Thinking in Images

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Most people think in words. When asked to imagine a traffic accident they come up with not very detailed descriptions, in comparison with people who are thinking in pictures. It became even worse if the words are becoming more and more abstract. Words as society, market, law, inflation etc. stay for them just words; they are unable to convert the words into images. Picture thinkers don’t have to translate, they think in pictures.

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As school systems are mainly auditory-sequential oriented, it is not surprising that mainly visual-spatial thinkers will have problems at school. Usually, they encounter learning difficulties. But not only at school. Most picture thinkers don’t fit well in traditional companies and institutions. They do things in other ways than expected or “normal”, due to “weaknesses” in thinking.

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Picture thinkers are also called right-brainers, as some popularisations oversimplify the science about lateralization, by presenting the functional differences between hemispheres as being more absolute than is actually the case.

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We have also committed to this theoretical sloppiness with left/right brain generalisations, although, a handy mini theory to generate creative ideas as we have demonstrated in Blocking the Left Brain Functions.

As we wrote in left brain/right brain thinking, the debate regarding about what goes on in our left and right brain hemispheres seems like a never-ending story. You will find support for the idea that creative people use the right hemisphere while people who are good at organising things are using their left hemisphere. But we can also find support for the idea that creative and non-creative thinking are not two different things but are more reinforcing each other.

The idea that the brain has different specialised functions that can be used to improve memory, learning and thinking are also the part of the foundation behind mind mapping.

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A Whole New Mind: Why Right-brainers Will Rule the Future, a book by Daniel H. Pink, posits that the future of global business belongs to the right-brainers. He outlines six essential senses:

  • Design – Moving beyond function to engage the sense.
  • Story – Narrative added to products and services – not just argument.
  • Symphony – Adding invention and big picture thinking (not just detail focus).
  • Empathy – Going beyond logic and engaging emotion and intuition.
  • Play – Bringing humour and light-heartedness to business and products.
  • Meaning – the purpose is the journey, give meaning to life from inside yourself.

Daniel Pink is one of an increasing number of writers on the importance of the Conceptual Economy, as a follow-up of the Information and Knowledge Age. Conceptual economy is a term describing the contribution of creativity, innovation, and design skills to economic competitiveness, especially in the global context. Other contributors to our understanding of the conceptual economy include Tom Friedman’s The World is Flat, Tom Kelley’s The Art of Innovation and The Ten Faces of Innovation, explaining the role of assets such as empathy, storytelling, individual experiences and stimulating work environments in fostering creative ideas.

The discussion about the necessity to escape from dominant linear-sequential thinking was earlier argued by Howard Gardner. He developed The Theory of Multiple Intelligences in his 1983 book Frames of Mind:

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In one of our next blog posts, we will give hints and tricks together with some useful resources to become “picture smart”. An essential skill to use mind mapping to the fullest of its advantages.

What Big Data, what information dominance?

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A new adage is blowing around in the world of innovation. According to Wikipedia, The term “big data” often refers simply to the use of predictive analytics, user behavior analytics, or certain other advanced data analytics methods that extract value from data, and seldom to a particular size of data set. Analysis of data sets can find new correlations to “spot business trends, prevent diseases, combat crime and so on”.
It is reminiscent of an early US Navy doctrine, as a codification of beliefs or a body of teachings or instructions, taught principles or positions, as the essence of teachings in a given branch of knowledge or belief system. As such, it is a thinking pattern, in which is stated that “information superiority permits the conduct of operations without effective opposition”.
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However, in an electronic war game back in 2002 one aircraft carrier, ten cruisers and five out of six amphibious ships were sent to the bottom of the Persian Gulf in the span of just one hour, resulting in the virtual death of over 20.000 US service personnel.

It was the result of an asymmetric strategy by the opponent forces.

Red, commanded by retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper, adopted an asymmetric strategy, in particular, using old methods to evade Blue’s sophisticated electronic surveillance network. Van Riper used motorcycle messengers to transmit orders to front-line troops and World-War-II-style light signals to launch airplanes without radio communications.
Red received an ultimatum from Blue, essentially a surrender document, demanding a response within 24 hours. Thus warned of Blue’s approach, Red used a fleet of small boats to determine the position of Blue’s fleet by the second day of the exercise. In a preemptive strike, Red launched a massive salvo of cruise missiles that overwhelmed the Blue forces’ electronic sensors and destroyed sixteen warships (Wikipedia)It is the same kind of bold thinking we noticed in our blog Thinking outside the SeaMap:  “doing different things” or “escaping the temptation to do more-of-the-same but only better”.

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Military strategists distinguish between symmetric and asymmetric warfare. Symmetric warfare is characterized by standing armies that follows more or less the same tactics and organized in the same way. Their standard mode of operation can be traced back to Napoleonic Warfare.

Guerrilla warfare is an escape from fighting according to the rules imposed by the often far more powerful opponent. Therefore, this strategy is often applied by less powerful opponents. The most famous form is guerrilla warfare, next to terrorism.

Asymmetric competitor strategies could be an effective approach in business. Basically, it is not playing the game similar to the other companies, that is selling and marketing the same products as competitors but cheaper and better. It is about disruptive innovation, changing the rules in the market, by delivering a complete different product than you competitor does. It is all about gaining competitive advantage by creating an unique niche in the market. Playing another race at a different circuit.

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There is much more to say about the embarrassing destruction of the mighty US Navy, as the over reliance on technological superiority and information dominance. It’s all about big organizations and the neglect of intuition about the intentions and capabilities of the competitor.
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Asymmetry

There is much more to say about the embarrassing destruction of the mighty US Navy, as the over reliance on technological superiority and information dominance. Also, the neglect of intuition about the intentions and capabilities of the enemy.

Disclaimer: Now you have heard  about the advantage of disruptive innovation or step-out innovation and decide that your organization should do “some of that.” But most organizations are designed to do something else very well. Namely, what they are already doing. You may have a brilliant vision, you may have identified the next great idea, but organizational routines, standard Key Performance Indicators and existing organizational structures will prevent proper execution: The company will will continue to do what they are already doing succesfully: ” a tiny bit better and a tiny bit cheaper?” See “Why Big Companies Can’t Innovate” by Maxell Wessel.

See also the video: Disruptive Innovation Explained by Clay Christensen.

Thinking outside the Sea Map

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In 17th and 18th centuries England, France, and Spain contested the Dutch domination of world trade and the control over the seas and trade routes. After initial English successes, the war ended in a decisive Dutch victory.

In 1667 Lieutenant-Admiral Michiel de Ruyter sailed up to the river Thames and attacked the British Royal navy in her home base and towed away the Royal Charles, pride and flagship of the English fleet to display it as a tourist attraction in Hellevoetsluis in the Netherlands. It was one of the worst defeats in the Royal Navy’s history, comparable with that of the fall of Singapore in 1942.

Till then, both navies had tried to fight each other at the open seas. Numbers of war ships, range and caliber of the guns and coordinated maneuvering skills were key success factors. However, de Ruyter did something totally different, he sailed up to Chatham and surprised the resting British fleet there.  That way he outperformed the British navy by changing the rules of the game.

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This kind of thinking is the same you should apply when you want to reach dramatic cost reductions, come up with a radical new concept for an existing product or creating a breakthrough innovation. In those cases more-of-the-same thinking will not provide for a game change in the market. Patterns of standard thinking should be broken in order to get competitive advantage.

Edward de Bono, de inventor of lateral thinking, called it Sur/petition: creating value monopolies when everyone else is merely competiting.

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However, it is not simple to come up with disruptive ideas. And also, to convince your board and your crew.

When the secret instructions were opened on June 7 there was a lot of protest. It was noted that most officers do did their best to find objections, but not to come up with solutions.

See also: Creative Execution: What Great Leaders Do to Unleash Bold Thinking and Innovation or watch this video 2′ 23”

A More Beautiful Question (2)

Here a sequel to How to Get a More Beautiful Question?

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Defining the thinking task before beginning an idea generation session is one of the most neglected stages.

Most starting questions are far too broad defined. For instance. “In What Ways Might We (IWWMW) get more clients?”. It is more helpful to break it down in smaller topics, as in

  • “IWWMW add more value to our product”
  • “IWWMW get more clients with help of our existing clients”
  • “IWWMW use other product to sell ours”

Design at least 15 IWWMW’s by redefine the initial one in order to escape from the obvious and get a really creative challenge.

Avoid formulating IWWMW’s becoming too small. In that case the IWWMW will just be a concrete solution and will not give you a direction for further searching new ideas.

Then make the challenge less boring and more sexy. That is: make them more imaginative, outreaching, challenging, interesting. For instance: sex up “IWWMW get more clients by using our existing clients” into “our clients collect so much organic waste that we have to export it”.

Follow up by adding a constraint: people, money, time, channels.

Finally, construct a propelling question that has a contradiction in it.

A propelling question is one that drives forward the effort for creative thinking by using a bold ambition and a significant restriction. For instance: “let’s get 50 more clients by firing all account managers”.

The technique of the creative focus is to force oneself outside common thinking, already before the creative thinking session actually get started.

