Your newsletter on applied creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business.
Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Hello and welcome to another issue of Report 103, your twice-monthly 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.
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DIVERSITY IS THE MOTHER OF CREATIVITY
Arguably, one of the most important ingredients for creative thinking is diversity. We all know that diverse teams produce more creative results than teams in which all members are from a similar background. Tests have shown that the one sure-fire way of improving your creativity is to move abroad. Not travel, but move. Living in a new culture, learning new ways of doing things and, in short, diversifying your life makes you more creative. That’s not surprising.
To understand why this is the case, let’s look at what creativity is. It is a mental process in which two or more bits of information come together in your mind to create a new and useful idea. (I use the word “useful” in its broadest sense here. Scientific evidence shows that schizophrenia is similar: various bits of information come together to form new ideas and beliefs. However, in this case the new ideas are not based in reality and can lead to delusions, hallucinations and paranoia).
This seems simple enough. But our minds organise information in a structured manner, so that similar pieces of information are associated with each other and effectively exist in proximity. Such structure is necessary for processing and managing all the data that is stored in our heads.
As a result, when you are looking for solutions to a problem – and virtually all creativity is the result of trying to solve some kind of problem (see Creative Problem Solving) – your brain tends to work with information that is related to the problem. For instance, if you want to impress a client with a business presentation, your immediate mental reaction will probably be to think about PowerPoint software, images, slogans, case studies and that kind of thing. All of these thoughts are associated with business presentations in your mind.
But, if you want to get creative, you need to diversify your thinking and encourage your mind to look for information associated with other concepts. For instance, you might think about drama, which is vaguely related to presentations, and have the creative idea to perform a small role play for a client, in order to demonstrate your company’s services in a more realistic way. This latter approach is more creative, basically as a result of diversifying your thinking.
Diversification in Personal Creativity
If you are looking to generate more creative ideas to solve a problem, the best thing you can do is to diversify your thinking. A classic way to do this is to open a dictionary, or any book, and select a word at random. Then try to generate ideas that use that word. This forces your brain to diversify its thinking and look for solutions in more distant mental nooks and crannies. Incidentally, a more modern variation on that approach is to then google the word and select the fourth link on the eighth page of results (or use some other arbitrary pair of numbers).
Likewise, going for a walk, visiting an art gallery or applying a distantly related model to the problem can also be effective. The last method, applying a distantly related model, can be very effective. Choose a concept – such as a business model, a complex object or a game – that is only slightly related to the problem at hand. In the example above, looking at drama to find a solution for a business problem is an example. Another example is a bank that wants to provide more streamlined services to customers. They might use the model of a fast food restaurant. Both are service oriented businesses, but they have little else in common. Nevertheless, looking at how a fast food restaurant manages food, serves customers quickly and promotes new products can provide a wealth of inspiration for a bank.
Diversification in Teams
Teams can use personal creativity-diversity techniques in order to generate more creative ideas. In addition, team leaders and those putting together teams should strive for diversification. Bring in women and me from various departments, with various educational backgrounds and, ideally with different cultural backgrounds. Such people will provide a wider range of knowledge from which to extract information and build upon ideas.
Nevertheless, the work environment can not only stifle creativity, but can force people to think in a corporate way. In terms of corporate image, this is good. But for creativity it is bad. Hence taking the team to external locations in order to generate and develop ideas also injects diversity into group thinking.
Diversification in Companies
In order to have diverse teams in your company, it is essential that your people are diverse in background, education, knowledge and experience. Ideally, hire people from other countries and cultures as well. Not only do such people provide diversity within your workforce, but each of them will also have networks of professional associates whose knowledge they can tap in order to solve problems and accomplish tasks. Needless-to-say, diverse people will have diverse networks and provide your company with a vast and diverse meta-network at your disposal.
Diversity should also include, as much as possible, an even mix of sexes not only at the employee level, but also at management and board level.
Diversity and Managers
Clearly, managers should hire diverse people for their divisions and build diverse teams to handle projects. Ideally, those teams will include people in other divisions as well. More importantly, managers need to give responsibility to subordinates and trust those subordinates to handle those responsibilities in their own way. This can often be difficult for new managers who have found their own effective approaches to performing tasks. And it can often lead to micromanagement. But taking the latter approach leads to more work for the manager and less creativity for the division.
Instead, managers need to trust their people, to do things their own way, and learn from the new approaches team members take in order to solve problems.
Even when not actively trying to solve problems, adding diversity to your life provides you with more knowledge, experience and insight than you would have without that diversity, Diversity can be as simple as trying new foods, taking evening classes in new subjects, travelling abroad and reading books on new subjects. Moving abroad is even better, but not always practical.
Thanks to the popularity of networking web sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, many of us now have networks that include people we have never met. So, from time to time, why not select someone from your on-line network and meet up for a coffee just to exchange ideas and get to know each other. It’s a great way to learn and diversify.
And, of course, if you are ever in the Brussels, Belgium area, you can always buy me a coffee! I’d love to meet you!
MOVING TOWARDS A MORE DISTRIBUTED INNOVATION MODEL
By Paul Hobcraft
How are we going to really unlock the true potential of frontline managers, middle managers and the whole workforce for ‘seeing’ and engaging for their contribution to innovation?
