Creativity and Self-Expression

    Retro Motorcycles Signal Innovation In Goshen, IN

    Manufacturing in America — Using the Past to Create an Innovative Future

    It’s heartening to learn about a small USA manufacturer who’s doing something creative, new, and interehalcyon-product2sting.

    Janus Motorcycles in Goshen, Indiana is creating hand-crafted, small batch motorcycles. These are simple, accessible, easy-to-work-with bikes. They are throwbacks in a certain way, but don’t get me wrong they’re elegant. The retro-ish designs are informed by old American bike brands like Indian, and old British bikes like Triumph and Norton. It’s not hard to imagine that famous Hoosier, James Dean, riding one of these bikes around the countryside.

    The bikes look like James Dean era rides because Janus purposefully leaves the bikes open, in the sense that all the parts can be seen, and of course, worked with. This is counter to the trend of car and motorcycle manufacturers that discourage amateurs working with their products by covering parts with hoods and hard-to-break-into enclosures. Love that aspect of this story — how do you encourage makers if you can’t play with, fool around with, tinker with, products?

    I love this story for a number of reasons beyond the open design.

    First of all, it’s a young group of guys who put this together. Honest-to-God thirty-something entrepreneurs who are building something with love and passion. Next, they’re American and making something almost entirely in Northern, Indiana. Not just assembly, but design, parts — nearly everything (they do source a motor from overseas… if only somebody would come along and provide an American made motor Janus would be 100% American made!)

    Then there’s the Amish connection.

    Goshen, Indiana, which for those of you who read this around the country is something like Andy Griffith’s Mayberry, but without the southern accents. It’s the country, it’s corn, soybeans, orchards, and Blake Shelton on the radio country. That said, Goshen is not far from Elkhart where a lot of fancy RV products are made, so, yes, there is manufacturing in this countryside. The Studebaker was once made in South Bend, as was the Avanti, not far from Goshen, but those companies are long gone. Goshen is in the heart of Amish country. As Janus was getting started, Amish craftsman helped them figure out how to make some of the bits and pieces necessary to assemble these motorcycles. Little known fact but the Amish are incredible “makers” who know how to work with metal and sophisticated tools. The “maker movement” is not just for hipsters in urban areas!

    The business grew out of the co-founders love for mopeds and small bikes. They knew that market well. They started making custom bikes together and found a synergy in the way they think and create. One a creative out-of-the-box approach, the other a respect for design and a hard won comprehensive knowledge of small displacement bikes.

    Devin Biek and Richard Worsham, the Janus co-founders, were not experienced manufacturers when they got this going — but they figured it out. They prove that smart people, seeking to build something with high quality, can manufacture. This is not a trivial thing because in America we’re going to have to learn how to manufacture again. We can do it. This is proof.

    Reshoring is a concept where you think of businesses coming back to America to make things. As a trend it’s slow in developing because there is so little incentive for those outfits to return. For mass production you go where there is cheap labor. Really, we don’t want those companies back if they’re not going to pay people middle class wages. Reshoring may happen here and there, but to recreate a manufacturing sector we kind of need to start over.

    In reality, jobs are created in manufacturing now in America by people like Biek and Worsham, who are starting from scratch, learning as they go, and making something great. They’re really not competing with Honda or the other big players because they are making something with a truly unique high value, special, Limited Edition products. That’s how you get started, and that’s how eventually you reinvent industries. That’s not reshoring, that’s re-creating. That’s how you grow job bases in regions.

    Rebuilding the manufacturing base is going to require about 100,000 more companies like Janus, not the pipe dream of big companies coming back. Don’t believe the lies some politicians tell about this. You don’t reverse a 40 year trend of offshoring just by talking loud. You do it by encouraging, supporting, teaching, and in general, loving, young makers. That takes time, and what governments can do is either stay out of the way, or, do something to support the maker movement in education and in worker re-training.

    They have a lovely video on the Janus home page, about 25 minutes long that tells their story. If you want to be inspired as an entrepreneur, have a look. Good luck Janus!

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    Projects Are How Innovation Happens

    Projects, Projects, Projects Innovation is complex and difficult — but one thing about it is not. What’s quite simple about innovation is that projects are what make innovation real. The following concepts, frameworks, approaches, etc. are Not Innovation.  Unless they are in the context of an actual project. Thinking about things is not innovation Having beers and kicking ideas around are not innovation Brainstorming sessions are not innovation Idea Campaigns are not innovation Guided visualizations are not innovation Design Thinking is not innovation Creative Problem Solving is not innovation DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats are not innovation Lean is not innovation Prototyping is not innovation Crowd sourcing or Open innovation are not innovation TQM and Six Sigma are not innovation Defining




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    Fast Company’s Brainstorming Fail

    Fast Company Article “Brainstorming is Dumb” Misses the Point Brainstorming, Done Properly, Is Not a Tool, It’s A Multi-Step Process Here we go again. And yet another major publication publishes a misleading article about brainstorming — Brainstorming is Dumb. This happens about every six months. This time it’s Fast Company. The article gets a few things right, but misses the big picture, and smears a giant of the field, Alex Osborn. The headline is dead wrong, but wonderfully provocative. Fast Company missed an opportunity to inform more fully at the very least. The omission is so large one wonders if they have a fact checker on staff. The big picture the article misses is that brainstorming is not a single




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    Trump: Learn to Steal Smart

    Stealing Smart and Stealing Stupid Melania Trump’s speech last evening at the GOP convention, and today’s subsequent media uproar and fiasco, is symbolic of several things in my view. Summarizing my themes here: Competence, Theft, and Ideas (or lack of them). I’ll take flack for writing this post, but understand, this is not about politics. It involves politics — but my comments have more to do with creativity and innovation. As most of you know, my interests are in those areas, so, I’m looking at recent events with that lens. Not as a lefty, not as a righty. I’m looking at this with the green tinted shades of the artist and the black and white lens of a professional innovator.




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    Dirty Martini Sunset

    Just for fun. Had a Dirty Martini on the deck at the Stray Dog in New Buffalo, MI. Good times.




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    Six Ideas for Coping with Little “d” Depression in Innovation Projects

    Innovation and Depression …Six Ideas for Coping with Little “d” Depression… Nobody talks about the dark emotions related to innovation. You hear about the emotional high of a big “aha” moment. Or, less frequently, about the “oh crap” moment when a project hits a brick wall. But nobody talks about how personal battles with the dark side impact innovation. How many promising projects have gone up in smoke because the creator, the innovator, the project leader, or a team member lost faith in a dark moment? Losing heart for something you want to do can happen when a wave of negative emotion carries you away. It’s why people give up. Emotional highs and lows are part of life. I’m not




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    Dance Your Challenge

    Shake Your Booty The Creativity and Innovation point of this blog takes about three paragraphs to develop, so business readers, let me tell you a brief story to set it up. I was having dinner this week with Gary Schwartz, a fine actor and Improv person who was blowing through Chicago to promote his new children’s book, The King of Average.  Gary studied with a hero of mine, Viola Spolin (he’s the leading expert on her games and methods). As we talked about Improv and I heard some of his stories I was particularly impressed with one story having to do with “getting into the body” of a role. The Story: So Gary was playing the role of a Roman




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    Nine Ways to Play at Work

    Nine Ways to Play At Work (see list below) The idea that one should invoke a sense of play around challenges is not a new one. Tim Brown of IDEO did that great TED speech on play, and there have been several more TED play-centric talks (Stuart Brown, John Cohn, Sue Palmer) all variations on the theme. Sunni Brown’s talk on Doodling is a personal favorite because she gets specific about how one can begin to be more creatively playful with problem solving. An emerging trend in business is using improvisation games as the basis for team building and problem solving. The work of Del Close, who shaped the serious play of long form Improv and Viola Spolin, who invented




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    Innovation Facilitator Tool Kit

    I am sometimes asked what a Facilitator should have in their kit bag. Here’s my answer — the Innovation Facilitator Tool Kit list. The items are below in bold. Many have links to where you can source the materials. I’m assuming the facilitator is a hands-on project leader who facilitates meetings, such as idea generation or strategy sessions. I did not take into consideration travel via plane or car. Obviously, some things are more portable than others. Consider this a master list which you can subset for your needs. Some of these items are not available off the shelf retail, so, put this kit together ahead of time so you can focus on design and executing your session plan as




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    Five Magic Imagination Guidelines

    Five Magic Imagination Guidelines You hear it so often that it becomes one of those things that you really don’t think about it. “Use your imagination” is the phrase or thought that I’m talking about. I believe that many of us actually fear our own imagination. That’s tragic, don’t be afraid. It occurs to me that most people have the desire, deep down, to use their imagination more — but have no idea how. Here’s how. First of all Access your imagination more often. Do it deliberately. If you ask your imagination for ideas or visions once a year it’s a bit like that faucet in the back of the house you never use. When you turn it on, it’s




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