Inspiration Design

Since you may have noticed: I’ve got a lot of inspiration since my small journey to Berlin. During my way home I wondered what “ingredients” caused that inspiration. This blog is the analysis of this question. It helps you to learn how to design a process that guarantees getting inspiration. The process is divided into four parts: The journey  towards, during the stay, the return journey and back home.

The journey towards: The journey towards your destination proves to be very important. You’ll sit in a car for 7 hours doing nothing. Your brain gets time to process what happened the past weeks. A great time for reflection. Write down your insights and maybe some first new ideas might come up. It works especially well if you have been a little bit too busy the past weeks (like me). Once you arrive at your destination, your mind has been freshened up for the most part.

Dinspirationuring the stay: Recent behavioural scientific studies show that who you are, what you think and how you act is strongly influenced by your environment: Context determines behaviour. Changing your environment changes your perspective on challenges you face back at home. What really helps is to ask yourself the question during your stay: How do the things I see, the people I meet, the things I learn relate to the challenges I face back at home. It can come through a story your guide told you, through a conversation you had during dinner or just through a piece of art. Write down all the insights you have and talk about them with the people your with or meet. Make photos of the things that surprise you, inspire you, and make you smile or blush.

The return journey: When you’re on your way back, you’ll have to sit in the car again doing nothing. You can’t go anywhere; you’re locked for another 7 hours. Look at all the notes you made. What other thoughts come across your head. Look at all the photos you made: what do they have in common? What patterns can you find? For example: You made a lot of pictures of unusual combinations that work out well. For example a Hamburger shop which is housed in an old public toilet. Write down all the actions you want to take when you back home. Try to make a big list of small things. For example (in my case): Write a blog post on how to design your own inspiration. If you look at this list, what actions are you really longing to do?

Back home: Incorporate time in your schedule to make sure you’ll do these actions; the energy that comes with the inspiration has an expiration date. So use it while it’s there. Create time to plan that meeting, write that blog post, do that experiment etc. Don’t underestimate this. Getting inspiration is easy, but actually doing it (the transpiration) is a lot harder.

Most important insights in designing for inspiration:

–         Change your environment
–         Go short and go frequent. After 3 days you’ll have enough inspiration for the coming weeks
–         Make sure to incorporate doing nothing to clear your mind (like the journey in this blog post)
–         Write your insights down and talk about them with other people

What can you add upon these ingredients?


Mr Six and Banana Guy

Past weekend I was in Berlin. We did an amazing tour past the street art scene of Berlin. Two artists really stuck to my brain, Mr 6 and Banana Guy. They’ve mastered the art of marketing through mystery & simplicity. 

Mr 6, is a mysterious guy who dedicates his live painting the number six on several objects, buildings etc. Apparently he spends about six hours a day painting this number six and he did about 600.000 number sixes so far. Hardly anyone really knows him and there are several conspiracies about his work. For example, many people think he paints the number six on everything that is broken and/or needs to be repaired. Like dying an orange dot of paint on the trees that needs to be cut.

Another theory is that it has something to do with the German grading system (in which a six is the lowest mark you can get). This could mean that Mr 6 uses the sixes to express his disgust. Whatever is true, the thing that fascinates me is that there is great street art everywhere and that most people remind the ugly number six of mister six. Why? First of all because of the simplicity and mystery of it. But second of all, it’s a great and easy story to tell. The story in itself is well transmissible.

Another example is Banana Guy. Another who also dedicated his live painting signs. His sign is (not very surprisingly) a banana. It looks a lot like the famous banana from Andy Warhol. Anyway, this guy is painting this banana on every art gallery he likes. Since he done so much of them, it has become a symbol of status. If you earned a banana, you’ve done well as a gallery. What set this in motion is that there is now a banana art gallery guide to Berlin.

foto (6)    Berlin    berlin1   Berlin2

It makes me think what sign I could create. For example a sign to tell if a company is playful. Or has incorporated the Human Side of Enterprise well in his business. What would it set in motion if I would do that? Without asking permission or giving explanation. The guidelines Mr six and Banana Guy gave me are:

–          Make it mysterious
–          Keep it stupid simple
–          Repeat it, repeat it, repeat it
–          Make it easily transmissible

What can you add to these guidelines?

Why gallery art is boring

This weekend I was in berlin where I did an awesome street art tour. Many people refer to Berlin as a playground for creativity & experimentation. A home for many entrepreneurs & artists. This post is about how graffity artists are using the city as a playground for art. 

