ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘play’

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 »

Maker Faire Coming to Milwaukee, Wisconsin!

Posted by Plish on July 24, 2014

 

At last!

Every year I’ve bemoaned the fact that there wasn’t a  large, local Maker Faire in Northern Illinois/Southern Wisconsin.

This year will be different.

Thanks to the vibrantly creative Milwaukee Community and the sponsorship of the Brady Corporation, Milwaukee will be home to a two-day Maker Faire. The event will be held at the Wisconsin State Fair Park on Sept. 27th and 28th, 2014.  Admission is FREE!!  If you’d like to do some making at the Faire, they are currently excepting applications.

For more info there is the official press release here, and be sure to check out the website.

If you plan on going, please let me know. I hope to see you there!

 

Posted in 3D Printing, Arts, Creative Environments, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Digital Manufacturing, Disruptive Innovation, innovation, invention, Maker Movement, Play, toys, Workplace 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 »

Goooooooooooal!!! An Innovation that Impacts Life Beyond the Soccer Field

Posted by Plish on June 7, 2012

Soccer is a sport that’s loved worldwide (where it’s often known as futbol/football/kickball). Just like this image I took when I was in Ukraine a few years back (which is co-hosting the Euro Cup this year), scenes like this one are playing out all over the world, even in countries that have crippling economic hardships. 

Being the son of Ukrainian born parents and living next door to folks born in Germany, I was playing soccer  early in life (long before “Soccer Mom” was even a phrase) and later played in Chicago’s Semi-Pro leagues.   I could never figure out why soccer wasn’t more common among my peers here in the US.   It’s a sport that is easy to outfit. All you need is a ball and somewhere to kick it.  And, like the above picture shows, the space doesn’t even need to be grass-covered.

So when I saw this innovation, I was blown away.

It’s all about the ball.

These two entrepreneurs hatched this brilliant idea as part of an ‘engineering for non-engineers’ class.  Check out the video.

 

Leveraging things you wouldn’t normally connect (that’s the key to great innovations!) – soccer and the need for energy in parts of the world that don’t have easy access to it – this amazing and fun innovation was born.

In this age of “There’s an app for that”, it truly is refreshing to see a fun innovation that fits so seamlessly into kids daily lives and provides a benefit going well beyond those that exercise provides.   And, if you donate one of these balls, you don’t just contribute to the well-being of kids, you contribute to the well-being of the communities they belong to.

Well done!!!

Posted in children, Customer Focus, Design, games, innovation, Play, Social Innovation, Sports Creativity, Start-Ups, Sustainable Technology, toys, Wellness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Practice These Three Approaches for Increasing Creativity

Posted by Plish on November 22, 2011

When studying creativity, researchers measure certain traits that are indicative of creative thought processes in individuals.  Three key concepts are:

  • Fluency (the ability to generate multiple ideas)
  • Flexibility (the number of relevant categories of ideas)
  • Originality (the uniqueness of each idea)

In general, more of each of the above is better and indicative of creative processes.  Get more, and be more creative.  Simple, right?  In fact, getting more isn’t that difficult as you can practice pretty much anywhere – but you do need to practice.  Here are some ideas to get you started.

To Increase Fluency

Play with words and associations (think synonyms!); practice coming up with ideas, get comfortable with expressiveness of feelings and ideas (i.e. emotion).  A simple exercise is to find a common object and then come up with as many uses for it as you can.  A favorite improv technique is to stand in the middle of a room (or anywhere for that matter) and point at various objects and yell out each one’s name, only call things by the WRONG name.  It’s fun, liberating and harder than you think!

To Increase Flexibility

This is about categories, so spontaneity is good here, as is the ability to adapt.  Strike out in new and unusual directions, expose yourself to new experiences; try things a different way and make the most of it.  Usually put your left shoe on first?  Try the right, instead. Brush your teeth with your right hand? Try your left.  Try taking a different way to work in the morning.  Pick up a magazine you’d never read and read it.  Try food you’ve never eaten before.  Get out of those areas you feel secure in  and stretch yourself. The naming game mentioned above crosses over into this realm as well, depending upon what you’re naming.

To Increase Originality

This is about coming up with ideas that no one else would think of.   It’s about making connections between disparates – putting things together that usually don’t get put together, while still finding, and building upon, that kernel of commonality that gives an original idea its glory.  This is what gives every comedian her special uniqueness.  It’s why jokes are funny.  They come out of nowhere; we don’t expect the result but we ‘get it’ when some commonality gets presented and understood in a new light.  We get it.   But, don’t think this is the domain of comedians only.  We’re all unique and originality is our signature.   So, start practicing your creativity signature by combining dissimilar things!  Pick up a baseball and a fork.  Now, think of something that can be done with them.  The easy answer is to stick the fork  in the baseball.  Go beyond that – way beyond. (This is where your practice in fluency and flexibility comes in handy.) You can do your own version of a cooking show like Iron Chef or Chopped.  Take a mix of ingredients out of the fridge and make something you’re not even sure will taste good- but try it anyway.  Finally, one practical tip: If you want your ideas to be more useful and not fauxnnovations, look for that kernel of commonality between the  disparate objects, experiences, contexts, ideas or metaphors within the situation.  It’ll help pull everything together and make originality shine (and implemented ideas more useful)!

So, there you have it – three ‘secret’ processes for increasing creativity.  Only, they aren’t really secrets.   They’re simple approaches for improving creativity and living an authentic life more  full of surprises. Give them a try!

Posted in Authenticity, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, idea generation, imagination, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Play, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Design Thinking, Shminking…It’s About Being Human

Posted by Plish on June 8, 2010

I read this little tidbit over at Fast Company about how Design Thinking will give way to the next big thing: Hybrid Design.   I found myself having the same thoughts as those who responded to the article.  Most of those folks believed there was nothing really new being mentioned in the article other than the creation of  a new term to describe what’s already been happening for a while – a loooooong while.

So it got me thinking.

We call it “design thinking’ but a key aspect of design thinking is actually doing.   It’s about thinking by acting, or perhaps more properly, thinking through acting…

but then, maybe it’s by thinking by and through acting…

~Switch gears~

…While watching the Stanley Cup playoffs at my brother’s house, my kindergarten aged niece asked me to play a game entitled, “Invisible, Shminvisible.”

Even though my niece explained it carefully, I wasn’t able to really figure it out through listening.  So, I started playing the game with her and she and her older brother directed me.  Soon, I was a participant in the game.  It made sense.

Which brings us back to the discussion at hand.  I learned by playing and through playing.  It wasn’t about sitting down with a rule book (which I ‘m thankful for because I’m quite sure that such a book would be at least 5 – 10 pages long if penned in “instruction manual” lingo.)  It was about the wonderful process of looking, understanding and making.

So, bringing us full  circle here:

The evolution Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Authenticity, children, Creative Environments, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, Human Rights, imagination, innovation, Life Stages, problem solving, Sketching, The Human Person, The Senses, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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