Where to Steal for the Best Ideas – Idea Holiday

stealingMaybe you believe that stealing ideas is not very creative or original.Or even that it is unethical. However, there are idea banks where people post, exchange, discuss and polish new ideas, just for the intellectual pleasure of devising ideas and the social rewards of sharing them. Some people approach idea banks just to get inspiration and getting into the mood of making a creative effort for something they are working on.

A good example of ‘taking a holiday” from our daily short time and quick solution oriented thinking can be found in the Siemens Ideas Bank, which is focused on technologies for basic needs. You will find inspirational ideas about:

  • Energy
  • Waste management and recycling
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Water and waste water
  • Health care
  • Housing and construction
  • ICT-solutions
  • Integral solutions

Other, sometimes hilarious but also serious ideas can be found in Halfbakery, like the mini segway executive chair. Simple and practical ideas can be found in An Idea A Day, like political ideas to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict.

For ideas about social innovation – the design of social arrangements – look at the book The Global Ideas Bank – 500 ways to change the world.

So take a holiday and visit interesting ideas!

idea holiday

What Impact does Your Innovation Really have?

The successful growth of any innovation rests in its ability to demonstrate that it is creating a positive impact. The impact may be difficult to detect from the beginning but exploring the way the innovation creates positive change is crucial.

Reading the book The Sports Gene by David Epstein, made me realise how deceptively easy it is to assume that the introduction of an innovation is the only factor that needs to be taken into account when looking at the impact an innovation has had. Often there is a complex interaction between lots of factors, for example, the motivation to correctly use an innovation. In hindsight many innovations became successful and popular due to non-obvious and hard to asses factors. This means that we should be careful when assessing the impact of innovations when designing them.


The Olympic motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius.” Faster, Higher, Stronger. And it is  believed, says David, “that we’re somehow just getting better as a human race, inexorably progressing”. Technology has transformed many sports, and despite lots of new innovative training methods in track and field, the track surface technology is the factor that has made a huge impact. Track surface technology provides runners with the highest levels of surface performance for competition and cushioning for safe training.

In 1936, Jesse Owens held the world record in the 100 meters. Had Jesse Owens been racing last year in the world championships of the 100 meters, when Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt finished, Owens would have still had 14 feet to go. . . Biomechanical analysis of the speed of Owens’ joints shows that had been running on the same surface as Bolt, he wouldn’t have been 14 feet behind, he would have been within one stride.

In the talk below you can hear the difference between the time when Usain Bolt and Jesse Owens pass the finish line (this is at the beginning of the video, begins around 45 seconds into the talk). Thus, new shoes and clothes, new training methods and running techniques seems to have had a minimal impact for the 100 metre race.

New material in golf balls, tennis rackets and pole vault has made a huge impact on the respective sport as this quote from Science Clarified suggests:

In the past century, carbon fiberglass—lighter than metal or wood—revolutionized both tennis and the pole vault. When pole vaulting began as a competitive sport, athletes used bamboo poles with a sharp point at the bottom to plant in the grass. Today, modern poles are made out of fiberglass and are much lighter than their bamboo or metal counterparts. The lighter poles allow athletes to run faster and gain the momentum they need to vault higher.”

The new poles also have more spring. The fiberglass pole absorbs more of the vaulter’s energy when it bends and as it straightens. Along with rubberized track surfaces, special boxes for planting the pole, and padded landing pits, the new fiberglass poles help athletes attain records that would be impossible to obtain using the traditional equipment.

You may have noticed that the gains of the innovation as shown above is not straightforward derived from only the attained lightness of the poles.

Also, innovative ideas by tennis players  like Björn Borg who used a wooden racket and developed the idea to use a two-handed backhand shows that it is not easy to tell in hindsight which factors made an innovation a success.

The Big Bang of Body Shape

Innovations and changes in material are not the only factors that have resulted in records being set. At the same time there has been what is described as “The Big Bang of Body Shape”. The gene pool in different sports has changed. Previously it was assumed that an average body type was ideal. Today there are huge difference between athletes in different sport.

In the 1920 there was no difference in average height between an elite high jumper and an elite shot putter, while today the average elite shot putter is 6.3 cm taller and 59 kg heavier. Thus, it is easier to tell what sport an athlete is competing in. Yet there are exceptions and someone can compensate for a certain body shape or height by developing certain training techniques. For example, the high jumper Stefan Holm was shorter than the average elite high jumper but he won an Olympic Gold medal. He perfected his sprinting approach towards the bar.



