Your newsletter on applied creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business.
Wednesday 2 March 2011
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.
Information on unsubscribing, archives, reprinting articles, etc can be found at the end of this newsletter.
FOLLOW JEFFREY ON TWITTER
You can now follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/creativeJeffrey. See below for more info.
USE BOTH SIDES OF YOUR BRAIN!
It is known and proven that the two hemispheres of the brain function differently. Broadly speaking, language functions such as grammar and vocabulary; linear reasoning; direct fact retrieval; and exact numerical calculation are are dealt with by the left hemisphere of the brain. Language functions such as intonation and accentuation; the processing of visual images; the processing of sounds; facial perception; and artistic ability are the responsibility of the right side of the brain1. This is proven, but it has also resulted in a few misconceptions.
Because things like artistic ability and non-linear thinking are associated with the right side of the brain, this has led to the fallacy of right-brained thinking and right brain people. As to the latter, it is worth pointing out that the only way a person can truly be right brained would be through having the left hemisphere of her brain surgically removed. This unpleasant operation has, to the best of my knowledge, never been performed. Nevertheless, based on people whose left hemispheres have been severely damaged, the loss of the left hemisphere would leave the patient seriously disabled mentally.
That said, there is evidence that individuals tend to favour one hemisphere of the brain over the other. Artists often, but do not always, appear to favour their right brain for thinking. But painting, sculpting and many other art forms also require substantial logical analyses more closely associated with the left side of the brain. Mixing colours, judging the balance of a structure in sculpture, timing in music and similar activities require the left side of the brain.
Use the Entire Brain
In fact, it seems that the most creative people favour neither the right nor the left hemisphere, but rather both hemispheres. Moreover, evidence would suggest that if you could favour one side of the brain over the other while doing creative problem solving exercises, you would actually hinder your creativity rather than help it!
That is because creative thinking involves combining diverse bits of information in order to create new ideas. Moreover, within limits anyway, the more diversity you can put into your thinking, the more creative the results are likely to be. This is why the best creative teams include people with diverse backgrounds. It is why an effective means of generating creative ideas can be to introduce some random influence (such as a word picked out of a dictionary, or going some place new to think) into your thinking.
This has also been proven in the laboratory. In 2008, Charles J. Limb and Allen R. Braun popped some professional jazz pianists into an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanner and had them improvise on imitation keyboards (you cannot put a real piano keyboard into such a machine). The researchers found that...
..improvisation (compared to production of over-learned musical sequences) was consistently characterized by a dissociated pattern of activity in the prefrontal cortex: extensive deactivation of dorsolateral prefrontal and lateral orbital regions with focal activation of the medial prefrontal (frontal polar) cortex. Such a pattern may reflect a combination of psychological processes required for spontaneous improvisation, in which internally motivated, stimulus-independent behaviors unfold in the absence of central processes that typically mediate self-monitoring and conscious volitional control of ongoing performance. Changes in prefrontal activity during improvisation were accompanied by widespread activation of neocortical sensorimotor areas (that mediate the organization and execution of musical performance) as well as deactivation of limbic structures (that regulate motivation and emotional tone)2.
In other words, creative thinking was concentrated neither on the left nor right hemisphere, but rather throughout the brain. Indeed, research with MRI scanners has consistently shown that when creative people solve problems, far more of their brains light up (that is, show activity) than is the case with non-creative thinkers.
However, Charles’ and Allen’s research did show that one part of the brain displayed less activity than usual during the creative process: the dorsolateral prefrontal and lateral orbital regions. This is the bit of the brain that acts as a censor, which evaluates activity and stops us from saying or doing inappropriate things.
Brainstorming Rules in Your Brain
This is actually fascinating! What it means is that creative people’s brains basically follow the broad rules of brainstorming. All ideas are welcome (this is why much of the brain lights up) and no ideas are rejected during the idea generation process (this is why the brain’s censor becomes less active).
In non-creative people, it is the other way around. Their brains do not follow brainstorming rules. Instead, a much smaller part of the brain lights up and the censor remains as active as always.
Don’t Restrict Your Thinking: Diversify It
This all confirms something you surely already know. When you want to be creative, you do not want to restrict your thinking. Rather, you want to diversify it as much as possible. One way to do that is to use both sides of your brain as much as possible, rather than try and use only one side, even if one side might be associated with elements of creativity.
So, the next time someone suggests you participate in some right brain thinking, I suggest you tell them: “No thank you. I’d prefer to use all of my brain!”
1) Wikipedia Article on “Lateralization of brain function”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lateralization_of_brain_function
2) Limb CJ, Braun AR, 2008 Neural Substrates of Spontaneous Musical Performance: An fMRI Study of Jazz Improvisation. PLoS ONE 3(2): e1679. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001679
CREATIVITY & INNOVATION MEETINGS
By Edward Glassman
Note: this is an excerpt of Edward Glassman’s new book R&D Creativity & Innovation Handbook. Further excerpts and ordering information can be found at http://www.r-and-d-creativity-innovation.com/index.html
Attack Major problems for the Success of Your R&D Organization
CREATIVITY & INNOVATION MEETINGS: Whether you use advanced creative thinking techniques in team meetings, in permanent creativity teams, or when you work alone, you will achieve higher quality solutions to important innovation problems in R&D. These techniques work even better in a Creativity & Innovation Meeting.
I consider Creativity & Innovation Meetings the most effective way to solve important R&D innovation problems at work. Creative thinking facilitates the recombining of old ideas and elements in your mind into unexpected new and useful solutions. Advanced creative thinking techniques hasten and expand this process; this helps you combine more diverse bits from your environment and in your mind into new outstanding and useful ideas.
Creativity & Innovation Meetings attack R&D innovation problems so important and pervasive that management includes participants from many parts of the organization, and sometimes from outside the organization. This blending of an organization’s people with modern techniques creates excellent innovation results. High quality solutions appear after an intentional effort to generate and select from a wide range of novel perspectives and ideas that create new possibilities.
Participants form teams of six to seven people (creative thinking teams), define the problem innovatively, generate hundreds of ideas, produce exciting proposals (one by each participant), and create high quality solutions (one by each team). The usefulness and creativeness of the quality solutions dazzle and fascinate.
I also consider these meetings the most effective way to teach creative thinking techniques. R&D people learn them because they want to achieve quality solutions to impactful innovation problems of the organization for their own success. They produce ideas no one thought of before the meeting, not peddle notions already familiar to the people present.
A Success Story
After attending one of my creative thinking workshops, a manager in a Fortune-500 company asked me to help him creatively solve problems in a new area assigned to him. He had approached the assignment in time worn ways. He wanted to change that and generate fresh ideas and new paradigms. We planned a three day Creativity & Innovation Meeting with five people from R&D, five from marketing, and five from manufacturing.
In the meeting, I mixed the participants into three teams and showed them how to apply advanced techniques to problems presented by the manager. By the time this meeting ended, the three teams generated over eight hundred ideas and wrote fifteen one-page proposals to solve his problems, one proposal from each person.
He later wrote me: "One of the approaches identified at the meeting has been picked up and should be commercialized shortly. We have had a very positive response from a major retail chain."
Tackle almost any innovation problem in a Creativity & Innovation Meeting. I have led meetings seeking quality solutions for diverse, mostly R&D, problems, including how to...
• identify new products
• solve mutual problems with special customers
• increase chemical yield during a complex manufacturing process
• reduce waste
• design a profitable and environmentally safe chemical plant
• apply world-class manufacturing principles to a specific product
• improve quality
• lower costs and increase effectiveness of environmental cleanup
• develop a new technology for manufacturing
• handle manufacturing waste
These meetings resulted in very successful outcomes.
About the Author
Ed Glassmanis a former professor (1960 to 1989) at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where he founded and headed the Program For Team Effectiveness And Creativity.
He was a Guggenheim Foundation Fellow & Visiting Professor at Stanford University (1968-1969) and a Visiting Fellow at The Center For Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina (1986).
He wrote dozens of newspaper columns and articles on creativity, authored four books on creativity, and led scores of problem-solving creative thinking meetings and workshops for large and small organizations,
These successful creative thinking events and workshops, newspaper columns, articles, and books provide the solid foundation to write this book.
MYTHS OF INNOVATION
I am glad that over the years that I have edited and largely written Report 103, there has been a transformation of innovation in business, from being a sexy word uttered by bosses who had no intention to do anything about it, to becoming an increasingly common focus in business. Don’t get me wrong, innovation has been around since the humans made the first wheel, if not before.
But the increased pace of change in business and the ability of competitors to copy your innovations in no time means that businesses that want to stay at the front of their sector must innovate relentlessly. This requires a different kind of focus on innovation than was sufficient in the past.
Unfortunately, growth of interest in business innovation has led to a lot of myths being perpetrated to the point where they have become accepted fact. This is not good. When businesses invest in implementing processes that should support innovation but at best do nothing and at worst hinder innovation, it is a waste of resources. Worse, when managers have bad experiences with innovation processes, it may very well discourage them from continuing to develop innovation initiatives in their companies.
And frankly, for those of us who do follow the research and take pride in being on top of current thinking, it is embarrassing to see others in the field disregard research with disdain.
There are three reasons many business innovation myths persist.
1. Many Myths Seem to Be Common Sense
Many myths seem to follow common sense, until you look at the research. For instance, if you did not know better, it would be easy to assume that offering big rewards would motive people to be more innovative. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Big rewards discourage innovation and are worse than no rewards. To learn why this is not the case, watch this fascinating video clip by Dan Pink.
2. People Do Not Follow the Research
Most top managers and, worse, most innovation consultants do not follow research in creativity and innovation. This is appalling. If you are involved in a technology or pharmaceutical company, how would you feel if your research and development people did not follow key research in their (and your company’s) area of expertise? If you paid an IT consultant a huge hourly fee, would you be pleased to find she did not bother to update herself on new technologies and new research in her field? Yet many managers who claim that innovation is their number one priority and many consultants who charge 1000s of dollars per day are strangely out of touch with current research in business innovation.
3. A Stake in the Myth
Many providers of innovation related products and services have big stakes in particular myths. Consultants who base their services around a disproved concept find it easier to ignore or deny research, than to acknowledge it. Providers of innovation software prefer to shout ever louder about their products, rather than acknowledge that key functions in their products are demonstrably counter-productive to the innovation process. While I understand that reprogramming software is an expensive and time consuming exercise, I’d rather know that our software follows the latest thinking in behaviour science associated with innovation, than try and flog an ineffective tool.
Five Myths of Innovation
Rather than detail some myths myself, I direct you to a very well written and researched paper by Julian Birkinshaw, Cyril Bouquet and J.-L. Barsoux and published in MIT Sloan Management Review.
This article tears apart a number of widely held myths and demonstrates why these myths are not true. I recommend it.
JEFFREY IS ON TWITTER: “creativeJeffrey”
For more than a year now, friends and associates have been nagging me to start using Twitter. I have remained dubious and feel that I am already communicating too much through this eJournal, my book (see below), the jpb.com web site and the Imagination Club. However, I have finally given in to the pressure and this morning set up a new Twitter account: “creativeJeffrey”. I would be honoured if you followed me there. I will try to be interesting and informative in exchange.
I am also on Facebook and LinkedIn. Feel free to link to me at either of these places – but if we have not corresponded in the recent past, mention Report 103, please. Also do bear in mind that Facebook is a non-business place for me to connect with friends rather than do business networking. So, only “friend” me on Facebook if you’d like to know me outside working hours – and are not offended by an irreverent sense of humour.
