In an earlier post we republished Michael Michalko’s The Difference between the way the average person thinks and a creative genius thinks” As Michael Michalko noticed that an average person focusses his attention on a specific information and excluding all … Continue reading
Nowadays, innovation is very in fashion. As a person, you should be innovative (creative?). A product should be innovative to tempt you to buy it (why?). Research should be dedicated to innovations (instead of discoveries?). Or even worse, boards of directors feel compelled to proclaim a “year of innovation” or ask their employees for vibrant new ideas. . . But for what?
But what is innovative, what is an innovation?
Fifteen innovation experts gave their definitions of innovation: Executing an idea which addresses a specific challenge and achieves value for both the company and customer.
In our rather humourous Thinkibility nibble “Innovations that Complicate Things”, we suggested that some innovations seems to make things more complex, inconvenient, more costly or reduce value. Since then, we have seen tonnes of examples of so called innovations that actually reduces the quality of life. (P.S. Insert the last phrase into a search engine and you will get only examples of innovations that create value for people what illustrates the unconscious assumption that innovation is always good).
The definition contains four characteristics:
- An idea
- A challenge
- Value for the company
- Value for the customer
What is an idea?
Apart from philosophical speculations – where ideas are usually seen as mental representational images of some object – ideas are in our opinion a result of breaking standard thinking patterns. A thinking pattern consists of a fixed entry point (definition of a situation) and a set of assumptions (things taken for granted). Ideas that really break existing thinking patterns are often called disruptive, game-changing, breakthrough, blue ocean, out-of-the-box or even a new idea. Examples of this can be found in “What Big Data, What Information Dominance?”.
It takes time and effort to transform an idea into an innovation. That is why a distinction is made between the stages of idea generation, innovation development – making the idea practical, prototyping it, calculating the business case, setting up production, pre-marketing- and implementation. Each of the stages requires different organisation, cultures, project management tools.
An idea – to be practical- must satisfy a need. That might be:
- a problem: a gap between an existing situation and the desired situation
- an improvement
- an opportunity
Seven triggers or sources for innovation are mentioned by Peter Drucker:
The usefulness of this overview of sources and triggers for innovation is not in the summary or description. You can actively check your product or service against a trigger: an occasion or even a necessity to innovate?
To read more about what the main triggers are that push people to innovate in the technical area, look here for an interesting article by Valeri Souchkov.
The biggest problem, however, remains the tendency to ignore challenges because it is unknowingly assumed that they are impossible. In “The Thinking Habits of Steve Jobs” we wrote: Jobs did not settle for less than more than best. He simply ignored practical objections. That drove his designers to extraordinary, hitherto considered impossible performance. Moreover, the ability to ignore generally accepted impossibilities was the main criterion to select employees.
Challenge implies that there is a call to someone to participate in a competitive situation or fight to decide who is superior in terms of ability or strength, or that a task or situation is waiting that tests someone’s abilities. This is rather passive, but challenges can also be created deliberately: Create Opportunities.
Value for the company and value for the customer
Some posts that explore the concept of Value are:
- Value Engineering
- Thinking about Value
- Creative Marketing
- Trends in Innovation – Think Inside The Box!
In general, values are not coming by itself, they should be designed.
Can you design something so that people stay politically engaged? How would you design a fabric that is made out of waste? What if it was possible to design a spot where people feel safe? Or a game that provides people suffering from Alzheimer game with a channel of communication? (To our post about New Brave Design Thinking Approach)
What is at heart of design when you design a hospital or health care systems? (To our post Empathy and Design Thinking)
In other words, we could say that an innovation consists of a new combination of
- a function – the innovation has the purpose of satisfying a need
- a principle – there is a mechanism or idea how to deliver that function
- a market – the innovation has a value that can be traded.
But still remains the question: “When is an innovation really breaking patterns more than other innovations?. When is an innovation incremental? When radical? When is a technical solution just more-of-the-same routine engineering? What is the difference with a scientific invention? When is it patentable?
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Sparkling with ideas and insights!
Once we have settled on a perspective, we close off but one line of thought. Certain kinds of ideas occur to us, but only those kinds and no others. What if the crippled man who invented the motorized cart had defined his problem as: “How to occupy my time while lying in bed?” rather than “How to get out of bed and move around the house?”
Leonardo Da Vinci believed that to gain knowledge about the form of problems, you began by approaching the problem on its own terms. He felt the first way he looked at a problem was too biased toward his usual way of seeing things. He would restructure his problem by looking at it from one perspective and move to another perspective and still another. With each move, his understanding would deepen and he would begin to understand the essence of the problem. Da Vinci discovered…
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Photo: Flickr feck_aRt_post
“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.”
Edward de Bono
Breaking pattern is a way to get unexpected solutions to your problems and to create unexpected ideas. To survive in the world, we look for patterns and we create patterns. Patterns dictate what we do and our daily life is regulated by patterns.
There are several techniques that can we use to break thinking patterns such as random words. But the environment and the time of the day might also influence how successful we are in breaking established patterns
Exhaustion can spur creativity and help us break patterns. When we are tired, we just do not care. Instead of thinking about perfecting what it is we are working on our brains end up jumping around, accepting ideas and new paths of thinking. It is a bit like we are running wild and our frontal lobes cannot stop our ideas.
Photo Matt Davenport
Circadian rhythm is an approximately 24 – hour cycle that determines our sleeping and feeding patterns. Cultural norms mean that most of us follow a routine – we get up with the sun and we go to bed when the moon rises in the sky. This specific pattern has influenced the way different regions in our brains work. The frontal cortex is a part of the brain that is very fussy and when we get tired our working memory loses some of its sharpness. The frontal cortex does not shut down but it does not process everything that is happening around you.
Since our frontal cortex is not focusing on sorting new incoming information from our environment, there is energy for other parts of our brains to play around freely. In short, by blocking our working memory and our brains ability to sieve through various information increase and we can break thinking patterns.
Of course, there is people who are not more creative at night. They simply have a different pattern and by breaking their specific pattern, they might be able to let ideas run around more freely.
So when you are trying to do creative work, you will have more lucky when your brain is not functioning efficiently. Personally, I love to read a couple of sententes in a book when I am tired and then I explore all sort of possibilities. Most ideas are utter nonsense but they often put a smile on my face before I fall asleep. And no, it does not seem to matter what sort of book I read!
How can you improve tyres?
How can you bring a significant positive change that successfully solves problems related to travelling?
What does travelling look like in the future?
The theme in 2016 for the Design Innovation was”Connect to the Connected World” and the focus on presenting a vision of future mobility. Hankook makes tyres so the changes in mobility should use tyres.
This is a great thinking exercise, where you are forced to improve upon something that already exists. Looking for better, more efficient, and desirable ways to be mobile in future mega cities.
The picture above shows a the Flexup that explores ways that you can redesign tyres to deal with obstacles that are present in cities, such as stairs. I would love these types of tyres on my bicycle! These tyres use divided treads that expand or contract to deal with stairs.
The Autobine is a self-driving bus concept where the number of passengers determines how many tyres that are going to be used. The tyres are attached or detached. An intelligent tyre that detects the weight and then attaches itself to the body of the bus.
What sort of tyres can you design? Which obstacles does your tyre try to overcome or minimise?
Why not use these video as inspiration?
Is WikiTribune the answer to fake news?
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has launched a crowd-funding campaign for WikiTribune. A “wiki-style” attack on the fake news by using professional journalists and community contributors to produce “fact-checked, global news stories”.
Fakes news and the role that social media networks play in spreading has resulted in several suggestions about ways to combat these problems. There are fact checking networks where humans flag news and even sites that are spreading false news. Google, Facebook and Twitter have made attempts to tweak their algorithms to combat the problems related to fake news. This tweaking is not to be the same as censorship rather “. . . a bit like a spam folder in your email, those emails still sit there, but you have to go to your spam folder to look for it,” says Claire Wardle of journalism non-profit First Draft News.
Yet, perhaps the involvement of humans is needed to deal with a problem of this character. At least at the moment, a combination of algorithms and human experience might provide the best solution.
Photo: Hrag Vartanian
WikiTribune relies only on humans and an army of contributors will help individual journalists vet the facts by using a wide range of sources such as transcripts, videos and audio interviews. The business model is based on monthly subscriptions that will help to pay the journalists.
This sounds like a good idea, yet, there are of course always problems when you look for the truth (see Greyscale Thinking). What happens if the professional journalists start writing about the news that the subscribers do not like? Supporters are asked to put forward suggestions on topics, and what happens if the topics suggested are put forward by extreme organisations that what to highlight their own issues?
Articles are only going to be published on WikiTribune if the facts can be verified. This sounds great but there is also a danger in restricting the topics. In today’s world, news both true and fake is quickly spread around the globe. In some cases, you want a quick response to certain kind of news, for example, during an election. An election campaign is by its nature filled with propaganda.
Jimmy says that WikiTribune is “news by the people and for the people”. Professional journalists and citizen journalists working together checking and re-checking facts. The community is given an important role, however, finding a balance between the contributions of professional journalists and the community is the main issue.
Also, reaching the people who have already fallen into the fake news vortex is going to be extremely tricky with this approach. Perhaps WikiTribune will be supported and read by individuals who need it the least. People who already have developed the skills and are using tools to spot fake news.
“There is a way, if we allow ourselves to be guided by nature’s optimism and nature’s wisdom.”
Jay Harman, The Shark’s Paintbrush, p. 289.
Bees use real-time negotiation to make decisions. Humans often have a less accurate approach to making predictions and to decision making. We use polls and votes, we polarise things.”Instead of finding common ground, they force us to entrench in predictions and make it harder for us to find the best answer for the group.” Louis Rosenberg
Organisations like the UN are getting bigger and this is problematic. Since the formation of the UN in 1945, the UN system, or the UN families, have added issues that they are dealing with, for example, sustainability and climate change.
You can see an interesting sketch below from 1943 by Franklin Roosevelt of the UN original three branches: The Four Policemen, an executive branch, and an international assembly of forty UN member states.
Photo By Franklin D. Roosevelt – Franklin D. Roosevelt Library & Museum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40093370
“Organizations can’t keep growing the way we structure them today.”
Tamsin Wolley-Barker compares organisations to dinosaurs. Dinosaurs needed huge bones to support their weight and the more weight, the more bones, and the more weight. In the end, the dinosaurs were too big.
“In regards to relative bone strength, the larger animals are at a much greater risk of breaking their bones than the smaller animals. The likelihood that a broken bone will cut an animal’s life short is a strong possibility for the larger animals. This possibility of broken bones affecting the animal’s survival thus becomes a limitation on the size of the largest animals.” From “The problem with big dinosaurs.“
Management is like a skeleton that supports an organisation so that it does not collapse. But when an organisation grows the cost of management is escalating, which could be problematic.
Also, a more worrying trend when an organisation grows is that the ability to change quickly declines.
Nature uses hierarchies all the time as a way to prevent things from changing. Animal societies have dominance hierarchy. However, research suggests that cooperation is impeded among chimpanzees as compared to cottontop tamarins. Chimpanzees live in steep and linear hierarchies in contrast to the more relaxed form of hierarchies that cottontop tamarins use.
Hierarchies may be important and there are ways to build a better hierarchy but if you want to build an organisation that can easily adapt to change, it is not an optimal structure. Hierarchies limits growth. Thus, to re-envision global governance for the challenges that face us in the 21st century, we need to develop new models.
Can animals provide any inspiration for new models of global cooperation?
Photo Subith Premdas
Teams of ants, termites or bees are often used as inspiration to explore how organisations work. Ants termites and bees are organisms with colonies consisting of sometimes millions of individuals. Yet together these work as a single organism. The labour is divided and one individual is helpless and cannot survive for long. By working together these organisms create abundance in harsh environments. They find a way of using things that often are overlooked by other creatures.
These animals use an open-ended structure that is dynamic and which allows them to quickly respond to changes in the environment. Yet, they lack a commander. They survive, or at least appears to, without making any forecasts and budgets. Instead, there is a smooth adaption to change, where all the individual creatures are contributing. The interactions between ants, termites and bees might be simple, nevertheless, together they can solve difficult problems.
Social insects have the following characteristics:
Social organisms can quickly adapt to change and even when one or more individuals in the group fail to achieve the task, the group can still perform the task. Finally, the activities performed by the group are neither centrally controlled nor or they locally supervised.
Using this approach to decision-making as inspiration to design global cooperation may indeed be a challenge.
A challenge, fun and above all perhaps a necessary approach. We all know deep in our hearts that we face many problems. The future viability of our race is in danger. Nature constantly reinvents itself. We need to reinvent global cooperation with a similar irresistible optimism.
Photo By Neptuul – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31552107