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Posts Tagged ‘culture of creativity’

Swimming in Wonderful Robin Williams Streams of Consciousness

Posted by Plish on August 21, 2014

When I conduct brainstormings (and even when I’m looking for ideas) I find that one of the biggest enemies is the internal censor that each of us has.  I’m sure you’ve succumbed to that voice.

You come up with an idea and before you’ve even spent time examining it, you’ve jettisoned the thought:

“That’s stupid!”

“That’ll never work!”

“How could I have thought that?”

“That thought came out of me? No one can ever know I thought THAT!”

One of the amazing gifts that Robin Williams had was his ability to turn off the censor.  He trusted himself, and even when riffing with others, he allowed himself to follow the promptings of lesser ideas knowing that greater ideas were coming. The results were nothing short of astounding and amazingly hilarious.  While Williams’ verbal stream didn’t seem to even afford him time to breathe, his audience couldn’t breathe because they were laughing so hard.

In the world of comedy, following the stream of consciousness is considered acceptable because, well, it’s comedy.  However, in the corporate world, such thinking is considered out of place, too bold, not politically correct – perhaps even offensive.

Unfortunately, when the censor kicks in, creativity, and perhaps the next seed of a groundbreaking innovation, gets kicked out.

People have a tendency to think that those ideas judged as ‘bad’ or ‘improper’ should just be jettisoned and forgotten.  Yes, not all ideas are ready for prime time; however these ideas are essential to the creative process – a process that builds upon that which came before.  Ignore what comes before and there’s nothing to build upon.

Robin Williams lived this brilliantly.  Not everything that Robin said was earth-shatteringly funny, but just around the corner, rest assured, mirth was imminent.

Creative thought in the corporate world follows the same process.  Not every idea is worthy of patent or should be invested in.  But, if the ideas are built upon, eventually, things will come together in a wonderful way.

So, how do we train ourselves to be creative in this way?


Listen to all ideas as they bubble up!  Things pop up for a reason!!  Write everything down. Sketch!  Play with the ideas!

The idea that seems totally unusable may provide the seed that enables you, or someone else, to make a connection to an even better idea!    In my own experience, some great ideas have surfaced after someone had the courage to share a half-baked idea.  This simple and profound act of sharing provided the building blocks for others.  If the internal censor would’ve won out, these breakthrough ideas would never have been born. 

Remember this next time you’re coming up with ideas, alone or with others. Better yet, even if you’re not coming up with ideas, examine your thoughts as they are percolating to the surface. Learn to get comfortable with the flow; the more at ease you feel with the stream’s current, the less likely you’ll be to throw out ideas as they bubble up.

I love the following Robin Williams interview with Craig Ferguson.   The two of them highlight the above process – they both just grab an idea, follow it to the next, and continue the process with wonderfully entertaining results.    Notice how certain ideas become seeds for the next.  This is improvisation at its finest.  

In closing, I’d just like to thank you, Robin Williams, for creating so many wonderful, bubbling streams of consciousness, and for being a part of the Stream of which we all swim.  Tragic circumstances helped push you into different waters.  May you find the New Waters fine.  While ours are impoverished by your passing, they are also forever enriched!

Posted in Creative Environments, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Great Creative Minds, idea generation, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Traditional Brainstorming, 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 »

Entrepreneurship for the Arts and the Creativity Economy

Posted by Plish on January 24, 2013

Click to go to article

Click to go to article

Being an entrepreneur,  building a dream and sharing it with people requires nothing less than a healthy dose of creativity.   But this really informative blog post over at StartUpOwl (with some great resource links as well!) speaks of a creative economy and how important creativity is to the future of all industries and culture in general.

Think about it, the arts can help healing, build communities, and even start revolutions.  We don’t see it in the United States too often, but in many countries, the ‘bad guys’ that go to prison are artists, musicians and writers.

That’s the power of the arts and creativity!


It’s horrible to end up in chains

 To die in captivity,

But it’s worse to be free

 And to sleep, and sleep, and sleep—

 And to fall asleep forever,

 And to leave no trace

 At all, as if it were all the same

 Whether you had lived or died!

 1845 – Taras Shevchenko, “Mynaiut’ dni, mynaiut’ nochi”

Posted in Arts, Authenticity, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship 2.0, Human Rights, innovation, Musical Creativity, problem solving, Social Innovation, Start-Ups, The Future, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

That’s YOUR Chunk of Open Office Space, This is MINE…

Posted by Plish on September 16, 2011

In the past I wrote about the health impact of open plan office spaces and their impact on creativity

Now it appears that open office spaces, intended to foster interaction, instead foster territorial behaviours that undermine collaboration.