Far too many organizations still don’t provide the opportunity for everyone to contribute to innovation. I think as open innovation (OI) moves from the labs and research centres OI will be one of the ways for a shift in thinking to take place, not just with the outside world but within the inside organisation for a number of reasons.
Critical needs of open innovation are the trust, the behaviours and the relationships that need to be at the forefront of thinking when you engage in more opening up to fresh avenues of innovation thinking. I think this changing mindset of how to manage within will permeate throughout the organization more and more as these (often dormant but available) skills get put into practice more. We struggle to get rid of the ‘command and control’ approach to encourage more distributed sharing and exchanges to reflect the need today of being more agile and fluid in how we meet rapidly changing market conditions and counter threats or seize breaking opportunities.
How can we influence leadership in everyday contexts?
As a starting point to distribute innovation, we need to reset the innovation mindset. Formally appointed managers will never achieve much without gaining the respect of the people around them, which is simply a common fact of life! We still have incredible difficulty learning this in many organizations. It does seem a more distributed leadership structure built on individuals who have strength to influence others is more likely to succeed- the respect of your peers has greater power than impose and control. We often recommend organisations seek out and appoint passionate champions (W L Gore) or ecosystem champions (P&G) to organise and influence innovation work. There is a lot of research work presently going on that is studying the type of behaviours, traits, characteristics needed for these pivotal innovation roles so they can be used for the appropriate need to encourage and ‘push’ existing initiatives or champion new ideas. It can flatten the organization structure.
The flat lattice organization is a start
W.L Gore practice a distributed leadership model that has a ‘lattice’ structure where they discourage hierarchy, titles and trying to impose and look to encourage the ‘voice’ from within the organisation to self commit and identify in a culture that demands each to offer their unique contribution to delivering innovation. They work on achieving respect throughout the organisation based on a fascinating set of disciplines NOT rules and hierarchy. They build into everyone’s job innovation.
Distributed innovation requires a flow of knowledge
Innovation has many definitions but one I might mention here is it is ‘doing new things or improving existing things that add greater value’ is a great place to start for everyone in your organization to actively seek out their potential contributions. If we feel our contribution is valued this becomes a powerful motivator not just to turn up for work, but to engage in new productive work. It becomes a more dynamic environment, not static to work within and just attempt to identify with.
What is changing constantly around us in this distributed innovation need and we need to put a better system in place to capture distributed knowledge. Networks are giving us all that incredible shift to ‘connecting for value’ not just ‘discovery’, we are constantly needing to re-arrange, recombine, react and explore to problem-solve and often improvise on a daily basis.
Recognizing what helps knowledge to flow in a distributed innovation model
Recombination’s and connections will help us within a more distributed innovation society to manage.
The geography of innovation knows no barriers. If we don’t operate in a more distributed way we are going to miss so many ‘breaking’ concepts that are occurring in innovation on a daily basis. We need to capture these. This requires front line effort and capital but by distributing the task, you have the chance of a greater knowledge flow.
How do we cultivate ‘global people’ power? In a world of changing knowledge we need to recognise that educating and informing our people and our network of what we are doing will lead to contribution, to the capture of knowledge and reveal the skills dormant in us all to identify productive knowledge.
How can we design for greater learning? How can we turn knowledge into innovation potential?
How can we build in greater levels of collaboration and adaptability? These are human dimensions we need to encourage by distributing the tools and clarity of purpose to those within our company to ramp up the innovation pay-offs increasingly expected.
Innovation is full of ambiguity, often little clarity so you need to give your organisation that greater freedom and permission to investigate, capture and push back knowledge through this distributed innovation network.
Distributed innovation needs to cultivate Absorptive behaviour and allow it to flow.
We need a system to capture and allow knowledge to flow. For me the adoption model seems to be one worth investigating. If we want to achieve the goal of distributed innovation we need to have in place this possible framework. Nesta (www.nesta.org.uk) produced a report some time back called “innovation by Adoption” and I feel this has a good framework that support distributed innovation. The report argues in a place with a strong absorptive capacity three main outputs subsequently result from the flow of external or distributed knowledge: (1) the creation of new innovation; (2) the creation of new knowledge; and (3) that it does lead to new economic and social value.
Innovation by adapting the adoption model within your distributed innovation needs.
If we agree that most innovations happen outside often self-imposed boundaries then we have to extend to all our boundaries and beyond. We have to open up. We certainly understand that today innovation is not confined with the walls of one particular company. The world ‘absorbs’ more innovation than we can turn into greater value but we need to attempt to capture this and see if and where its value might lie. This is going to be achieved more likely within a distributed approach asking everyone to contribute to innovation ideas and providing them on a consistent basis the likely content and context fit that they need to look for . We need to continue to push innovation created often locally, back up through the organization so it can potentially turn these insights into innovation that will find a place in our world that improved on the existing that was something that we contributed too, that can be highly motivating. For this to happen organization have to recognise the inter-dependency and reliance that a diversified, distributed engaged group of people can bring to accelerate innovation to share, explore and work on turning ideas into new solutions .
