ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘Entrepreneurship’

How to Discover Opportunity in Negativity

Posted by Plish on February 24, 2017

Negativity.  It’s everywhere.

It seems no one can do anything right.  Whether in politics, business or design critiquing, the default reaction seems to be one of negativity.

In some ways people can be excused.  From an evolutionary perspective, seeing the negatives gives an advantage in fight or flight situations.

Reaction 1: That tiger’s going to eat us – RUUUN!!!! (NEGATIVE)

Reaction 2: That tiger is licking its lips no doubt because it had a giant meal and now she’s just resting.  We can walk right by her. (POSITIVE)

The negative clearly has the advantage.

But, we’re not in Fight or Flight most of the time

Modern society has eliminated most acute threats to our existences. But that doesn’t stop us from seeing the negative. The problem is that when everyone is seeing negatives, the positives escape notice.  In fact, when the crowd is seeing negatives, we have a greater tendency to reinforce the negatives present and even find new ones.  Misery not only loves company, it creates it!!

Be a contrarian!

While recently reading “The Art of Contrary Thinking” (by Humphrey B. Neill) i was struck by the following:

“Bring up almost any question – on domestic or foreign affairs – and you will hear voices at once chime in that “it won’t work,” “It can’t be done,” and so on….(Instead,)…If we start asking “what’s right?”about this or that question, we shall find  we are actually changing our whole method of thinking.”***

Changing how we think is not easy to do, but it is fruitful and it can be done.

Example 1: Of mice and men…

in 1979, there was a mouse driven graphical user interface in use at Xerox.  It wasn’t commercialized.  It was clunky, had three buttons, and was hardly ready for prime time.  Steve Jobs saw it, and most importantly, saw the good in it.  He saw past the clunky three button tethered box.  The rest, as they say, is  (Apple) history.

Example 2: All they’re doing is playing games!!

That’s a typical refrain of people when they see young people playing video games and even recording and sharing them on YouTube.  Yet, E-Sports are not just a fringe phenomenon.  They are a multi-multi -million dollar ‘sport’that involve millions of people worldwide (Gaming almost had 100 billion in revenues in 2016!!) .

You can mock it.  You can call it a fad.

Do that and one thing will be guaranteed:

You’ll miss out.

So Design for the good!

Before you can do that, you need to first see the good. You need to not agree with crowds.who will be pointing out the zillion things wrong.  You need to have enough character and confidence to look deep, see the good, and stand by the good in a product, service,  technology or cultural phenomenon.

Ask yourself: What’s good about ……?

Build upon that good thing! Use it as a spring board.  Innovate around it!

Opportunities will present themselves where others just see… well actually, they won’t see anything.  They’ll be complaining about this or that.

You, as a contrary thinker, will be making better products, and making the world a better place!

 

*** – This book was written in the 1950’s and he was bemoaning the negativity pervasive in discourse!!!

Posted in Design, Entrepreneurship 2.0, innovation, Innovation Tools, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Four Key Words That Open Doors to Innovation

Posted by Plish on February 15, 2017

Robots made of water.

No, those aren’t the four words.

Researchers at MIT developed a hydrogel robot.  It’s soft.  It grips.  It’s almost invisible underwater.  In short, it’s a totally cool technology.  (Hydrogels are cool materials on their own) Now, they’re trying to understand what it can be used for.

‘Let’s play with this’. – Hyunwoo Yuk, MIT Graduate Student

Those are the four words.

Let’s play with this.

Once a technology is discovered, the challenge is often one of finding a problem to the solution.  One of the best ways to do that is to play.

What is play comprised of?

It’s essentially saying, “What if…?” and exploring.

It’s a matter of taking something and just seeing what happens when it’s subjected to some other stressors.  It’s a collision of ideas.  It’s taking what is and exploring what it may be.

The inventor of cornflakes, Keith Kellogg, left boiled wheat out overnight.  Instead of throwing it out, he took the flaky dough (took ‘what is’) and decided to bake it anyway (exploring).  A crunchy  cereal and a business was born.

Take chances – Explore!

Keep your eyes peeled for new technologies.  Don’t necessarily use them for what they’re intended.  Try using them for something else.  That collision of metaphors, of what is and what may be when something is used differently, are fruitful soil for new products and new business opportunities.

What am I playing with now?

