ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘creativity tools’

Don’t Worry About the Elephant in the Room, Look for the Chameleons

Posted by Plish on June 30, 2016

 

color-changing-chameleon-lizards

Photo Courtesy of momtastic.com

 

You’ve got multiple experts in a room.  They’re all giving their opinions on the state of a market, or a new product.  Very often this leads to the manifestation of proverbial Elephant in the Room – the obvious issue no one wants to mention because it’s embarrassing, or taboo, as it has implications that could impact the project in a negative way.

While no one wants to talk about the elephant, the good news is that it’s there.  Yes, no one is talking about it (yet), but if  the culture is such that accountability is valued more than meeting deadlines, the elephant will be revealed and it will get talked about.  (If there are negative ramifications for saying something important just because it will negatively impact a product launch, you’ve got bigger problems than the elephant*.)

But very often, there are insights in your Voice of Customer (VOC) feedback that aren’t obvious, that won’t get talked about or dealt with – they’re Chameleons.

Chameleons are more dangerous to your project than elephants (I’m speaking with regards to VOC type data, or any situation where people are interpreting what others believe or are doing. I realize chameleons are cute benign reptiles 🙂 )  .  This is because people don’t know what they don’t know.  But, just because something isn’t known, doesn’t mean it can’t be known, or that there aren’t tell-tale signs present.

Since you can’t see the Chameleon directly, you have to look indirectly for the shadows –  Shifting shadows, a glimpse of movement.  It’s things that are implied, not things that are obvious.  It’s the nebulous things, the directions that are inferred from what is being said and done, not the words themselves.

This is important, because the words themselves are going to be the same words that members of the VOC panel will use when describing the situation to your competition.   If you want to have a product or service that is different and superior to what everyone else does, look for the Chameleon.

What are some tricks for seeing the Chameleon?

When dealing with VOC, a textual analysis is a great place to start.  It can reveal underlying dispositions and assumptions.  It can also show what types of metaphors, and thus what contexts people are using when they talk about your product.  I was once part of VOC feedback and noticed that certain subgroups of clinicians consistently referred to certain medical devices using military-like terms: cocked, captured, loaded, etc.  No one really noticed it because those terms are ubiquitous.   I did some textual analysis and noticed that there was another subgroup that rarely used those terms.  This was a Chameleon!

So I raised the question, do we want people using a war/battle metaphor for this surgical device, or do we want the market to use, and experience, a different, more healing metaphor?

The other tip is to pay close attention to what people do, not only what they say.  Body language, rituals, procedures, actions of any type, can give tremendous insight and reveal the Chameleons that everyone else will miss.

I once researched  a medical procedure and realized the doctor used a particular motion again and again.  The doctor never mentioned he made the movement, but he did it every procedure.  The kicker is that no products on the market leveraged that particular movement.  So I rolled that motion into the product design, creating a more ergonomic, simple, and cost effective to make, product.

Remember, do textual analysis and analyze what people do.  By being cognizant of these two tips, you’ll be well on your way to recognizing the Chameleons when they become present.  It’s well worth looking for them.  Sometimes they hide right next to the elephants. 😉

 

 

*- Actually this is a Cultural, or Corporate Chameleon.

Posted in Behavioral Science, Best Practices, Case Studies, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Disruptive Innovation, ethnography, innovation, Innovation Tools, observation, problem solving, Service Design, Surveys | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How Creative Dialogues With the Past Can Inform Design – Lessons Inspired by Kabuki

Posted by Plish on October 29, 2015

Great piece on the value of creative traditions over at Lateral Action – about how understanding them can lead to greater creative output.  Mark McGuinness talks about the 400+ year old, Japanese form of theater known as, Kabuki, how it’s a vital part of the Arts’ tradition, and how tradition and innovation can indeed go hand in hand.

Fascinating read. In addition, Mark has some wonderful advice for learning from a creative tradition.  It’s also a great summary of things to look at when designing new products.  When I prepare a group for a brainstorm I have them look at these very topics, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the parallels.  He summarizes beautifully:

Every creative tradition is a treasure-trove of inspiration and knowledge. Unless you know what past masters have done — and why and how they did it — you are limiting the palette of creative options available to you. So if you are serious about your creative discipline, you need to learn about its history and traditions.

Run through the following list and make a note of how well you know each category within your creative field:

  • Classic works
  • Contemporary works
  • The avant-garde
  • Works from your own country
  • Works from other countries
  • Critical reviews and studies

The list is great summary of what to look at when you need inspiration for solving a problem.

