Trailer Beat The World – Let’s Play Innovation

Festival Beat the World – Let’s Play Innovation
Save the date: 11th of January 2013
Location: Driebergen, The Netherlands

During this festival (with partners like MIT Gamelab) we’re going to work with Playful methods and mindsets like Improvisation, Gamification, Rapid Prototyping, etc. etc. The goal is to find new ways to innovate to build a more sustainable society.


Feng Shui innovation for Hong Kong… and some clean tech please

We arrived a couple of days ago in Hong Kong. The first night we spent at a Hong Kong Island Hotel in a room with a commanding panoramic view. That hotel and the roof top pool were great to sleep off and swim off the jet-lag. After the leasure comes the traveler’s hard work. So from the international hotel we moved to a rented flat in downtown Kowloon. The place is surrounded by hundreds of textile front stores. These stores take orders for the mainland Chinese manufacturing facilities and ship the goods globally via the harbour. After all the “Hong” in Hong Kong stands for trading company and that is exactly the vibe of Kowloon: Trade with a capital “T”. Somebody here threw out the “F” of Feng Shui long ago and replaced it with the “F” of Finance and trade.

The elementary profit and loss for Hong Kong gives plenty of room for clean tech innovation:
Water: can not be drunk from the tap and better not swim in the harbour waters.
Air / Wind: hard to breath because of the fine dust particles and exhaust related smog.
Earth: where there was a village of 500 people there now is a HK newtown housing 80,000 people, stacked.
Fire: every day HK burns the massive amounts of fossil fuels, required for it’s trade and transport.

So let the simplified P&L of the elements guide the Chinese to a brighter Hong Kong, from the smog into the light. No wonder that Hong Kong’s neighbour Shenzhen is trying to become an industrial clean tech giant. The market and real life laboratory for clean tech lies right next door.

Jan’s Valuable Lesson

In a comment on the post Office of the future fit for Innovation, co-writer Jan Raes gave me a ridiculous challenge: “…I would like you to record and post a movie, where someone gives you something for free, that is actually not free to start with (a coffee, candy, food, some kind of service! Not money!) for making them laugh about one of your stories. This person must be a stranger to start out with.”. It is now several weeks later…

At first I was trying to find ways to influence people with NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) and brainwaves so that they would give me all their chocolatechip cookies, but that didn’t turn out to be a success. After a few hours I gave up, and became a broken man… Until last Thursday! I went to the studio of Suzanne Merritt to connect with her on Innovation an Creativity. Her studio is the greatest thing you’ve ever seen.

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After wondering around I fell in love with a strange little wooden guy with a spear, and I don’t know exactly why, but I took a picture of it. Suzanne noticed it, and gave it to me as a totally unexpected gift. She said she didn’t send it to her gallery for also some strange reason.

What is the Moral of this Story?
Don’t focus on what you want from somebody, but invest in the relationship with all your enthousiasm. Thank you Jan for this valuable lesson from the Netherlands!;) And of course, thank you Suzanne for this little man standing in our window-sill.


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!

Do you actually need a Theater to play Improvisation?

In our latest blog The rise of Urban Playing we were discussing the possibility to take activities outside that normally would be inside. What would the impact be to the activity (and business model)  by just transforming the surroundings. At the end Jan Raes posted the question “Rutger, as for your cherised hobby, do you actually need a theater to play improvisation?”. The answer is of course ‘no’. 

The greatest thing about improvisation theater is that you play it with (in stead of only for) your audience. You can play wherever and whenever you want, just like a lot of people are great actors when they visit their family-in-law. But if we really look at improvisation as an activity that is normally performed in a theater, then a good example of playing outside the (theater) box is the famous Improv Everywhere from New York. There slogan is ‘we cause scenes’. My favorite example is their ‘Best Game Ever‘.

Cast or Audience?

What I really like about this video is that is the distinction between cast and audience has completely disappeared. The little baseball players, the cast of Improv Everywhere, the ‘normal’ audience, …, everybody is acting and enjoying themselves at the same time. The focus for all is to perform as good as they can, and to give their audience / target group the best time ever. They all depend on each other to make it the Best Game Ever. This would never have been possible in this way if they didn’t get rid of the idea that you have to play in a theater and asking people to pay for your performance.

