Your newsletter on applied creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business.
Tuesday, 18 September 2007
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 Your comments and feedback are also always welcome.
Information on unsubscribing, archives, reprinting articles, etc can be found at the end of this newsletter.
I am going to try a little experiment today with this article and I'd like to ask you to bear with me to the end of the article in order to see the results – even if early parts of the article don't impress you.
You see, at jpb.com, we've developed a quantum remotely operated creativity analysing device (QROCAD) and have rigged it to the newsletter distribution tool we use to send out Report 103. What this means is that we can use QROCAD to analyse and measure YOUR creativity and automatically generate a report on YOUR creative ability in this eJournal. So let's try it out. I want you to relax your mind for a moment and imagine the sun shining. This will make it easy for QROCAD to find you and analyse your creativity. Here it goes...
Your Personal Creativity Analysis Report by QROCAD
Reading: C=14.81 – I/1=12.05 – I/2=19.20 – I/3=11.87
Report: the truth is, you are not really very creative. You have a lot of ideas. But, if you are honest with yourself, most of those ideas are mediocre. Even your better ideas are, on reflection not as good as you first think they are. You would do better to keep your ideas to yourself and focus on your somewhat stronger analytic skills. Also, QROCAD notes that the outfit you are wearing today makes you look fat and somewhat goofy. You are not going to impress anyone wearing that!
End of QROCAD Report
Now I would like you to perform a little exercise. I would like you to think of 25 creative ideas on how you might devise a better bathtub. Be creative and suggest the most outlandish, imaginative ideas you can. (Of course, if your C score is below 25 points, we don't expect you to have particularly creative ideas – but try anyway, please). You can list the ideas on a sheet of paper, draw a mind-map, sketch bathtub ideas or just imagine them in your head. Whatever works for you.
Have you finished yet? Speed up. As I said before, if your score wasn't very good we won't expect much from you. But don't give up on the exercise.
Opps! Oh dear, I am sorry. It seems my assistant, Molly Katz, was on a coffee break and didn't configure the QROCAD unit properly. Indeed, your QROCAD report above was almost completely in error. (I told you this was an experiment. Sadly, these things happen when trying out new technologies.)
Let's try again. Close your eyes and imagine the sun again, please.
Your Personal Creativity Analysis Report by QROCAD
Reading: C=97.04 – I/1=98.01 – I/2=93.26 – I/3=96.87
You are a very creative person. You bubble over with ideas and have a knack for generating creative solutions to all kinds of problems. Although some of your ideas may not be brilliant, given a little time, you can be relied upon to come up with ideas that are not only creative, but also highly viable. Even if you don't think of yourself as being creative, the truth is you are in the top 8% of the world's creative thinkers. And your clothes today make you look absolutely fabulous!
Now, let's try that exercise again. Try to think of 25 really creative ideas on how you might devise a better bathtub.
Go on, a creative thinker like you should have no problem with this task!
A bright spark like you doubtless has had no trouble figuring out what has been happening in this article. The first analysis was very negative not only about your creativity, but also your appearance. Even if you suspected QROCAD was made up, such a negative personal review very possibly dented your confidence, particularly as the text described characteristics of a creative thinker in a very negative way. The result was you were probably not very enthusiastic about performing the creative exercise. I would not be surprised if you did not bother with it at all!
The second analysis was much more positive. It was also doubtless a more accurate description of you. If you tried the creativity exercise after that second analysis, you probably found it relatively easy to come up with 25 bathtub ideas.
If you would like to make a proper experiment of this, bring together two groups of people. Give members of one group the first description and the other group the second description. Then ask them both to perform the bathtub ideas exercise independently. Chances are, the second group will have better, more creative ideas than the first.
No Surprise There
The conclusion probably does not surprise you. Confident people find it easier to generate ideas and to feel confident about those ideas. That makes them more comfortable sharing their ideas with their colleagues and selling their ideas to managers, clients or others.
People who do not feel confident about themselves and their abilities, on the other hand, will also feel uncertain about their ideas. Indeed, they will almost certainly find it harder to generate ideas because their non-confident minds will reject ideas rather than propose them. Even when non-confident people have good ideas, they will probably be uncertain about those ideas and reluctant to share them with colleagues, let alone try to sell them to management.
What This Means for Managers
As a manager, it is clear that if creativity and innovation is important to your firm, you need to be sure your team members feel confident about themselves and their creativity.
Confident people are more active participants of brainstorming and other ideation events. Confident people are more likely to consider highly creative ideas and how to apply them practically. Confident people are more likely to champion ideas within organisations and convince others to buy into those ideas.
Non-confident people are more likely to reject creative ideas out of hand. They are likely to keep ideas to themselves and they are unlikely to try and champion their ideas.
Fortunately, building the confidence of your colleagues is not difficult. It requires you compliment them realistically – such as by stressing their strengths and positive contribution to the team. It requires that you stimulate them at work and give them challenging projects that demonstrate your confidence in their abilities.
It sometimes also requires you stay out of group ideation events such as brainstorming. As much as you have to contribute, many of your subordinates will feel less than confident having you participate.
There is a lot of literature available on how to boost the self confidence of yourself and others. If you want to learn more, I'd suggest you start Googling!
COMMERCIAL: JENNI IDEA MANAGEMENT
Once again, in this newsletter, I haven't found an opportunity to mention Jenni idea management software service in passing. But since this eJournal is financed by sales of Jenni, I always like to mention our main product.
So here it is: if you are looking for a simple to use, yet powerful idea management tool that focuses on innovation rather than complex processes, take a look at Jenni.
Jenni's ideas campaign approach to idea management ensures your people generate ideas that meet your business needs.
Our flexible software as a super service contract means that you pay as you innovate and if you stop using Jenni for any reasons whatsoever, you can cancel your contract with just 30 days notice.
If ideas generated in Jenni cut your costs by just 1% or increase your profits by 1% - what would that be worth to you? Chances are, Jenni can do much better!
Coming soon: Case Studies.
we are preparing some case studies of Jenni to run in upcoming issues of Report 103.
Most creative people have a book in them, just waiting to be written. If are interested in writing a non-fiction book on creativity, or creatively write a non-fiction book on any topic, you will find Jurgen Wolff's article below helpful.
APPLYING YOUR CREATIVITY TO WRITING A NON-FICTION BOOK
By Jurgen Wolff
When anyone mentions that they’re writing a book we tend to assume they mean a novel, yet fiction accounts for only about ten percent of all books published each year. In other words, there’s a big market for non-fiction books, and the odds are that you have specialized knowledge or experience that could potentially make for an outstanding book.
When I mention this in my lectures, people have two main questions: first, hasn’t everything already been written about their topic and, second, is writing non-fiction really creative?
In reverse order: yes, writing non-fiction is creative…if you do it creatively! And while there probably is at least one book about every topic you can imagine, no one has yet written about that topic from precisely your perspective, or with the format you might invent.
A personal example: there are loads of books available about writing, but I felt that very few of them addressed both the craft and the important psychological aspects of the writing life. I also wanted to come up with a format that would add further value. I revealed a code word to the end of each chapter that could be used on the book’s website to unlock additional material, mostly in the form of video interviews. Now I felt I had a combination that offered something valuable that wasn’t just duplicating what was already out there.
If you might be interested in writing a non-fiction book in which you can share your expertise and perspective but aren’t sure how to make it stand out from existing works, here are six angles to consider:
Do you have unique personal experience of the topic around which you can build the book?
Can you share the information with an audience that generally isn’t addressed for your topic? (For example, children or people learning English as a second language.)
Can you use a different format such as a very visual treatment, or a book with an accompanying CD or DVD, or related online material?
Can you gather information from people who are usually not heard on this topic? (For example, by doing oral history interviews, or inviting contributions from a variety of experts.)
Can you combine two areas of expertise in order to come up with a new mix? (For example, global warming and architecture to look at how buildings will be modified as our climate changes, or global warming and social planning.)
Can you look at a topic from a micro viewpoint? (For example, studying the impact of the new media on one typical family over a year of their life.)
