ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘Workplace Creativity’

Fostering Organically Grown Innovation – Insights From the Art of Bonsai

Posted by Plish on March 16, 2014

I just got done trimming some of my bonsai trees.  What always fascinates me is how branches seem to show up in the most unlikely places.   Yet, while the origin of a particular branch baffles me, to the branch growing out of the tree, it made sense.

Somehow, the protobranch saw an opportunity.

Somehow that tree responded to the amount of light being received, the overall stress levels, temperature, soil conditions, nourishment demands, and it sent out branches in the most unlikely, and sometime unwanted(!), places (at least for the artist). Not all these branches will become large, at least without some eventual outside help. But, these branches spring up and, while they take up resources, they also contribute to the overall health of the tree as they leaf, flower and sometimes, even bear fruit.

From a bonsai perspective, these branches are sometimes pruned away so they don’t take energy away from other parts of the tree that, at least in the bonsai artist’s mind, need more.  But, many times, these rogue branches are left – precisely because of the reason mentioned in the previous paragraph - they contribute to the well-being of the tree.  These fledgling branches, while pulling nourishment from the tree’s roots, also send nourishment back to the entire tree.  In the process they contribute to building up the vascular system of the tree and ‘fattening’ up the trunk and all the rest of the branches.   They help make the tree more robust and able to withstand lean times, or environmental stressors in the future.

Innovation efforts in many companies are like these branches.  They pop up, seemingly without rhyme or reason, and often avoid detection until someone finds out about them and then wants to eliminate them.

Don’t!

These budding innovation efforts are organic - it’s not an accident that they showed up inside a specific company at a specific time! They should be welcomed and examined, not elicit shock and disdain (“What are you working on this for!?”).  After all, they came from the company’s roots.  Somehow these proto-innovation efforts sensed an opportunity.  Due to internal or external stressors, market dynamics, serendipitous inter-employee communications, or any combination of myriad variables, a person sensed that now was the time to start making an idea manifest in the world.

An innovation branch is born…

What’s next?

Leave it alone and let it grow for a while where it started.

Again, it’s an organic growth in a specific time and place, trying to mature where it started.  Try and put more light on that dark nook where the tiny branch is budding, try and cut it off and transplant it somewhere else, trim too much of the surrounding foliage, and it’ll die, or start growing in a different manner.  Same thing with new innovation efforts.  Shine corporate spotlights on it, try and move it somewhere else, put other people on it, change the corporate structure and it could very well die.  If nothing else, it will stumble.

New efforts need to grow where they start, at least for a while.  They will contribute to the corporate whole in subtle but real ways. The knowledge being obtained from the budding effort, the synergies being developed, these all feed back into the organic whole and contribute to its growth – if they’re allowed to.

Another reason to let these innovation branches grow for a while is that the world is unpredictable.  A sudden storm, intense winter, drought, animals, a move to another location, or a combination of many other issues, can cause severe damage to a bonsai tree.  After the dust clears, often those branches that played the main role are damaged beyond repair.  Those little branches in the sheltered nooks, that grew in the shadows, they are the ones that survive and enable the tree to continue its life. Will it look like the old tree?  Most likely not, but, the tree will survive.

So too with innovation efforts.  When market dynamics change, sometimes quickly, a company can’t adjust quickly enough and it’s the little innovation efforts that are well poised to take the corporation into the next era.  Those little, pesky, organic, innovation projects, that were perhaps unwanted, are the very projects that will enable a corporation to survive.

There are times and places to trim back branches, sometimes heavily.  But, if you want innovative diversity, resiliency and robustness, pay attention to those new little buds popping up.  They are a sign of life, a sign that the company is interacting with the world around it, a sign that people are thinking, interacting, and dreaming.

Then…

…leave them alone for a while…

Posted in Creative Environments, culture of innovation, Design, Disruptive Innovation, Funding Innovation, innovation, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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 »

Creative Milwaukee @Work – My Summary in Words and Pictures

Posted by Plish on November 20, 2013

A couple weeks back, I was at the Creative Milwaukee @Work Conference.

I’ve put together a social media summary at Seen.

To Be

 

 

Posted in Arts, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, imagination, innovation, Innovation Tools, Social Innovation, Sustainability, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Want to be More Creative? Change the Lighting

Posted by Plish on September 27, 2013

Posted in Creative Environments, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Creativity Videos, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Research, The Senses, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Picasso, Bonsai and Dialogue in Innovative Design

Posted by Plish on August 6, 2013

Picasso

While visiting the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, I walked by, and almost missed a small wall that had three interesting pieces: A sketch, a paper model, and a metal piece.  The three pieces were Picasso’s.

Picasso1picasso2Picasso3

There were multiple dialogues, in time, space and media…

Bonsai

The other day I saw a boxwood bush at a local hardware store.  It was enormously discounted (only cost a couple of bucks) and I saw that it had potential so I bought it, brought it home, trimmed branches and roots and re-potted it.  It’s not done by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s cleaned up and now it has a chance to grow.

Before

Before CleaningBefore Cleaning 2

After

After Cleaning After Cleaning 2

My dialogue with this tree has begun…

Dialogue

Remember the three(four) “R’s”:

Respect…

This needs to be present from the start.  Without it, there’s no dialogue, only declaration,  arm twisting, unilateral chattering.

Reciprocal Relationship…

Undergirded by Respect, this is acting upon the realization that there is a dance of sorts going on,  a symphony of mutual movement, a co-creative exchange and experience.  There is a Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Co-Creation, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, innovation, Meta-Design, problem solving, Service Design, Social Innovation, Sustainability, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Goal: Making Innovation Disappear

Posted by Plish on December 29, 2012

Some years back I was involved in an inter-religious dialogue with a Muslim group.  During the course of many conversations, one thing became clear.  My Muslim friends didn’t think of themselves as belonging to a religion, per se.  They simply were living a way of life.

They weren’t, and aren’t, alone.

In fact, there are  cultures that don’t have a word for ‘religion’ in their vocabulary.  If a word is used it is a variation on the imported word, “religion.”

The reason for this is as mentioned earlier.  People view living in a “religious” manner as a holistic experience.  There is no place that an individual’s (and community’s!) world view is not influenced by the relationship between God and Humans.  It simply “is”, and if it simply is, it doesn’t need to be labelled.

This phenomenon is present in other places in our lives as well.  Ask someone to describe how she gets from point a to point b, how he cooks a souffle, and I would be extremely surprised to hear those descriptions contain the phrase, “and then I breathe in and out,” multiple times, if even once.

It just happens and is part of the process.

That’s how an innovation competency should be.  Eventually you shouldn’t need to talk about it. Everything you do, from working in an R&D lab to Finance, to Operations, to taking time to recharge your batteries should be geared towards optimizing your innovation output. (Remember the Innovation Audit)

Yes, some of this is about consistent procedures (‘ritual’ from a religious perspective), but moreso it’s about commitment; it’s about worldview which is tied into identity and brand.

Who are we? What’s our goal? What are we supposed to do and how do we do it?  Who am I?

These are the questions that, at first glance seem to have a ‘religious’ nature to them.  But, it’s not about religion as much as it’s about human authenticity.  It’s about letting people be who they are, contributing from their strengths to help make the whole be more than the sum of its parts. If people can’t be their deepest selves, and if the innovative organization does not contribute to the making of the whole person, then the person suffers and the innovative output of the organization will suffer.

So, next time you find yourself talking about how what you’re doing is innovative, do a little reflection and ask if innovation is a core competency or a way of life.  Ask yourself if you’re doing something because you have to do it, or because you’re committed to it and the company’s mission makes sense, and what you do makes sense, when you do it.

Does this mean that there’s no questioning?

No, in fact there should be, because, just as I learned in the inter-religious dialogue, growth and building relationships is more about sharing questions than sharing answers.

Not to mention, the organization that sells answers will eventually go out of business because humans don’t buy answers – fundamentally they buy a question:

“What will my life become with this product/service/etc.?”

Posted in Authenticity, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, Religion, Social Innovation, Society, Spirituality, The Human Person, Wellness, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New, Transparent Paint to Create Whiteboards…Anywhere…

Posted by Plish on May 23, 2012

 

A few years back, I blogged about IdeaPaint’s Whiteboard paint.

Now they’ve gone one glorious step further:

CLEAR Whiteboard Paint!

That is correct.  You don’t have to change the colors of your walls, or any other surfaces, for that matter.  Just cover them with this transparent, writable glaze and you’re ready to go.

There really is no excuse for not having a whiteboard space.

Thank you, IdeaPaint!

Posted in Creative Environments, culture of innovation, idea generation, imagination, Sketching, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Censoring the Censor – The Key to Increasing Creativity

Posted by Plish on May 12, 2012

Inside your brain there’s a creativity censor.  With finger poised above the ‘Bleep’ button, he’s constantly protecting you from ideas that he deems useless, or worse: foolish.  He knows what every boss wants, what every friend thinks of you, what strangers see when they look at you.  He knows what’s best for you and the best way to get it.

On more than one occasion I’ve seen this censor, singlehandedly, dull brilliance and turn a symphony into an energy sapping drone.