I saw the Walabot, and knew I had to get one for my lab.  A cool RF radar technology, seems like it can have myriads of uses.  The company’s website tag is: Create, Play, Discover.

Let’s PLAY with this!!!!!

Posted in creativity, innovation, Play, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Three Words That Will Alert You To Opportunities for Innovation and Growth

Posted by Plish on January 20, 2017

“I don’t understand how anyone could vote for Donald Trump.”
“I don’t understand how anyone could vote for Hillary Clinton.”
“I don’t understand how anyone can play Pokémon for that long”
“I don’t understand why anyone would want to buy an iPad when an Android works just as well”
“How can anyone listen to {Taylor Swift, Kanye West, etc….}?”  (This is a veiled way to say “I don’t understand.”)
I Don’t Understand…

 

Those three words represent a disconnect from people and objects. They represent a lack of understanding of how people are being served, or how their desires are (or aren’t) being met. They point to how we don’t understand how people’s aspirations may be enabled and thus they point to how we don’t understand the opportunities present.

But perhaps more importantly, those three words highlight that we haven’t taken the time to understand people. What does that say about us? We like to think of ourselves as well informed, as perhaps at The Cutting Edge, as caring human beings.  Yet, we are confronted with seemingly inexplicable phenomena where millions of people are fans of a product, service, or person.

There’s a lesson here regardless of what products we like, or what people we want for president, or what games we play. We need to be tuned in to what other people want. If we really want to build better communities, a better world, we need to understand each other. We need to know where people are coming from. We need to know what types of things are passionately driving people in their day-to-day lives.

Niches of (Not) Understanding

Those words, “I don’t understand…” alert us to niches.  When designing products and services, we must play in those niches . And as we’ve seen, those niches can be comprised of millions and millions of people.

Pay Attention

Pay attention to what people do. Pay attention to what people say. Understand what excites people. What makes people happy? What do people feel that they will lose if they don’t have something? What will people feel they will gain if they do have something or if they don’t?

Today the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump, is being sworn in. His election highlights the fact that there are millions upon millions of people in this country who don’t understand how somebody could vote for somebody else. That means that there are millions of people that’s simply don’t understand their fellow Americans people that’s too high a number.  If we’re designing a better country, (and that’s something that everyone seemingly wants), we need to rise above caricatures and start understanding each other’s motivations and pains.  We need to really understand and not lump everyone into neat little political, racial, socio-economic, etc. silos of categorization.

Misunderstanding

Thinking we understand is perhaps even worse than not understanding at all. When we misunderstand, we risk going down the unfruitful paths.  We risk spending money, time and energy on things that won’t resonate and hence won’t succeed.    Can anyone say “Edsel“?

Listen For Those Three Words

“I don’t understand”  Use those words as a springboard to exploring the relationships, needs, and desires, of people. Those words are the key to new products, services, and even in the bigger picture, a better world.  At at the end of the day, the best thing we can say is, “I understand why…” , or “I understand how…”

Once we understand, we grow.  When we’ve grown, we can get to work designing  solutions:  better products, better services, a better world.

Posted in culture of innovation, Design, innovation, observation, Politics, problem solving, Service Design, Social Innovation, The Future | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Want to Harness the Power of “We”? Innovation Starts with “I”

Posted by Plish on March 3, 2014

People like to point to the fact that Thomas Edison had an entire innovation factory working for him, that innovation was a team effort.  While this is true in general, the deeper truth is that Edison was an entrepreneur.  He had to get the ball rolling.  At the beginning, the ideas were his, the dreams were his, the innovation factory was his baby.  He worked to make things happen.  Even in the context of the “We” of his facility in Menlo Park, there were commitments from each individual employed there.

Innovation starts with “I”.  It starts in the heart; it starts with an individual commitment, an individual work ethic. Before it can become a communal effort it needs to be an individual dream. Innovation has entrepreneurial roots.  When individuals come together with common goals, empowered to make dreams reality, when they’re given freedom to experiment, to be creative, to try, fail, learn and grow, when people are rewarded either intrinsically or extrinsically, then “We” means something.  Until then, it’s simply a word used in the context of stirring political, and corporate, pep rallies.

