Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘innovation’

How Would You Heighten The Experience of a Blooming Corpse Flower? (UPDATE!)

Posted by Plish on August 26, 2015

I share this little tidbit because it’s a rare event that will be unfolding before your eyes in the next couple of days at the Chicago Botanic Garden.  And when it unfolds, it’ll be a sight to behold and a stench to remember!

The Titan Arum, or Corpse Flower, a rare Sumatran plant, will be blooming in what could be less than 24 hours.

I’ve made a couple of visits already and am excitedly waiting for it to unfurl.

Only a couple more days (hopefully) until the #corpseflower blooms at #chicagobotanicgarden ! #cbgspike

A photo posted by Michael Plishka (@zenstorming) on

This event has gotten me thinking about how else might an event like this be remembered?  We can always take pictures, but they won’t do justice to the whole experience of the flower.  What else could be done to create more buzz and more memories around an event like this? How else might you educate?

I think scratch and sniff cards would be a cool souvenir ;-)   What would you do?

Here’s the  live feed archive of the livefeed so you can see it in real time!


Click HERE to see a great summary page that the Garden put together, as well as this page that has some cool pics.

I was able to check Spike out the day before they moved it out of the limelight.  It’s a pretty amazing plant!


Posted in creativity, Design, Education, Experience, innovation, nature | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Making Lightning – The Creative Spark in All of Us

Posted by Plish on August 7, 2015

The sky went from sunset blue to thick blackness that the windshield wipers swiped at with futility.  The rain pounded the the car and an uneasy, queasy feeling filled the air as a tornado warning was issued.

I drove the rest of the way home and parked.  To the west the worst was already breaking and salmon patches of sunset backlit clouds.   To the north the blackness churned and lightning crackled from cloud to cloud as the thunder rumbled without pause.

(Mouse over and Click the play arrow and continue reading on the other side)



It’s in you!

That same power.

You’ve experienced those shocks that startle when you touch a doorknob on a dry day.

This is bigger and can change the world.

Lightning bridges gaps – tremendous expanses of space.  It’s possible because of the difference in charge, a difference in potential.   Lightning finds its way.

But you need to provide the stuff for creativity to happen.

Observe, read, smell, taste, listen, touch, dream!  Understand the challenges you want to solve and then look at them from a different perspective, and then another, and then another!

Allow those differing perspectives to mix  together and the clouds will rumble, the sky will flash, creativity will happen.

It’s in you.



Posted in Authenticity, brainstorming, Creative Environments, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, imagination, innovation, Nature of Creativity, observation, problem solving, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Looking for Disruptive Technologies? VentureRadar is the place for you

Posted by Plish on July 20, 2015

Every once in a while I come across a phenomenal resource that I want to share, and VentureRadar is just such a site.

If you want to find out which companies are leading the way in disruptive and innovative technologies, VentureRadar will crawl through publicly available data and show you who’s hot.  The Company was founded by Andrew Thomson, PhD who contributed to the building of an online intelligence tool used by Dow Jones.  His team also includes two  PhDs and a Masters Degree – their knowledge spanning artificial intelligence, machine learning, mathematics, statistics, and science.

How does it work?

It’s basically a search engine.  Type what you’re looking for and let the magic unfold.

For example, if I type in the phrase, “Wearable” I get these results.  If I click on the first company, Wearable Intelligence, I get this report which is shown below as well.

Screen Capture from VentureRadar

Screen Capture from VentureRadar

I asked Dr, Thomson, how Innovation and Growth Signals were defined and he kindly provided the following:

“Innovation Signals: There are two elements we consider when measuring innovation: proprietary technology/skills/business models, and the potential for disrupting industries. Highly rated companies can include both established or even consulting based companies (so for example a contract R&D company would be often be considered innovative) as well as disruptive start-ups.

Growth Signals: This measures the ‘momentum’ of the company, which could be through revenue but more often through other metrics which can infer business momentum, such as partnerships, awards, funding events, press coverage, social media, etc.”

Here’s what a company like Uber looks like:

Uber's profile on VentureRadar

Uber’s profile on VentureRadar

On the flipside, there are companies like well established IDE Technologies, leaders in water desalination.

IDE Technologies Well established but also leading the way in developing water desalination technologies

IDE Technologies
Well established but also leading the way in developing water desalination technologies

In my opinion, VentureRadar is a pretty amazing platform for locating those companies that could be competition, or partners.

It is also a valuable resource if you’re looking to map how a certain technology will develop over the next 5 years.   Once you can see where things may be going, your strategic and scenario planning can take that into account, giving you a better feel for the accuracy of future scenarios.