The new question to the blog visitors: Do you have an example in which you have paid your customer / audience?

The rise of Urban Playing

Like many people I consider cities as a giant playground. Amsterdam seems to be particularly suited for this role. Skateboarders and rollerskaters have more or less pioneered the urban playing aspect of cities. Now also the more conservative sport of golf is turning towards playing in public city parks. At least the Vondelpark in Amsterdam was temporarily altered into a public golf course last Tuesday. I was wondering if litigation laws in the US would permit such a sport like golf to be played in a truely public park. Surely it is played with hard litte balls, that travel at fairly high speed,  that can essentially hit unexpecting pedestrians in the park. Question to the blog visitors: what other sports do we see taking themselves into the public domain? Do you see innovative businesses being built around them?

Karmic Kickback

In my latest post I wrote about Mindvalley and the way they´re organising their company. Typical for Mindvalley is to think in non-linear business strategies in stead of the regular business models based on a linear perception of achieving goals. Basicly, what they did is to create a playground in which you as an employee can turn your dreams into reality. The Karmic Kickback they´re creating turns out to be far creater than any linear business strategy (see latest post – happiness is the new productivity).

The way mindvalley organises their company and treat their talent is innovative on it’s self. However the products they develop (as a result of how they facilitated their talent) are very cool aswell. For example, which was launched march this year (2012). It’s a website based on the problem a lot of entrepreneurs face: a really cool idea is easely copied or stolen. For mindvalley, a lot of their ideas were being copied by their competitors. In stead of wasting time and energy on preventing or conquering, they established this website to share all the information and ideas competitors are after. This means every template, every meeting, every spreadsheet about how they run their business will be shared online. By this, MindValley will be one of the first companies to be completely devoted to sharing everything about their business in an open source model.

Their now helping their competitors to become better. It would be great to learn how this will effect Mindvalley. My assumption is that they found a briljant way to transform a problem into a powerful tool to market themselves even more as a leading player in the personal growth business and beyond. I think one of Mindvalley’s employee must be an aikido expert ;).

Professional Playing – an outline (presentation in Dutch)

There was this afternoon an event at de Baak in the Netherlands called “Profesional Playing“, which gave an overview of different methods and metaphors of the use of playfulness in business practice. I was asked to provide some kind of an outline at the beginning, and made one with the use of Knovio because I couldn’t be there as I’m staying in Boston at the moment. Please have a look at it, and play the game that’s part of it.  

I got the feedback from a viewer who said the story made it really clear to her that she didn’t want to become a manager, and that they could use the mindset for another reorganization…That’s why I’m always curious what people think; it’s always something unexpected!

My apologies that it’s in Dutch! It’s such a beautiful language…

Happiness is the new productivity

One of the biggest problem for large companies, all over the world is to attrack, develop and maintain talent. Talented people are refusing to commit to an environment where they can’t make full use of their full potential, can’t contribute to the world or are “managed” by managers that are uninspiring for them. The need to work for a company is far less than it used to be. More than ever it is easy to set up your own business. You can easely join entrepreneurial networks and the knowledge of “how to” is spread all over the internet for free.

Mindvalley, an Malaysian company in the personal growth market is trying to do things differently. What Mindvalley is doing, is building a workplace where employees very much profit from being a part of. They’re not focussing on achieving linear goals in order to gain profit. What their doing is making sure that you as an mindvalley employee achieve your personal goals (linked to Mindvalley’s vision). They’re on a mission of building the World’s greatest workspace and by that they hope to reshape (by inspiring) the workspace of many traditional companies.

This way of working is very profitable for Mindvalley. Their becoming famous around the world. Talented people from all over the world are applying in order to work for Mindvalley. Most of people that have worked for mindvalley turn into entrepreneurs and start a business back in their own country. Almost all, linked to mindvalley or they’ve even started their local mindvalley company. By this Mindvalley is creating a world wide network of really talented people, absolutely devoted to Mindvalley’s vision and business.

I’ve selected this awesome video from the CEO of mindvalley where he explains more about the way Mindvalley works. Basicly what he is saying, is that “happiness is the new productivity” and that it creates a hugh ‘karmic kickback’ which (on the long term) is more profitable than any business strategy.  Cool isn’t it?