Tag Archives: Creativity

What’s your question?

strategic shifting for innovationSometimes an interesting questions doesn’t come out nowhere, it requires some serious inquiry and reflection. Defining the real problem is the key part of the innovation process, if you don’t figure out the right question to lead your effort you will end up solving the same challenge, in the same way, that everyone else.  

At the beginning of the year, I collaborated with an innovation consultancy in Mexico D.F. on a project about dog adoption. To begin, we went out and met people, asked them some questions and generally observed how they interact with street dogs. We then took our notes and observations, put them together and uncovered some great insights, which we then turned into questions that gave us some holes to keep digging through.

Still, it dawned on me that like most organizations, the NGO we worked with had an uninspiring mission statement that any other dog adoption organization could have. So, connecting the on-the-ground insights with this, we shifted the conversation to something more thought provoking!

5 toxic assumptions businesses make about people

undertstanding human behaviorThough business leaders say they want innovation, the vast majority hate the concept of creativity.

But as much as us innovators are fed up with this, the truth is that it isn’t the executives fault because people are wired to reject uncertainty; no matter how smart they appear to be. Fears and biases stand in the way of a boss that talks a good talk, but doesn’t walk.

But, there is a flip side to all of this: business-as-usual, no matter how predictable it may feel, is littered with biases too.

Are all innovators alike?

Are all innovators alike?

Nuances and details are lost in the sea of bullshit that is media and human irrationality, and an outcome is one of the most dangerous things humans do: build people up to more than they probably are.

Sure, the world needs heroes that carry a positive narrative that others can latch on to and get inspired to make a story of their own. My heroes are Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan. You have your own, for your own personal reasons.

And just like you and I have our own motivations for why we do something, what we do and how we do it; so do other potential innovators.

Truth is, that in a world where people are fitted into boxes, everyone has their own creative style. Some people are more systematic than others, and some of us are more intuitive. I believe that failing to understand this distinction between people is a huge innovation obstacle!

How to filter me-too ideas and leave small thinking behind

innovation evaluating between big ideas and small This is a three part post on how to leave small thinking behind. In the first post, I showed you a simple technique for coming up with radical ideas. Here I talk about how to evaluate ideas so they don’t fit into the “me-too” territory. On the third post I’ll tell you how to determine which ideas might work.

We think too small, like the frog at the bottom of the well. He thinks the sky is only as big as the top of the well. If he surfaced, he would have an entirely different view. – Mao Tse-tung

I know a handful of people that work in the “innovation/entrepreneurship space” who talk a good talk but when it’s time to put the wheels on the road, more times than not, they revert to small thinking. Heck, I’ve even heard people outright say they think big but when challenged further they are shocked to their bones.

This isn’t an isolated scenario, most everyone is like this. Heck, how many companies plaster their physical and digital (Facebook) walls with inspirational quotes, but when you look inside you see that their actions don’t reflect their wishful thinking.

When you’re looking for innovative ideas that will truly differentiate your company and have major market impact, you must set the yardstick high and keep it high. You may think you’ve left small thinking behind, but often, even if you are benchmarking outside your industry, challenging the status quo of your business, or radicalizing your current strategy, small thinking will creep in. It most always does.

Why?

For innovation: Uncommon insights come from uncommon places

how to differentiate your businessThis is part one of the series on how to leave small thinking behind. In this first post, I’ll show you a simple technique for coming up with radical ideas. In the second part,  you’ll learn how to evaluate ideas so they don’t fit into “me-too” territory. In part three, I’ll tell you how to determine which ideas might work.

Perception separates the innovator from the imitator. So, a shift in perspective is all that is needed to see opportunities for new offerings. Here is one creative approach to do that…

One of the challenges of coming up with unconventional ideas is the weight of past ideas. Not just the ones you’ve applied, but also the ones you’ve seen, heard, tasted, smelled and felt, all of these are in your memory. You see, what we have stored in our heads is just as much a blocker of uncommon ideas as is your boss not giving you permission to go wild.

This is why the first 15 – 30 you come up with are always going to be very obvious. They are stuff you’ve already seen before. To get to the good stuff you have force your brain to come up with more. But this is quite hard  and takes some time for many to do…

But let’s suppose you don’t have the time to sit down and make a list of 50 – 100 different ideas on how to solve a pressing challenge. What’s a quick way to shake things up?

The Big Bang approach to problem definition

The way a problem is defined guides the way people think about it.

You can never have/experiment with enough tools. I like to experiment with various “problem definition” approaches, as I believe this is the most important step in the innovation process. While there are various ways to define a problem, I think there isn’t a more intuitive way to do it.

This is important because it is a very common innovation issue to jump in before taking time to define the problem/challenge. As Michael Michalko, author of the creative thinking book Thinkertoys, says, “The more time you devote to perfecting the wording of your challenge, the closer you will be to a solution.”

10 Change your course questions CEO’s need to ask themselves

question everything

Questioning, one of my favorite activities. I’ve been spotting a lot of it lately, and that’s good. Whether it’s because we are entering the last month of the year or because people are feeling the need to reflect, we need to be constantly questioning the obvious.

The obvious, if you’re succeeding, should also include this “change your course question” by Rosabeth Kanter: What is going to destroy our business, and are you taking steps to do it yourself before others do it to you?