Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘creativity tools’

Art + Innovation + Typewriter = Inspiration

Posted by Plish on November 13, 2009

Paul Smiths oldmill

Paul Smith's "Old Mill"

Paul Smith.

The name is simple, common.

A google search of the name yields 69 million hits (mine yields 417,000). 

There is one Paul Smith that was anything but common. 

Born September 21, 1921, Paul had spastic cerebral palsy.   He wasn’t able to attend school but his love of life propelled him into becoming a self-taught master in two things: chess and art.

It’ s the art that truly is amazing.  You see, Paul taught himself to use his typewriter as an easel.  But he didn’t use brushes.

… just one finger…

….of one hand…

… while the other hand held the typing hand steady.

The typewriter was a pretty basic and common writing tool of the time, yet Paul didn’t use it to simply string letters into words.  Actually he usually didn’t even use the letters of the typewriter, but instead used the @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) _ characters. 

As he became more familiar with the typewriter he experimented with colored ribbons and a technique whereby he created smudged shading on the paper by pushing against the ribbon with his thumb.  What is even more amazing, is that unlike other paintings where things are painted over and changed as the painting evolves, Paul had to see the final work in his mind’s eye before he even started… and work one character at a time.

Today we open Photoshop or some other graphic arts program, and occasionally even use pencil and paper.

He placed a piece of paper in a typewriter, hit a character, readjusted the paper orientation, hit another character….

…and Beauty emerged…

He didn’t complain about not having the most high-tech tool.  In fact, the manual, no frills typewriter was perfectly suited to him.  It didn’t matter that he would hit a key and stay on the key.  After all, he used the typewriter in a way it wasn’t really designed for.  Add to the mix that he experimented with it and created techniques for embellishing his images and it’s clear that Paul Smith was an innovator, and a testimony to what we’re all capable of doing if we embrace who we are as humans,


and share

 from the overflowing well of inspiration that bubbles and dances in each of us.

Paul Smith died on June 25, 2007, but the lessons we can learn from him are timeless.


Posted in Authenticity, creativity, imagination, innovation, Nature of Creativity, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Inventables – Great Idea Resource for Innovative Product Solutions

Posted by Plish on October 15, 2009

Click here to check out the page on inventables.com

Inevitably when trying to come up with innovative ways of solving sticky problems we have those times when we say, “If only I had XYZ I could make ABC.”

Enter:  Inventables -The Materials and Technology Marketplace.

Inventables is a free site (though a Premium service is also available)  that allows someone to browse through or search for enabling materials and technologies.  It’s as simple as typing in keywords or clicking in a cloud.  

For example, the dissolving fabric pictured above is one of 146 technologies I found while doing a search on “fabric”.  A particularly pleasing feature is that the results do not only tell you how the technologies are currently being used, but you will be given possible other uses, seductively getting those creative ideas flowing.

The contents of Inventables is a veritable symphony of technologies looking for a home; or in the words of Inventables’ long term mission statement: “(Inventables provides) a living showcase of what’s possible to deliver inspiration and innovation to the dreamers of the world.”

Prepare to dream…

Posted in Brain Stimulation Tools, Creative Thinking Techniques, Design, idea generation, Innovation Tools, invention, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Mapping with The Brain

Posted by Plish on August 7, 2009


Every once in a while something comes along and makes you say, “Cooool…”

Personal Brain is just such a product.  Touted as an information management tool, it is essentially mindmapping – its graphic interface and ability to “re-center” is pretty slick.  What is “re-centering”?

Typical mindmaps start with one idea in the middle and the ideas branch off.  This starts the same way but then with a click, any one of your satellites can become your new center.  I could see this really helping for brainstormings.

What is also cool is they have created a web presence for folks to upload their “brains” to the web.  There is some pretty cool information there.

If there is a downside for this software it’s that when there’s a lot of information the interface can look pretty daunting and somewhat crowded; the flip side is that it highlights the complexity of the connections between information.

How much does this software cost?

The basic version is Zip, Zero, Nada, Nichoho.

You can download it and use the Pro version for 30 days after which it defaults down to the free version which I think would be adequate for most users.  The higher end versions are geared towards more intense information management and lend themselves well to a corporate environment.  I could see this being used for managing a product/problem portfolio on a network level.

Their website is also chock-full of educational info like this webinar on using the tool for presentation purposes.

All in all, a really cool product and one that I’ll be utilizing for sure.

Posted in Brain Stimulation Tools, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, idea generation, Information Visualization, innovation, Mind Maps, problem solving, Web 2.0, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Make Any Surface a “White Board” Surface

Posted by Plish on July 12, 2009

I really like dry-erase whiteboards.

They’re great for brainstorming, sketching up ideas, keeping track of deliverables in projects, and they’re wonderfully, (though sometimes too easily and other times impossibly) erasable.

Now you can turn any surface (usually a wall) into a dry-erase whiteboard with Idea Paint (Thanks to the W5 Blog!).

While I may paint a wall in the office, this has gotten me thinking beyond usage on walls…there’s some cool potential here.

How can you see this being used?

Posted in Creative Environments, idea generation, imagination, innovation, Innovation Tools, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

The Princess and the Pea, User-Centered Design, and asking “Why?”

Posted by Plish on May 1, 2009

Sometimes 'Smaller' Doesn't Help...

Sometimes 'Smaller' Doesn't Help...

I was talking to a nurse about a particular medical device. She looked at it and said, “You need to make it smaller.”

“Why?” I asked -having a gut feeling that it didn’t need to be much smaller based on some in-field research.

“Because it’s too big. It get’s pressed onto the skin like this, and then…then it’s uncomfortable for the patient.”

“What do you mean?” I continued.

“It digs into the skin.”

“What about holding it,” I took a slightly different direction, “How does it feel?”

“Just about right, I wouldn’t change it too much.”

The picture came together all at once.  “So, do you think it needs to be smaller or more comfortable?”

“More comfortable- definitely!  Yeah, not too much smaller, I’d have trouble holding it like this with my stubby fingers.”

Sometimes when you’re asking people to give input on a product/process, the first words out of their mouths aren’t really what they mean.  In this case, ‘smaller’ did not mean ‘smaller’, it meant, ‘more comfortable for the patient.’

The result of not asking “Why?” could have been disastrous.  If I took the “make it smaller” statement at face value, I could have developed a product that was smaller (even less comfortable for the patient-think “Princess and the Pea”), and harder to handle – missing on two accounts.

Children are great at asking, “Why?”.  They don’t care about looking stupid, about not having all the answers – – they just want to learn.

So next time you’re trying to solve a problem, ask “Why?”…multiple times.  This technique works great for everything, even problem statements. For example:

Problem Statement: In what ways might we make this thingamabob smaller?

Why does it need to be smaller?

Because it needs to fit in this slot.

Why does it need to fit in the slot?

Because that’s how it turns this other doohickey on.

Why does it have to turn it on?

Um…it doesn’t…maybe being smaller isn’t what this thingamabob needs to be.

For another great perspective  on the pitfalls of not asking “why?” check out this blog entry.

Posted in Case Studies, Creative Thinking Techniques, Design, idea generation, Market Assessment, problem solving, Research | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Creative Blackout! to Increase Your Creativity

Posted by Plish on April 27, 2009

On November 4th, Alabama artists are tuning out technology so they can tune in to their art.

On November 4th, Alabama artists are tuning out technology so they can tune in to their art.

First let me make it clear that by ‘Creative Blackout’ I don’t mean getting drunk/high/stoned until passing out.

What I do mean is taking time to be creative.  It’s about turning everything off and tuning in to your creative abilities.

In Alabama, the Layman Group is doing a Creative Blackout on November 4th.


Just you…ART…and CREATIVITY.

Paint a picture, write a story, make a sculpture, choreograph a dance, take an arts class, write a song…anything your artistic heart desires.

 The lesson learned from this idea is a great one and one that all people need to heed.

A quote from their newsletter says it all:

Art is one of the most effective tools which we can use to better see ourselves, to do the work of becoming a better…or let’s say…more complete person.  Becoming “more complete” is an ideal not reserved for artists alone, and it’s that stereotype we wish to dilute; that impression (that the) everyday person, the layman, (has) no ambition to explore what’s great within them, even outside of “what they do” or what they’re “known for.” We feel that passion to expand perspective and understanding is a natural need for all humans, and Art is the antidote for quenching that need. Therefore, Art IS relevant to us all. Humans, all humans, naturally want and seek out newness, and clarity, knowledge, and mediums to express.

In short, we need to take time to be with our creative selves if we expect to be wonderfully creative-and that applies to all of us.

Even if you’re not from Alabama, remember to take the time for the  creative blackout on November 4th.  Better yet, make some time everyday to be creative – grab an instrument, sing, grab a crayon and paper, dance across the kitchen…

…better yet…

… do all of the above!

Posted in Authenticity, creativity, idea generation, Musical Creativity, Nature of Creativity, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

The Old Switcheroo! – Changing Routines to Help Creativity

Posted by Plish on April 16, 2009


The garbage man and the recycling guys came and went but this time they switched positions of the bins.

I’m an adult, I can see the difference so I figured I’d just leave them there, no big deal.

I was wrong.  It was a big deal.

Day One: Caught myself at the last second as I almost put garbage in the recycling bin and vice-versa.  It was good that I almost did this, it would prepare me for tomorrow.

Day Two: It didn’t.  This time I actually put garbage into the recycling bin and vice-versa.   So I tipped the garbage bin and pulled out the recyclables and swapped them with the garbage bag from the recycling bin.

Days Three through Seven: Lesson Learned.

We are amazing creatures of habit.  We have a tendency to stick with routines, to do what works.

This is a major issue if we’re solving problems.  If we keep doing things the same way, we seldom will come up with new solutions.

What can we do to keep ourselves sharp?

Try one or more of the following:

  1. Take a different way to work  or home from work.  (I’ve done this before during times when I knew I was stuck in a thinking rut.)
  2. Switch the order in which you put your shoes on.
  3. We all have a stronger side and weak side.  Use the weak hand, the weak foot, etc., when doing a task.
  4. If you have certain daily routines, try changing the order of tasks.
  5. Last but not least, switch the position of your garbage and recycling bins.

You’d be surprised how simple changes can spur new thinking by forcing your body and mind to interact with the world in new ways!

What ways would you recommend to break routine?

Posted in Brain Stimulation Tools, Creative Thinking Techniques, idea generation, Lateral Thinking, problem solving | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Mindmapping as a Creativity Tool

Posted by Plish on March 21, 2009


Click to See High Resolution Version

Mindmaps are cool.

I’ve used them for this blog, for presentations, for compiling thoughts on research, even to map myself!

While we all want to be cool and high tech and use mindmapping software (of which there is plenty-just google it), drawing them often can have more impact, plus it’s easier to let our creativity and color run wild. Images and color do a better job of stimulating new ideas than plain text.

If you want to see some amazing hand drawn mindmaps and learn more about this art/tool, check out this blog

There is a profound piece there entitled “The Qualities of Leonardo Da Vinci”.  It’s well worth reading and meditating upon.

What are your thoughts on mind maps?

Posted in Brain Stimulation Tools, Creative Thinking Techniques, idea generation, innovation, leonardo da vinci, Mind Maps, problem solving | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Using Stories to Help Your Creativity, Generate Ideas and Solve Problems!

Posted by Plish on March 13, 2009


“Individual creativity is very intimate and personal. So, it’s important to learn how to listen to your own instincts, to listen to your inner voice-or find your inner voice-so that your self-expression becomes authentic and grounded and not simply a function of what you think people want to hear,what’s fashionable or what you think you should do as a life-long task…. Creativity is very much about being intimate with yourself, but also a number of things that, frankly, are difficult, if not sometimes impossible, to articulate.”
John Kao -Innovator, Artist, Author of “Innovation Nation”

“When people ask me where I get my ideas, I laugh. How strange – we’re so busy looking out, to find ways and means, we forget to look in…All that is most original lies waiting for us to summon it forth. And yet we know it is not as easy as that….Embarrassment, self-consciousness, remembered criticisms, can stifle the average person so that less and less in his lifetime can he open himself out.”
Ray Bradbury-Author

Based upon the two perspectives noted above, it seems amazing that anyone is creative in a productive manner.

Yet, as Ray Bradbury says, it’s all there, waiting…


calling out –

to be shared with the world!

How do we tap into the depths of creativity within?

The Links of Creativity Websites on this page and the Resource page are good places to start.

But, there is an intimate, and effective way to tap into the authentic voice.


Think of great authors like Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke. They envisioned solutions long before they existed. The looked inside themselves, embraced the wonder, and saw it as more powerful and empowering than Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Authenticity, Creative Thinking Techniques, idea generation, Innovation Tools, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Stories, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Phrasr as Brainstorming Tool

Posted by Plish on January 4, 2009

In a recent blog comment here, Corrine ended her comment with the following statement:

“Science arose from poetry… when times change the two can meet again on a higher level as friends.”
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Then later today I received an email from the Creative Skills Training Council of Asia Pacific/Australia Yahoo group, about Phrasr and the digital poetry of Rip Kungler.  

It all came together for me…

Phrasr can be used as a great brainstorming tool! 

I entered in some key words describing the ultimate surgical instrument and let Phrasr go to town!

The result was nothing short of cool and inspiring!

The Ultimate Surgical Instrument (my Phrasr example)

Screen Capture of the Animation of "The Ultimate Surgical Instrument" (my Phrasr example)

While I didn’t have any particular instrument in mind, the pictures were obtuse enough to stimulate some unique ideas.   Ergonomic has some cool shapes to it that scream comfortable; The cat (pictured above) conjured up ideas of a retractable blade to prevent accidental cuts; The child viewing the animal from under the bubble: remote surgery and infection prevention to name a few.

Give it a try next time you need ideas and let me know how it worked for you!

It looks like Science and Poetry are meeting again as friends…

Posted in Brain Stimulation Tools, Creative Thinking Techniques, idea generation, Innovation Tools, Phrasr, Traditional Brainstorming, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

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