There are many other perspectives you could consider, but these should give you a starting point. If you have knowledge, opinions or experiences that could benefit others, maybe it’s time to think about applying your creativity to writing your own non-fiction book.
About Jurgen Wolff
Jurgen Wolff’s new book is “Your Writing Coach,” published by Nicholas Brealey, available online and at bookstores. He has written half a dozen books and more than 100 episodes of television. He shares writing tips and techniques on his website, www.yourwritingcoach.com and his blog, www.timetowrite.blogs.com.
If you are in the brainstorming business, you probably know that brainstorming is somewhat controversial. There is a large body that insists that traditional brainstorming is not particularly effective. Even the most ardent brainstorming enthusiasts will agree that most brainstorming does not work and we've all probably participated in dismal brainstorming events. My own take is that brainstorming is a lot more complicated than simply getting a group of people to generate ideas. But in the hands of a good creative facilitator, brainstorming can be very effective.
However, research has shown that visual brainstorming is generally more effective than the verbal variety (in other words: when solutions are stated as words). In visual brainstorming, instead of asking people to put ideas in words, you ask them to solve problems by making something, visualising something, putting pieces together or otherwise solving problems with objects or images rather than words.
Examples of Visual Brainstorming
I have seen this in my own experience. On one occasion, I had an two experimental workshop groups solve separate creative problems with toys. One group used Legos another group used old fashioned wooden building blocks. In both groups, I noted 100% participation – whereas in traditional verbal brainstorming, I usually find that unless the group is very small, some people participate little, if at all, unless specifically targeted by the facilitator.
Lego Serious Play workshops, while not specifically about creative problem solving, have been effective in using Legos to represent organisational structures and problems therein – as well as seeking ways to solve those problems.
In the mid 1990s when the web was still rather new, at least one firm solved usability problems by having groups design web site concepts with coloured paper, pens and scissors. People cut out bits of paper to represent different components of the web site and they move bits and pieces about in order to try out different visual approaches. The results were effective and reduced costs over designing several prototypes for users to test.
Daniel Schwartz, has performed research in visualising problems in order to solve them and has come to the conclusion that brainstorm groups will perform worse than individuals unless they are doing visual problem solving (“The Emergence of Abstract Representations in Dyad Problem Solving” in the Journal of Learning Sciences, 4, No. 3; 1995: brought to my attention in the book Group Genius by Keith Sawyer)
What You Can Do
If you are facilitating brainstorming events, there is a powerful lesson to be learned here. Where possible, instead of running traditional verbal brainstorming events, try making them visual.
For instance, if you are managing a brainstorming event on new product ideas, don't ask for ideas to be shouted out or written on post-its. Rather, provide bits and pieces that would enable teams to make representations of potential products themselves. Depending on the kind of product, you might use construction paper and tape; Legos; Building bricks; Barbie dolls and scraps of fabric; clay; boxes; or just about anything. If you need help, ask any primary school teacher, who works with younger children, for ideas.
If you are brainstorming how to improve the efficiency of internal processes, find ways to represent internal processes graphically – perhaps using large sheets of paper and coloured pens to draw process diagrams; perhaps using scraps of paper and string to indicate communication lines; or perhaps using construction toys to indicate structure (as Lego Serious Play does).
Indeed, your first act of creativity might well be to do some solo-brainstorming to come up with ideas on how you might visualise your creative challenge.
And if you want a facilitator to run a visual brainstorming event for you, just let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org / +32 478 549 428).
Incidentally, research has also shown that while verbal brainstorming in a single location often brings less creative results than individual creativity, on-line brainstorming using web based tools is more effective than on-site brainstorming or individual brainstorming.
LATEST IN BUSINESS INNOVATION
If you want to keep up with the latest news in business innovation, I recommend Chuck Frey's INNOVATIONweek (http://www.innovationtools.com/News/subscribe.asp). It's the only e-newsletter that keeps you up-to-date on all of the latest innovation news, research, trends, case histories of leading companies and more. And it's the perfect complement to Report 103!
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