I’ll be using this for sure in my work.  Pay them a visit.  I’d love to hear what you think about VentureRadar.

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

Design Better Products Using These Seven Tips From SongWriting

Posted by Plish on July 2, 2015

You know how much I like music. You also know how I like using parallels from other industries to supplement what I do.  I came across a great article from BMI (that happen to be the Performing Rights Organization that I belong to) that discusses 7 things to look for in improving one’s lyrics.  After all, a song has less than a few minutes to hook you and if the lyrics don’t work, the song doesn’t work.  It dawned on me that focusing on these 7 facets can also improve your products/services.

Here are the seven tips and how they apply to product design:

  1. Is everything you’re writing related to the hook/message of the song?  Is everything in the design related to the message/meaning of the product?    What message or vibe do you want your product to convey?  Are buttons, directions, colors, shapes, feel, smell all working together to convey the same message?
  2. Have you used details in your verses? Have you used details appropriately in the product?  Architect/Designer Charles Eames said, “The details are not the details. They make the design.” Details call attention to the various centers of a product.  They can work together or provide distraction.
  3. Have you already said it?  Are there unnecessary redundancies in the product?  Not only is excess information (excess detail) annoying it can be confusing and lead to errors in use.
  4. Have you said enough?  Just as saying too much is a problem, not saying enough is equally bad.  Designers can assume that a person using a product knows everything the designer knows about the product: the context of use, how it works, etc.  These assumptions can then covertly get built into the design resulting in frustration and product misuse.  As a designer ask yourself, “Does using this product require knowledge that only I have?  Will the person using this say, ‘I didn’t know I had to do x for y to work!'” If the answers are “Yes” or “Maybe” then find a way to overtly communicate that knowledge.
  5. Is your chorus lyric the main message of your song and is it memorable?  The chorus is the part of the song that most people remember and join in singing.   It sticks in our heads.  Is the main use of the product memorable – does it get stuck in your head?  Does the product create a type of obsession?  Do you want to go back for more?
  6. Do your words sound good sung?  Does the product communicate naturally?  Is the product communicating in ways that are congruent with the desired experience?    Is there a unified brand experience? Does something seemed forced about the product interaction?
  7. Are the little words like “and,” “but” & “’cause” used properly, or can they be removed altogether?  Every action leads to an action and/or reaction.    Do I have to press this and hold that to make something work?  If I swipe but don’t use four fingers will it cause something undesirable to happen?  Does everything in a product get straight to the point?  If it doesn’t, it should be by design, not by accident. Little words like “and” and “but” create connections that can lead to confusion and a lack of intelligibility.   If they can be removed, remove them.  If you can’t remove them, make sure that each “and” or “but” in the product design is important and essential.

There you have it. Next time you hear a song that you’re singing along with, think about what makes that song work.   More importantly, think about ways to make your designs sing! :)


Posted in creativity, Design, Experience, innovation, Innovation Tools, Musical Creativity, Service Design, The Senses, User Interface | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Use This Simple Innovation Technique to Create Better Pizza….er, Products!

Posted by Plish on May 20, 2015

We’ve all had this experience:

You order a pizza for pickup.  You get home and open the box and find the cardboard under the pizza is wet and soggy.  You dig into the pizza but find out that, unfortunately, the flavor of  the wet cardboard  transferred to the pizza’s crust.

I’ve had the same experience on pizzas that were delivered as well.  Anything more than 10 minutes and the soggy cardboard effect kicks in.

How do we fix it?

Let’s use the time honored technique of re-ordering the sequence of events to create a different, and better, product, er…pizza.

Very often certain events get canonized as the way to create a product.  In some ways this is a good thing as it virtually guarantees repeatability in end products.  In the case of pizza the following happens :

  1. Take order
  2. Take crust and spread tomato sauce evenly
  3. Place cheese on tomato sauce
  4. Add  other toppings (If applicable)
  5. Place in oven at 425F for 15 minutes.
  6. Pull pizza out of the oven
  7. Place on hard surface
  8. Cut pizza
  9. Place on cardboard and slide into pizza box
  10. Give to customer
  11. Drive home
  12. Open Box
  13. Take slices of deliciousness out and eat!

Now, the steps in red are what the restaurant typically sees.  They are pretty much oblivious to steps 11-13 as they are busy doing steps 1-10 for other customers.  The problem is that the restaurant can keep doing 1-10 flawlessly, but the fact of the matter is that step 11 is especially critical to 13 being a pleasurable, or not so pleasurable, experience.  If the drive home is more than 10 minutes, the quality of the pizza could start going downhill.  The longer the ride, the  dark, steamy, cheesy, oily environment inside the box takes its toll as cheesy oil and moisture soaks through the cut marks in the pizza and soils the cardboard.

