Gut Churn – What does it Feel Like to Execute Ideas?

How does ideas happen? Or rather how can I make it happen?

The aim of the 99U Conference was to discuss idea execution. Often we focus attention on idea generation, we explore various creative methods to get ideas and improve upon ideas and solutions. But what happens when your ideas are brought to life. What does it feel like?

In the talk below, Jad Abumrad talks about how it felt to start the public radio program  Radiolab that he hosts together with Robert Krulwich. This talk is one of the best that I have listened to about creativity for a long time (if you want to listen to the radio show, you can download them from iTunes).

Jad Abumrad

The magic that is created at the intersections of science and storytelling is the core of the Radiolab. A post-it note with the question “What does it mean to be dolphin?” highlights the idea that the listener should not be told and lectured about dolphins rather they should be a dolphin and get inside the dolphin. This is the way that information should be explained.

The happening of ideas is a journey characterised by “gut churn” – an uncomfortable anxious feeling. A feeling that you should run away!

Jad says:

“You can take the worst feeling in the world, reframe it, and suddenly that feeling is the solution. We can run from that feeling, or take that feeling itself as the pointing arrow. “Okay, I feel like my stomach is going to explode, but maybe that just means I’m on the right track.”


Paradoxes as Provocative Operations – Thinkibility Boost

counter paradox

In an earlier blog post about contradictions we stated that:

“paradoxical messages can seriously paralyze human relations and even lead to schizophrenic behavior. However, at the same time paradoxical communication can also be used to jolt someone out of his current mindset.

lateraal denken

Above we have symbolized “main stream thinking” or “current mindset” with the trajectory A->B. An alternative way of thinking is symbolized by trajectory A->C. The Provocative counter paradox is imaged as PO, or as a stepping stone outside the standard way of viewing things.

Some more examples of the latter, so called counter-paradoxes are:

  • Idea manager to an inventor: “Your idea is wonderful and perfect and cannot be improved, now, let’s explore it”.
  • Employee to his boss: “You’re right, solutions are there for immediate success and long-term problems”.
  • Therapist to a patient: ” It is not your fault that you are now deeply in problems, how did you organized for that?”
  • Debater: “Is this fact yours or mine?”
  • Consultant: “Yes, indeed, it is very important that we centrally administer the process of decentralization “.
  • Boss to an employee: “Listen, in this company I give the orders, and you execute them. “Employee: “Ok,  who begins?”.
  • Consultant to an entrepreneur: ” You perseveres that there is no solution to your problem, however I do know the solution, but will not reveal it to you”.
  • Evaluation Quality of Universities committee: ” Professors who don’t lecture and don’t publicize must be brilliant”.
  • A Human Resource Consultant: “Let’s have a masked ball. Everyone will attend as him or herself.
  • Consultant: “The board hired me for help.  I have listened to all your discussions about the problem of the company. However, since you have the problem of not achieving a description of the problem, I can’t help you with your problem”
  • Psychologist to a woman who never was able to say “no”: “Please, say “no” to me”.
  • Teacher: “Can you here me in the back of the class?”. Pupil: ” Yes, but it is not disturbing”.
  • ” What you’re saying is so untrue that even the opposite must be false”.
  • ” If you confess you are wrong, I will agree with you”.
  • “Don’t be so difficult! I want to know any difficulties immediately”.
  • “I urge you not to follow-up my advise”.
  • Professor to his students: “Don’t believe me, I am an academic crook”.
  • Provide that it is brought by humor, counter-paradoxes could provoke suddenly magical shifts in behaviour and attitude.


Dance First

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“Dance first. Think later.  It’s the natural order.” 

Samuel Becket

A dancer uses his or her body to express emotions, feelings and moods. Body language  can be exaggerated and a dancer uses the body as an instrument to explore and express ideas. But can  you act out your problem, design, or express your feelings in a dance?

Interpretative dance  can include styles ranging from ballet to break dancing. Way one to use interpretative dance has been used in a contest where PhD students dance their PhD thesis. Also  you can dance to explain statistical concepts – Dancing Statistics. The importance for the thinking process to change medium is discussed in this blog post Extracting Concepts – Change the Medium.

