask yourself if you’re simply taking the shortest distance between two points or if you’re exploring options. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re taking the ‘easy’ way, or following everyone else, until we stop and ask ourselves what we’re doing.
3. Space for Fun/Exploration – To me, fun and exploration are largely synonymous. I alluded to this earlier. The girl was playing while accomplishing what was asked of her: crossing the street and staying in the cross-walk. As safe space is needed, so is space for playing. People need to explore, to try things out, to play and have fun while they innovate. At least they should. If someone isn’t having fun going from Point A to Point B, you should ask yourself if that person is the right person in the right place in the project. But, it’s not always the person! If someone isn’t having fun, this could also be an indication that above points 1 and 2 haven’t been implemented. If they haven’t, fun is much less likely to occur. Use this check for yourself as well. Are you passionate about what you’re doing? Are you having fun? If not, find out what it is that’s blocking the fun.
When you’re trying to create the best environment for innovation for yourself or others, picture the little girl in the Brett Favre jersey stepping from reflective strip to reflective strip while crossing the street. Remember the three guidelines and you might just find yourself coming up with more creative work and having fun doing it!
Posted in children, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, imagination, innovation, problem solving, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: children, creative cultures, Creative Environments, creative problem solving, creativity, crosswalk, culture of innovation, Design, designing innovation, imagination, innovation, innovative culture, Workplace Creativity | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Plish on March 15, 2009
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.
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
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: corporate culture, creative cultures, creativity, hiring biases, innovative culture, Margaret Lobenstine | 2 Comments »
Posted by Plish on January 30, 2009
(courtesy of clamlynch.com)
I recently wrote a blurb on Five (Weak) Reasons to do Brainstormings. Now, there’s some wonderfully stimulating discussion going on over at the Lateral Action Blog. They are discussing if/why traditional brainstormings should be done and are they a waste of time.
The first blog entry stimulated much discussion and the second, based upon some comments by Your’s Truly, has continued the discussion. So cruise on over and join the fun!
Posted in Creative Environments, culture of innovation, idea generation, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: creative cultures, creativity, culture of innovation, lateral action, Traditional Brainstorming | Leave a Comment »