Thursday, December 15

Christmas Wrapping

Even if you only skimmed my previous posts, please try to give this one a little more time!   It’s concise, so it won’t take long to read.

In recent weeks I’ve become increasingly conscious of repeating myself.    A bit of repetition is no bad thing (“positive reinforcement”, I think they call it) but I’d far rather be arriving at radically new conclusions every week, and sharing those with you instead!

This trend is partly down to a change in role:  Whilst I can still gain from creative thinking, I no longer have the opportunity to spend large chunks of my time honing the skill.

So I’ll be “wrapping-up” the blog in time for Xmas, and focussing on other areas more directly related to the day job.

I can’t resist a recap though.   Despite numerous variations on the theme, there are only four major points which really mattered to me.  I’ve satisfied myself that each is important to personal creativity …

  1. Please be your own person.  You probably won’t fit in, but you’ll be far more valuable in tomorrow’s workplaces, which will be designed for diversity.
  2. Intellectualise.   Cultivate your love of knowledge, and take inputs from radically new sources every day.
  3. Provoke yourself.  When you next make a mental leap to an apparently obvious solution (and if it’s about anything more important than what flavour sandwich to choose) then check yourself:  consider what you could do instead, and aim to try something different.
  4. Provoke others.  Having set the example, smilingly encourage those around you to try something different too.

So make it your new year’s resolution to be more creative in everyday situations.  You already have everything you need.

Good luck, and goodbye ... at least for now.

Monday, December 12

Provocative tweeting

This week, I was prompted to consider Twitter in the context of creativity.   Well-known advertising blogger, Dave Trott, posted to his blog recently proposing (half in jest, I think) that briefs from advertising clients be limited to Twitter's 140 characters.

This struck me as quite extreme:   The ad industry already seems to have enormous creative licence (see earlier post) so the suggestion seems a little far-fetched.  But of course that's the outside perspective - I'm quite willing to believe that the creatives on the inside feel much too tightly-bound by prescriptive briefs.   So the provocation is well-made.

And talking of provocations, is the provocation itself a still-better exploitation of Twitter for the creative industries to consider?  For people like me who read the Brain Pickings RSS feed regularly, constantly seeking new inspiration, a 140-character injection of alternative thinking every morning to complement the obligatory expresso might be just the thing!

So I had a look, to see if such a thing existed
... on your behalf
... dear reader

It doesn't seem to.   What a wonderful opportunity for someone with an active intellect, in plugging that apparent gap!

Brain Pickings is published daily.  And that goes some way to providing what we need.

Wikipedia has a "random" feature - although its random entries seem uselessly arcane nine times out of ten (just try it yourself - you'll see what I mean!)

But there's still a gap.  

I really think we could all benefit from a random spark each day.  

I'd follow this Twitter feed if it existed. 

Would you? 

If you see the value, then could you be the one to set it up?

Tuesday, December 6

Blog from Barcelona

A bit like Gaudi's famous cathedral, the business of creativity is never finished ...

In Spring I was asked to speak on creativity at an innovation conference in Barcelona.    Luckily, this is one of my preferred places for conferences, so I was fairly quick to agree.

The conference took place last week - and what an interesting event!

First of all, the size of the group was excellent.   Just 30 people, so we mostly got to know each other over the two days.  Secondly, the group was also very diverse.  I was the only UK resident who made it there, with most of my peers coming from Spain, Germany or France.  

I went into this commitment already realising that my subject matter was a little niche. And that became ever more evident during the course of Day 1, with almost every speaker using at the core of his presentation some variant of the 'stage gate' model for innovation process management.    But all was not as it sounds:  Everyone speaking had their own distinct perspective, and there were sagely snippets from every conceivable angle.

At 4pm on Day 1, after the first 6 sessions, we knocked-off early for some very diverting sideshows:  First we toured the new biomedical research park (PPRB) by the beach, and then popped next door to look at some octopuses in the oceanography centre.  After that we had a tour of the incredibly grand Barcelona town by a very knowledgeable guide, who then offered us champagne.  

I'm not sure these activities were intended as 'random provocations' of the kind I evangelised about in my speaker slot the next day.  Probably they were intended more as directly relevant examples of innovative work.  But certainly they served both purposes.

For some reason, the conference organisers had asked me to act as chair for the second day.  This meant paying my full attention to everything that went on, in the hope of commentating effectively.  And I was glad of the opportunity:  how differently you look at material when you're obliged to organise it into some semblance of order!

So a successful event then, but mostly because of the range of stimulus offered, and the new thoughts it inspired.   A lot of the material was written from the perspective of the manufacturer developing new products, and a little interpretation was often required for it to make sense in the service sector.  

Some highlights ...
- If using Open Innovation, be very careful how you handle partners.   A potentially fruitful long-term partnership could easily be damaged by the first failed innovation.
- For most manufacturing organisations, having ideas is not the problem.  Filtering effectively is what demands the work.
- Spin-off separate concerns to pursue specific big ideas.  They won't be bound by the same constraints which slow down your large organisation, and they'll also be able to partner more effectively with academic institutions.
- Three factors conspire to make for successful innovations.  If you only hit two, you need to focus everything on finding a way to hit the third:  technology solution, customer need, and commercial model.

Here's the URL, in case you'd like to attend a future event: