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Report 103

Your newsletter on applied creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business.

Click to subscribe to Report 103

Wednesday 4 April 2012
Issue 206

Hello and welcome to another issue of Report 103, your twice-monthly (or thereabouts) 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.


Note

Most articles in this issue of Report 103 can also be found in the archives together with dozens more articles, papers and thoughts.


 

In this issue of Report 103

  1. Feel Good Pseudo-Innovation
  2. Anticonventional Thinking Workshops for Your Company
  3. Start from Scratch Conceptually
  4. How to Be Incredible
  5. Let Your Kids Make Mistakes


Feel Good Pseudo-innovation

The other day, I was talking to a prospective client about a suggestion scheme project they were working on. It was flawed in a number of ways and as I explained why some of these things were not working or would not work and what they should be doing, I was surprised at their indifference to results. I had a sneaking suspicion and said, “of course it depends on what you are trying to do. If you want to identify and develop potential innovations, possibly even breakthrough innovations, you are going to run into some problems. But if your aim is to generate a lot of ideas, create some publicity and make people feel good about sharing ideas, your model will probably work just fine.”

She confessed that they were more interested in publicity, lots of ideas and the feel good factor. Of course if they had some good ideas, that would be great. But they were only expecting incremental improvement ideas. That would be just fine.

That may seem silly. Indeed, it does to me on a professional level. Why go to the expense and trouble of setting up and maintaining an innovation initiative if the purpose is just to make people feel good? I believe that there are several reasons:

While these reasons have nothing to do with innovation, they are logical arguments for running a feel good innovation action.

Feel Good Crowdsourcing

The best known feel good innovation initiatives are the big crowdsourcing web sites set up by large business to consumer (B2C) companies to capture ideas from the public. These sites generally ask for ideas, do not indicate any particular foci, encourage people to comment on each others’ ideas and have popularity voting on ideas. While the sites boast of the number of ideas submitted, they are vague about how many are actually implemented. Typical ideas are “Serve cinnamon doughnuts in your coffee shops” and “Provide lap-tops with Ubunto Linux pre-installed.” Nice, but nothing to inspire Clay Christensen to write another book on disruptive innovation.

On the other hand, these sites boast tens of thousands of ideas and hundreds of thousands of users. Those results sound impressive and mean hundreds of thousands of people feel involved in these company’s crowdsourcing initiatives. Better still, the team responsible for the crowdsourcing initiative have some good numbers to share with management. That must feel good!

Moreover, most ideas have at least a few “thumbs-up” votes and supportive comments (“Yes, I really like cinnamon doughnuts too!”) ensuring that participants feel good about their ideas and their participation. Presumably, this also makes them feel good about the company who put up the site.

Even if companies hosting these sites are not really generating innovative ideas or even implementable ideas, they are making customers feel more involved, they are making them feel good and they are generating publicity. Those are good things.

Feel Good Brainstorming

Another popular feel good innovation action is the traditional brainstorm. Most organisations that have experimented with brainstorming have not had much success with it. This is largely because traditional brainstorming does not work very well (see my anticonventional thinking method to learn why http://www.creativejeffrey.com/creative/act.php). Nevertheless, these same organisations continue to run brainstorming activities that generate few ideas, most of which are incremental improvements. Why is this? Perhaps it is to make people feel good.

Jonah Lehrer, author of Imagine: How Creativity Works (which I have not read, I should note) said in an interview in Barns and Noble Review, “I think the allure of brainstorming is inseparable from the fact that it feels good. A group of people are put together in a room and told to free-associate, with no criticism allowed. (The imagination is meek and shy - if it's worried about being criticized it will clam up.) Before long, the whiteboard is filled with ideas. Everybody has contributed; nobody has been criticized.” Wow! I felt good just reading that quote. Surely the brainstormers felt even better!

In short traditional brainstorming is not terribly effective from a creativity and innovation perspective, but it does make participants feel good. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Is Feel Good Innovation Bad?

Are innovation initiatives that are designed to make people feel good a bad thing? Not at all! Making employees, business partners and customers feel clever, creative and a part of your innovation process is probably an excellent thing. I am not a marketing expert, but I would assume it would build up brand-loyalty and very possibly word of mouth publicity (“I told them they should sell cinnamon doughnuts and now they do! Try them!!”). Employees who feel good about working for you and who feel that their ideas are listened to will be happier than employees who feel otherwise.

The only real danger is that people may come to suspect that you are only trying to make them feel good and do not really care about their ideas. Indeed, you see this happening from time to time on some of the big crowdsourcing idea repositories. “I think [company] should do something with all the ideas here!” – However, such suggestions generally get lots of thumbs-up and positive comments. So maybe even in their deception, such feel good suggestion schemes work!

What Do You Want?

So, if you are planning an innovation initiative for your company, you need to ask yourself about the purpose. Do you aim simply to make people feel good and feel like they are participating? Or do you really want to innovate? Because if your choice is the latter, you need to focus on results potential rather than people’s feelings and numbers of ideas.

One final and very important note! While it is clear that many crowdsourcing suggestion schemes are more about making people feel good than about supporting innovation, this is far from true of all open innovation initiatives. Some are intelligently designed with the aim to capture focused ideas that potentially solve specific business problems. Likewise, brainstorming is a very loose term that is used for all kinds of idea generation exercises. A good facilitator, who understands the weaknesses of traditional brainstorming, can run sessions that provide truly creative solutions to problems.