Please don’t misunderstand me. “We” is powerful.  But it’s only powerful if the following criteria are met:

  1. Everyone being called, “We”, must consider themselves part of “We.” (If I say you’re part of a Tribe, you need to agree.)
  2. Anyone saying, “We”, must be acknowledged as part of “We”. (If you say you’re part of a Tribe, I need to agree.)
  3. “We” must all believe in the same goals and means to accomplish those goals.  (Each individual agrees to certain roles.)
  4. Each individual receives a reward for contributing to “We”.
  5. Each individual must be empowered to act in ways that helps accomplish the goals of “We”.
  6. “We” does not turn against the individual.  “We” respects the individual.  As such, “We” respects, and needs, diversity – especially in the context of innovation.

“We”, paradoxically, is fragile. If all 6 of the above criteria are not met, especially the first 3, there is no “We”.   Strictly speaking, we is a virtual entity – it only exists when the above 6 criteria are met.  Saying “We can do this! We can change this!” while perhaps inspiring,  provides no direction.

On the other hand, “I” does not have the pre-requisites above.  It is powerful and strong.  Yes, there may be circumstances that hinder innovation.  But, in the end, it’s about digging deep and finding a way.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” -Theodore Roosevelt

So, how do we create “We”?

Address the needs of, inspire and empower, the individual.  Let people be “I”.  Let people be authentic, let them be true to themselves.  People are social creatures, they leverage relationships naturally when given opportunities.  “We” – Tribes – form somewhat spontaneously where individuals blossom.

You are change!

Make a difference in your own life, in your family, in your community!

The ripples will build upon themselves, and the “We” that’s formed will be even more powerful.

Innovation starts with “I”.

Posted in culture of innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship 2.0, innovation, Politics, Team-Building, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Communicating The New – A Book Review

Posted by Plish on December 30, 2013

I recently finished reading, Communicating The New: Methods to Shape and Accelerate Innovation by IIT Institute of Design Professor, Kim Erwin.

The premise of the book is simple but it’s a point that gets missed.  If someone is trying to communicating a new idea, the typical way is to use concepts, techniques and metaphors that are familiar. I’ve seen it in many industries.  In music we hear people say, “The music is a cross between Joan Jett and Enya.”  While the statement is provocative, it falls short because people are forming an idea of what the “Joan/Enya” amalgam sounds and looks like, a perception that is likely inaccurate in some, if not many, ways.  In business I’ve seen products described as “XYZ product but it does it in a different way and better.”  Again, this type of comparison rings hollow and doesn’t do justice to what may truly be a ground breaking concept.

So what to do?

As the book points out: If you want to communicate The New, it should be done in ways that get the message across and at the same time pave the way for bringing the idea to fruition.  It’s not just about transmitting information, it’s about bringing information alive and making it engaging on myriads of levels.  Hence the subtitle of the book: “Methods to Shape and Accelerate Innovation.”

While the book is about communication, it’s about much more than that, it’s about creating and cocreating – bringing things to actualization.  This book is about innovation tactics; it’s about dream-storming.  We all have heard and seen great ideas that don’t get a chance to spread their wings because the idea was  ineffectively communicated.  This book shares tools to give an idea wings.  In addition, it provides tools that will excite and empower stakeholders/team members so that they engage with, and develop, fledgling ideas.  The more these people are engaged, the more they feel confident and enthusiastic about pushing an idea out of the nest expecting it to fly!

The book is easy to read and is aesthetically pleasing as well.  There are multiple case studies and insights from innovators – it adds breadth to the content.  One minor complaint I have is that there are some great graphics that span adjacent pages. As a result, some of the content in the graphics is hard to see because it disappears in the seam between the pages.  Granted, the content of these ‘page spanning graphics’ are from case studies and they aren’t really pertinent to the content of the chapters, but the graphics were interesting and it drove me nuts to not be able to see the entire graphic.  If I can read part of a graphic, I want to be able to read all of it.  Just a personal pet peeve. The remainder of the graphics are well done and helpful, illuminating the text.

The resource section of this book, what people would normally consider the end notes of a book, are outstanding and provide links and directions to sources for further research.  This chapter is a gem and should be read.

A final point is that a book about communicating The New, should perhaps be more than a book. The webpage is a step in the right direction, but somewhere in the back of my mind, this book is screaming for new ways of being shared.   I am also looking forward to more case studies of people who are successfully (and unsuccessfully!) communicating The New.  This book is just getting the conversation started!