Athletes also have different mindsets. Our understanding of how we the brain acts as a limiter, means that we have insight into how we can push it back and trick the this brain into believing that we are not in danger even f we run another kilometer in the heat. Motivational aspects has had an impact on performance in particularly  endurance sport.


Innovations are by its very nature risky and unpredictable. It is unclear who will benefit from it, and when and under which particular set of circumstances.To be successful innovators, economies and companies should stretch their imagination and analysis to the utmost before they assess innovations, either to implement, or to reject. The possibilities and opportunities of not yet implemented innovations are far from obvious. A wide search for inspiration and ideas about factors that influence the outcome of an innovations should be carried out.

Photo: IAAF


Organic Forms – Thinkibility Nibble


Look at the photo above.

What is your first thought?

Lots of ideas flashed through my mind when I saw the organic shape but bicycle was not one of them.

Arion 1 was designed by a team of engineering students from the University of Liverpool. The bicycle is more aerodynamic than most cars and the bicycle is encased in an inverted teardrop shell. This shape minimises the resistance and the bicycle  can reach a speed of 145 kmh (90mph). The rider of the bicycle is as low as possible and it may not be the most comfortable bicycle to ride.

Every year the International Human Powered Vehicle Association (IHPVA) hold a speed challenge in Battle Mountian Nevda. The team from Liverpool University hopes to pass the rigorous testing in 2015 and break the world record that is currently held by TU Delft and VU Amsterdam universities, which recorded a speed of 133.78 kmh (83.13 mph) in September 2013.

You can read more about design thinking and organic forms here.


Tomorrow Machine – Thinkiblity Nibble


A self-opening bowl! Flexible objects that can build and even destroy themselves! Tomorrows food packaging has arrived.

Food packaging is serious business and Sweden have a history filled with successful designs and companies, like Tetrapack and Ecolean  (sustainable packaging). Tomorrow Machine is an exciting innovative company based in  Stockholm and Paris, which specialises in package, product and food concepts. The vision is to build a better world through research, new technology and intelligent material. Science is used a base for creating and shaping the best innovations of tomorrow.

Sweden has lots of forest and traditionally material from the forest has been used in designs. But how will material be used in the future?

A taste of the future can be seen in a series of cellulose based products. A self-cleaning  plate and cup made ​​entirely out of cellulose is based upon using  biomimicry to design innovations. Like a lotus leaf the plate and cup rejects dirt. The superhydrofobic coating  means that it never needs washing.Thus, the plate and cup are kept clean without using any water, chemicals or human efforts. Lotus leafs water-repellent characteristics have also been used to design water-resistant clothes

Questioning the way everyday products are used, is part of an innovative process. Today, it takes several years for a milk cartoon to decompose naturally. The milk in the cartoon goes sour after a week. Tomorrow Machine is working on a packaging product  that has the same life-span as the foods that it contains. The underlying idea is to search for  ways that the packaging and the foods can work in symbiosis just like the sea anemone and the hermit crab. The sea anemone rids on the crabs back and extends their tentacles to eat the crabs leftovers. The crab benefits from the sea anemone, which drives away octopuses and other predators by using their barbed tentacles.


Costs for transportation is another area where innovative thinking is needed. Tomorrow Machine has created a self-expanding instant food packaging. This product can be compressed during transportation. Pour hot water into the package and suddenly you have a bowl with food.


I never realised that food packaging could be this exciting. An environmentally friendly approach mixed with smart and creative solutions like the self-opening package that opens when the food is cooked.  The company Tomorrow Machine elegantly proves that determination to improve things can lead to great innovations.


Social Innovation – New Ideas that Meet Unmet Needs


Is more innovation needed in the social sector? Or is it better to play it safe and not take any risks?

Innovation carry risks and how risky an innovation proves to be depends partly on the choices people make in using  new ideas or products. A great example of how the choices we make influence the outcome of an innovation can be seen in the statistics related to snowstorms and four-wheel drives. A four-wheel drive should make your journey safer when you are driving on snow. Yet accident statistics suggest that this is not the case and the use of four-wheel drives has not led to any major changes in the rate of accidents. Why? The technology has led many of us to feel protected and this has meant that we are a bit overconfident when driving on snow. Awareness of the risks involved in driving a four-wheel vehicle on snow means that we can make conscious decisions about our driving, which in turn may lead to fewer accidents. Thus a straightforward analysis of accident statistics may not provide an accurate picture of the effectiveness of four-wheel drives.