Dance is one way to help us overcome a fear of expressing our emotions. Movements help stimulate us to express ourselves and to feel the joy of moving around.  Discovering the emotion when you watch a dance performance is something that has been studied by Peter Lovatt. Peter trained in ballet, tap and jazz, and worked as a professional dancer before embarking on studies in psychology. He says that dancing can transform the way we think and solve problems. Different sorts of dancing help with different sorts of problem solving. Improvisation helps with divergent thinking where there are multiple answers to a problem. A structured dance may help when you are looking for a single solution to a problem.

Dance can also be used as a tool for enhancing a group’s consciousness about the situation. Dancing may help to create a common vision and build mutual support.

But what about the ability to keep a beat? Is that something that is a skill that you are either born with or not? Can you train yourself to find the beat? And can other animals apart from humans keep the beat. In the videos below the idea that keeping the beat is a human ability is questioned.

Videos of dancing animals may be common, yet the question remains whether the animals are really hearing the music and keeping a beat. Maybe they are just moving around.

In the video below you can watch the  bobbing head of a captured sea-lion to “Boogie Wonderland” (please note, while we do not condone the practice of confining animals, we thought that this research project adds to the understanding of animal behavior and we decided to include it).

In the next video, you can see the  cockatoo “Snowball”  dancing to “Everybody” by the Backstreet Boys. Snowballs adjust his dance moves when the song slows  down or speeds up. That flexibility is regarded as a key to determining whether animals can follow a melody like we can.

Synchronous among fireflies are common, some fireflies flash synchronously. However, this is something different where the animals has to synchronize to a beat. Young children, around the age of four to five can do this if the tempo is close to their preferred tempo. As they grow older the can synchronize to different tempo. One hypothesis is that synchronization plays a role in social bonding. We feel connected emotionally and socially when we move in synchrony

Blue Economy – Open Source Communities


The Blue Economy uses an open source approach to encourage positive entrepreneurship.
Overall, the aim with Blue Economy is to transform the way we are thinking about the environment. Solutions should be sustainable and capable of responding to people’s need for food, water, energy  and health care.

When you want to create an open source community where ideas are shared and used, you do not want to restrict the freedom of using the ideas. Yet there may be cases where  the “open source attract attention of people who want to consider this as their exclusive opportunity even though all was shared open source without restrictions. The free download of ideas, experiences and know-how causes a few individuals to desire an exclusive money making scheme” (Gunter Pauli, 2013).

So if you do not want to restrict the use through license agreements, trademarks or franchise, what do you do? Gunter says that it does not make sense to focus on making money first and securing a job for oneself, instead creating jobs and value in the community is the main goal. And if the trust is misused, he suggests that instead of using a legal framework it is better to continue to use the open source framework and  to avoid using bad behaviorus to deal with a negative use of ideas and people involved in open source projects. The underlying idea is that justice in the end will be done.

Yet it is tempting to explore ways to if not prevent people from misusing open source materials and exploiting people at least to minimize the risk. The statistical risk for misuse might be small, but we should not underestimate the role of rare events. We want to identify where danger is most likely to occur.

Defining the problem is a necessary part in searching for solutions and  we should perhaps spend more time on framing the problem.

Frame for ideas:

  • develop trust while ensuring that ideas can be open source.
  • no legal framework that prevents the sharing of ideas
  • positive flow should be blocked
  • minimal cost involved in implementing the idea
  • protect ideas and people from being misused and exploited

Most approaches towards ensuring that people to not misuse ideas rests on the assumption that we have to prevent and stop people from behaving in a certain way. This assumption could be challenged and we could explore ideas that:

  • Encourage people to ensure the open source community of their good intentions – could lead to ideas such as people openly signing a declaration of their good intentions with using the idea. Could then minimise the risks of misuse by  exploring the intentions and behaviours of those who do not voluntarily sign any declaration. Identify high risk behaviours, such as ignoring all communication.
  • Support communication between people using the open source material.
  • Turn the attention to people buying the products – do you as a consumer buying material from people and open source ideas have any responsibility? This approach could lead to ideas such as using mobile phones to encourage people to support people using open source ideas and also report suspicious activities.

We could rephrase the problem and say that the people who misuse open source material are unaware of the main purpose with providing ideas that are free to use (exchange the word misuse with unaware)

  • Use storytelling to inform people about not only the idea but also about how open source material should be used. Comic strips, videos, mobile phones could be used to spread the message.