 Professor of Strategic Management, Stephen Cummings, who led the study said,

“The intent of taking away dividing walls and doors is usually to improve creativity and performance by fostering spontaneous fun, interaction and sharing…However, we found evidence that it can lead to attempts by employees to re-create spatial and social structures and boundaries, actually undermining the behaviours an organisation is trying to encourage.

…most teams marked out their territory with posters, slogans and personal items, even moving furniture to create their own personalised space, which seemed to put other teams off moving into that space.  Employees also tended to use the activity rooms in their established team groups at separate times rather than mingling with other teams.”

He also mentioned that people felt that they lacked privacy and hence they had to be more rigid in their behaviours and hence less innovative.

So what to do?  Well the obvious step is to create a mix of open and private space, understand what your people are like, and build an environment that plays to individual strengths, needs and personalities.  “One size fits all,” isn’t the way to an innovative culture.




Posted in Architectural Design, Authenticity, Behavioral Science, Case Studies, creativity, culture of innovation, Health Concerns, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Team-Building, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | 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 »

At Least 12 Lessons in Innovation From Flowers

Posted by Plish on November 13, 2010

I was reading an article yesterday, don’t even remember what it was about, but my mind went to when I was a kid and I became fascinated with cross-pollinating my mom’s African Violets.  I was constantly trying to come up with cool color combos of white and purples – something new: Innovation, African Violet Style…

Usually when people speak about innovation and plants, the metaphor is one of seeds and planting.  I like that metaphor, but one that is even more rich is the metaphor of pollination.  After all, pollination is the process by which flowers reproduce.  It’s how flowers survive (and have survived for millions of years!).  The mixing of genetic material results in new fruit, new flowers that have  the best (and/or worst) of the parent plants.  It’s just like ideas.  Different ideas commingle and the result is often a fantastic amalgam of the parent ideas.

Not surprisingly,  the innovation/pollination metaphor can be taken much further.  But, before we do, let’s do a quick primer in plant reproductive biology.

Pollen (see the diagram below), which originates on the Anthers of the Stamen,  gets carried via various mechanisms, to the Stigma of the Pistil.  Once Pollen lands there, a tube grows down the Style so that the sperm nuclei can be conducted to the ovules.  That’s it.   Fertilization occurs and a fruit is the result.   

To flesh out some more ways in which innovation is like pollination, I made a simple mindmap describing  various types of flowers and the processes by which fertilization occurs.  Here it is:

Click for a Larger Version

So, how else can we learn to innovate by looking at the pollination metaphor? Let’s walk around the above mindmap starting at the lower right and flesh this out.

  1. Wind.  It’s effective for some plants, but not for all.  Plants that use the wind usually don’t rely on much else and they usually don’t have fancy flowers.  The wind does all the work and the rest is up to chance.  You probably Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, nature, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Team-Building, The Human Person, The Senses, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Need Innovation Inspiration? Step Aboard the USS Benfold

Posted by Plish on June 20, 2009

There is a common perception that the military is all about procedures, about doing things by the book, doing things the way they’ve always been done; you simply don’t make waves.

Waves are something Navy Commander D. Michael Abrashoff lives with, thrives upon, and even fosters.

This Fast Company Articleis well worth reading in its entirety.  In it Commander Abrashoff shares what he and his crew have done to make the USS Benfold a flagship of innovation. 

Some key points:

  • “All I ever wanted to do in the navy was to command a ship. I don’t care if I ever get promoted again. And that attitude has enabled me to do the right things for my people instead of doing the right things for my career. In the process, I ended up with the best ship in the navy — and I got the best evaluation of my career. The unintended benefit? My promotion is guaranteed!” – Commander Abrashoff
  • When Abrashoff took command: “I pulled the string on everything we did, and I asked the people responsible for — or affected by — each department or program, ‘Is there a better way to do things?’ “
  • Always be concerned about morale
  • Retaining your people in tough times is not an option but a necessity.  Commander Abrashoff has 100% retention for his career enlisted people (54% is the average)
  • Get answers to the following questions from each new member of your team: Why did they join the team? What’s their family situation like? What are their goals while they’re on the team — and beyond? How can I help them chart a course through life?
  • Ask each person to answer the following three questions: What do you like most about your workplace? What do you like least? What would you change if you could? Take their answers seriously and work to improve.
  • A culture of trust must be the operating norm
  • Treat people with respect and dignity; take care of them
  • People need to feel good about what they do
  • Use technology to help solve problems
  • People need to be owners of what they do

In short, when leaders empower their people on the grassroots level, the results will be nothing short of amazing.

Posted in Best Practices, Case Studies, Creative Environments, creativity, Creativity Leadership, culture of innovation, innovation, Interviews, problem solving, Team-Building, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

People of Hope are More Creative

Posted by Plish on June 14, 2009


hope michaelplishka2009

Came across this interesting blog post over at “Innovation in Practice”.