You can also connect to me in the old fashioned way, by sending an email or telephoning me. I would love to know you better.
I will be speaking at the South African Innovation Summit in Johannesburg which runs from 30 August to 1 September 2011. The details have yet to be confirmed. But watch this space for updates. And do consider attending this conference. South Africa is a vibrant, exciting and growing economy which is grappling with a number of issues that result from its growth, its unique culture and its history. That makes for an exciting mix when it comes to innovation potential! And I know the organisers are going out of their way to create a great event.
I will also be delivering a workshop at the European Conference on Creativity and Innovation in Faro, Portugal, which runs from 14-16 September 2011. Being European in scope, this conference boasts a diversity of exciting speakers from all over the place. So it is a guaranteed inspirational and learning event.
Also, the Algarve is a beautiful region of Portugal, a country that is special to me (I lived there for a year and a half in the mid-80s).
I am also in talks with groups in Namibia, China and Mexico about doing workshops or other activities. Watch Report 103 for more news.
I am also at the Brussels Imagination Club, which I manage with my good friend Andy Whittle, every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month. More information at http://www.imaginationclub.org/brussels and http://www.imaginationclub.be/
THE WAY OF THE INNOVATION MASTER
Five reasons why you might enjoy The Way of the Innovation Master
- If you like Report 103, you will like The Way even better.
- If you are responsible for a corporate innovation initiative, you will find that The Way provides the guidance you need, from planning through to implementing. And for less than US$20 – it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than hiring a consultant!
- The Way is written in my usual, light, easy-reading style. So it won’t put you to sleep as many business books do.
- The Way is available in paperback and two eBook formats – so you can read it any way you’d like to read it.
- You would make me very, very happy if you were to buy it!
DISCOVER THE VALUE OF YOUR IDEAS IN JENNI
A great business idea needs to be more than creative. It needs to be profitable. After all, if your business chases after ideas that offer a negative return on investment, your business will not last for very long!That’s why we have built a new income projection tool into evaluation module of Jenni innovation process management software. That means that in addition to evaluating ideas by business criteria, SWOT analysis, elimination rounds and clustering, you can also assign idea submitters or subject experts to “valuate” an idea over three years. No wonder, Jenni is regarded as having by far the best evaluation tools of any idea management product on the market today.
Jenni’s new evaluation tool provides you with a dollars and cents (or Euros and cents or Pounds and pence or any currency you prefer) indication of an idea’s profit potential over the next three years. On top of that, Jenni provides big picture income information, so you can see at a glance how much income is being generated on Jenni by you and your colleagues.
Indeed, if you are doubtful about the value of innovation process management, then take the Jenni value test. Tell us about a business problem or goal. Give us a target income (or cost savings target) and let us help you and your colleagues to use Jenni to generate ideas that beat that target!
Interested? Then reply to this email or contact us to day to talk about arranging a Jenni value test for your company.
Or, if you just want to know more about Jenni, visit http://www.creativejeffrey.com/jenni/
WHERE’S YOUR INNOVATION PLAN?
The first step in becoming a more innovative company is drawing up a comprehensive innovation plan which starts with strategy and works its way through insights, tools, hurdles and implementation. I’ve described a great innovation plan in my book, The Way of the Innovation Master (see above), and I can help you draft, prepare and launch an innovation plan in your company. Interested? Then contact me (at our main office) to discuss.
You can find this and every issue of Report 103 ever written at our archives on http://www.creativejeffrey.com/report103/index.php
Report 103 is a complimentary eJournal from Bwiti bvba of Belgium (a jpb.com company: http://www.creativejeffrey.com). Archives and subscription information can be found at http://www.creativejeffrey.com/report103/
Report 103 is edited by Jeffrey Baumgartner and is published on a monthly basis.
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