In a similar way, innovation in the social sector involves many risks and unless everyone involved is aware of how the innovation should be used, there is a high risk of lack of progress.

Social innovations are new ideas (products, services and models) that simultaneously meet social needs (more effectively than alternatives) and create new social relationships or collaborations.

(Open Book of Social Innovation, Murray, Calulier-Grice and Mulgan, March 2010)

Today many organisations may feel pushed to innovate, yet funders are often frustrated by the lack of progress. Innovation in the social sector is difficult. A problem is that it may take years for an innovation to be implemented and evaluated. This means that innovation in the social sector is a costly and time-consuming process. An approach  towards innovation that involves less risks is to improve upon  existing services that the organisation have to offer. Thus, social innovations can take the form of genuine innovations or of improved solutions.

An idea is rarely a finished product and adjustments may be necessary and problems need to be analysed.  Thus, funders and everyone involved need to be aware of the importance of improving upon an innovation. Instead of  using the same performance measurement system for different types of innovations, it may be better to be more flexible and experiment. After a while, a more stringent testing criteria can be used to evaluate the innovation.

Innovation in the social sector should have a long-term impact and solve problems. But social innovations are not necessarily easy to widely adopt. In contrast, product innovations aims towards gaining market shares and there is usually an identifiable market. As an example of social innovation that tries to tackle a modern problem, we can look at Good Gym works in the UK. This social innovation tries to tackle three challenges.

  • the increasing isolation of elderly people,
  • the difficulty in finding volunteers to work with these groups,
  • the challenges that ordinary people may face in getting physically fit.

dont waste your energy_0

In the UK, 13 per cent of elderly people  say they always or often feel lonely.  The Good Gym connects “runners” with “coaches.” Runners are people who need additional motivation to be physically active, while the coaches are less mobile people over 65. The runners commit to jog to their coach’s house once per week to deliver something nice. A nice surprise could be a newspaper or a price of fruit. The runner chat with the coach and then run back home.  Thus the idea is to

  • provide a reason for people to run
  • to provide lonely people with company.

Measuring the outcome of an innovation like Good Gym, is difficult. Both short-term health aspects need to be considered but also broader effects such as building stronger communities. and improving cross-generational communication. Thus, one approach towards social innovation is to bring together groups of people with different  unmet needs. At first glance, the unmet needs of people who lack motivation to be psychically active and  elderly lonely people may seem like difficult to combine, yet to make new connections is the beauty of innovation.

n its essence, social innovation simply refers to new approaches and tools for solving societal challenges. It is not simply the repackaging of old ideas. We’ve learned a lot over the past decade about what works and what doesn’t in global health, development, education, sustainability, and many other challenging areas. We’ve learned how to design and deploy interventions. We can now have a strong perspective on which interventions have the potential to truly alter the course of a deadly infectious disease or move millions of young people out of debilitating poverty, based on the evidence of actual outcomes. We believe that the very best social innovations can transform our communities with new approaches to the complex challenges of the 21st century.

However, achieving that kind of impact requires yet another step. Unless a program can be replicated and sustained on a large scale, it will not be transformational. Identifying and scaling our best solutions has become the sector’s most important challenge. To meet that challenge, we can no longer evaluate programs simply based on how well they’ve performed in a given locality. Instead, we need to factor in their potential to achieve scale. We need to channel resources to the solutions that can produce the most good for the most people. As Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, has pointed out, “Solutions to many of the world’s most difficult social problems don’t need to be invented, they need only to be found, funded, and scaled.”

It is incumbent on all of us to understand and vigorously address the barriers that prevent great ideas from turning into transformational changes. Unlike in the private sector, where successful product innovations have a clear process for gaining market share, the best social innovations are not necessarily widely adopted. The “iPods”of poverty alleviation and literacy have likely been invented and put to use by small organizations in some corner of the globe, but there is no market for identifying these breakthrough ideas and ensuring widespread adoption.

Additionally, the private-sector model of mergers and acquisitions, which leads to consolidation and ever increasing efficiency, rarely occurs in the social sector, where organizations with similar missions often find themselves pitted against one another in the competition for funds. Philanthropic funding mechanisms, with their short funding cycles, restricted project grants, and focus on new, rather than proven programs, have not always led to scaling the best social innovations. Besides organizational and financial barriers, there is often a tension between bringing social innovations to scale and ensuring that programs address the needs of local constituents.