That in turn starts soaking back into the crust and impacting the flavor.

We could solve this problem by adding substances to the crust that will repel, or mask, the cardboard taste but let’s do something easier.

Change the sequence of events.  There is one step in particular that directly impacts how the pizza crust will survive the ride home.

How about:

  1. Take order
  2. Take crust and spread tomato sauce evenly
  3. Place cheese on tomato sauce
  4. Add  other toppings (If applicable)
  5. Place in oven at 425F for 15 minutes.
  6. Pull pizza out of the oven
  7. Place on cardboard and slide into pizza box
  8. Give to customer
  9. Drive home
  10. Open Box
  11. Cut Pizza!
  12. Take slices of deliciousness out and eat!

Yes.  Let the customer cut the pizza.  Not only will that help the crust quality, it takes a step, and some time, out of the pizza making process.

It may not seem like a lot, but a couple of seconds with every pizza baked will add up by the end of the year.  Heck, if the restaurant wants to, it can sell branded pizza cutters, or give one away with every 10 pizzas purchased.  Make it a game: “We make it and bake it, but you cut it and love it!”

So, if you want better tasting pizza, try this simple innovation.

When you order your pizza, tell them to not cut it.

But, don’t expect old habits to die hard.  In the restaurant that I’ve been testing this theory with (Thank you Salutos for unknowingly providing the pizza for these experiments! :) ), even when I’ve given them instructions not to cut the pizza, often they’ve cut it anyway,

More important, next time you’re trying to improve a product that’s based on a process, look at rearranging the steps.  You might just end up with a tasty new product! :)

PS. I shared this tidbit on Instagram first.  Feel free to follow me there for more on innovation and creativity!  Just click on the pic to go to my ZenStorming on Instagram.

Posted in Best Practices, Design, design thinking, Food, innovation, Innovation Tools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Are You Doing This Simple Thing to Improve Your Creative Abilities?

Posted by Plish on May 6, 2015

To become a better writer – READ

To become a better cook – EAT

To become a better musician – LISTEN

In short, to become a better designer/maker/artist/engineer – OBSERVE

I recently started an Instagram page for ZenStorming.  It’s filled with tips for idea generation and creative inspiration, and it’s especially geared towards people that don’t always have someone around to bounce ideas off of.  (If you aren’t on Instagram, the posts are cross-posted to my ZenStorming Facebook page.)

Since Instagram is amazingly well suited to provide quick nuggets of information, I started a weekly series for helping people improve their observational skills.  It’s based on the premise that if you are primed with a certain concept before going on a walk or drive, your eyes will be opened to new things just because of the priming.

You don’t have to see new things, to see things new!

My first observation challenge was to look for right angles.

I took my own challenge, and that day while driving to a client, I was amazed at what I saw.  I saw patterns that I never noticed before, even though I had passed the same areas innumerable times. It also amazed me how right angles are largely the work of humans.  We build a world of right angles around us. Up, down, left, right.

We create an orthogonal world.

Which is kind of interesting given that so much of nature is anything but in 90 degree intersections.  But it’s what works.

Would love to get your thoughts on this observation challenge (as well as suggestions for a catchy hashtag!)

And remember,

You don’t have to see new things, to see things new!

If you see things in a new way, you can create new things!

Posted in Arts, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Maker, observation, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Do You Want to Be More Creative? Please Help Me Help You With Your Creative Problem Solving and Creative Thinking

Posted by Plish on April 25, 2015

Hi, it’s me!

I’ve always been fascinated with how things work: machines, products, nature, the universe, and yes, even people. (It’s the scientist in me).

At the same time, I’ve always enjoyed making things: products, games, art, music, food and more! (I’m inspired by the muses :) )

Most of my professional career I’ve been designing medical products for everything from family owned companies, to Fortune 500 companies, and I’ve done it well. These products are helping countless people live better lives, and their healthcare providers do their jobs more effectively.

I’m party to over 20 patents in the US and Internationally, and have been awarded multiple corporate awards for products that have made these companies millions in profits.  And, all the while, I was devising and refining my own methods of idea generation and product creation.

Working in the Corporate world was a great experience, but I wanted to grow and share my journey in creativity. So, in 2008 I ventured out on my own and formed ZenStorming™ LLC.

It’s science meeting muse.

I help companies come up with ideas for new products as well as share my methods for creative thinking and problem solving. I have an extensive network of talented designers, engineers and manufacturers that help me bring ideas from conception to reality. And I’m loving every minute of this creative ride!