During the Tour we circled around many graffiti art works on the streets. Although it’s illegal to do graffiti in public areas, Berlin is full of it. Artists are being appreciated by the quality of their work, but since it is illegal as well by the risk they had to take to make it. This means that artists who graffiti in prominent places are being appreciated more. The “illegal element” is making the act of doing graffiti art more fun/exciting. I bet that if the government made it legal, they would spoil the fun. Btw: what makes it even more fun is that it is illegal to DO it (if you get caught WHILE graffiti-ing), but if it’s appreciated enough it isn’t illegal to HAVE DONE it. That’s why you can track some artists online through the trademark/pseudonym they leave besides there artwork.

My statement is that gallery art is boring. Why? First of all, it’s legal, so creating it is less exciting. Second of all: if you enter a gallery you EXPECT to see art. You expect to be surprised which makes the surprise less powerful. In my perspective art should surprise you. Create a miniature short circuit to forces you out of your daily patterns. Best way to do this in a place where you would least expect it and where you’re functioning on your auto pilot. Public places like the train station or a toilet.

I would pledge for less galleries and stimulate integrating art in public areas. If it’s being appreciated (if it contributes to the environment), leave it (for a while). If not, remove it or let other artist cover up on it. Some kind of democratic art ;). This way were going to use our cities as playgrounds for artwork. Result is a constantly changing environment that surprises you and makes you blush.

foto8 foto9 fotoo6 foto3fotoooo  fotooo3



Playing with Flow

This week I created a new playshop about Let’s Play Innovation. I’s called: Playing with Flow. I compare being in a flow like having a gold star with Mario Kart. You light up, you speed up and probably you smile more. When you have a gold star all the challenges seem a lot lighter. How can you get that gold star feeling while working in a team?

During the playshop we’re going to experiment with impro techniques, playful interventions and play design to see what happens to the flow between you and the people you work with. A playground for experimentation to find out: What mindset works best? What tools can you use? What’s the influence of the context? And how can you create a basis to play with these elements?

What I learned during the creation process is that you should focus on what’s happening between people in stead of focussing on what’s happing with yourself. The answer lies in the middle. Goal is to find out what creates flow, so you can influence having flow more often. The playshop takes place on march 25th (monday evening) in Utrecht. For more information read more on this facebook page.

If you have any suggestions to make this playshop even more valuable, don’t hesitate to leave a comment :).

Reverse brain connection

It is commonly known that your body language expresses the way you feel. When you feel unsafe, you’ll take a more closed position. When you feel weak, your posture is more huddled. When you feel strong, you stand more upright and when you score a goal your raise your arms into the sky. You express the way you feel in your body language. Nothing new so far.

Amy Cuddy claims it works the other way around aswell. In her stunning TED talk she shows how taking a powerful pose for two minutes makes you actually feel powerful. And when you force yourself to smile, your brains thinks you’re actually smiling and releases fabrics that makes you feel happy. It’s called a reverse brain connection.

So like Barney Stinson (How I met Your mother, tv Show) sais: “Whenever you feel sad, stop being sad and be awesome instead”

Feathers originated for sex, not for flying

This morning I read the newspaper. What I read was stunning: A recent Canadian publication in Science showed that feathers originated for sex, not for flying. The fact that feathers make flying possible was an evolutionary bycatch.

Hilarious, isn’t it? That such an evolutionary breakthrough basicly was a coincidence. I believe that play (a state of being) can create these unexpected breakthroughs aswell. In play you just do, with the goal of having fun. But by doing, you’ll created something which resonates and forges you to step into the uncertainty. Before you know it things can turn into unexpected directions where you can you stumble upon ideas or connections that you would never have found through a linear process.

So the clue:

– Use linear processes of innovation for small improvements
– Use non-linear processes (like play) and “let go” to create mayor breakthroughs in innovation


Once upon a time….

What do science and play have in common? Neuroscientist Beau Lotto thinks all people (kids included) can participate in science and, through the process of discovery, play helps to change perceptions. According to him, play is the evolutionary answer to (deal with) uncertainty.

Play is a process (or rather a way of being) that makes you:

  • Celebrate uncertainty (in stead of running away from it)
  • Adaptable to change
  • Open to possibility
  • Cooperative
  • Intrinsically motivated

These are as well the most important aspect of being a good scientist. So by using the process of play, you can get the state of mind you need to be for scientific research. By that, he concludes that everyone who can play, can be a good scientist. And perhaps a lot more. In this TED Talk Beau Lotto shows how teenage children wrote an influential publication throughout the process of play. It starts: “Once upon a time … ”

Oh, the places you’ll go

In a couple of days my collegae Miranda is going to Burning Man, the festival in the middle of the Nevada Desert. To get an image of the festival she has send me a beautiful video made by several participants of the festival. It’s based on the tale by Dr. Seuss: Oh the places you’ll go. Curious? Have a look:

I didn’t knew the tale of Dr Seuss so I looked it up and found a you tube clip where the tale is being told (see beneath). I was so impressed by the playful wisdom it contains. It’s about the process of life, trial and error and accepting that failure is part of succes. Enjoy and share.

