Challenging your thoughts

Last weeks I worked with several groups from larger companies on the prototyping fase of their innovation challenge: build your ideas and test them. And it has been a graveyard of well-intentioned initiatives. Momento mori. So why do I have a smile on my face? 

“I assure you that 90% of the briljant elements in your prototype will turn out different then expected, will even be destroyed, when you let your target group play with it. So, step away from your ego, and be happy: you’re learning!”  And indeed, most participants came back with a smile and a tear (and I don’t trust the other ones;)). They had to let go what they thought was the best for the customer, and happy that they hadn’t put all their tokens on false assumptions. We learned a lot about getting out there, trail and improve, knowing when to stop, and combing ideas.

But maybe the thing I like best: In the last two  / three years there is an interesting shift noticeable in the larger organizations  I work for: they are actually experimenting with new ways of working! Even during the darkest periods of the crises 80% of de Baak’s customers talked about innovation, but didn’t really try something new. This is changing rapidly, making a shift in hart (how to connect), head (how do I see the world and the future) and hands (how do I work in a different way). And yes, it is  still very small most of the time, but every movement has to start somewhere…

One

Hidden Design from Afdeling Buitengewone Zaken on Vimeo.

Luister niet naar de klant

We zijn in een tijdperk dat we alles kunnen creëren. Er is veel aandacht voor technische innovatie, maar de uitdaging is uiteindelijk om te zien waar de werkelijke behoefte ligt. Iets te zien wat de anderen gemist hebben. Dat klinkt aantrekkelijk, maar is niet makkelijk aangezien 25% van wat we zien gevuld wordt door ons netvlies en we de rest erbij denken. We zien dus vooral wat we denken te zien. Dus hoe kan je tot vernieuwing komen als ons hoofd zo in de weg zit om een volgende stap te maken?

Zie wat klanten niet zeggen
Het logische antwoord is om aan de klant te vragen wat er nodig is, maar dat levert zelden echt wat op. Wij gaan door onze westerse opvoeding ervan uit dat we zeer bewust door het leven gaan en een rationele controle hebben over wat we doen. Uit onderzoek blijkt dat we echter voor slechts 5% bewuste keuzes maken, en de rest door ons onbewuste geregeld wordt. Door de klant te bevragen maken we aanspraak op de bewuste kant, terwijl we vaak wat anders doen. Zo was ik onlangs bij de verkoop van afgekeurde groente en fruit, zoals kromkommers en appels met een plekje. Mijn mede consumenten waren uiteraard verantwoorde mensen die zeiden dat een lelijke appel ook gewoon heel lekker is. Wat echter opviel was dat ze toch de mooiste stuk groente en fruit uit de stapels haalden. We doen andere dingen dan we zeggen. Dus kijk vooral goed wat er daadwerkelijk gebeurt en luister minder naar wat je klant daarover zegt. Als je hierop aansluit zullen veel mensen later zeggen “Ja eigenlijk is dat ook wel zo”.

Tool: Ik zie ik zie wat jij niet ziet
Wat kan helpen om iets nieuws te zien is om jezelf simpele kijkopdrachten te geven, zoals ‘wanneer kijken mensen blij in deze ruimte?’ of ‘wat vermijdt iedereen hier?’, en heb geen oordeel over wat je dan ziet. Het zal je helpen om dingen te zien die je daarvoor gemist hebt. Werk daarnaast samen met mensen van buiten je vakgebied, want zij zullen ook altijd andere dingen zien dan jij.

Wees niet te voorzichtig, dat is levensgevaarlijk
Een tweede probleem is dat de meest briljante inzichten en ideeën vaak worden teruggeschakeld als het reëel gaat worden. We zijn risicomijdend van nature, en dat zie je al snel terug van een radicaal idee dat wordt terugvertaald in een slappe app. Zie bijvoorbeeld de twee MRI scanners hieronder.

De eerste scanner is de ogenschijnlijk risicoloze variant, waarbij ik als klant meteen ga nadenken waarom ze het hebben proberen op te vrolijken. Wat zit hier achter? Bij de tweede variant stap je een onderzeeverhaal in, waardoor het meer een beleving is dan een gedachte. Het gaat ver, maar een beetje Starbucks is dan ook net niets.

Lanceer guilty pleasures
De derde lastigheid is dat ons hoofd overal wat van vindt, terwijl we vaak anders doen of zouden willen doen. Zo gaat de wereld uit zijn dak bij het horen van ‘Mambo No. 5’ van Lou Bega (no1 Spotify Guilty Pleasures lijst) terwijl we ook met elkaar bepaald hebben dat het een heel slecht nummer is. Belangrijk bij het invoeren van nieuwe diensten, producten of werkwijzen is dan ook om niet te blijven hangen in beleidsteksten, waarvan we allemaal iets moeten vinden, maar zo snel mogelijk het klein en licht uit te proberen in de praktijk. Film dit resultaat en laat dit aan je manager zien. “De klant vindt het fijn zoals je kan zien, zullen we het vergroten?”.

