Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
The "What If" Innovation Process: The four parts and how Uber drivers are benefiting
High-Impact Innovations: Game changing innovations that exist today via Mashable
Wasting Money and Time? How to find real innovation
Disruption Is More Than The Buzzword It Has Become: Traveling down the curvy road of innovation
The Future Of Router Security: 30 years old and still struggling to find their footing
Web Trends: Immersive Interactive Design, Animations and Transitions
American Innovation Lies On A Weak Foundation: Innovation has flatlined over the past few years
Open Source As A Path To Innovation: Enabling change and growth
The Role of Technology in Collaboration: A podcast
6 Tools For Improving Your Creative Mind
Thursday, May 21, 2015
In that statement is one of the secrets not just to Whole Foods's culture, but to any cadre of people looking to innovate. Everyone brings their own frame of reference to their work, and one of the keys to innovation is harnessing that vast diversity and integrating it into a host of ideas. Many of the features that make Whole Foods stores a fun and exciting experience, such as bars and ice rinks, came from employees' putting a piece of themselves into their day-to-day work.
As Jadhav noted, having the proper framework is an essential to creating a culture that is supportive of innovation. For instance, people at Whole Foods don't jut work at a grocery store, they are "grocers with a purpose," which is a statement that lets each team member create a meaningful work experience by serving the causes and values they find most resonant.
Similarly, W.L. Gore's Dr. Debra France talked about the company's principle of freedom both to be oneself and to support others in their growth and learning processes. Within this framework, failure becomes a genuine opportunity -- after all, when you care about the learning and growth of others, the first response to failure is almost always going to be, "What can be learned from this?" In that sense, "innovation" and "learning" are practically interchangeable words at Gore.
But, one of the most important features of a company culture, along with respect, is trust. France highlighted how the values of Gore have been consistent for decades, and everyone in the company is held accountable for upholding them. When people see that there is reliability and consistency in the living and maintenance of the values, they are willing to try new things, experiment, and engage in the prototyping that is considered essential to innovation.
Bad news: You haven't changed the world enough.
Good news: You have the opportunity to learn how you can do more from Miki Agrawal.
Thing 1: Sh*t happens -- now go make something of it.
Miki told a number of stories about the challenges that she faced, ranging from embarrassing moments to pains in the...well, I'd say to use your imagination, but you'd rather not. Of course, that's the whole problem: people are not willing to imagine these pains, and they are not willing to discuss them. Instead of facing pains, talking about them frankly, and coming up with solutions, they just "don't go there." What Miki has done, however, is convene teams and make companies whose products assuage these pains, and our bodies, kids, lives, and environment are the better for it. To guide people on how to do likewise, she wrote a fun book on the subject.
Thing 2: It takes 10 years to be an overnight success.
Eddie Cantor may have originally set the bar at 20 years, but these days things go a bit faster. Even still, you are going to have to hustle for years without making a huge impact, lay the groundwork, do the scut, and believe in a future that hasn't been proven to exist (even though it should). It takes an incredible amount of grit to make this happen (so make sure it's something you can stay passionate about), and this is why so many conservative businesses, though they make money, have not significantly changed the world (and likely never will). But, if you can find something you believe in, and demonstrate that others believe in it, too, you can create a market for your solution to a painful problem.
Thing 3: Bring value first.
A prodigious number of people are concerned primarily with what they get, such as the money they expect to make. This approach may be profitable (even if it does have the potential side effect of making people look like jerks), but it is not impactful. As a consequence, the approach is not that innovative, and unlikely to be as tremendously profitable as a disruption or innovation. If you want to make a difference, you need to begin by focusing on the value that you can bring to others. In the industry parlance, this is about empathizing with customers and clients, understanding their pains, and bringing them value in the form of solutions. Be it in networking or product design, there is a key question that should kick off the conversation, "What can I do for you?"
At no point in Agrawal's talk did she say that any of this was easy, and in fact highlighted just how hard it is. The bad news is that changing the world is not for the faint of heart, but rather for those with the strength to be humble enough to dedicate themselves to a cause that affects both themselves and many others. But, everyone has the capacity to do something extraordinary.
That's good news.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Live from the Front End of Innovation 2015: Michelle James on Applied Improv to Promote Innovative Thinking
That was the moral of a story I created with a partner, in which our hero found that a banana is an inferior dueling weapon compred to a baguette.
No, I'm not kidding, and neither was Michelle James when she gave us the exercise of telling stories in which our partners threw in random, irrelevant words that we had to incorporate immediately. Underneath all of the laughs and hijinks of improv exercises were powerful lessons for how to build a team and engage in productive and creative ideation processes.
This is my fourth time in James's improv workshop at FEI, and what amazes me the most is how she is able to highlight different lessons each time. The energy and excitement in the room, combined with the profound change in the crowd over the course of a mere 75 minutes illustrates the stunning power of improv (and our fearless facilitator!).
You can't just jump into creativity -- warm up first!
The workshop began with some basic ground rules, like making everyone look good, that serve as a basis for building trust. But, we can't just take those rules and get into hard core, freewheeling imagination. The story exercise above came last, and we all admitted that it would have been nearly impossible as a first exercise. Over the course of several activities, James warmed everyone up and highlighted different rules that help not just the improv process, but the innovation process (and she had case examples to back that!).
Serve the scene
It's hard to step out of your comfort zone! There's fear of judgment, fear of the unknown, and fear of incompetence, and all three can inhibit creativity. The trick, however, is to recognize that the process is not about the individual; it's about the outcome. If we can keep our focus on "serving the scene," we find ourselves caring not about whether we look bad, but whether the result looks good. In doing so, we become less inhibited and more willing to take the kinds of smart risks that people can build on to make a stunning product.
Trust the process (and your partner!)
In serving the scene, we also learn how to build rapport with the team, and over the course of several exercises, we found that it was increasingly easier to open up and trust our partners not just to give good input, but to augment our contributions and treat them as important (another rule of improv). But, that trust doesn't come immediately -- it builds over the course of multiple exercises as different partners prove to us, over and over, that we are in good hands.
By the time storytelling came around, we were ready to make a meaningful product...one word at a time!
No matter what kind of problem you are trying to solve, the endeavor will go nowhere if you fail to ask the right questions. The challenge, however, is not just coming up with the right questions, but accessing the willingness to ask the sorts of questions that will incite innovative thinking.
Professor Aline Wolff's studio session was a hands-on tutorial on how to accomplish both processes.
What do we really want?
The first challenge was to design a better name tag using any parameters we wished. The lesson to be discovered was how to get past the fixed ideas we have about name tags, which we accomplished by asking what it was we really wanted out of a name tag. By being open and honest, and by being willing to pretend we could invent our way to any feature we wanted, our group designed a cool (we think!) electronic name tag that catered to what we considered to be the key aspects of a conference badge. Looking at the work of other groups, we found many points of overlap, but also something of each group's unique style as a team.
How does A mesh with B?
The second challenge was a forced mashup, in which we had to combine a kiwi and a ewer to design a new product. While many other groups designed as many combinations as they could, our team focused on creating one product that had elements of both the kiwi and ewer, namely a fruit holder that removes peels (using an attachment shaped like half of a kiwi) and prevents people from having to hold fruit with sticky juices in their hands.
Building on this exercise, Prof. Wolff suggested that companies use creative analogies like:
- A cheeseburger is like the solution because...(Orin's aside: or, if you prefer)
- If your idea were a lawn, what would the weeds be? How would you remove them?
As Prof. Wolff pointed out, the hardest part was getting over our critical mentalities and accessing the non-judgmental and divergent thinking more frequently found on the playground. By trusting that we could converge on a solution later, we were all able to open ourselves up to the possibilities of the question that drives so much of innovation: