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

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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!

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?

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…

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.

Zohar Adner: Stop stressing out, start having fun!

“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!

Sci-Fi writers and their predictions? HEY children’s books can also do the trick.

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.

National Institute for Play: Play state in Complexity

The National Institute for Play investigates Play. They have chosen a good name I would say. Why do people and animals play? And what would also the benefit be for professionals in organizations to play in certain situations? I think their approach is interesting to facilitate more scientific research on the topic, so we can support managers who have (most of the time) a focus on efficiency. 

“Demand for workers who understand complexity is increasing. Over 75% of the U.S. work force does information work which requires workers to collaborate with other information workers to make judgments and solve complex issues.

The practices that organizations need to be developing for their increasingly complex information work are those which infuse the state of play into their workers’ attitudes. They need to learn how to do the work of their organizations in a play state.

Our experiences indicate that executives require sufficient immersion in the science of play before they understand and value it. The intellectual and scientific basis of play can provide the understanding – and permission – to deploy new play-based practices in their organizations. But, they must also value the new practices; without a positive play ethic, the climate for innovation is spoken of as important, but is not acted upon.” (The National Institute for Play)

Founder Stuart Brown on Ted.com:

He doesn’t say it very playful, but most trainers train in subjects they have had some trouble with, because else they wouldn’t understand why it is so important:)