Let’s play with Pollution!

Today I went to the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven which has a great exhibition made by graduates of the Design Academy. One of the more “funny” contributions was created by Tomm Velthuis called Playing Food. Normally children aren’t allowed to play with their food, but he has made wooden packages to play with unsustainable environments like the meat industry. Or you can play with the Rainforest, including a tree and a chainsaw. Ok, it’s really cynical. Combining innocence and reality, but I like the over-the-top thinking and playfull approach of his work (Website). Who want’s to play with nuclear powerplants…?


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?

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?

Another innovation paradigm: Too much room to act…

Picture: Artist Yves Kline leaping into the void

When we get older we think about all the risks that could be a consequence of our actions. We gain the freedom to decide for ourselves what we want to do (no parents around any more who say that we can’t do something), but we loose simultaneously the freedom in our minds to just act and have fun (no parents around who protect us, so we have to look out for ourselves). There is no simple solutions for this tension. It’s just there, and we have to deal with it in our own way.

Should I press the Publish button or… hmm… on the other hand… what does it matter… but suppose that… maybe better to delete it, nobody will read it anyway…. 

How to spot Disruptive Innovation Opportunities

Some time ago Harvard Business Professor Clayton Christensen has introduced the theory of Disruptive Innovation, and it is probably one of the most important innovation theories of the last decade. A disruptive innovation is an innovation with a product or service being improved, in a way that the market had not expected. It occurs when an innovator brings something to market that is simple, convenient, accessible, and affordable. Most of the time not by enhancing the technology, but by transforming the business model. A famous example is the introduction of the Nintendo Wii, which found a market of  traditionally non-gamers and used less technically less ‘perfect’ games. The question is: How do you find a way to find a distributive innovation for your organization?

Disruptive TechnologyMost organizations apply sustaining innovation, which can also be effective. But in contrast to disruptive innovation, a sustaining innovation does not create new markets or value networks but rather only evolves existing ones with better value, allowing the firms within to compete  against each other’s sustaining improvements (Wikipedia). It gives in that way room for new players to transform the playing field. As said in a blog post before: the creator of a game always wins. Have a look at this really informative interview with Scott Anthony, President Innosight. He gives some tips to help you pinpoint disruptive opportunities within your organization.


The Nightmare Competitor – a playful method
It is often difficult to find Disruptive Innovation opportunities, because it demands a radical perception shift on your organization and the system it is part of. Most people get stuck in this process, because they suffer from the ‘tunnel vision’ syndrome. A way of dealing with this is the roll playing game called the Nightmare Competitor. Others call it a ‘scenario planning tool’, which make it more accessible as a serious tool for organizations, but also less effective because it tends to take all the fun and therefor creativity out of the process…

The Nightmare Competitor challenges you to  become the worst new competitor of your own company. What would you do? How could you ruin this old organization, and become the new Rising Star? You become a Disruptive or Nightmare competitor. By doing so you  learn from the new insights, and implement them in your still existing organization.

I would call this a roll playing game, because people enjoy in this paradigm shift to look at their company in a disconnected way, and have fun in virtually distorting what they love most. Risks are taken, and sore bruises are pushed on. The participants become really creative to overcome existing boundaries. Whatever method you might use: getting away from regular patterns is needed, and the fun and creativity that starting entrepreneurs have are essential.

Please contact me if you want to participate, or know even a better way of creating a disruptive game.

John Cleese: ‘The source of Creativity’ and how people destroy it

Two elements to help your creative process:
1) Boundaries of space to prevent interruptions.
2) Boundaries of time to create an oasis that is separate of ordinary life.
-> Only then you can play.

If managers, teachers, etc. try to control this process and it’s outcomes, it is lost…

Dream pitches “How to create things and have them matter”

Today I went to the Dreampitches of the Harvard course “How to create things and have them matter” (ES20). This course is facilitated by David Edwards, the founder of the ArtScience Labs (see previous blog). Harvard undergraduate and graduate students have worked in mixed teams to imagine ways of skiing in balls, talking in halls (in post-Google ways) – and making art through physical rehabilitation. I saw some ‘naive prototypes’, which underlined their ambition to dream.

I found it interesting that most of the prototypes had a focus on connecting people facilitated by a new kind of social media. Fun and gaming were aspects that were mentioned often, with the intention to make it more attractive for people to act. None of the groups had invented something useful but boring (for instance a new machine to clean your toilet, a new fence for my garden, or a new kind of bond). Apparently Fun and Socialization are important when you give young people the space to dream.

I think that it would be interesting to create such an environment / space for professionals in the Netherlands, with the objective to become creative and dream again about the future. What would for instance a mixed team from different industries come up with? A new kind of bank that connects people and with the focus on making the lives of their participants better? Or a training institute were the participants train each other?

Afterwards I spoke shortly with David Ma, a student in this course, about his lessons learned. Thanks David for your flexibility to act in an instant! And thanks to your team mates who said that you were their spokesperson;) They were right!

The link between Innovation and Improvisation

An increasing number of professionals is trained in improvisation skill and mindset. It helps them to play with their environment instead of controlling it. Improvisation could therefore be an interesting part in dealing with the process of the Innovation Game. Innovation is just like improvisation: “The act of introducing something new” (the American heritage dictionary).

Applied Improvisation
Improvisation has a background in Jazz and theatre. Jazz musicians play a certain piece (for instance Take Five), and improvise along the way. Improvisation actors take it to the next level by asking their audience for input. They use this to create completely new stories, songs and games. The optimal co creation with the customer. You could say that they are innovators on stage. Applied Improvisation or Business Improvisation refers to the translation of these capabilities to the professional business workspace.

The rules of improvisation
So how do they do it? For the reader that never has seen improvisation theatre: please have a look at this short scene from the American improvisation group ‘Who’s line is it anyway’.

You could say that they are dealing with a difficult and unexpected environment: two old ladies which do everything wrong. They are capable of creating a wonderful scene for their audience anyway by following the basic rules of improvisation:

  1. Accept the situation as it is. You could wish that your environment would be different (and probably better), but the simple fact is that it is as it is. So just accept it, and see the possibilities.
  2. Add something to it. Act. Add what is needed to the current situation. So if there is nothing, just start by doing something and add to it what is logical. Follow your intuition, because most people get stuck in thinking. To make a link to innovation: “creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things” (Theodor Levit).
  3. Make the other shine. Enjoy what your partner, customer, or fellow actor is doing and help them to make it even better. So don´t focus too much on yourself or what the other could have been better in your opinion
  4. Stay in the here and now. Everything that you need is here and now. This is also called bricolage. Be prepared for what is coming, and stay focused on what is happing. “The past is history, the future is a mystery and Today is a gift. That is why we call it the present”.

When I meet improvisers from all over the world (Applied Improvisation Network), it strikes me that they are very open for new things. Most of them act as entrepreneurs because they like to create new things and are able to cope with uncertainty. They learned this by playing jazz or improvisational theatre. I think therefore that making the connection between arts, science and business is interesting for innovator. I guess is that most of them already do this in their own way.