Social innovators recognize these barriers and are working to overcome them. Our research points to four major opportunities that support our belief in the power of social innovation and provide insight into the path forward to scaling the most promising solutions:

1. Technology innovation: There has been rapid development of products that can improve the quality of life and health of the huge percentage of the world living in poverty. Water filtration systems and mosquito nets, for example, have improved health outcomes in Africa and other parts of the developing world. Compared with other social innovations that involve place-based social mobilization models, technology platforms designed for bottom-of-the-pyramid markets often scale remarkably well.

2. Geopolitical shifts: Rapid economic development in some regions and countries, including India, China, and Brazil, is bringing new resources and perspectives to social innovation at massive scale. China, for example, has moved the largest number of people out of poverty in the shortest period of time, in history. Tapping into the development lessons, increased resources, and powerful capabilities these countries are generating provides new and different fuel to the social innovation engine as well as useful insight into what could be effective elsewhere.

3. Cross-sector collaboration: We have moved beyond community solutions provided by churches, extended families, and government, to transformative innovations created through public, private, and nonprofit collaborations, including new vaccines and diagnostics, new funding mechanisms such as social impact bonds, and new educational initiatives. Many collaborative approaches take advantage of economies of scale and market mechanisms to use resources more efficiently to produce positive outcomes at greater scale.

4. Knowledge sharing: In addition to creating partnerships, increased knowledge sharing between organizations and across sectors is helping to identify the most promising solutions. For the past several decades, the social sector has been developing the capacity to evaluate and measure the impact of programs. This work provides the building blocks for the next phase of progress, in which social innovators will be able to harvest the knowledge about what works that is currently distributed across the globe in organizations large and small.

While these trends point to a tremendous flourishing of social innovation, the work of the next generation of social innovators will be to identify the ideas that produce results and ensure that limited resources are used to spread the best solutions. Imagine the impact that could be achieved if all the effort invested in addressing social problems was channeled to the widespread expansion of the most powerful programs. Bringing the best interventions to the people who need them most at a scale proportional to the size of the global problems we face is the major challenge facing the social sector, and perhaps the world.

– See more at: http://voices.mckinseyonsociety.com/social-innovation-a-matter-of-scale/#sthash.UxpQhsx5.dpuf

Photo: “Human Head With Social Network Icons” by KROMKRATHOG

Sunken Office – Thinkibility Nibble


What are the benefits of spending the day in an office where there is no need for artificial lightning during the day?

According to John Seely Brown, (co-chair at the Deloitte Center for the Edge and former chief scientist at Xerox), an organisation that frequently produce innovation share three characteristics:
  • visionary leadership
  • an organizational commitment to breakthrough thinking
  • a place that supports the work of innovation.
Let us look at the last item on the list – a place that supports the work of innovation. Barbara Armstrong says,  “Workplace design can, and does, inspire innovation.” While no design may change a climate to become less risk averse, it may inspire new and brave thoughts.
Below is a list of aspects that are important to consider when designing a work place.

1. Thermal Comfort and Temperature

2. Access to Nature, Views and Daylight

3. Sensory Change and Variability

4. Colour

5. Noise Control

6. Crowding

7. Human Factors and Ergonomics

8. Indoor Air Quality

9. Choice

10. Employee Engagement


Spanish architecture firm Selgas Canohas has designed a sunken office where the employees are surrounded by a colourful lush forest. The building is encapsulated by a curving glass wall and provides you with the opportunity to look at the forest from a bug’s perspective.

The window is lined with desks and you have  an eye-level view of the forest floor. You can watch animals, falling leaves and watch the tree branches move while you are working.

Submerging half the building into the earth is a clever way of getting an excellent insulation. The building is in Madrid, which has hot summers and this design has reduced the need for air conditioning.
This building scores high in the aspect related to closeness to nature, views, and  daylight
“People generally prefer to be surrounded by nature, which provides endless sources of variation and sensory change. The instinctive bond between humans and other living systems, often called biophilia, is important to replicate in interior environments. (HOK)

Albert Einstein said “You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it.” We need to be able to change our perspectives. By looking at a problem from different frames of reference, new possibilities for solving the problem may emerge. You get a different perspective on a problem when you look at it from a bug’s perspective as compared to a bird’s view in an office at the fifth floor.

The perspective also changes during the day. Do you feel more  inspired to watch the world from a bug’s perspective in the dark?

Photo: by Iwan Baan.

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