ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘metaphor’

The Secret Behind The Invention of Spanx

Posted by Plish on February 9, 2017

When most people think about Spanx and how they were invented, people often mention Inventor Sara Blakely cutting the feet off of her pantyhose to create the first prototype.

But the secret wasn’t in the prototype per se

It was in the metaphor that drove her to cut the feet of those hose.

—“Shapewear is the canvas and the clothes are the art.” –Sara Blakely

While the metaphor may not have been explicitly articulated at the time, it was clearly already active in her mind.

Like an unsmoothed piece of gessoed canvas on which no amount of paint could hide the imperfections, the clothes women wore showed what was beneath.  Blakely didn’t like the fact that underwear, and how it assaulted a woman’s body, was able to be seen through clothes.  Every ripple, every bulge, insidiously showed itself.   The masterpiece of beauty was betrayed by faulty ‘canvas.’

That first prototype solved the problem: The shapewear became a flawless canvas enabling a work of art to be ‘painted’ upon it.  The masterpiece could shine through un-detracted by the canvas beneath.  A new problem revealed itself: The legs of the cut hose kept rolling up.   But that didn’t detract from the fact that a solution had been found.  From that point on, the process of refining the product was geared towards comfort, manufacturability and scalability.

The Metaphor Stayed Active

As a guest on James Altucher’s Podcast recently, Blakely proclaimed: “Everything is a Canvas!” (A perspective that also drove her creation of The Belly Art Project.)    This metaphor has continued to drive the development of Spanx product lines.  It’s powerful because it acknowledges the potential works of art that are enabled through their products.  Spanx make people feel good about being walking art.

Feel The Metaphor

When solving problems, tune in to the emotions you’re feeling.  You may not be able to articulate what you’re feeling, but acknowledge it nonetheless.  If you can articulate them, great! Regardless, start acting on them.  Humans make sense of the world through metaphor.  Start acting on those feelings and see if a metaphor is revealed and if it is resolved.  Some kinks might still need to be worked out, but you’ll recognize the solution when it’s present.

“Good Design is Obvious.  Great Design is Transparent.” – Joe Soprano

Spanx are transparent, just as a smooth canvas should be.   The greatness is apparent to women and men worldwide.

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Design, Fashion, innovation, invention, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Inspiration from “The Rebbe” into Redesigning Healthcare, Starting with the Word We Use

Posted by Plish on June 14, 2014

While driving to a 24 hour Walgreens in the wee hours of the night, I was listening to the radio and heard an interview with Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History.

Rebbi Telushkin pointed out that the Rebbe believed in the power of words and he made it a point to use optimistic, positive words.   So strong was the Rebbe’s belief that it influenced the author, Rabbi Joseph, to use the words “due date” as opposed to “deadline” when talking about projects.  “Due dates” are synonymous with births, “deadlines” with, well, death.

The Rebbe carefully chose his words and therefore used the phrase beit refuah, when he spoke of a hospital.  Translated it means ‘house of healing.’  Most people used the term beit cholim, which means ‘house of the sick’.

Think about that.

When you hear the word “hospital” what do you think of?

If you’re like most people, you’ll probably say, “That’s where the sick people are.” Maybe you’ll mention something about people getting better but, odds are, the first thing that’ll  probably come to mind is sickness, not healing.

That’s interesting because the word “hospital” comes from the Latin word hospes. The word meant a foreigner/stranger or guest.  It’s actually the root word for “hospitality”, “hostel”, “hotel”, and “hospice”.

Do you consider hospitals synonymous with hospitality?  While the Ritz-Carlton has given customer services lessons to healthcare facilities, and many hospitals are upgrading their food quality and redesigning their interiors, the cultural change hasn’t occurred yet.  People still don’t identify hospitality with hospitals.  For that matter, unfortunately, I don’t believe that healing is identified with hospitals. I’ve even heard of hospitals being described as those places where people get sick!

Some places are making the change and trying to change peoples’ impression of what healthcare facilities represent.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America has taken the step of using green colors and logo that has a tree and a person playing and a dog.  They clearly want to convey their commitment to life and living.  Their facilities are even designed in V-shapes, almost like open arms.  They really don’t look ‘hospitally’. Check them out some pictures here.

The lesson here is that language is important.   From healthcare terms, to renaming strategic plans, to renaming project ‘post-mortems’, I believe it’s important that we use terms that take us in positive directions and make us think of what it really is that we want to accomplish.  Too often we just use common phrases, seldom taking the time to understand the impact of those terms in shaping our worldviews and how we approach problems.

Whether it’s healthcare or a relationship you’re trying to improve,

think about the words you use,

think about the metaphors that describe your challenges,

think about the ramifications of words,

and choose words that build up, that inspire, that give life, that cause you to look at people and situations in new and exciting ways.

The Rebbe would be happy…

 

 

Posted in Customer Focus, Design, Healthcare, innovation, Religion, Service Design, Social Innovation, The Human Person, Wellness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Death to the Project Post-Mortem!

Posted by Plish on November 30, 2012

Turn to any business magazine, look in project management books, (Microsoft’s site even has a template for it!) and one of the best practices of project management is to conduct a post-mortem just after a project has been completed, and right before it’s officially ‘closed.’ The purpose is to get everyone on the team together to examine what went well in the project, what went wrong, and record this information so that others can learn.

Don’t get me wrong, the concept is a good one and should be practiced.  What I have a problem with, in particular, is use of the phrase, ‘post-mortem.’

By now you know that I’m a big fan of the power of words and metaphors – they shape how we solve problems and approach the world.  So it probably won’t surprise you then that my aversion to the phrase is tied to all the meaning around the words, ‘post-mortem.’

Think about it.

The term literally means: after death.  But what’s dead?  You just finished something that myriads of people put their hearts and souls into, and now that that something is impacting the world, you call it dead?  The project is closed, not dead. As a matter of fact, all projects, even those that resulting in the closing of a chapter, are births, not deaths! They are the beginning of something new.

By bringing the concept of death into the mix, there is a meaning conveyed that what just happened was not life-giving.  It’s a not-so-subtle reminder that what just happened needs to be dissected and analyzed, and perhaps even robbed of deeper meaning and import*.  Perhaps worst of all, it creates a sense that no continuity with this ‘dead thing’ is required.

On the contrary, the work of marketing, manufacturing, sales and product monitoring is kicking into full gear!

My point here is that it’s not about ending something, as much as it’s about a continuity of learning!  Sure, one project ends, another begins.  It’s a never-ending cycle. The commonality is that before, during and after a project, there needs to be a recursive aspect, a learning process that is ingrained into the culture.  That mindset only comes about if there’s less emphasis on analyzing ‘that which died,’ and more emphasis on learning each day what works, what doesn’t, and growing from that. And, for that to happen, we need to put the term,”Project Post-Mortem” to death, and replace it with a more forward thinking term.

I like: ‘Lessons Learned.’

What would you call it?

 

 

*

One day after sleeping badly, an anatomist went to his frog laboratory and
removed, from a cage, a frog with white spots on its back. He placed it on a
table and drew a line just in front of the frog. “Jump frog, jump!” he shouted.
The little critter jumped two feet forward. In his lab book, the anatomist
scribbled, “Frog with four legs jumps two feet.”

Then, he surgically
removed one leg of the frog and repeated the experiment. “Jump, jump!” To which,
the frog leaped forward 1.5 feet. He wrote down, “Frog with three legs jumps 1.5
feet.”

Next, he removed a second leg. “Jump frog, jump!” The frog
managed to jump a foot. He scribbled in his lab book, “Frog with two legs jumps
one foot.”

Not stopping there, the anatomist removed yet another leg.
“Jump, jump!” The poor frog somehow managed to move 0.5 feet forward. The
scientist wrote, “Frog with one leg jumps 0.5 feet.”

Finally, he
eliminated the last leg. “Jump, jump!” he shouted, encouraging forward progress
for the frog. But despite all its efforts, the frog could not budge. “Jump frog,
jump!” he cried again. It was no use; the frog would not response. The anatomist
thought for a while and then wrote in his lab book, “Frog with no legs goes
deaf.”

Posted in Best Practices, Creative Environments, culture of innovation, innovation, Innovation Tools, Project Management, Team-Building | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

When US Healthcare Delivery Meets The Cheesecake Factory: The Stuff Innovation is Made of

Posted by Plish on August 24, 2012

 

What do the U.S. healthcare delivery system and The Cheesecake Factory have in common?

According to Dr. Atul Gawande, potentially a great deal.  The Dr. recently penned an article over at The New Yorker called, “Big Med.”  Inspired by his experience at The Cheesecake Factory (TCF), he wondered if perhaps there weren’t some way that the system at The Cheesecake Factory could be used as a pattern for US healthcare delivery.  After all, TCF delivers millions of meals in a cost-effective and profitable manner – why couldn’t the healthcare system treat millions of people in a cost-effective and profitable manner?

The Dr. shares that, indeed, there are already some clinicians implementing TCF-esque solutions.  While the Dr. doesn’t bring it up,    this article over at The Economist, highlights how healthcare delivery is undergoing innovation in India – reflecting in many ways, Dr. Gawande’s TCF inspired vision.

In response, Steve Denning at Forbes, wrote an article entitled: “How Not to Fix US Healthcare: Copy The Cheesecake Factory.”  Mr. Denning thought that Dr. Gawande was way off base using The Cheesecake Factory as a pattern.  He cited Innovation Scholar, Clayton Christensen, and then claimed that Dr. Gawande’s argument is flawed in these ways:

1.Wrong question
2.Wrong knowledge model
3.Wrong management model
4.Wrong conclusions about scaling

In actuality the above discussion is  both/and vs. either/or.  When trying to come up with truly innovative solutions, the goal is to take two or more ideas/metaphors, slam them together, and see what comes out of the mix.

Personally, I think Dr. Gawande’s perspective is highly provocative and has something going for it. His thinking isn’t ‘pie in the sky.’ There is, as the Dr. demonstrates, plenty of room for standardization and better management of spending/costs without sacrificing care.  Precisely because the TCF model is, on first blush, so different from the healthcare world and yet similar with regards to servicing millions in a cost-effective, profitable manner, that we will benefit greatly from creating a synthesis between healthcare delivery and what goes on in The Cheesecake Factory.

We should smash the TCF metaphor up against current healthcare practices and see what comes out of it.  That’s where great innovation will come from!    After all, the Cheesecake Factory IS successful and is doing something right. Many healthcare institutions in India ARE doing something right. The doctors in Dr. Gawande’s article ARE doing something right, saving money and improving outcomes.   There’s got to be something we can learn, be inspired by, and perhaps  implement and test, when metaphors dance into a tertium quid.

It doesn’t further discussions, and in fact limits solutions, to caricature Dr. Gawande’s insights.  Instead of claiming, as Mr. Denning did, that everything is “wrong” with Dr. Gawande’s vision, the discussion would be furthered by full-hearted listening, combining of metaphor, and dreaming of what can be.

I think the discussion would be even better if done over a meal at The Cheesecake Factory.

Posted in Best Practices, Design, Disruptive Innovation, Healthcare, innovation, problem solving, Service Design, Wellness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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 »

Flashes of Brilliance -Thoughts on Innovation While Watching a Lightning Storm (Video)

Posted by Plish on June 18, 2010

Posted in creativity, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, imagination, innovation, nature, Nature of Creativity, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

 
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