Let’s Play Innovation Experiment at Accenture Innovation Awards

Last week de Baak was asked to give a short presentation at the Accenture Innovation Awards in Amsterdam with a focus on Playfulness in Innovation. We replied: “Yes, and… we want to try something new with this audience about this human side of Innovation. Is that ok?”. Do Dutch Innovators like to get out of their comfort zone? 

The setting was really challenging one: all the participants in the room wore headphones. In this way the audience could hear the speakers better, but it was also blocking direct contact in a strange way. It feels like talking into space. So we tried the concept of Bricolage: how can we use those  headphones for the point we like to make, in stead of seeing them as an element of obstruction?

Of course, we hoped for a room  with crazy dancing innovators  singing “Barbara Streisand!”, but learned more then we expected: isolation is killing for people to get out of their comfort zone. To start a movement you need direct interaction between people, and the feeling that they are part of a bigger whole. Some audience members (the early adopters) made it work, but because the audience followers  (majority) didn’t notice their success they waited till the normal situation to return.

Join the movement
Let’s Play Innovation is a movement to stimulate the innovative mindset of professionals in a playful way. So get connected via Facebook, Twitter and our website and play along! If you want to learn more join our Daring Innovation course of Incompany possibilities at de Baak.


Masterclass Reframing – embracing Complexity

Last week Let’s Play Innovation organized the last Masterclass of 2013 on Reframing, by Bruna Setola. He has the the great job title “Gameful Experience Designer”, and is an inspiring guy on new ways of thinking (which says much more;)). Reframing means looking from a different perspective at the same situation. Indeed, that doesn’t sound very new…, but it’s getting interesting with the aspect of embracing the complexity of your environment to the max. Emerge yourself in complexity, and find what’s really going on.

Don’t try to contain what is open.
Don’t make simple what is complex.
Don’t isolate what is a network.
And don’t make static what is dynamic.

Wicked problems on the roll
So, Reframing embraces the fact that our environment has changed and we’re confronted with wicked problems. Issues that aren’t going to be solved on a simple level, because they are part of our complex experience driven economy. No more honest coffee beans, but a Starbucks experience with wifi, couches and at least cappuccino with latte’art. No more offices but moving creators in blended environments. So how can we work with this complexity? Put the next elements in your DNA:

1)    postpone your judgement
2)    Embrace the complexity of your domain
3)    Find the patterns (in stead of problems)
4)    Translate the patterns into new frames (reframing)
5)    Test the relevance of your new frame for your stakeholders
6)    Find the seemingly easy solutions that the frame brings
7)    Translate and test them into reality (Design Thinking can be your vehicle)

Give me an example!
Nothing works better than an example. Let’s take the Railways, with their question “How can we improve our service to get more satisfied customers?”

Current Frame: Transport. We move people from A to B.
Current solution: more trains, faster change of trains, high speed trains

Possible Reframe: Waiting room. We let people wait in trains and on stations.
Possible solutions: WIFI, nice coaches, shops, food & beverages, etc.

station Leiden

station Leiden

You can think of hundreds of reframes, but the best ones are simple, accepted by the majority of the stakeholders, and generate by itself many possible solutions for your challenge. When you hear about a successful Reframe it is always like “Why didn’t they think of that before?”. But make no mistake: it is hard work to find the underlying patterns and to come up with a good reframe.


Reframing and Playfulness
Reframing has, just like all playful methods, a user centered approach. That means that we follow the needs and dreams of a person, instead the possibilities of e.g. your iPhone. Technique empowers our dreams, and everything is possible. For many, including myself, this is sometimes a scary thought. We want simplicity back in our life because it is so… simple, clear and honest. And at the same time the current possibilities are very hopeful, because they create an opening for a more sustainable environment. I love final thoughts;)

Possible program to follow: Daring Innovation

10 hints uit een Masterclass Prototyping

Elke maand organiseert de Baak – Let’s Play Innovation een Masterclass voor professionals om op een playful wijze organisaties te helpen in hun innovatieproces. Deze maand stond Prototyping centraal en werd gefaciliteerd door Wiro Kuipers en Rutger Slump in ‘De garage’ op Landgoed de Horst in Driebergen. 22 deelnemers gingen los met legosteentjes, viltstiften en hun eigen improvisatiekracht. Prototyping is het gesprek dat je hebt met je ideeën (Wujec). Een typisch geval aldus van “je had erbij moeten zijn”, maar hierbij toch gewoon tien hints.

1)     Word niet verliefd op je ideeën, waardoor je niet meer openstaat voor iets beters.

2)     Zorg voor een gelijk speelveld met de andere actoren in het proces. Dit kan door bijvoorbeeld het werken met LEGO waardoor de focus niet op de persoon maar op het bouwen komt te liggen.

3)     Volg je intuitie op momenten dat je nog geen duidelijkheid hebt door gewoon te beginnen. Beginnen is vaak de lastigste stap omdat je ratio controle wil houden. Mensen vinden instappen vaak zo spannend dat ze uitvluchten zoeken in hun mobiel, vragen over het proces, commentaar op de begeleiding etc.. De ervaring leert echter dat je vaak na afloop goed kan verklaren wat je gebouwd hebt, maar daarvoor moet je wel beginnen.

4)     Werk met duidelijke kaders zoals uitdaging en tijdsbepaling. In te veel ruimte raken mensen verloren. Wellicht herkenbaar als je ooit moest afstuderen…

5)     Gebruik Applied Improvisation (Ja, en… denken) als mindset om vanuit mogelijkheden in plaats van beperkingen te werken.

6)     Maak concreet wat je in je hoofd hebt of in tekst staat geschreven. Hierdoor ontstaat beleving bij vaak abstracte woorden, en de mogelijkheid voor anderen om hierop praktisch te reageren. Bouw Weconomy of Duurzaamheid maar eens met LEGO.

7)     Bouw samen. Vernieuwing ontstaat tussen mensen – jezelf proberen te verrassen is bijzonder lastig.

8)     Vaardigheden zoals bouwen, hoofd leeghouden, en creativiteit zijn te trainen net zoals boekhouden.

9)     De fysieke ruimte en begeleiding van de facilitator hebben grote impact op het proces. Een garage geeft bijvoorbeeld een informeel gevoel, waarin mensen zich meer vrij voelen om dingen uit te proberen.

10)  Prototyping is hard werken. Zorg dus voor een goede afwisseling tussen inspanning en ontspanning. Iedereen was uitgeput aan het einde van de middag.

Prototyping is onderdeel van een proces zoals Design Thinking, en staat uiteraard niet op zichzelf. Wil je er meer over weten of aan de slag in jouw organisatie – neem dan contact op met r.slump@debaak.nl, of meldt je aan voor het nieuwe innovatietraject Daring Innovation (bijna online, dus druk die F5 / Refresh vaak in!).

“If you freeze an idea too quickly, you fall in love with it. If you refine it too quickly, you become attached to it and it becomes very hard to keep exploring, to keep looking for better ideas.”

No individual knows, but collectively we do

I have been reading some of Matt Ridley’s books in the past with great interest.
The books Genome and the Red Queen are great popular science books about human biology and the role of DNA. Little did I know that this aristocratic man of science would als try to lead a bank. During his term, he would face a near bankruptcy, walk away unharmed and write a book. His dad was also a banker, so it must have been a matter of the right DNA.

Here is the TED talk which is also the opening chapter of his book “The rational optimist”. During this talk he touches upon the toaster project, which you can see and read about in my other blogpost. Making a toaster without the power of the division of labour is not so easy. Especially when you decide to make all components of the toaster from scratch. This talk stresses that no individual knows enough by him or herself to make (for example) a toaster or a computermouse, but that collectively we do.

Post from China

The reason that I could actually not write this post from China is because the wordpress blogosphere is not accessible from within China.

I want to raise a point about imitation and innovation. I have seen so much of the first in China that I actually started wondering abut the innovative aspect of imitation.

What does it actually take to make a good imitation? When you start out you might have no idea how the actual thing that you want to imitate is made. On the other hand alot of imitations are originals without the right labeling and a different price level. But I am talking about the real fakes here. The pictures below give you some hint about what type of imitation we are talking about: Adivon and Adidas, both sportshoe brands, not necessarily unrelated shoe designs (-;

But is imitation of an existing design actually simple? And is imitation inherently contrary to innovation? I don’t know. My visit to China has not given me the evidence that imitation is a simple and dumb process. The toaster project from the English artist Thomas Thwaites has made me doubt even more whether it is actually easy to imitate things of which the design is publicly available and generally regarded as a simple technology. Watch and enjoy the toaster project, he explains thouroughly his complex imitation process of an industrial toaster.

The interesting thing is that the Chinese do alot better job at more complex items than simple standard toasters, look at this beautiful selection of highly complex car designs.
Please disregard the annoying music and enjoy the similarities.

You must learn to recognize a diamond in the rough

Last week I had a great meetup with the intreging Suzanne Merritt. Before she started her own business Suzanne was Senior Creatologist (great title) and Founder of the Creativity Laboratory at Polaroid Corporation, which was also located in Boston. She designed innovation programs which generated ideas valued at 60 million dollars. And now… she is in the search of Beauty and learns executives how to draw and take pictures. What is going on with her?

Bono’s hats and Art
“As founder of the Lab, I was certified in nine excellent innovation methodologies ranging from de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats to Creative Problem Solving. But something was lacking from these methodologies… Through the arts, we had discovered how to tap into an authentic source of creative energy in individuals and teams by connecting them to their work in more meaningful ways. The quality of ideas generated by the participants improved, and their behavior shifted.”
(Journal of Business Strategy Fall 2010 Vol.31 No.4, What Does Beauty Have to Do with Business?)

There are millions of ways to get to a new idea, and every human being has the capability to be creative. So what separates the ‘post-its professionals’ from the ones which bring something special? The main challenge is to recognize and appreciate new insights when they present themselves to you, or it will remain just post-its. For example: Some people see just a tree, while others recognize the solution for their business challenge. Another example is the question that many managers have “How can I choose between really new proposals of a business nobody knows yet? How do I know which one to pick that will become succesfull?”. Some call this ability a gift which makes it too special and mystical. It is something you can practice by doing daily exercises, going to places that give you new impulses, and keeping a creativity log, etc.. Suzanne uses the process that is useful as an outline.

–       Collect: see what is there

–       Connect: interpret

–       Create: determines appropriate action

As an experiment I went with her (and a meetup group) to the Charles River in Boston to take pictures of the sunset. The goal was to investigate the difference between taking a snapshot and letting a picture come to you. We used the same process of really being in the moment and seeing what was there (collect), noticing what is appealing to you (connect) and taking the best picture of that moment / story (create). What I noticed, as the ultimate amateur, is that I had to find the game in this exercise, in stead of just following the instructions. At that moment I forgot for a moment about time (flow) and was aware of what had to be photographed. I enjoyed the results, and was also aware that I had to practice much more… Suzanne helped us to see the beauty that is all around us, and to go a step further then just another picture of sunset.

Patterns of Beauty
Luckely we don’t have to invent the wheel for ourselves about beauty. At the Polaroid Creative Lab Suzanne investigated how you can find the elements which have this A factor. She identified eight patterns of beauty: vitality, luminosity, unity in variety, complexity, utility, simplicity, synchronicity, and sublimity. I won’t explain them in this blog, so have a look at this short video and read her beautiful iBook.

In General
I think it’s applicable for any creative process, but that one of the difficulties is to give yourself enough time to really collect and connect. Even with my background in Improvisation, which is most of the time played at high speed, you have to ground before you can add something that is worthwhile. This is not so easy, so be average and give yourself time to enjoy!

Social (innovation) safari 2012

The last couple of months I’ve been working on the social safari. And it will finally start and I’m really exited, because besides organising I will join as a participant myself. It is a one-week program (1-6 July 2012) in which international participants from diverse backgrounds work together on complex social issues. A concept of Kennisland and this year de Baak joins forces to make it even better.

The safari emerged out of the thought that solutions to complex issues are best solved by teams as diverse as possible. For one week we create the perfect social innovation think tank to help solving complex social issues of corporations in Amsterdam. Imagine having the thinking power of designers, consultants, social workers, entrepreneurs: all together

By this trailer you can get a good impression of the safari. Later on I’ll post some of my experiences. On Friday the 6th of july there will be a big party where we’ll present the results of this stunning week. This is open for everyone to join. Check out the facebook group.