What’s Your Definition of Creativity?

Innovation

With the Front End of Innovation conference just weeks away, I’ve been reflecting on the many different definitions and meanings for the word innovation. Here’s a snapshot of a few of my favorites. Take a look and let me know what you think. Is the right answer A, B, C, or some/none/all of the above?

Innovation is…

A)     Seeing and connecting the dots (by David Brier, Branding Expert and Fast Company Blogger). What I like about David’s definition is its simplicity. Some people see dots and some don’t. For those who see the dots, it’s about exploring, questioning, and connecting them. While the definition is simple, its broadness may be a shortcoming. When so many things can be considered innovation, perhaps nothing is really innovative anymore. Hmm. Read more on the Fast Company Blog.

B)      A taxonomy of activities including Novelty, Creation, Invention, and Innovation (by Horace Dediu, Technology Analyst). Horace saw a problem and he coined the term “innoveracy” to describe it. Innoveracy is the misuse of the word innovation and the inability to tell the difference among Novelty, Creation, Invention, and Innovation. In Horace’s definition, Novelty is something new, Creation is something new and valuable, Invention is something new and having potential value through utility, while Innovation is something new and uniquely useful. In this way, the taxonomy is hierarchical and Innovation is the product of Novelty, Creation, and Invention. While the definition is brings a bit more clarity, I wonder if the formulaic nature holds true in all cases? Does innovation really = Novelty + Creation + Invention (etc.). Hmm. Read more on the Asymco Blog.

C)     When a large group of people change what they used to think, know, or do for something fundamentally different (by Dean Kamen, Entrepreneur and Inventor). In Dean’s definition he takes into consideration behavior change. What I like about this is that innovation doesn’t really matter unless it is embraced. Out of the three definitions, I gravitate towards Dean’s the most. It could be that I like the bias towards action, as well as, the rational + emotional insight. Read more on the Discovery Blog.

D)     Some/None/All of the above
Regardless of your definition of innovation, there’s one thing certain – FEI 2014 will surely offer an eye opening experience. Hope to see you there!

 

This article was originally posted at The Front End of Innovation as What’s Your Definition of Innovation?

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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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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

Emotional Intelligence and Innovation

Angry Penguin

A few weeks ago, my two boys engaged in a heated argument about whether reading Harry Potter, then watching the movie, was a tradition or a condition. My kindergartener started by saying watching a movie, only after reading a book, was a tradition. He pointed to the fact we had read three Harry Potter books, then watched the three movies as proof. Conversely, my second-grader rationalized that watching a movie after reading a book was a condition. He surmised the fact we never watched the movie first, made movie watching conditional to reading.

In the end, I surprised my boys by sharing they were both right. Watching the movie was both a tradition and a condition. This rocked my boys worlds. As I explained why it was both a tradition and condition, they simmered down and listened intently.  As emotions subsided, they were able to take in alternative points of view.

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Is Gaming the Future of Education?

Controlador de Video-Games

I started reading Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken and can’t wait to learn more about how gaming is being used for social good. Though I am only on Chapter 1 (yes, I could use more free time. LOL!), I recognize many of the “gamer” traits in my two boys. At just 8 and 5-years old, both kids enjoy playing video games. In fact, my 5-year old has been waking up extra early every day in order to get time alone with the Wii before his brother wakes up. At first, I was disappointed that my younger son felt pressured to exchange sleep for improving his game play. After all, I’d hate to think the Wii was so competitive and/or addicting that my Kindergartener would go to such great lengths to play. However, after chatting with him about why he woke up early, I was surprised (and happy) to learn my 5-year old’s efforts to get better at the Wii were not necessarily aimed at beating his older brother, but for self-improvement and the joy that comes with unlocking new achievements.

And, in case you think play is easy, it really isn’t. Playing games is hard work. McGonigal describes the video game experience as, “…always playing on the very edge of your skill level, always on the brink of falling off. When you do fall off, you feel the urge to climb back on. That’s because there’s virtually nothing as engaging as this state of working at the very limits of your ability – or what both game designers and psychologies call ‘flow.’”

BTW, “flow” is another way of describing the state of extreme happiness. To learn more, take a look at the field of positive psychology.

Creativity Index Aims to Bolster Much Needed Workforce Skills

English: A university classroom. (Jones Hall a...

A recent Huffington Post article identified gap in what schools are teaching students and what employers are looking for in the workforce. Starting in elementary school, the primary focus of the curriculum is to improve basic skills. Policies like No Child Left Behind heighten the issue by promoting the testing and standardization of basic skills like reading, writing and arithmetic. However, in reality, employers find it is not the basic skills that are missing, but the applied skills including critical thinking, creativity, and innovation.

Many argue America’s educational system was built for a different era – an era where finding the one correct answer was key. Nowadays, the pace of change, the global nature of business, and complex decision making show there is not always one right answer, but a growing need to creatively solve problems. The days of rote thinking are in the past.
Will creating indices that measure creativity help?
To answer this question, we must ask what exactly will be measured. While some educators feel the index should measure the number of classes in drama and art schools offer, it is important to understand creativity goes beyond the arts. States like California and Massachusetts will be the first to define measurement criteria as both have approved bills to develop a Creativity and Innovation Index.
While the key performance indicators of creativity have yet to be defined, the notion of measuring creativity is a positive one. For, as John E. Jones stated, “What gets measured gets done, what gets measured and fed back gets done well, what gets rewarded gets repeated.”
This article was first published on IIR’s Front End of Innovation as “Creativity Index Aims to Bolster Much Needed Workforce Skills.”
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