Your newsletter on applied creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business – delivered to your e-mail box on the first and third Tuesday of every month.
Tuesday, 7 July 2005
Hello and welcome to another issue of Report 103, your fortnightly newsletter on creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business.
As always, if you have news about creativity, imagination, ideas, or innovation please feel free to forward it to me for potential inclusion in Report103. Your comments and feedback are also always welcome.
Information on unsubscribing, archives, reprinting articles, etc can be found at the end of this newsletter.
Question: Someone in your company is provoking you and your employees. She is questioning your decisions, making a mockery of some of your organisation's well established processes and making outlandish suggestions about how you should do business. She is doing this publicly and is possibly causing unrest among your employees. What do you do?
a) Fire her immediately! She will continue to cause trouble and is diminishing your authority
b) Speak to her privately. Insist that she stop provoking you and other people and warn her that if she does not toe the company line, she may be dismissed.
c) Ignore her. If no one pays her any attention, she will probably lose interest and focus on her specified job tasks.
d) Give her a promotion, provide her with tools to communicate better her provocative statements and encourage others to follow in her example.
The correct answer, of course, is (d). Sadly, the typical response is (a) or (c).
Provocateurs are people who provoke. They question a group's ideas and ways of doing things. They stir up controversy. They challenge popular assumptions. As a result, they stimulate creativity.
Unfortunately, a lot of people do not like to be provoked. In particular, insecure managers will feel threatened by provocateurs. For them it feels easier and safer to fire a provocateur – usually with the excuse that she has broken company regulations or some such – than to be provoked. As a result, a lot of provocateurs eventually learn to keep their mouths shut and toe the company line.
To be fair, some provocateurs do themselves no favours by appearing rude and aggressive with their provocations. The clever provocateur provokes with a smile and a twinkle in her eye or, at the very least, prefaces her remarks with statements like “just to be provocative” or “here's a crazy idea to think about”.
In any event, provocateurs should be encouraged. Indeed, everyone in your firm should be encouraged to be provocative from time to time. Questioning assumptions (see http://www.creativejeffrey.com/articles/article_destroy.php) is critical to your firm's innovative development. Controversial ideas can revolutionise entire industries if they can get past conservative thinkers who are scared by radical change.
How can you encourage provocateurs? Simple. When someone questions your approach to a project or an underlying assumption to your business model, ask her to elaborate. Question her provocations and push her to think further. Provocateurs usually enjoy being provoked themselves.
Better still, if you have a campaign based idea management tool such as Jenni Idea Management (http://www.creativejeffrey.com/jenni/ - am I getting good at subtly plugging our products yet?), you can run ideas campaigns to solicit, for example: “Provocative new product ideas”,“Ideas that would completely transform our operations” or simply “Wild and crazy ideas”.
Provocateurs can also be highlighted in company newsletters, on Intranet sites, in staff meetings and other media your firm uses for internal communications. You could even go one step further and have a “Provocateur of the month”
Last, but not least, you should be provocative yourself – as much as possible – to your colleagues and yourself. After all, as a senior manager, your colleagues look to you to set examples.
Over the past week, I have come across two great quotes which, while not directly about innovation, are very much about the cultures which encourage innovation and those which discourage innovation. Although both are centuries old, they are very relevant today. Here they are:
"The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere." - Thomas Jefferson, one of the “founding fathers” of the USA and its third president.
"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has
endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to
forgo their use." - Galileo Galilei, one of history's greatest scientist, was the first to point a telescope at the night sky. He discovered that the planets where spheres, the moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn and much more. As a result, the Church branded him a heretic.
ENTERING A DARK AGE OF INNOVATION
Jonathan Huebner, a physicist working at the Pentagon's Naval Air Warfare Center in California, USA, claims that over the past century, the pace of innovation has slowed considerably and that we are entering a dark age that will mark the end of innovation.
Whether you agree with Mr. Huebner or not, his controversial theory is interesting and thought provocative. Read it at http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn7616 .
Certainly, there is substance to his theory. In many respects, the innovations of today are incremental innovations on existing technologies. Certainly, it is hard to think of any modern invention of the past two decades that can compare with the dramatic leap from horse drawn buggy or sailing ship to steam engine trains and steam powered ship. Consider the move from candle light to electric light. Comparable leaps in today's technology are hard to find.
NEED INSPIRATION? LOOK AT ART
If you are looking for creative inspiration, nothing beats fine art for getting the creative bits of your mind working. Indeed, tests have shown that looking at art stimulates the right side of the brain which is responsible for creative thought.
Moreover, good art speaks on many levels. There is the image itself, the technique the artist used to create the work, the historical or cultural context of the artwork and there are the subtle meanings or messages that can be seen in great works of art.
However, when you visit an art museum or gallery, do not behave like a tourist and attempt to look at as much as you can within a limited time frame. The best way to experience an art museum is to choose a very few works, perhaps a single artist or theme, perhaps a particular period or perhaps selecting a few works at random. When I was an art student in London, I often did the latter. I went to one of the museums, walked until something caught my attention and spent some time looking at it. I would do the same for about three sculptures or paintings and then leave.
It is only when you focus on a very few works that your mind will have the opportunity to open up to them and be inspired.
So, go on. Visit an art museum this weekend!
Note: this article is based on part of a talk I gave at the OpenBC (www.openbc.com)
meeting in Brussels on Thursday, 30 June 2005.
The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) in Belfast, Northern Ireland have decided that the term “brainstorming” might be offensive to people suffering from epilepsy, brain tumours or brain injuries. In order to avoid offending such people, DETI staff will henceforth use the term “Thought showers”.
Well, if you ask me, the term “thought showers” is likely to be offensive to suffers of aquaphobia and parent's whose babies are born with Hydrops. The insensitive people at DETI clearly need to do a little more thought showering in order to come up with a less offensive term!
NEW SALES PARTNER IN THE UK
Helping us sell Jenni idea management virtual software in the United Kingdom is o i solutions, a Poole, Dorset based company with substantial management and innovation expertise.
o i solutions deliver ideas, consultancy and training focused on customer facing and cash generating activities. The team of experts comprise Directors and specialists with international experience in marketing, finance HR and I.T. They provide business software tools as part of their solution.
THE IMAGINATION CLUB IS FINALLY ON-LINE
The Imagination Club aims to bring together a group of people who like to stretch their imaginations by playing with ideas, devising creative solutions to hypothetical problems, dreaming up outlandish inventions and so on. The Imagination Club is a place to be creative rather than a place to talk about and analyse creativity and innovation.
Most of all, after months of talking about it, I have finally set up the Imagination Club as an e-mail based discussion forum. To join, go to http://www.creativejeffrey.com/imagination/ and enter your e-mail address in the form.
Note: when you subscribe, you will receive a confirmation e-mail which you must reply to in order to complete the subscription. This is to prevent people from subscribing others without the authorisation.
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Report 103 is edited by Jeffrey Baumgartner and is published on the first and third Tuesday of every month.
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