  1. Classic works >>how did people solve this problem in the past?
  2. Contemporary works >> How are people solving this problem now?  (These are the mainstream soluitions)
  3. The avant-garde >> What are people on the cutting edge doing to solve this problem?
  4. Works from this country and others >> People deal with problems in different ways in different parts of the world, or even in the same parts of the world!  Look for examples of Positive Deviance.
  5. Critical Reviews and Studies – Look in the literature.  This also includes patents.  I would also include Nature here.  Does anything in Nature resemble or shed light upon your current problem?

More great advice:

Do not avoid works or artists you don’t like. You don’t have to like everything, but if you want to be more than a keen amateur, you need some knowledge of every aspect of your field. Even if you only confirm your negative judgment, it’s better to do this from an informed position than dismissing things without getting to know them. And you might even surprise yourself by finding some diamonds in the rough.

Pay attention to those products that you don’t like as well as those you do.   How did they solve a problem?  Are they trying to solve the same problem you are?  Look for the method behind the madness.

When looking at the past,people tend to think that we’re going backwards.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  Use those older designs and ideas as springboards for new ideas!

Don’t worry that your work will seem derivative or unoriginal. Treat these dialogues with the past as experiments, to be discarded if you don’t like the results.

Newer materials and manufacturing methods are constantly stretching the boundaries of what can be accomplished.  Very often past solutions can be given new life by changing the materials and manufacturing methods.  Adidas did this by utilizing 3D printing  in  the time honored running shoe.

Next time you’re confronted with a problem that needs to be creatively solved, spend some time dancing with the past and present.  Your future will contain innovative and creative solutions!

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Are You Doing This Simple Thing to Improve Your Creative Abilities?

Posted by Plish on May 6, 2015

To become a better writer – READ

To become a better cook – EAT

To become a better musician – LISTEN

In short, to become a better designer/maker/artist/engineer – OBSERVE

I recently started an Instagram page for ZenStorming.  It’s filled with tips for idea generation and creative inspiration, and it’s especially geared towards people that don’t always have someone around to bounce ideas off of.  (If you aren’t on Instagram, the posts are cross-posted to my ZenStorming Facebook page.)

Since Instagram is amazingly well suited to provide quick nuggets of information, I started a weekly series for helping people improve their observational skills.  It’s based on the premise that if you are primed with a certain concept before going on a walk or drive, your eyes will be opened to new things just because of the priming.

You don’t have to see new things, to see things new!

My first observation challenge was to look for right angles.

I took my own challenge, and that day while driving to a client, I was amazed at what I saw.  I saw patterns that I never noticed before, even though I had passed the same areas innumerable times. It also amazed me how right angles are largely the work of humans.  We build a world of right angles around us. Up, down, left, right.

We create an orthogonal world.

Which is kind of interesting given that so much of nature is anything but in 90 degree intersections.  But it’s what works.

Would love to get your thoughts on this observation challenge (as well as suggestions for a catchy hashtag!)

And remember,

You don’t have to see new things, to see things new!

If you see things in a new way, you can create new things!

Posted in Arts, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Maker, observation, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Do You Want to Be More Creative? Please Help Me Help You With Your Creative Problem Solving and Creative Thinking

Posted by Plish on April 25, 2015

Hi, it’s me!

I’ve always been fascinated with how things work: machines, products, nature, the universe, and yes, even people. (It’s the scientist in me).

At the same time, I’ve always enjoyed making things: products, games, art, music, food and more! (I’m inspired by the muses 🙂 )

Most of my professional career I’ve been designing medical products for everything from family owned companies, to Fortune 500 companies, and I’ve done it well. These products are helping countless people live better lives, and their healthcare providers do their jobs more effectively.

I’m party to over 20 patents in the US and Internationally, and have been awarded multiple corporate awards for products that have made these companies millions in profits.  And, all the while, I was devising and refining my own methods of idea generation and product creation.

Working in the Corporate world was a great experience, but I wanted to grow and share my journey in creativity. So, in 2008 I ventured out on my own and formed ZenStorming™ LLC.

It’s science meeting muse.

I help companies come up with ideas for new products as well as share my methods for creative thinking and problem solving. I have an extensive network of talented designers, engineers and manufacturers that help me bring ideas from conception to reality. And I’m loving every minute of this creative ride!

I also develop tools (and often share those right here) to help people in their creative endeavors. I’m also developing some premium tools.  But, rather than assume I know what you need, I want to hear it from you.

I want to know what it is that you struggle with.

I want to know what could help you be more creative and grow as creative person.

Please take this uber-quick survey.  Your email address isn’t needed, but if you share it (It’s safe and secure and will be kept in confidence – I promise!) I may very well contact you to chat some more, and you’ll definitely be the first to know when these premium tools roll out, so you’ll get special deals!

Thank you so much for your time!!

