Obeisance to the Fool

After the last post on Tiding Up art…, hereby the brilliant, crazy and shocking contribution of the Yes Men to our list of people who dare to change the world a little bit. Most organizations love to talk about Leaders, but what would the world be without the services of the Fool. Part of every well respected card deck, but painfully forgotten by mister Belbin when he defined his eight team roles. The Fool is like a mirror: (s)he shows what stays hidden. Have a look at his brave video, and draw your own conclusions. 

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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

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!

Co create an event on Innovation and Playfulness (Vote for the Name)

On the 11th or January 2013 de Baak organizes the annual international Meet The World event, which has this year a focus on Innovation and how Playfulness can help organizations in this process. You could say that it is an offline version of this blog. At the moment we are looking for partners and other fun & interesting people to help us to co create this festival. You could be part of this process! Let’s prototype!

Please have a look at our draft webpage with a magazine which describes the outlines. 

And of course vote for the best name for this event. We put it on the right, so it connects well with your analytical left brain.

We’ve already started, so come out and play!

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?