Grote instellingen zijn gebouwd om vast te houden wat succesvol was, en hebben moeite met wat het onbekende nieuwe. Wees dus de baanbreker die met nieuwe zienswijzen komt, en lanceer dit door kleine successen te laten zien.

Innovation at the City Council of Utrecht

In 2014 werd de Baak door de Gemeente Utrecht gevraagd om haar innovatievermogen verder te versterken. We waren het er allen over eens dat je innovatie niet leert buiten de praktijk, aangezien het werkelijk moeten opleveren, en al het gedoe dat daarbij komt kijken, een belangrijk onderdeel is van innoveren. We willen per slot van rekening niet eindigen met een muur vol goed bedoelde post-its.

We hebben ons daarom in twee teams gestort op het fietsparkeerprobleem (waarom parkeren mensen hun fiets niet netjes in de daarvoor uitgegraven fietskelders) en afvalstoffenverwerking (hoe betrekken we burgers bij het afvaltraject). We hebben Design Thinking als methodiek gekozen aangezien het perfect aansluit bij de ambitie om samen met de burger te creëren. De gemeente heeft het traject vastgelegd in het onderstaande filmpje.

Momenteel zitten we alweer in ons derde traject, waarbij oud-‘deelnemers’ worden opgeleid tot innovatie facilitatoren. We bijten ons dit keer vast in Big Data en de zorg. ‘Design Thinking is de nieuwe Tour de France’ aldus een enthousiaste deelnemer en nu trainer.

Wil je zelf aan de slag? Kijk dan op: www.debaak.nl/innovatie

Who can envision the next future?

Our fantasy about the future has come to an end. We used to be inspirited by Sience Fiction images and books, but as we have learned last weeks: we can already do what’s in there – the thrill is gone. The Israelian company Genie is making a simple replicator based on Star Trek. The gadgets from Back to the future look old school. And even the beamers that aliens from Mars use to kidnap us are now made at the Technical University of Delft. So what’s next… Is the future as boring as every Science Fiction item on Netflix? Who can surprise us with a new vision of the future?

Bricolage
In 1910 the French artist Villemard created a load of postcards that gave his vision of the year 2000. It’s an interesting combination of old (hair dress, clothing, materials, environment) and new (flying objects, machines, and speed).

The German Chocolate company Hildemard took it, around the same year, even a step further with television, X-ray and Roofed Cities.

Could you say that people were more creative 100 years ago? I didn’t do my research in this field, but if I believe in Darwin than my hypotheses would be that we haven’t changed that much. I even think that most things on the pictures of Villemard and Hildemard (is it in their names?) were also possible in 1910 just like we now can make a lazy replicator and a beamer that works with things that aren’t bigger then 1 inch. We don’t blow our minds but enlarge things that are already here. This principle is called Bricolage. The idea that everything we need is already all around is, we just have to use it. We humans are simply not equipped to create something new from nothing. We can only connect, in sometimes new ways, things we already have seen somewhere.

Be an artist
Back to our inspirator Sience Fiction: the quick wins are gone. Yes, we know about beaming, time loops, wormholes and connecting minds. We’re ready for what’s next! We need people who are able to find the things all around us that bring us into a new world, just like Einstein did (“imagination takes us everywhere”). And no, we don’t need scientific proof for your new visions. We need people who dare to sketch things that provoke because we don’t recognize this new future, and it therefor scares us in a way. I have no idea what I’m talking about, and am curious…

Let’s tidy up! Innovation and creativity in a Black Belt world.

Last week I found some (for me) new pictures by the comedian and artist Ursus Wehrli about “Tidying up Art”. Please have a look at his great contribution to TED. I really love his concept, and tried the same principle on the logo of de Baak. Not so pretty, but fun to do! At the same time it made me think about the vision of many organization that I visit: let’s remove all illogical elements of our organizational painting with the help of a Six Sigma Black Belt Senior Expert Professional. “Great news, you can remove 25% of the painting because it is redundant!”. The question that makes me think: How can we help leaders to deal with unclarity and illogicality in order to increase room for innovation and creativity? Can you develop your view on what is truly rubbish, and what is actually your company’s future? 

Simple example of Reframing

A couple of months ago I wrote a blog about Reframing as a summary of an great Masterclass by Bruna Setola. Obviously we had to play with these insights and incorporated it in the Innovation Program of the City Council of Utrecht. We gave the participants the assignments to take pictures of  situations (all around you) in which the problem is part of the solution. A difficult challenge for most, but with the most interesting and simple photographs as a result! This is one we want to share with you to underline the importance of “Bricolage” – the solution is in front of you. 

A participant had an interesting talk with his little sun about the difficulty of finding his toys disappearing to the bottom of a box… This is what they came up with! Lesson learned: children are better in thinking outside the box:)

box 1

box 2

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?