Wishing you fruitful growth in your creative endeavors~

Plish a.k.a. Mike, Michael, Mickey, Plishka, Dude, Mickeyplish, Mikey, Misha, Myxash,

Posted in 3D Printing, Brain Stimulation Tools, brainstorming, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

G.R.A.S.P. The Solution – A Book Review

Posted by Plish on February 22, 2012

I had the privilege of recently reading the book,  Grasp the Solution: How to Find the Best Answers to Everyday Challenges , by Chris Griffiths with Melina Costi.

G.R.A.S.P. stands for the various stages and types of thinking:

G-Generative

R-Reactive

A-Analytical

S-Selective

P-Proactive

In general, the book takes an in-depth look at the above thinking processes and couples them with a method called the “The Solution Finder”.  When used in tandem, they provide a scaffold for finding creative solutions.

While the book is dedicated to the explanation of GRASP and the Solution Finder, the authors state that there’s one thing that they hope readers take away from the book: It’s that they start thinking about thinking.

Without doubt, this book will get you pondering about how you think.  However, if you think thinking about thinking is difficult to do, perhaps it’s even more difficult to write about.

Therein lies the one negative about this book – the authors’ discussion of a recursive process can, at times, be difficult to follow.

However, there are many positives to this book and I consider it a welcome addition to any entrepreneur/innovator’s bookshelf.  I particularly was impressed with the various tools discussed as they are clearly and concisely explained.

By the authors’ own admission, there’s not really anything new, per se, in this book.  What they have done, however,  is provide a cogent methodology for creative thinking and compiled and explained the tools/resources that support it.  This is no small feat and should be commended.  (Also, if you’re a newbie to mind-mapping this book gives a quick but, as with the other tools, utterly thorough primer.)

Overall, I give this book a ‘thumbs up’ and recommend that you give it a read.

If you do, please drop me a line, or post your thoughts here.  I’d love to hear what you think.

Posted in Books, Creative Thinking Techniques, innovation, Innovation Tools, Mind Maps, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Make Beautiful Music – Bolster Creativity

Posted by Plish on September 23, 2011

Playing is essential to learning.  Children play constantly, and guess what?  They learn constantly.

Adults could learn if they played, but unfortunately we think play is only for kids.

Enter the Theta Music Trainer.

While children could definitely learn from this, adults are the ones that could really sink their teeth, um, ears, into this.

Music connects with those parts of our brain – those artsy, non-linear areas – that help with creative thinking in general.  Flex your musical brain ‘muscles’ and you flex your creative muscles.

The Theta Music Trainer site  gets that creative workout going, and in a fun, and playful manner.  Oh, and did I say, “Free?”  Yup, it’s free.  However, if you get addicted to the games, and want to learn more than the free levels offer, you have to subscribe.   Regardless, there are plenty of free resources worth checking out. (As an aside, the business model for this site is intriguing, don’t you think?)

So, make some beautiful music tonight –  Your creativity muscles will thank you!

Posted in Authenticity, children, creativity, Creativity Videos, games, Musical Creativity, Nature of Creativity, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Want More Creative Solutions? Solve Problems for Someone Else.

Posted by Plish on March 2, 2011

Researchers have known for a while that one way to come up with creative solutions is to create some distance from a problem (I blogged on it here).  In other words, if you frame the problem so it’s distant in some way, geographically, temporally, etc, the solutions you come up with tend to be more creative than if you are solving a problem that’s located in the here and now.

Well, now researchers have demonstrated that you can be creative solving problems in the here and now, just solve the problems for someone else.  In other words, people tend to be more creative when solving problems for others than they are when solving them for themselves.

This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. If a social species, like humanity, is to survive, it makes sense that its members are at their best when solving problems for their fellow humans.  It creates a support structure that helps increase survival odds when focused on the other.

What’s been your experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Posted in Authenticity, Behavioral Science, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, Innovation Tools, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Research, Social Innovation, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Stuck Coming up With Ideas? Try the Brian Eno Technique!

Posted by Plish on February 4, 2011

Was reading this article on using flashcards as prompts for ideas regarding design.  Some great resources are in that article.  One that was particularly striking was the Oblique Strategies card deck by Brian Eno.  (For those of you who don’t know about him, he was with the band Roxy Music, and since has been an ‘ambient’ music pioneer.  He’s also the one responsible for the few second musical intro to Windows 95 and beyond).  He (and Peter Schmidt) developed this Oblique Strategy card stack as a way to get creatively unstuck in the studio.  You can purchase the actual cards here, but there are other ways to benefit from the content of these cards.

Text versions and other links to the various versions of the decks are here, and if you want a quick fix, click here to go to a web based version.

I just clicked it myself and the message was:

Courage!

What a great bit of inspiration.  Because we all know that sometimes, in the midst of projects, when trying to get the best solution and the most creative innovation, having the courage to be embarrassed, to say what everyone else may have been thinking but didn’t want to say, to try something that’s already been done because you have a slightly different way of making it happen, to stand up for something or someone else’s idea – sometimes courage is the essential ingredient in innovation.

I can see I’m going to like this…

Thanks Brian (And Peter Schmidt)!

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Alone and Need Ideas? Try This Tool

Posted by Plish on September 10, 2010

There is something to be said for the dynamic that occurs when people can engage and bounce ideas off of each other.

Sometimes though, we need to come up with ideas on our own.  One great tool for this is the Reverse Dictionary.

The human mind is great at making connections between disparate concepts, at building off of metaphor.  A Reverse Dictionary provides idea fuel for the brain. 

The best way to learn about this is to try it yourself.   To get the ball rolling though, I’m going to walk through an example. 

Say I’m looking for a way to decrease problems in nursing homes.  I entered in three words on the main page: ‘loneliness, mistakes, illness’.  Three terms that define what many people in nursing homes go through. 

The results are here.  When I look at these 100 terms I see some  that are curious, others that I have no idea what they are, some that seem totally unrelated.  Those are the terms that I follow up with and investigate further.  I’ll list some of those here:

1. Iatrogenesis – A fancy way of saying adverse effects to treatments. Things like drug interactions, errors, negligence all fall under this term.  I thought it was fascinating that this is the first term in the list dealing with problems in nursing homes.

47. Toc H – I had no idea what this was so I looked it up here.  It’s an international charity movement started during World War I.  The fundamental beliefs of this organization are:  Fellowship (To Love Widely); Service (To Build Bravely); Fairmindedness (To Think Fairly); and the Kingdom of God (To Witness Humbly).  There’s something there to build upon.

69. Zero Defects – Speaks for itself.

33,53, 76, 94, 85. Redgrave, Radclyffe Hall, Finlandia Prize, Tom Courtney, Glen Ponder – All deal with the Arts.  Getting solutions to nursing home problems from the Arts?  I like it…

95. abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz – A string of letters, it doesn’t mean anything.  It’s confusing but it contains all the letters of the alphabet; it would mean something if it was reorganized and cleaned up.  It makes me think about gleaning useful information from elderly communication, of proper interpretation of symptoms, language and circumstances.

99. Indian Sex Stone –  “The American field archeologist’s term for a natural rock that is mistaken for an artifact, usually a preform or bola stone, in the field. Most such mistakes are made by inexperienced field crew members, who learn quickly not to make such errors.”  Wow… a lot to ponder here and it ties in with #5. 

100. Sam the Robot – “The only robot on Sesame Street. He always tries to do things right, and even insists that he is perfect, but he always does things wrong. Typical mistakes of his would be drawing a circle instead of a square or pouring coffee on the ground.”  Another Wow!  Are there Sam the Robots among the caretakers?  How do we deal with this type of psychological type?

Now that I have these concepts, I can delve into them further, learn more about them and let this information percolate in my conscious and  subconscious.  I can use these as metaphors for coming up with even more ideas for ways of addressing problems in nursing homes.

Now, give it a try yourself and let me know how it works!

Posted in Brain Stimulation Tools, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, idea generation, imagination, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Traditional Brainstorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Creativity Stuck? Try These Tools

Posted by Plish on December 29, 2009

Click to see full size

Click to See Full Size

 

Just like your physical muscles, if you flex and use your creative muscles you get more effective and efficient at coming up with ideas.  One way to do this is by doodling and sketching.  

How do you start?

You can always grab a blank sheet of paper, but the blankness often stares back at you mockingly and the result is more frustration which in turn inhibits creative thought.

The trick?

Use something as a catalyst to get the creative juices flowing.    

To that end I’ve put together a couple of templates for you so you can practice being creative. 

Click to Download PDF Template

 

Print the template and make a point of sketching using these patterns at least once a day. If the above template isn’t your cup of tea then I’ve also create a spreadsheet that allows you to build your own sketching template based upon letters or shapes in the various fonts.  The Excel version is here and the Open Office version is here.  I used an obscure font in the sketch-sheet below.  If you find yourself still struggling in your doodling,  here’s a sheet with the letter “o” reproduced multiple times.   Sometimes a common shape is easier to use for this purpose. 

Click for Full Size

Click For Full Size

 

The drawings don’t have to be perfect, artistically or otherwise.  The goal here is to simply start sketching.   Whether it’s writer’s block, problem solving or composing music, drawing has an amazing capability to stimulate additional ideas and insights, breaking down those insidious barriers to creativity.   

Give these to your team before meetings requiring critical thinking/brainstorming and more importantly, encourage each other to use these tools once a day.

I think you’ll be surprised by the results.

Posted in Brain Stimulation Tools, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, idea generation, imagination, Play, problem solving, Sketching, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

 
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