Why would the censor do this?  Because he’s protecting you!  Give him a free rein and you will comfortably reside in the Status Quo.  You won’t look like a fool, you won’t push the envelope, you won’t feel uncomfortable.

Your creativity and the potential for great ideas will also come to a screeching halt.

Ideas build upon ideas – yours and others.  They are stepping-stones.  Remove one and things might be okay…might.  Remove two or three and you’re constrained to walking on one plane.

So, what can you do?

You need to teach yourself to not listen to the censor, but instead to listen to the ideas. When you hear the “BLEEP!” you need to ignore it.  Instead, write the idea down and play with it. See where it leads.  Nowhere?  That’s okay!  But, the very act of acknowledging that idea has now given you a stepping stone to another idea, and another, and….

Don’t get me wrong.  There is still a time and place to listen to the censor.  But, when you’re trying to come up with ideas, looking for new possibilities, exploring the unknown, your imagination is your friend, your light.  Work together with your ideas!

This is exemplified beautifully in this blog post over at Thoughts on Theater.  I’m going to end this piece with  a quote directly from her post, as it’s a wonderful read (as is her entire blog).  It’s about Academy Award winning screenwriter, Robert Pirosh.  He was a copywriter that wanted to become a Hollywood screenwriter. Here’s how he finally landed his dream job:

(Pirosh) sent the following note to all of the major studios, received a slew of interview requests, and finally accepted an offer as a junior writer at MGM. From there he went on to win an Academy Award and write for some of the best and brightest (including the Marx Brothers). Just another testament to the fact that you should not water yourself down in order to obtain the dream job. Do not censor the you that just might land you the gig.

Dear Sir:

I like words. I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady. I like solemn, angular, creaky words, such as straitlaced, cantankerous, pecunious, valedictory. I like spurious, black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde. I like suave “V” words, such as Svengali, svelte, bravura, verve. I like crunchy, brittle, crackly words, such as splinter, grapple, jostle, crusty. I like sullen, crabbed, scowling words, such as skulk, glower, scabby, churl. I like Oh-Heavens, my-gracious, land’s-sake words, such as tricksy, tucker, genteel, horrid. I like elegant, flowery words, such as estivate, peregrinate, elysium, halcyon. I like wormy, squirmy, mealy words, such as crawl, blubber, squeal, drip. I like sniggly, chuckling words, such as cowlick, gurgle, bubble and burp.

I like the word screenwriter better than copywriter, so I decided to quit my job in a New York advertising agency and try my luck in Hollywood, but before taking the plunge I went to Europe for a year of study, contemplation and horsing around.

I have just returned and I still like words.

May I have a few with you?

Robert Pirosh

385 Madison Avenue, Room 610

New York Eldorado 5-6024

 

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

The Fragile Muse and Respect for Creativity

Posted by Plish on February 18, 2012

Over at the Looper’s Delight group we were discussing what to do with ideas that don’t grow the way we expected, or wanted them to.  Richard Sales of Glasswing Studios and Good Nature Farms (A farm/Creative sanctuary) then said the following:

We have a policy at our house that, when someone is in the creative moment, we tiptoe, we close doors quietly, we are very respectful of the presence of the Muse – that lightning fast butterfly. When we accidentally barge in, we dont’ make conversation and apologize etc. Everyone is trained.

This is such a great practice to follow!

Everyone puts such a great emphasis on collaboration nowadays, we assume that the best results will only occur when everyone is open to everyone else.   Businesses try and force collaboration through architecture, work flows, etc.

Yet, how often do businesses respect the need for people to seriously engage their muses; to afford people the silence to hear the silent whispers of inspiration within?  How often to we tread lightly when approaching people who are immersed in their creative moments?

How can businesses and people structure the environment, or create rules, so that individual creative moments are free to blossom?

Beautiful, amazing, new, hybrid plants are possible through botanical cooperation – the collaboration of multiple flowers.

But before this can occur, each flower needs to bloom on its own…

Posted in Architectural Design, Authenticity, Creative Environments, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, imagination, innovation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Stressed Out at Work? This Might Help You Know Your Limits

Posted by Plish on October 9, 2011

To keep creative productivity at its optimum, it’s important to be able to detect when we’re overstressed so we can decompress and allow the creativity to flow.  However, sometimes people get so caught up in trying to be productive that the ability to detect stress gets dulled.  Here’s an interesting technology that can help people detect when they’re pushing themselves (or being pushed) too hard.

Posted in creativity, Health Concerns, innovation, Medical Devices, Research, The Human Person, Wellness | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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