I also develop tools (and often share those right here) to help people in their creative endeavors. I’m also developing some premium tools.  But, rather than assume I know what you need, I want to hear it from you.

I want to know what it is that you struggle with.

I want to know what could help you be more creative and grow as creative person.

Please take this uber-quick survey.  Your email address isn’t needed, but if you share it (It’s safe and secure and will be kept in confidence – I promise!) I may very well contact you to chat some more, and you’ll definitely be the first to know when these premium tools roll out, so you’ll get special deals!

Thank you so much for your time!!

Wishing you fruitful growth in your creative endeavors~

Plish a.k.a. Mike, Michael, Mickey, Plishka, Dude, Mickeyplish, Mikey, Misha, Myxash,

Posted in 3D Printing, Brain Stimulation Tools, brainstorming, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Brand Strategy and Design – One Collective Voice at FUSE 2015

Posted by Plish on March 23, 2015

Yes, one of my favorite conferences is coming up and I hope to see you there!

FUSE 2015

From April 13-15  in Chicago, Illinois, the Loews Hotel will be home to a provocative and inspiring mix of leaders in Design, Brand Strategy, Marketing, Innovation, Trends, and Strategy.  For 3 days you will have an opportunity to learn, network and enjoy stimulating talks, workshops and more.

I always leave FUSE with a mindful of ideas and things to share.  To aid my recall, I capture my experiences of FUSE in concept maps.  You can go to Slideshare and check out my maps of DAY 1 and DAY 2 from last year.

Looking forward to seeing you there and hearing your experiences!!

Posted in Brands, creativity, Design, design thinking, innovation, Service Design, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Printing with Paper – the 21st Century Way

Posted by Plish on March 4, 2015

People are finding new uses for 3d printing daily. One of the downsides with 3d printing is that materials and methods are often expensive, and/or not eco-friendly. Another downside is that printing in true color is difficult.

Mcor Technologies is changing all that.

They’ve developed a way to true color print 3d objects using eco-friendly inks and adhesives at a fraction of the cost of other 3d printing technologies.  Disposal is also friendly as the product can be thrown into the recycling bin when the print is no longer needed.

How does it work?

Simply put, a sheet of paper is printed (in color) and the shape of the printed part is cut out of the paper.  Next, adhesive is placed on the paper and another sheet is placed on top. Print color, cut and repeat until the entire piece is printed.  For a better explanation of the process, check out this pdf from Mcor.

The biggest limitation that I can see with this is the build volume. At 9.39 x 6.89 x 5.9in, it’s not a bad build volume but it’s not huge. It’s limited by the thickness of a ream of paper.  On the upside, the parts can be designed to be separated into multiple pieces and then glued together.

Some great examples of how the technology is being used and its capability can be seen in this pdf.  There’s also a really impressive medical case study from University of Louvain in Belgium.

Here are some more examples of what can be printed.  What do you think?

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Posted in 3D Printing, innovation, Innovation Tools | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Dear RadioShack, It didn’t have to end this way…

Posted by Plish on February 5, 2015

It’s official.

RadioShack has filed for bankruptcy.

Call me naïve, but I really don’t think this had to happen.  I realize I’m ‘Monday Morning quarterbacking’ (Why DID Seattle throw that pass on the one yard line?!?!  I digress….) but RadioShack had made some bad choices.

RadioShack’s bankruptcy, which has been expected for months, follows 11 consecutive unprofitable quarters as the company has failed to transform itself into a destination for mobile phone buyers. Its sale agreement with Standard General could spare it the fate most retailers suffer in Chapter 11 – liquidation.

A destination for mobile phone buyers.  Seriously?  You can get a cell phone at WalMart for pete sakes!

RadioShack made multiple attempts at rebranding, as if a logo or name change was going to pull them out of obscurity. It wasn’t enough.

As someone who has literally gone to RadioShacks my whole life, the one thing that RadioShack fell away from was what made it famous in the first place.

RadioShack was trailblazing as a Maker store long before people even used the term “Maker.”   Yet, as the years passed, the only things that qualified as maker-esque were buried in the far corners of the store, literally collecting dust.  Most employees, it seemed, liked techie stuff, but weren’t that well versed in maker-esque components that were on their shelves.

I went over to Google Trends and looked at a few search terms to see how often people were Googling certain terms since 2010 (I didn’t put these all on one graph because there were scaling issues)


3D Printing






Maker Space


Raspberry Pi


Every trend is going up.

But, not this one: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in 3D Printing, Brands, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, Maker Movement | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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