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Art and Innovation

What can innovators learn from art?

Observation skills, questioning, and experimentation are  vital parts of innovation. Observing everyday activities can lead to new insights where things can be improved on. It can also lead to break-through ideas.

The innovation psychologist  Leon Segal said:

“Innovation begins with an eye.”

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By Johann Zoffany

Innovators carefully watch the world around them and the observations help them gain ideas for new ways of doing things. Observation skills are also at the core of art. Art students are often told to draw what they actually look at, rather than the way they think something should look. Copying someone’s ideas will not in itself lead to a person developing creative thinking skills. A painter needs to learn to think in colours, an artist working with sculptures need to think in 3D, and a songwriter needs to learn to think in lyrics.

Art is sometimes used to help medical students to develop their observations skills. Looking at art can help people understand ambiguities in a painting and also to look closely at something without “rushing to assign meaning to what we see.” Many of us are ready to immediately interpret what we see, yet looking at art can help a person to slow down and really observe things without immediately interpreting things. These skills can also help an  innovator to explore aspects and to help step out of the common way of interpreting things. Quick thinking is good sometimes but certain things are good to slowly digest.

Even if looking at art can help a person to develop observation skills the observation in itself is not enough. Making connections, questioning, visualising, and searching for patterns are also important aspects of art. Art can help a person to make connections between things. innovators often have a passion for questioning things. The importance  of question asking is a topic that has been previously explored in this blog. Valuing questions and being curious can lead to a search for new ways of doing things. Rather than focusing on quick answers, the innovative process thrives on asking questions to provoke new insights, possibilities and connections.

The book The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction is a wonderful collection of Neil Gaiman’s essays, and meditations on life, literature, and the life and love of literature. An inspiring essay in the book explores the ideas and ideals at the heart of Bradbury’s classic book Fahrenheit 451. This book is a great reminder of how important it is to explore one’s values. Neil suggests that speculative fiction gives  us a “liberation of vision”. Yet in order for this to happen, we must acknowledge that each story has a multiplicity of meanings.

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Authors can offer an imagined but nevertheless persuasive alternative reality where the readers are offered a way to escape from the usual traditional way of thinking. New possibilities can be examined. It is easy to think that the way we live now is somehow the only way that the world can be organised.

Three questions can help an author to imagine possible worlds:

  • What if …?  This question provides a way to escape from the world. What if I could fold up my car?
  • If only … Allows us explore something exciting as well as the terrifying  about the future. If only there were no cars.
  • If this goes on … What would happen if that thing became bigger, became all-pervasive? Does not try to predict the future rather explores possible scenarios. If this way of parking cars goes on there will be no green spaces left in the cities.

Innovators are examining and trying out new ideas. Testing hypothesis and visiting new places and worlds. Imagining different futures is a fundamental aspect of the innovative process and reading books about the future can provide valuable insights. It can also help us develop skills to examine possible futures. A world that does not yet exist!

To think.

To imagine.

To change.

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Photo: Kevin Krejci

 

Reversing the Roles- Kids influencing Parents

Parents’ role is to influence children in a positive way.

If you reverse this assumption and you may invent something exciting. Like a smartphone game that turns kids into helpful back-seat drivers. The underlying idea is that kids can help parents to drive safely. By playing a game called Mr Bear Driver kids can learn about traffic safety and the game encourage them to tell their parents about safe driving.

Car journeys are from a kid’s perspective often long and boring and finding ways to occupy their minds is not always easy. This game is activated when the players are in a moving vehicle. Kids navigate a school bus full of animals in this game developed by the Automobile Club of Romania and Publicis Romania for the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile.

The school bus picks up passengers and points along the way to school. Now to the real exciting bit – the game replicates the speed of the car the kid is in by using GPS. So if the car is travelling to fast, the game prompts the child to tell the driver to slow down. If the driver does not slow down, the kid loses points and eventually the game. A fun game where kids learn about road safety and at the same time may influence the parents to stay within the speed limit.

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Reversal assumptions about a particular subject area can lead to creative insights.Sometimes this creative technique can lead to wild and crazy ideas but sometimes you may hit on something that can be a real winner (crazy and wild ideas should always be explored, an initial suggestion is seldom the perfect solution and ideas can be improved upon).

The reversal technique helps you to escape from the “normal” way of looking at a problem. It may trigger new ideas and help you to explore the situation from a new perspective. It opens up new exciting possibilities and this approach may be particularly useful when you are developing new products.

Learning that excessive speeding is not a good thing is a great skill. What else can kids teach parents?

What can you reverse to develop a great game? Or to get ideas for a new product?