There was a study done which showed that people with hope filled perspectives were more creative (and hence are more innovative as well.) 

The goal then, for management, should be creating and instilling hope through the ranks of the organization.

How does one instill hope? 

While that can be difficult to pin down, there are some great perspectives and suggestions in this article on instilling hope:

  1. Managers should lead by example and be hopeful
  2. The workplace should be a positive place to work
  3. The workplace shouldn’t have an environment of fear
  4. Blame shouldn’t be part of the environment
  5. Everyone should be treated with the same respect regardless of  ‘rank’
  6. Help employees to do the best job possible
  7. Include employees in the goal setting process
  8. Create a common, shared vision

To this list I would also add:  Instill a culture where constant improvement is the goal and empower the employees to be able to make those changes.

What else would you say should be done to create a culture of hope?

Posted in Authenticity, Case Studies, Creative Environments, creativity, culture of innovation, idea generation, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Research, Team-Building, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

If Creativity is for the Birds, it Should be for People Too

Posted by Plish on May 26, 2009

Lesson in Creativity From the Rook

Lesson in Creativity From the Rook

It is not uncommon for management, team leaders, etc. to have a predisposition towards having only the “creative” geniuses provide the creative input in brainstormings, strategy meetings, etc.

I strongly believe that this view can hinder creative output as all people have, and should be appreciated for, their innate creative capabilities –  whoever they are, whatever their positions.

Moreso, when people are allowed to use their creative abilities, they often will contribute in ways that were not anticipated and thus provide innovative impetus to the work at hand.

I came across this fascinating research out of Cambridge.  They did some research on the tool making capabilities of a bird called the ‘rook.‘  What is really amazing is that rooks don’t make tools in the wild, but they do in captivity.  And, not only do they make tools, they pick the best tools for certain  jobs. And, when the needed tools were out of reach, they used a tool to get the right tool!

There are some great lessons to glean here and apply in our teams, workplaces, and homes.

  1. Sometimes creativity shows up when people are out of their natural element.  It might help to put people in non-threatening environments that are different from the norm and let them do their thing.
  2. Let your people determine the best tools for a job.
  3. If the right tools don’t exist, let people make the tools that they will use to do their jobs.  That means two things: a) Take them seriously and listen if they say there’s a better way, b) Supply them with the raw materials they ask for.
  4. Sometimes the tool that someone uses will just be a stepping stone in the process of getting or making the right tool.  Don’t interrupt the creative process!

Ultimately, creating tools is about creating solutions. 

So just think:

If birds came up with these cool solutions, what could you and your teams do with open minds?

Posted in Case Studies, cognitive studies, Creative Environments, creativity, Creativity Leadership, culture of innovation, idea generation, imagination, innovation, invention, nature, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Research, Science, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Five (weak) Reasons For Continuing To Use Team Brainstormings

Posted by Plish on January 22, 2009

The Five Reasons Why Team Brainstormings Are Still Done

The Five Reasons Why Team Brainstormings Are Still Done

Can any of us afford to not benefit from the creativity of every individual to the utmost?

If not, why then do we persist in using Team Brainstormings as the Gold Standard for idea generation?  

These are my top 5 reasons why people use team brainstorming:

  1. Team Building– That is true, brainstormings do build teams and create camaraderie.  But if the point of a brainstorming is to come up with lots of high quality ideas, then use the time for exactly that- albeit with some modifications. 
  2. Tradition!– The old, “It’s the way we always come up with great ideas around here,” syndrome.  That’s not a good reason.  That’s the reason why there’s still a market for cuff links.
  3. They Work – To a point, yes, they do.  But, there’s a deception going on because most people don’t have a “control” to compare to so they walk out of meeting with a stack of ideas and plan of attack and think that their well moderated meeting was a success.  The truth is that it could have been more successful!
  4. Two Heads Are Better Than One – This saying is also true to a point. The problem is that people think that if two heads are better, then 12 heads are sublime!  There is another phrase that is apropos for this situation: “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”
  5. They’re Fun! – I can’t really argue with this, but I know people who do, and they hate and fear team brainstormings!  Unfortunately, these people are super creative. Fortunately, they have been empowered to contribute in different ways so their talents aren’t lost.  This doesn’t mean that idea generation can’t be fun-it is!  But, there are other ways to have fun and come up with more quality ideas.

So, if team brainstormings aren’t the way to go, how should brainstorming be done?

I’ll leave it up to you to supply suggestions on how to increase the quality and quantity of ideas ala brainstorming. 

In the meantime, if you want to gain more insight into why team brainstormings don’t work, the first three pages of this study provide an excellent summary.

Posted in cognitive studies, culture of innovation, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Research, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | 17 Comments »

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