What we need to find is ways to absorb this flow of daily knowledge, quickly recognise where it might meet our needs and then fit these to the wider audiences available that search for innovative solutions. There is an awful lot that can derive from a more distributed innovation network that allows a greater flow across a networked organization.
Approaching absorption in two ways
Absorptive capacity captures and enables this flow in each direction. Nesta through its research into this absorptive need also suggested a model called the AC/DC model where they argue you need to develop two broad sets of capacities: the absorptive capacity (AC) to identify, value, and assimilate and the development capacity (DC) of places to develop and exploit such knowledge.
We need to adopt a more distributed innovation model in our thinking
Applying these two models into your thinking to achieve a more distributed innovation model would help to capture, anchor and diffuse all the innovation that lies not just within the ‘walls’ of your organization but just beyond where your local people can see it, value it and bring it into the organisation as one of their contributions to innovation.
Permit people to ‘see’, to ‘engage’, to become ‘deeply involved’ then organizing around distributed innovation can lead to greater empowerment and sustaining your innovation engine and knowledge. Fortune will favour the connected mind not just the brave lonely few.
Are you building your distribution innovation model yet?
About the Author
Paul Hobcraft provides specialist work through his company Agility Innovation Specialists (www.agilityinnovation.com) that is100% focused on innovation management & its related needs.
Paul researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, applying what is learnt to further develop organizations core innovation activity, offer appropriate advice and frameworks so clients can achieve positive and sustaining results from their innovating activities. Paul has been a knowledge expert on innovation advising Government and in the Private sector and provides content, guidance and stimulation for new approaches in these areas.
AN IDEAS MUSEUM IN BARCELONA
Catalan inventor Pep Torres believes that ?An idea locked up in your head is like a thorn in your heart?. The inventor will shortly be able to remove his own thorn by bringing to life his idea to create a museum dedicated to creativity and inventions. It will be called the miBa, and will be housed in a six hundred metre square central location in Barcelona, which will open its doors to visitors in January 2011.
miBa stands for Ideas and Inventions Museum, Barcelona. But this is no ordinary museum; this one will appeal to everyone. Pep Torres says ?The subject matter of some museums, such as Barcelona's Erotic Museum, excludes a large section of the public, and other specialised museums, such as the Footwear Museum, isn't for all tastes. However, everyone likes an invention.?
The miBa will also stand out from the crowd as it aims to offer more than any conventional museum. It will support and convey creativity and inventions by inspiring, training and communicating with visitors. As such, according to Torres, this museum is about more than just looking at displays. ?The miBa is, above all, a hands-on project to awaken latent creativity and get the visitors thinking,? says Torres. ?The intention is that everyone who steps through the door will leave wanting to turn their ideas into reality.?
Inspiration is can be found in the museum's permanent collection: a tour of the imaginary everyday items we will be using in 2300 (Futour), hysterical useless and absurd inventions (Funventions) and a cause-and-effect machine that the visitors can operate, alongside a selection of the ideas and inventions that are shaping our future.
The miBa also invites exhibition-goers to reflect. ?We are going to raise people's awareness and get visitors to react to the subject matter. We want them to creatively participate to resolve the matters being put forward, for them to do their bit, so that together, we build a better world.?
The miBa will also become a training centre. Its Labs will be used to apply the creative knowledge and inspiration derived from the museum. ?We are going to develop a series of conferences based on the TED Talks, which provide innovators with a platform, whether they are well known or not,? says Torres, who will also be applying his years of experience to give conferences on creativity and innovation.
In reality, this museum is a way of introducing the public to the work carried out by Torres and his creative agency, Stereonoise. As such, the museum will hold frequent workshops. ?We hope that the participants in the creative workshops take the practical ideas from the sessions away with them and immediately apply them to their own personal and professional projects.? Visitors will be able to see the team cooking up ideas for the museum live, just like an open restaurant kitchen. ?And can even have a chat or a cup of coffee with us,? adds Torres.
While the adults are using their little grey cells to create a better world to live in, the kids will also be able to join in the fun. ?The Twentyone Lab is based on the format developed by British inventor Bill Currie, which comprises a group of twenty-one children developing various inventions using a creative method that brings out individual as well as team talent over a period of twenty-one weeks; it also involves “Hola, Soy Inventor” (Hi, I'm an Inventor), a dynamic, short presentation for children about the world of inventions, which involves testing and discussing a range of inventions from my personal collection,? explains Torres.
?All in all, the aim of this personal project is to give the city of Barcelona a space where people find the drive to bring the ideas buzzing around in their heads to life,? he concludes. Space designed by: Juanola & DeMiguel Arquitectes
JENNI INNOVATION PROCESS MANAGEMENT (IPM) SOFTWARE
Whether your company is looking for business model innovation ideas, suggestions for incremental improvements or new product concepts, Jenni innovation process management software provides you with a collaborative platform for generating ideas and evaluating them for business viability.
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For more information about Jenni, visit http://www.creativejeffrey.com/jenni/index.php or reply to this newsletter and I will put you in touch with someone who can discuss your innovation needs.
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