Hiring for Innovation

English: Berlin, office building of Schering c...

In the world of education, there has been a lot of chatter about the creativity crisis. According to Dr. Kyung Hee Kim, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at The College of William and Mary, creativity has decreased in the United States since 1990. While data and numbers are important, a trip into an elementary school classroom can help shed light on the situation.

On a recent visit to a second grade class, a parent volunteer shared stories about how students were dumbfounded when asked to make a craft for Halloween. Without a model or instructions to rely on, the 7-year olds stared blankly at the volunteer and couldn’t figure out what to do. As they began working on their projects, students criticized each other saying, “that’s not the color you’re supposed to use” and “what’s that supposed to be?” While the volunteer let students know there was no right or wrong way to use the craft table materials, the students’ discomfort was evident.

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Improv and Innovation

In May, I attended the Front End of Innovation conference. Here is a great improv technique you can try at your next meeting…

During a packed breakout session, Michelle James led attendees in an applied innovation workshop. In case you were unable to join the workshop, or were too busy to take notes, here is a run down on how to apply Improv techniques to innovation:

  1. Warm-up to break your pattern. Do a handshake without letting go until you’re both shaking hands with someone else as well. This exercise helps to wake you up and helps you get comfortable being uncomfortable.
  2. Practice “Yes, and…”Find a partner and pretend you’re on an amazing trip to Mexico. The first person opens with a sentence to start the story. The second person must say, “Yes, and” then add to the story. By listening to your partner and building, the ideas become generative and focused. “Yes, and” expands the playing field for ideas (Note: Orin goes on great vacations!).
  3. Try “Random Word Generator” where one person chooses a topic and the other person starts telling a story based on that topic. The person who chose the topic, then throws in random words that the storyteller needs to incorporate. This exercise takes “high stakes listening,” justifying, building trust, and lots of practice in adapting.
  4. Co-create a “Living Being” by taking turns drawing one line at a time. Once you’re done creating your Living Being, name him/her by taking turns writing down one letter at a time until a name emerges. (BTW, we named our Living Being “Sidney Taken” – see photo). Because you’re taking turns leading and following, it helps with leadership skills and being open to collaboration.

Improv and generative thinking takes co-creation.

This article was originally posted as Live from FEI 2013: Applied Improv for Leaders: Principles and Practices for Innovative Leadership

Creativity Means Planning Ahead

Sand Castle

A few weeks ago our family packed up the car and headed to Maine to celebrate the 4th of July. The weather, though a bit on the warm side, was perfect for the beach. The kids and I strolled to the beach with my sister, my brother, my uncle, and a bunch of friends. We had about a dozen kids in tow. Soon enough everyone was settled in and the kids set out to build sand structures. As I watched the kids playing, it reminded me how important planning ahead can be to creativity and innovation.

Both of my boys were by the water creating moats. Each child had built a circular defense system to protect against the incoming tide. My oldest son was having a blast. As the tide came in, he yelled over to a bunch of the kids and enlisted their help against the rushing water. One of the kids brought a shovel and started expanding the height of the wall, while another kid laid in front of the sand structure to divert the water away. The shouting, laughing, giggling and barking of orders caught the attention of passersby. People began commenting on how much fun the kids were having.

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What does Creativity and Innovation have to do with age: A look at Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies

Over the last few months I had a chance to get together with folks I do not see very often. One of the folks I visited with was my manager from when I was in my early 20′s. He’s always been one of my favorites – a mentor, a great listener, and someone who has a way of calling a spade a spade. In our conversation, we chatted about how a person’s age effects his/her openness to new ideas. We shared war stories of the many “older folks” we’ve come across in organizations who would rather maintain the current course of business than risk doing something new and novel.

Unfortunately, these older folks tend to be in leadership positions which means they’re also the ones charting the future course of the organization.  We also speculated these managers had an eye on retirement (and not rocking the boat) rather than a calling for innovation (hmm, this may be why there are so many companies clamoring for innovation, but very few actually achieving it).

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Why Constraints Improve Creativity

House of Art

 

Over the years I’ve worked with with many designers and copywriters – otherwise known as “creatives” in the advertising world. Though some would say putting constraints on creativity lowers the amount of creativity, constraints actually help to enhance creativity. When done right, constraints help to focus the creative product.

Have you ever been in a big idea session where it became a free-for-all. You know…one of those sessions where the leader starts by stating  “no idea is a bad idea.” From there, the folks in the room typically start shouting out their ideas. In these types of situations, it often  becomes a game of influence where people spend time selling in and defending their personal ideas Read more of this post

The Human Side of Business

New England clam chowder. Source: http://pdpho...I’ve had the good fortune of spending time with my older relatives. One commonality I’ve noticed is that when my relatives tell stories of  the past, their stories usually involve a kind person who touched their hearts and changed their worlds. Recently my 83 year old cousin spoke of a teacher he had when he was 9. This teacher took him under her wing and helped him learn the ins and outs of the English language. She also introduced him to his two favorite foods – lobster and fried chicken. My cousin kept in touch with his teacher over the years and even reached out to his teacher to invite her to his wedding. The kindness of my cousin’s teacher was never forgotten. 74 years later, the story is still being shared.

It seems kindness is not just an individual value, but a business value as well.

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Gamification and Serious Games

English: A newly unboxed Gold Classic Controll...

A few weeks back  I attended the Useful Social Media conference in New York. It was refreshing to meet people face-to-face, to learn about the new and inventive ways companies are using social media, and to commiserate over the many challenges and roadblocks that still exist when it comes to corporate social media. In many ways social has seen a great evolution, but in other ways social is in its infancy. When it comes to gamification, 2012 shined a spotlight on gaming and game mechanics – the strenghts, the opportunities, and the room for growth.

In a pre-conference workshop, gamification platform provider, Bunchball summarized the game mechanics that motivate and engage. They talked about the importance of progress (levels in games, miles and points, progress bars), status (standings in leaderboards, likes and followers, communities, groups and teams), and rewards (access to exclusives and perks, early boarding/upgrades, recognition). More importantly, the key takeaway was that gamification works best when tied to a business case.

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The 5 Forces Shaping Advertising

Marketing to kids. An illustration for Forces ...

Those of us in the advertising business know the industry is undergoing a transformation. There is a blurring of lines among advertising, digital,  and management consulting. Traditional folks are trying to be more digital, digital folks are trying to be more traditional, and management consulting folks are looking to upend the industry. All the while, new entrants are testing, learning and trying out new business models.

Agency evolution is “inextricably tied” to an evolving and complex digital landscape. It is no longer black and white. It is getting harder and harder to parse out digital and non-digital work. As complexity rises, brands are bringing on more and more agencies who are expected to collaborate. Things are certainly getting more confusing. Yet, at the end of the day there are 5 forces shaping advertising. Focusing on these 5 forces can help organizations navigate the turbulence.

What are the 5 forces?

  1. An evolving & complex digital landscape
  2. Consumer control & empowerment
  3. Technology growth & proliferation
  4. An expectation for marketing to have a positive  impact on the bottom line
  5. A shift from making campaigns that are one and done to making experiences that live on – and are fueled by consumers and social interactions

How Doodling helps Facebook and Zappos Generate Ideas

Harvard Social Enterprise Conference 2012

A few weeks ago, I made myself a promise to do something every now and then that scared me. As luck would have it, a friend sent me an email asking if I knew any visual note takers who could help with an upcoming conference. She didn’t have a ton of money to hire an expert. Though my drawings only make sense to me (LOL!), I bit the bullet and offered myself up as a visual note taker in case she wasn’t able to find anyone. The thought of standing up in front of a crowd and visually expressing what was happening at the conference horrified me. It was then and there that I knew graphic facilitation could serve as my “one thing” that week.

After some back and forth, details of the conference changed and my skills, or at least attempt, was no longer needed. That same week I saw a Wall Street Journal article titled, “Doodling for Dollars.” If you’ve ever wondered about the benefits of doodling, read on. Well-known businesses like Facebook, Zappos, Microsoft and Citrix Systems are sending employees to graphic facilitation training and hiring consultants to sketch what is happening in meetings. These cartoon like drawings help to generate ideas, build collaboration, and simplify communications. And, from a learning standpoint, visualizing notes and ideas helps with retaining information.

In case you’re wondering what graphic facilitation or visual note taking is all about, take a look at these YouTube videos.

 

Scribing 101

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How Vodka Cranberries Helps Mad Men think Creatively

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  The cast and ...

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: The cast and crew of 'Mad Men' including Elisabeth Moss, Jon Hamm, Matthew Weiner and Christina Hendricks pose in the press room after 'Mad Men' wins Outstanding Drama Series during the 63rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE on September 18, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

With the premiere of season 5 of Mad Men just around the corner, I found Time magazine’s, How Getting Tipsy May Inspire Creativity fascinating. I’ve been in the advertising industry for nearly two decades and have become desensitized to drinking. Though Mad Men has been criticized for “promoting a glamourized and unrealistic image of functional alcoholism,a study by the University of Illinois at Chicago found drinking moderate amounts of alcohol helped with creative problem solving. Perhaps that explains the acceptance of drinking as a way of life in the ad industry.

On the topic of Mad Men, alcohol, creativity and advertising…a few days ago I went to dinner with some friends. In catching up, one of my friends asked if I was still enjoying Mad Men. When I shared how Mad Men wasn’t relaxing because it was too much like work (umm, maybe not in all the ways you might be thinking!), my friends were surprised. What they were most surprised by was the alcohol. When I shared how I’ve known people who have kept alcohol in their desks, displayed alcohol on their bookshelves, and lugged in mini fridges to keep their beer (and vodka) cold, there was disbelief. I guess this type of thing isn’t normal in other industries.

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