Idea Generation

    Dance Your Challenge

    kc_the_sunshine_band-(shake_shake_shake)_shake_your_booty_sShake 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 general in a scene. As he got started his voice and demeanor were all wrong, so wrong Viola stopped the scene with a loud shout. She then proceeded to have Gary do a sort of “space walk,” alone, to get into the physicality of his character. She coached him through this with guidance on-the-side guidance…”Feel the heavy armor you wear…feel the leather skirt… feel the sword you kill people with banging at your side…and you’re angry…now, start the scene again.”

    The coaching was transformative. When the scene was re-started, Gary rose up to his full 6-3 height and boomed like a General. He wasn’t acting like a general, he was being a General. Gary’s learning was that it all starts in the body.

    Thinking starts in the body.

    That’s the point of this blog. Creativity and Innovation aren’t done only by the head. We are trained to think of both creativity and innovation as just “thinking” and we tend to think with our brains, our heads. The thing is sometimes our heads don’t know what our bodies know. Your body holds intelligence. Your body is part of your system. Most of your system! Your body is you. The brain is only one part of you. The rest of you wants to contribute!

    Why would you ignore 95% of your system?

    I can hear the cynics out there, right I’m going to dance my way to a new invention. Suck it up cynics, because yes you can. I hear others asking, okay, how?

    Here’s how:

    • Dance.
    • Move.
    • Experience physically.

    Every problem has a physical component. You can “dance” the workflow of a doctor’s office. You can dance the concept of cleaning the kitchen floor. You can make physical the flow of a software program. You can even dance complex concepts, yes, interpretive dance.

    Think that’s too airy-fairy for corporate innovation? It’s not.

    Real World Example: I had a group developing cleaning products get on the floor in fetal position. I put on some music and I asked them to just dance whatever came to them inspired by the music. I had built trust with this group! They’d been thinking all day about the challenge of cleaning outdoor windows. They were scared but they did it. It was amazing. Super creative. We stopped the music and jammed ideas for cleaning products, and wow, did the ideas fly. It was the most productive part of a day long session. The ideas jammed in that segment of the day bubbled to the top of convergence.

    Like Gary Schwartz in the story above, the dance was a bridge, scaffolding the dancer to get out of their head, and into their body. And then the body informed the head.

    So, big tip here. Find a way to Dance your challenge. It may not be dance exactly right? Physicalization in some fashion. Could be done with role plays, walk-throughs, or even just talking and walking — it all helps. Einstein took 10 mile walks in the woods in the days before his breakthrough’s, thinking about how the world works. What better way to connect with the world than a physical walk.

    And, it doesn’t matter if you’re any good or not. Skill has nothing to do with self-expression. And, you’re not getting any younger, And, you’re not going to get better at anything unless you do it.

    So, folks, put on the music you groove to, and as Harry Wayne Casey says:

    “Aah, everybody, get on the floor
    Let’s dance
    Don’t fight the feeling
    Give yourself a chance “

    Give your body a chance to contribute to your thinking, your creativity, your self-expression, your innovation.

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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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    10 Essential Elements of an Innovation Mandate

    Getting a Mandate to Innovate is Key Larger companies typically have an innovation process in place. They don’t always work, but the majority of the Fortune 1000 has some kind of innovation process or system. There is an implied consent then, to innovate, at those organizations. There are people, budgets, expectations. At smaller companies, the Mis-Fortune 5000 as I sometimes jest, there is often not a process in place. In many of these still sizable firms innovation tends to be a reaction to an emergency, or a sporadic effort that takes a back seat to operations. They often default to incremental improvement of the product or service based on customer demands. A newly appointed Innovation VP or Director at a




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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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    Seven Essentials of an Effective Innovation Project Manager

    Outsourcing innovation project management might be the most strategic money you spend this year. It’s not a new idea but it’s one more companies should consider. It sure beats doing nothing. See my Seven Essentials for hiring below. But first: If you’ve not got an innovation plan in the process of being executed, right now, you are treading water and will eventually drown. So what’s stopping you from kicking off an innovation initiative? I often hear resources. What I hear from top management: “we don’t have the time or resources for innovation projects, we’ll start later this year.” I get it. How is it possible to do this separate thing that requires its own focus and resources while keeping the




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    Mash-Ups for Innovation, a How To Guide

    How to Do Mash-Ups for Innovation This is an article length, comprehensive post on Mash-Ups for Innovation. To say the least Mash-Ups hold great promise in helping people and organizations find useful and sometimes breakthrough innovations. This article will likely be part of a book on the front end of innovation that’s in development, stay tuned. Meanwhile I hope you find this guide useful. To digest this in bits, simply use the index to go to the section that interests you. There is value to reading these sections in order, but for those with an urgent need, you’ll find instructions for facilitation in the Continuum of Mash-Ups and How To sections below. Generally, if you’re looking for more breakthrough results




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    Innovation 2015 or Five Lame Excuses?

    Death or Kryptonite? I have a  vinyl record with one of those strategic skips that has it repeating — it drives me nuts — but I still play the record because I love the song so much. The song is Jimmy Olsen’s Blues by the Spin Doctors. It’s a hard rocker about the lament of Superman’s pal who has a crush on Superman’s gal. In the song Jimmy Olsen is competing with the man of steel for the affection of Miss Lois Lane. He’s got a secret weapon, a pocketful of Kryptonite. Innovation ca feel a lot like that — your competition is a big tough impossible-to-beat player like Superman. And no matter your size as an organization, you’d better be like




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    Want Innovation? Ask.

    Not everything about innovation is complicated. I recently gave a creative problem solving workshop to a group of scientists who all worked for the same outfit. It was a lively session. In addition to learning structured creative problem solving (Osborn-Parnes-Basadur framework) we did some short bits of ideation around new business concepts. This was more as a sampler than it was a real session. It wasn’t the goal of the session to reinvent their business, nonetheless, in a short time there were some relevant business growth ideas with potential on the table. An executive with the company remarked after the session that “nobody ever comes to me” with new business ideas. Talking more with this man a reason why emerged:




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    Quick & Dirty Innovation

    Many companies started 2014 with the good intention of “getting after innovation” this year. Was that your organization? How’s that going? Are you jumping for joy or singing the blues? Some companies have worked hard and consistently at innovation all this year. They started the year running and got things done. Look at the slew of announcements Apple just made (to be fair the watch took years). Other companies made a good start but got caught up in the red tape of too much process. So, it’s September now. For those of you who’ve been busy keeping up with business operations and haven’t had time to do formal innovation this year, all is not lost. Consider: Quick & Dirty Innovation (QDI) “Wake up




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    Innovation Facilitation — Death is Easy, Magic Takes Training

    Three Essentials for Magical Innovation Facilitation An essential ingredient to successful innovation projects is good facilitation. Who could argue with that? Innovation combines individual and group activities. Good group collaboration is not a given. Even individual activities need coordination with the group effort. You really need an inspiring, confident, well-trained facilitator to enable innovation. I’m talking about running and managing strategy meetings, ideation sessions, virtual sessions (using IMS), concept writing sessions, and other group work. A good facilitator makes a world of difference in the results of these group meetings and activities. And yet, in the long list of things that can go wrong in innovation initiatives, it’s often the one that is overlooked or taken for granted. The problem




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