Another approach is to fly over the problem and look at the big issue. In this case, people cannot be trusted. This could lead to ideas such as:

  • We need to change people’s view of themselves and their value in the world. Provide material that enhances users of open source material confidence and self-esteem to ensure that they are developing skills that protects them from abuse.

Go here to read Justice will be Done by Gunter Pauli.

Photo: “Businessman Holding Business World” by SOMMAI

Too Many Emails – Thinkibility Nibble

ID-100129170Friday – at last you do not have to check all your emails. Or are you going to check them this weekend?

In this RSA animate video, David Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft,  talks about ways to embrace the full potential of technology while at the same time making sure that we are happier at work,. Of course, we also need to be more creative and engaged.

But how do we create a working environment where managers trust us, we trust our colleagues, and last but not least ourselves?  A truly open and flexible working  culture. The animated video is based upon a talk given by David (we inserted a video from this talk as well).

In a previous blog post, we wrote about trust or trustworthiness – warmly recommended if you have not already read it.

Photo: “Mailbox On Screen Shows Electronically Mailing” by Stuart Miles



Ah, it is annoying when you cannot find the right words!

If you have tried to explain something in a foreign language, you might have found it impossible to find the right words in the other language. Finding the right words to describe your emotions and feeling is tricky and in some cases emotions are even untranslatable. Experiences in the UK as a foreign student lead native Chinese speaker Pei-Ying Lin to explore different emotional concepts.

Unspeakableness is a project that explores human emotions and languages. Lin says that the project has helped her take a more active control over language and she does not feel that the structure of languages control her. Language can be used as a way to improvise to connect both with other people and with ourselves.



Asking people use a concept map to explain their emotions may help and untranslatable words are often described as “it is a kind of (emotion A), close to (emotion B), and somehow between (emotion C) and (emotion D).” Untranslatable emotions are often multifaceted and complex emotions.

Lin’s graphic  Parrot’s Emotion Classification, contains a look at over 100 emotions. English words like “cheerfulness,”  and more specific words like “bliss” are included. The foreign words are highlighted in red bubbles. You may like the word “Gezelligheid,” which is Dutch for “comfort and coziness of being at home”.  Or if you are a bit hungry “hygge,” which is Danish for a similar idea but it is used for events of food and drink.

Grow your own map and widen your conceptual world.

Photo “Shouting Businesswoman” by imagerymajestic

Robots, Evolution and Emotions


Can a robot evolve? Or is it chained to the insides of a program?

Names like Incher, Jitter and Wings, hit that the robots may not be simply ordinary robots.  The Cornell Creative Machines Lab has designed a program within which simulated robots “build” themselves out of cubes of virtual muscles and bones. They provided the computer program with  different materials and one rule. The materials resembled the basic components of our own bodies: bone, soft tissue and a couple of muscle. These flexible robots have developed unique gaits.

The rule is simple:

  • Robots that move faster get to reproduce more.

Over the course of 1,000 generations, you can see some amazing figures that flap and jump at various speeds.

So what is the point with making a programme like this? Well, the output from the programme was compared to scientists who were asked to design a better robot from scratch using the same parameters that the computer used. And the humans failed to produce soft robots like the ones that evolved in the computer simulation.

A combination of using soft tissues and evolutionary principles can help to design complex and interesting artificial life forms. Go here to read about how to use nature as inspiration for ideas.


Steven Spielberg’s film A.I.  has among several other films and books challenged us to think about the nature of human empathy when applied to a non-living thing such as a robot. And several studies have shown that children and adults can and will form emotional attachments to robots.

Using fMRI scans, researchers discovered that humans have emotional responses to how robots are treated. Based on the fMRI scans, the participants’ emotional responses to the treatment of humans closely mirrored their reactions to the good or bad treatment of the robot.

Astrid Rosenthal-von der Pütten said:

“One goal of current robotics research is to develop robotic companions that establish a long-term relationship with a human user, because robot companions can be useful and beneficial tools. They could assist elderly people in daily tasks and enable them to live longer autonomously in their homes, help disabled people in their environments, or keep patients engaged during the rehabilitation process.”

So what do you feel when you watch the video with the dinosaur robots used in the study?

Photo: “Hug” by graur codrin