Anticonventional Thinking Workshops for Your Company

I am speaking to more and more people who want me to come to their organisations and deliver a workshop on anticonventional thinking, an approach I developed for solving problems with creativity. Anticonventional thinking overcomes the many of the weaknesses of brainstorming and is designed to leave you and your team with a very few workable innovative concepts instead of a long list of ideas.

People who contact me tell me that they are finding that brainstorming, company-wide ideas campaigns and similar idea generation events are leaving them with too many ideas and too few actionable items for innovation. Anticonventional thinking works around that.

To learn more about anticonventional thinking, read my paper here. http://www.creativejeffrey.com/creative/act.php?subject_code=5

To talk about my delivering a workshop or facilitating an anticonventional thinking event in your organisation, contact me at jeffreyb@jpb.com, call +32 2 305 6591 (Belgium; Central European Time Zone) or Skype EuroJeffrey.

To read a case study, read this. http://www.creativejeffrey.com/training/pedal201201.php

 

Start From Scratch Conceptually

Government, business and people can easily become bogged down by procedures and processes that harm efficiency and kill innovation. The obvious solution is to start from scratch. Here's how to do it.

Years ago, I did a contract with the European Commission in Brussels. The European Commission is an incredible bureaucracy that combines the worst of each of its member states’ bureaucracies. When I got started, one of the people who work there told me, “Jeffrey, one thing you need to understand about the Commission is that procedures here never die. Once in place, they last for ever. And whenever changes need to be made, we do not replace the old procedures. Rather we build new procedures to work around the old procedures. And these just keep piling up. That’s why it so inefficient”

Read the rest of this article at http://www.creativejeffrey.com/creative/scratch.php?subject_code=5

 

How to Be Incredible

You are, of course, a special person. You have many talents and skills. Of course you also have weaknesses – everyone does – but your strengths count for much more. However, if being special is not good enough for you. If you want to be more than special, if you want to be incredible, you can. But you need to work at it. If being incredible were too easy, everyone would do it. On the other hand, it is not impossible. So, get to it!

Read the rest of this article at http://www.creativejeffrey.com/creative/incredible.php?subject_code=4


Let Your Kids Make Mistakes

The next time you are reading your child a bed time story and he asks you what a word means, don’t tell him! Instead ask, “what do you think it means?” If he is correct, compliment him. If he is wrong, compliment his guess, ask him why he thought as he did and then correct him.

The next time your child asks how something works, don’t explain. Ask her how she thinks it works. Again, compliment her answer regardless of whether it is right or wrong. But if the answer is not correct, explain the correct answer. If you are not sure, tell the child this and show her how you can find the correct answer on the web, in a book, in the library or by experimentation.

Read the rest of this article at http://www.creativejeffrey.com/creative/learn_mistakes.php?subject_code=4


Inspiring Creativity in Others

If you want to push others – such as colleagues, team members, children, students, sweethearts or friends – to be more creative, there are a few simple things you can do.

Ask Questions

The best thing you can do is ask lots of questions. In particular, ask open-ended questions (questions which require more than a “yes” or “no” answer). Answering questions makes people think, particularly if they believe you are genuinely interested in their answers. Hence you also need to acknowledge answers.

“Why” and “Why do you think...” questions are particularly powerful and this is doubly true if the question relates to a problem for which you are seeking creative ideas. “Why do you think sales of our electronic toilet paper dispenser are so poor?” “Why do you think people do not separate their rubbish in this neighbourhood?” Such questions force people to use their imaginations in order to understand a problem, sometimes from the perspective of other people. This is great for creative thinking.

Read the rest of this article at http://www.creativejeffrey.com/creative/creative_others.php?subject_code=4


Happy thinking!

Jeffrey Baumgartner

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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 (jeffreyb@jpb.com) and is published on a monthly basis.

You may forward this copy of Report 103 to anyone, provided you forward it in its entirety and do not edit it in any way. If you wish to reprint only a part of Report 103, please contact Jeffrey Baumgartner.

Contributions and press releases are welcome. Please contact Jeffrey in the first instance.

If you wish to stop receiving Report 103, please send a blank e-mail with the subject: “Unsubscribe” to report103-request@imaginationclub.org.

On the Web

A Flash of Green Enhances Creativity

Looking for creative inspiration? Apparently a bit of green helps. Learn more here. Perhaps this is why I am so often inspired by walks around my home in Erps-Kwerps, a Belgian village surrounded by fields and woods.

5 New Rules For A Winning Brand Launch

Kraft recently launched their first successful new brand in 15 years. Learn more about the innovation behind this step here.

Happy thinking!

Jeffrey Baumgartner

---------------------------------------------------

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.

You may forward this copy of Report 103 to anyone, provided you forward it in its entirety and do not edit it in any way. If you wish to reprint only a part of Report 103, please contact Jeffrey Baumgartner.

Contributions and press releases are welcome. Please contact Jeffrey in the first instance.


 

 

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Jeffrey Baumgartner
Bwiti bvba

Erps-Kwerps (near Leuven & Brussels) Belgium