Erwin’s book is a welcome addition to the libraries of innovators and entre/intrapraneurs alike.  I highly recommend “Communicating the New” for anyone who has ideas and knows it’ll take more than an army of one to make them reality.

Posted in culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, Entrepreneurship 2.0, innovation, Tactics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Ideas Aloft – A Reflection on Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Posted by Plish on October 28, 2013

Winds rustled the trees and chilled me as I walked through the woods.  A marsh bordered my path and I was amazed by the volume of white fluffy seeds, swirling and dancing on the winds.

It got me thinking about the need for seeds to leave where the place they were grown so that they could begin again.  I thought about ideas and a metaphor presented itself:

What if ideas were seeds?

I filmed what I saw and wrote a haiku to get myself (and you!) to think about the process of getting ideas implemented, of the powers that need to be present to move an idea to fruition.

Alas, I’m writing too much. Here’s the short 24 second video.  Enjoy, and spend some time with the images and thoughts!

I’d love to hear yours…

Posted in creativity, Design, innovation, meditation, nature, Nature of Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Innovation – It Was Never About Failure

Posted by Plish on May 29, 2013


In my last post about the IIT Design Strategy Conference, I mentioned that Bruce Nussbaum presented on what it means to move from a design centered, to a creativity centered, paradigm.  One thing in particular Nussbaum noted was the shift from celebrating failure (fail fast, fail often) to gaming/play!. He summarizes his perspective in a blog post about fetishizing failure.

When he first mentioned it at the conference, I wrote down, and circled, the following rebuttal in my notebook:

“Failure IS Play!”

I’ve been chewing on that for the last week, and while I understand the gist of what Nussbaum was getting at, in the context of design and innovation, it’s an oversimplification to simply say we need to move from failure to gaming.

A couple weeks back I wrote a piece entitled, “When Success is Bad – The Math Behind Why Failure is Essential.”  I used the word ‘failure’, but in actuality it’s probably closer to a Nussbaumian perspective.

You see, no one really thinks failure is what’s happening when we say, “Fail Early, Fail Fast, Fail Often.”   What we’re really saying is:

The quicker we can understand the interplay between all the variables in a system/product, the quicker we get ahead of the competition. 

Learn Early, Learn Fast, Learn Often…

Failure, as Nussbaum points out in the above article, is indeed painful and can be limiting.  There is a finality to the term failure that is unforgiving.   When a bridge ‘fails’ it goes down and people get hurt. When there’s a power ‘failure,’ electricity simply isn’t there. Failures are an absence of  success, and as voids they carry no information other than there’s no success to be found there.

Success, contrary to Nussbaum’s assertion that one can learn as much or more from success, is, as I pointed out in my “Why Success is Bad…” post, not educational at all if things work and we don’t know why they work.  We’ll go along happy as larks thinking all is well until things go bad.

Success can also be a void.

No, strictly speaking, we learn not from failure or success.  We learn from probing, through curiosity, tinkering, experimenting.   The instant we allow there to be voids of  ‘failure’ and ‘success’, there is no possibility for learning, for growth.  It’s only when we step back and ask, “Where am I going? How will I get there? How does this event help or hinder the journey?” that design/innovation can occur.

“Where am I going? How will I get there? How does this event help or hinder the journey?”  What do these questions look like?

They look like the type of questions we would ask when playing a game! No one fails or has success in a game because favorable or unfavorable outcomes can change the next time the game is played.   Like the computer in the movie ‘WarGames,’ running through multiple scenarios, one could say it was failing early, failing fast, and failing often. That wouldn’t be entirely accurate however, because the computer was only playing – and therein lies my beef with Nussbaum (if it can even be called a ‘beef’. )

People use the word ‘failure’, but they’ve never really meant the word ‘failure.’  Failure was never really a part of the old design paradigm, (but it is a part of our language.)  If people were designing, they were playing all along…

When I was a kid, my mom or dad would call from the other room, “What are you doing?” Sometimes I was purposefully moving toys or figurines, or designing and building worlds that blended reality and imagination, coloring, creating and appreciating beauty, sometimes taking clocks apart to see what makes them tick… but regardless, my response would be:

“I’m playing!”

Posted in Creative Environments, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, games, innovation, Innovation Tools, Play, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

New Directions in Innovation and Design – Insights from IIT’s Design Strategy Conference

Posted by Plish on May 18, 2013

I was at the IIT Institute of Design’s Design Strategy Conference this week.

This is, no doubt, one of the best, little known, innovation and design conferences.  Every year I get to meet people, learn, think, dream and be empowered to do and be more.

Thoughts*…

Carl Bass gave wonderful insights into software for crafting, and some interesting business challenges that the proliferation of apps has created. ( Hint- He gets more letters from people complaining about a $3 app than a $5000 software package)

Kim Erwin emphasized that innovation is about more than making things reality.  Her book, Communicating the New, promises to provide vital insights into an often neglected and yet vital aspect of the innovation process: Communication.

Mark Tebbe provided insights into how tech will impact business.  Ultra-personal, social, local, mobile, sensors, wearable, 3D printing, brain extending, photo and video capturing, nano-generators, flexible displays, voice control, robotics, virtual education…an empowering and amazing world is being co-created as you read this…

Stepan Pachikov – the founder of Evernote.  Time machines, virtual and real. It’ll happen. He said so.

Amory Lovins, of the Rocky Mountain Institute shared a feasible way of creating a new energy era without impacting the economy in a negative way. It’s possible…

Laura Hartman and Connie Duckworth emphasized that humans living in poverty or challenging conditions, are indeed, capable market partners. ‘For Profit’ and ‘Not for Profit’ companies can work together and do amazing things to educate children and adults and build economies to the benefit of all.  The key messages? Walk in other’s shoes. Think like an insider and outsider. Play to strengths. Create impact then scale and  larger scale will create additional impact.

CC= Catherine Casserly=Creative Commons. #tryopen  Dream of what we can do together. Share.

Brian Love (and a team of students) and sharing the craft of crops.  Yes, growing and developing crops is a craft. What was especially powerful were the tools that enabled communication and mutual education.  Check out betterat/ – a platform for mentoring and personal growth.

A wonderful reflective talk by Vijay Kumar. His new book, 101 Design Methods, is a must have in any innovation library.

Confused and depressed by too many choices?  Barry Schwartz shed light on the Paradox of Choice (great vid-check it out!).  More choices is not necessarily a good thing.

Then there’s the story of Detroit, Gary Wozniak, and the vision driven people who are innovatively re-designing the once bustling, dynamic locus of the automotive industry; converting empty space to food and providing employment for those that aren’t easily employable.  I encourage you to read the story of Recovery Park.  Support it if your heart leads you to.

Creating harmony between the urban and the rural.  Professor Lou Yongqi shared an ongoing evolving experiment, that is doing exactly that – and doing it in an economically beneficial and sustainable way. I especially loved the metaphor of acupuncture in this project: one stimulated point can create harmony in the system…

And finally, I leave you with a slide from Bruce Nussbaum’s presentation – a summary of what it means to move from Design to Creativity.  Some wonderful perspectives to ponder…

Click to see full size

Click to see full size

I hope to see you there next year!

* – Apologies to any missed presenters/presentations

Posted in Arts, Authenticity, Books, Co-Creation, Conveying Information, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, Education, Entrepreneurship 2.0, Experience, Human Rights, innovation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Social Innovation, Social Networking, Social Responsibility, Stories, Sustainability, The Future | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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 »

Three Principles for a Creative, Innovative and Impactful 2013

Posted by Plish on January 4, 2013

I read this amazing little piece written by Steven Zuckerman.  Steven reflected on his experiences planning a celebratory event honoring the great musician and inventor, Les Paul.

It’s an extremely short piece and worth reading in its entirety.  It can however, be summarized in three short principles:

  1. “No one told me I couldn’t do it” – Steven Zuckerman
  2. Doing good things will touch people’s hearts and the results will reverberate like ripples on a pond.  (One of those ripples touched Paul McCartney.)
  3. “It wasn’t there and it should be.” – Les Paul

Think about it.

If you go through life, trying to touch people’s’ hearts with goodness…

If you’re bold enough to initiate new projects without needing permission…

If your eyes are open to needs and your hands ready to craft something to fill those needs…

Think about what you could accomplish!

Or better yet,

– stop thinking, start doing –

 

 

Posted in Authenticity, creativity, Creativity Leadership, Customer Focus, Design, imagination, innovation, invention, problem solving, Social Innovation, Tactics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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