It's a balance then: If you're sure you can maintain the speed and flexibility with your favourite office automation tool in place of pen and paper, and you're sure you can avoid getting caught-up in adjusting the style of your diagram when you should be concentrating on content, then by all means use a tool.
Friday, September 17
Sounds like a simple question, doesn't it? How many people should specialise in creativity at work, either full-time or part-time?
My first instinct was that this is something for everyone - so the team size is the same as the size of the organisation. But in fact that's neither very helpful nor terribly accurate. More useful to suggest the following answer:
Anyone in the environment can be creative in their thinking, if suitably stimulated and supported.
So assuming for a moment that this really is a pearl of wisdom, let's decompose it to see what emerges:
- Anyone ...
- ... in the environment ...
- ... if suitably stimulated ...
- ... and supported.
That just leaves one nagging worry: If "innovation" becomes a free-for-all then unhelpful competitive and political behaviours can emerge. To ensure collaboration, best always to have an impassioned-but-unassuming champion of creativity, or a network of localised champions.
Friday, September 10
Last week I spotted the word "innovation" in a rather useful context (see previous rant). The setting was the book Sticky Wisdom written by the ?WhatIf! company, and the context was as follows:
"if creativity sees the commercial light of day ... that's innovation ..." andPerhaps that's enough incentive for you "innovators" out there to take more of an interest in workplace creativity? If so, then please read on.
"creativity only becomes innovation when ideas become useful. In the business world that means ... starts to make money."
My first axiom is that our brains are predisposed to categorise information in very traditional ways, and in ways which would be immediately recognisable to others. For example, we'll tend to store "grapefruit" right next to "pineapple" in a corner of our brains called "fruit".
This is a highly efficient filing system for recalling information, and for predicting the commonplace, but it means forming a few well-trodden paths around our brains. To stray off those paths is harder than we think: Connections are often made subconsciously in nanoseconds, which means we can't interfere with the process even if we want to!
This is where the fun and games kick-in. The challenge is to distract the brain, so it’s looking the other way when you come up with a new idea. If it’s watching you too carefully, then it might put the kibosh on your fledgling idea before it even reaches your conscious mind.
Here's Scene 1, suggesting how this trickery can work:
ANALYTICAL MIND: “We need a way to make our cars safer than the other manufacturers do.”The cast of characters in this simple drama can come from anywhere. The important thing is the interaction. More about how to launch these interactions when next I write.
CREATIVE MIND: “Oh. Can't we have a party instead?”
ANALYTICAL: “Let's talk to the engineers about their roll-bars.”
CREATIVE: "Can we have party balloons?”
ANALYTICAL: “I think you might be missing the point really.”
CREATIVE: “Balloons in the car!”
ANALYTICAL: “So I'm visiting the engineers on my own, am I?”
CREATIVE: “We could bounce up and down on them!”
ANALYTICAL: “Hang on ... say that again please.”
CREATIVE: “Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy!”
ANALYTICAL: “Hmmm. How about balloons in the dashboard which inflate on impact?”
CREATIVE: “Oh. OK then."
ANALYTICAL: “That was a bit sneaky. You must tell me how you did that sometime.”
Friday, September 3
There's nothing wrong with innovation of course, but there's plenty amiss with the buzz-word "innovation", at least in my humble opinion.
In recent months especially, the word has come to mean all things to all men, which of course results in the total obliteration of any useful meaning. In the last month alone I've seen lazy uses of the term used in place of:
- Technology invention
- Product introduction
- Process simplification
- Pricing policies
- Changes of absolutely any type whatsoever, however pedestrian ... and even
- Triumphs of marketing disguising a complete absence of change!
This is perhaps the natural consequence of excess hype, and I've seen similar problems occur in my industry with terms like "Cloud", "Service", "Grid" and "Component".
So what shall we use instead? My preference is to talk about ...
- Ideas - We all know what an idea is, and we differ very little in our intuitive understandings of what constitutes one.
- Creative thinking - Again, I think we share an intuitive understanding of creative thinking. It's a skill which leads us in unpredictable directions, to outcomes which might not be reached using a purely analytical train of thought.
- Imaginative thinking - An alternative to "creative thinking" but perhaps a little too wedded to the root word "image".
I'm rather fond of "lateral thinking" too. This term was coined by Edward de Bono, but actually refers to a rather specific set of techniques, so might be better avoided for general purposes. "Inspired" sometimes suggests luck, and the best "original" ideas are often anything but!
So when is it still useful to use the "i" word? Often the best way to reach customers is to use their adopted language, and "innovation" seems to be the preferred term. By all means launch a new conversation on "innovation", but quickly seek to convert your correspondents to something more concrete.
In recent weeks I've probably exercised this little diatribe almost every day with colleagues. By blogging I hope I can reduce that rate in future.