ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘idea generation tools’

Brainstorming Using Google Docs

Posted by Plish on August 6, 2014

I’ve never been a big fan of Google Docs.  Mostly because the majority of my clients don’t like having stuff in Google’s Cloud.  Nevertheless, I do see the value in having a common, online portal for collaboration.

So, when I saw this post at CrossWebIdeas on using Google Docs as a brainstorming hub, I was intrigued and excited.  It reminded me of days of yore when I used Posterous (remember Posterous?)  in a similar way.

It’s a pretty simple process actually: Upload a core document/drawing that functions as a seed to start the brainstorm and have people join in whenever they want to add or modify the document.

That’s pretty much it!

Check out how Google Docs was used for the ‘Novel In A Day’ Project.

One of the main things I want to look at is anonymity.  Some people are intimidated by other people’s personalities and/or status.  They are more likely to share their thoughts in low visibility situations.  Granted, there is some distance afforded via a web interface, but it’s still not perfect.  If Person A intimidates Person B, and Person A already has expressed an opinion in the forum, Person B may not write anything at all if it seems to contradict Person A.

I also prefer the power of drawing to text, so Google Drawings could be used instead of Google Docs, but, entering text on a laptop is much easier than creating a picture, so that’s the price paid for smoother collaboration.

Bottom Line: Using Google Docs in this way is fresh and innovative, and with the right group, I’ll give it a try.

What do you think?  Is this something you’ll do or have done?  If so, please share your thoughts!!

Thanks again to Don McLeman and Triberr for bringing this to my attention!

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Posted in Co-Creation, Creative Environments, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Is There a Will For The “Why?” – Uncovering Innovative Product Opportunities

Posted by Plish on May 4, 2012

One of the best ways to generate innovative ideas is, in some ways, the simplest (but not necessarily the easiest!)

When confronted with a problem, don’t just brainstorm to solve the problem.  Ask, “Why is it important to solve this problem?”

For example, if someone asks you to design and build a boat, the typical response would be, “Okay, what type of boat?”

But, if you really want to generate some innovative solutions ask him, “Why?”

The answer might be, “I want to get from here to Hawaii and I can’t fly.” Or it might be, ” Only rich people have boats and I want people to respect me.”  Or, “I’m going fishing with a friend on a small lake and we need something for us to fish from.”

Too often, we let the problems, or stated needs, morph into the problem statement without much of a challenge.  Someone says she needs a boat, so let’s build her a boat!

Occasionally that’s the right way to go. But, when we need to generate creative solutions, and we really want to shake things up, it’s important to find out what it is that’s really needed.

If, as per the example above, someone wants more respect, is a boat really the way to go?  Similarly, a boat to get to Hawaii is nice, but is it prudent? Why can’t the person fly?  And, there are other ways to fish.  Depending upon the body of water, a boat may actually be limiting! Is it needed?

Getting answers to these questions will open our eyes to alternate products or services that meet deeper needs.   We see that we may not need to design boats at all; we need a way to bolster self-esteem!

But, what if we are boat builders by trade? 

We then are confronted with two choices.  One, we simply get the specifications for the boat, build it and get paid.  The other choice is more of a challenge, but its rewards could be magnitudes greater: We stretch ourselves with the goal of delivering products or services that will meet those, until now, unspoken needs.

This stretching means that we may need to partner with new suppliers or even restructure how we currently do business.  That is why the title of this piece is, “Is There a Will For The ‘Why?'”

Finding out these needs and then acting on them will take some serious will power and maybe even soul-searching. The following are types of questions and solutions we might have to wrestle with.

How can we, as a company, help people feel good about themselves?  What if instead of building a boat, we provided a service whereby sponsors pay for the building of fishing boats for families who lost their livelihoods to a hurricane?  What if we sent “Thank You!” videos from these families to their sponsors, or maybe even made the sponsors part of their businesses so that they got a small percentage of the profits until the boat is paid off?

For those afraid of flying to Hawaii, what if we held a series of workshops for people on conquering their fears?  These workshops could include conquering fear of water, boating, flying, etc.

Similarly, what if we held workshops on, ‘How to Fish Various Bodies of Water?”  What if we partnered with another company to design a line of fishing waders?  What about creating a division to provide rental boats based upon the type of water a person intends to fish?

All these opportunities to differentiate ourselves from the competition would be lost if all we did was take a customer’s money and build a boat.

It ultimately comes down to answering the question:

Is there a will for the”Why?”

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, Disruptive Innovation, Emotions, Experience, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Service Design | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Holistic ‘Brain’storming – Harnessing the Body (and the Senses) in the Creative Process

Posted by Plish on August 18, 2011

We have a tendency to take our body’s for granted.   As a result we often ignore the connections between mind and body that have evolved to become part of the human condition.  For example, this article points out that when people think about the past they lean backwards, when they think about the future they lean forwards.

Now think about brainstormings you’ve been in.  How many people lean back in their chairs when trying to come up with ideas?  Sure, you can say that people are relaxing, and I’ll be the first to admit that a relaxed mind is a creative mind.  But, having people leaning forward in their chairs is easy to do, and if done in a playful, relaxed way, can’t hurt.

Is a topic important?  Perhaps having heavy-looking objects scattered around the room, or even having people hold heavy objects, can portray the importance of what is being discussed.  

Want people to feel warm?  Have them remember good experiences. 

Have them hold warm drinks  and chances are they’ll view fictional characters as friendly and warm (and vice-versa with holding cold drinks).

If you bring munchies into the meeting and you want participants to think in a more creative (versus analytical) fashion, serving a bowl of a trail mix may help.  Want participants to be more analytical in their thinking?  Bring in a bowl of nuts, one of raisins, one of chocolate bits….you get the idea.  (For more on creativity and our senses see this article.)

The point is, people are more than just brains.  People are holistic, embodied beings and when the body is brought into the creative process, amazing things can happen.

Give it a try, you don’t have anything to lose…

…but a whole bunch to gain!

Posted in Best Practices, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, idea generation, imagination, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, The Senses, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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 »

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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