And… I would very much like to know what playful wisdom you’re inspirate by.

Social safari – review part 2

In my last blog post I told more about the case we were working on and with what results we came up. In this blog post I tell you more about the concept of the social safari and how it is related to “let’s play innovation”.

The social safari is a one week think/do tank in which 31 professionals with diverse backgrounds, expertise, nationalities etc work together on a complex social case of organizations working in Amsterdam. The safari is based on 3 principles, namely:

  • Design thinking
  • Think local and global!
  • Diversity creates wisdom

Here you can learn more about the concept of the social safari

Basically, the social safari is two things in one:

  • It’s a ‘solution brigade’ working with the partner organisation to find solutions for complex problems;
  • It’s an action learning program for social innovators, while solving problems they learn about social design, co-creation and establish a network of social innovators.

For me the social safari embedded one of the essences of let’s play innovation. We had a great week, with a lot of fun, we’ve worked our asses off and did work that was valuable to many people. Just a week, but innovation happened,  sometimes without us knowing. The interventions we did, caused other people to (re)gain energy in solving their social issues, we’ve empowered neighbourhood initiatives to keep on going, we’ve engaged the government to take an active role in there district, we’ve created a common language in which both parties can connect. Of course we didn’t solve the problem, but by our actions, other actions have been started.

On the other hand we’ve learned a lot. By doing we’ve learned how to cope with complex issues. Not by coming up with a report, but by actually testing your assumptions to the real world (prototyping). Testing what works and what doesn’t work, learn and develop through failure and success. We’ve learned a lot from other participants (who have very different backgrounds) and established an international network of social innovators by intensely working together and have fun in the process. Fun and working hard connects!
Another discovery was that if you work on a social issue that is relevant to many stakeholders, you’ll establish a network in this field very fast. I think we‘ve spoken to 50 stakeholders who we’re very willing to help us out (so we could help them out ofcourse), but still. It gave me the conformation that if you passionately work on important social issues, you will not do it alone, there are tons of people willing to help you out.

So let’s play innovation, work hard, spend your time on valuable issues and have a lot of fun while doing it.

Here is are the foto impressions of this week

Tigers in the Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam

Social safari – review part 1

I’m back. Back from a very intense, special week in which I learned too much.. It was called the social safari. It basically is an one week think/do tank in which 31 professionals with diverse backgrounds, expertise, nationalities etc. In this week we worked together on a complex social case of organizations based in Amsterdam. I’m writing 2 blog posts on this incredible week. One on the case we have been working on & the results we came up with and another on the brilliant concept of this social safari and how it is related to “let’s play innovation”.

Here we go, part 1:

On Monday we visited six organizations who offered us a concrete, but complex social case they’re struggling with. It was very interesting to learn about these organizations and to hear that they are struggling with issues many other organizations are struggling with as well. Namely, all organizations we’ve visited are vertically organised organizations who are trying to cope with the horizontal happenings in society (hierarchal model vs. network model). For example, the city theatre of Amsterdam. It displays high quality theatre, but has only a high educated, mainly white audience. They want to be a representation of the city, but the city is far more diverse than their audience is. How to attract these diverse communities?

Our case was of the municipality of Amsterdam East, who are noticing the incredible amount of neighbourhood initiatives in their district. At this moment the municipality decides to which initiatives the money is going. They wanted us to find out if the citizens themselves could decide where the money should go and how they can be held accountable to each other (instead of to the district). From vertical accountability (municipality decides where the money goes), to horizontal accountability (citizens decide where the money goes).

We formed a group with diverse backgrounds. An (architectural)designer from Canada, a think tank leader and strategist from Berlin, a well-connected social entrepreneur from Utrecht, a program director from de Baak and myself. Last but not least, we we’re being coached by an independent designer who was a participant of the social safari in 2011.

Together with this group we spend the next 4 days intensely together working on this case. On day 2 (Tuesday) we gathered a lot of information by talking to people from the municipality and many people on the street. Goal was to come up with an intervention we would test the next day (prototyping). That evening we had to present our idea for an intervention to a jury. It was well received so we could go on. The next day we tested our intervention in a 24h challenge, which was very exciting and stretching (for us, as the people involved). On the next day (Thursday), we could deepen the impact of our intervention. Finally @ Friday we got to present the results of this week to our case holder, the municipality of Amsterdam East.

Curious? Here’s the presentation we came up with: