Create the future by playing with existing elements and add something extra. I just visited the EYE in Amsterdam to see how Oskar Fischinger did just that 90 years ago, and helped to build animation. From abstract objects moving on music to “living” dinosaurs now. It shows again that connecting business to arts is a proven concept to innovate. But do you have the Innovator’s eye?
In April 2012 I went to the Annual “How to create things and have them matter” (ES20) final presentations at the Laboratory at Harvard. The Lab is a new forum and platform for idea experimentation in the arts and sciences at Harvard University. Beth Altringer is co-instructor and has a PhD in Innovation and Behavior – an interesting mix. How honest do you dare to be in your innovation process?
In the interesting conversation Beth Altringer brought up a new subject in the Innovation process: honesty. A topic I encounter often in personal leadership programs, but I’ve heared nobody talking about this in relation to innovation. People create complex processes and thinking paterns, because they have (subconsciously) problems with dealing with the consequences of their deepest wishes.
“I think my idea is better. So get out of my way and just do what I say!” -> “Yes, let’s put your idea on this long long list.”
“I’m not really sure what I want, can you help me with this?” -> “Well, if you bring this concept in a relative position to…blah blah”
“I have an interesting concept on my computer and I would love someone to look at it.” -> “Let’s talk about safety in this organization.”
Sometimes it is very wise not to act on your feelings ands wishes, but it is not always clear if these fears are real or that you just have to be open about what you’re looking for. Whatever it may be, after the divergence phase (brainstorming, etc.) you have to focus and be honest with yourself and your teammates about what you really want to achieve. Call Beth if you want some help with this:)
(and watch the movie 12 Angry Men)
At the end I asked her to draw Innovation, and she came up with this toothpaste of Innovation, with feedback loops. Let’s evaluate our toothpaste to know if it’s going to help cleaning our teeth.
Can you turn a course into a game? Jeremy Bushnell teaches Writing Skill classes at Boston University and North Eastern University, and has a fascination for games. He asks his students to play video games, and write reflections on them during his course. He noticed that their engagement was much higher then when they had to reflect on novels. So he challenged himself by experimenting with the same principles used in games in his class (Read more in this article). The most important principle is called the Flow Channel “Get the challenge that matches your present skill”.
It would be great if the thousands of hours of engagement online could be simply copied in our working and even personal lives. No more trouble with my manager about my salary, because I give him a golden star when I get a raise. All discussions with my girlfriend about doing the laundry will vanish into thin air when I tell her that the dryer is the “End Boss” of the washing game. Could it all be that simple? When talking with Jeremy about his lessons learned so far in his experiment, it turns out that there are some bumps on the road that need attention like…
- People love playing games because they’re trivial, but when things are real (like a course at BU)… people take things obviously very serious. With as a result that they don’t like it to fight four or five times with the Boss – Exam before they can get to the next level.
- If you tell your students which skills you want to see during the course, and give them a lot of freedom in when to do so, some of them will wait until the last week (I would do so…). This makes playing and experimenting impossible. Most students are simply not used to this kind of learning environment.
- Suggesting that a situation can be seen as a game may offend some people. The word Game can therefor be treacherous if the other is not acquainted with the gaming principles.
Or… we can learn from this really interesting experiment (and others): It could be very helpful to break a complex problem into smaller bits that match the skills of the person. Create easier games, and call them differently so people feel that they are taken seriously. Most managers are for instance really afraid to play “Tag, you’re it” in public. Not because they don’t know how to play it, but for other more personal reasons like afraid to be laughed at doing silly things. So break “silly things” in more easy challenges like “shake hands with somebody you don’t know”.
Video: Jeremy Bushnell about the Flow Channel
Last night I was as a Sustainable Seafood Facilitator at the Cambridge Science Festival in the Museum of Science in Boston. I like fish. Apparently just as co-facilitator Betsy Day who is is a executive trainer “from Assessment to Action”. She is just as me a member of the interesting Boston Facilitators Roundtable. We had a great brainstorm about Leadership, Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and the possible differences across the Ocean.
The outcome is potentially a round table about this subject in the coming months (please feel free to contribute in anyway you want). And of course I asked her to draw her vision on Innovation. We noticed that nobody until now has drawn a leader in the Innovation process, and straight lines are not be found. Is it Is it flow or chaos?
“What is your advice for me when I’m in stress, and my head is full of thoughts?”
“What do you normally after you had such a stressful moment?”
“I normally take a beer and relax with some friends…”
“Well, skip the stress part, and just take a beer with your friends.”
That the solution for a problem can be simple becomes clear in the interesting and fun conversation with Improvisation and Stress expert Zohar Adner in a coffee shop ‘The Bean’ in New York. It becomes painfully clear that deepening what got you stuck, isn’t the logical way of starting to move again.
“Life is more fun when you stop stressing out”
Again a very simple sentence, so what’s the catch? If you say this sententence to somebody, this person might well say “He, my life isn’t that easy. You have no idea what I have to deal with. My manager… and the organization is… so I can’t… ”. This all can be very true, but do you have the inner drive to make a change? People who say “I don’t have a clue where to start, but let’s go!” can be regarded as naive but are open for new possibilities. Zohar’s advice: don’t put your energy in the first group. If a person doesn’t want to change, it will not happen before they really want to. Painfully true I guess in the situations I worry about too much… And the people in the second group can be positively influenced when they see the first group changing and want to be a part of that.
If innovation is about change, and therefor about taking risks: do you focus on the fun part or do you get stuck in all the potential problems? Can you see complexity, but keep it simple so you can play? Iggy Gesell |(some blogs ago) connected me to a Risk Expert. I’m curious what his opition is about this all….
The Game about Stress
So it wasn’t a big suprise that Zohar already had invented a game about Stress a while ago. The concepts in this video are nevertheless made up no the spot. Put all your miseries in the hole of dispair, and you will end up with a mountain of good fortune. Let’s play!
Alot of Scifi writers reach greater acclaim when time goes by and their predicitons actually become true technologies in real life. But it’s not only Sci-Fi writers, that can claim to be visionary, it’s also writers of children’s books that can (although not often) predict the future.
I have been reading a Dutch children’s book together with my daughter. The writer actually describes a navigation system. The main character Pluk rides a little red truck and uses a Lispeltuut (a seashell) that he puts to his ear to figure out directions. Alot like the navigation systems that we use in our cars today. To read about the book:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pluk_van_de_Petteflet
Another favourite children’s book that I share with my daughter is called “The Lorax”, written by Dr. Seuss. It treats environmental issues of unlimited production. Nobody but a fool, can deny that the book has 20-20 vision on the phenomenons that we are now tackling in the field of sustainability. To read about the book: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorax
Enjoy! When adults adapt a child’s view on the world, that can be a strong tool for opening up your mind to innovative pathways.
Today I had an interesting conversation with Tim Douglas. He was part of the original cast of ImprovAsylum in Boston and works now as an assistant Director of Undergraduate Admission at Emerson College. He is a person who has really interesting thoughts about Improvisation and the game of Innovation on a practical and abstract level. I asked him to draw a picture of Innovation and explain this afterwards. Could it help us to find ‘the truth’?
I think there is an interesting tension in the part of sharing ideas, as I spoke a lawyer a couple of weeks ago who said “The biggest misunderstanding in Innovation is to share your idea with others. Never do so, because they will steal your idea!!”. I know of course what he means regarding to patents, but all non-lawyers talk about a more social kind of Innovation. I’m gonna try to find a lawyer to draw their picture of Innovation. I’ll bet it has thick walls and small peepholes to watch the competition:) As reality is only perception – I hope we can combine those visions into one simple game in which people can be creative.