Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘designing innovation’

Three Guidelines For Enabling Innovation (Via a 7 Year Old Crossing the Street)

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

5 Lessons on Designing Innovation from Basketball’s Shot Clock

Posted by Plish on January 30, 2010

The other day I was watching a college basketball game and was stunned there was a shot clock. (I know,¬† before you think I live under a rock, realize that¬†I really don’t follow college hoops.¬† I’m a hockey person, remember?)

“When did they introduce it?” I asked my wife.

“It’s always been there as long as I can remember.”

“I just don’t remember it from when I was a kid.¬† I remember guys passing the ball around wasting time…”

I got home and did some research through our buddies at Wikipedia and found out the story of the shot clock.

It actually is an example of some best practices regarding designing innovations.

The idea originally came from Coach Howard Hobson (University of Oregon and Yale) and was tried¬†by Owner Danny Biasone’s, Syracuse Nationals during a scrimmage.¬† Seeing that it worked well in the scrimmage Biasone¬†proposed the idea to the NBA and it was¬†tried in the 1954-55 season (and in college in 1985).¬†

It stuck.

Now it’s almost hard to imagine basketball without the excitement of a shot clock.

Why 24 seconds? 

Says Biasone,¬† “I looked at the box scores from the games I enjoyed, games where they didn’t screw around and stall. I noticed each team took about 60 shots. That meant 120 shots per game. So I took 48 minutes – 2,880 seconds – and divided that by 120 shots. The result was 24 seconds per shot.”

What are some of the lessons here?

1. PROTOTYPE! TEST! PROTOTYPE!  The idea was tested in a scrimmage first.  Even after its adoption various times were tried in other leagues.  The idea is to start small, experiment and modify accordingly.  Use the results of the test to determine future directions.  In this case, it was clear this was a step in the right direction (See point 3 below).

2. Find what works¬† best and figure out how to make it repeatable – Don’t be afraid to dream!!¬† To arrive at the time alloted¬†for the shot clock Biasone¬†looked at the best, exciting games and used that to calculate the length of time alloted¬†for the shot clock.¬† He thought every game should be¬†exciting and believed the shot clock was the way to do it!

3.  Tired of seeing something destroyed? Take ownership and fix it!!  Emotion was a reason for changing and it was a reason for keeping the change.  Biasone (as well as many fans) thought basketball was boring and being destroyed by the techniques  teams used to stall when they took the lead.  The use of the shot clock may  well have saved basketball.  Attendance improved by 55%  the first year.

4. Find ways to measure the results from multiple points of¬†view! ¬†As mentioned in Point 3 above, it¬†was clear that fans liked the shot clock as attendance improved tremendously.¬†¬†A¬†Syracuse player,¬†Dolph Schayes,¬†said ¬†the use of 24 seconds was “genius”¬†in how it¬†controlled the flow of the game.

5.¬† Nothing should be¬†above attempted¬†improvement!¬†¬†Maybe the changes won’t work.¬† That’s okay, you can always go back.¬† But maybe, just maybe, the changes will be what keeps something from becoming obsolete, or moreso, helps it to become a multi-million dollar business.

Posted in Best Practices, Case Studies, Design, innovation, invention, Sports Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

%d bloggers like this: