Improvisation

    Training is an Innovation Accelerant

    trainingfireCreativity and innovation training is a highly effective accelerant for business results.

    When I step into a room to facilitate an innovation, strategy, or idea generation session I nearly always find a great deal of energy.

    What I also often find is inexperience — in the kind of thinking necessary to innovate.

    Successful managers and leaders are promoted up the ladder because of their great analytical thinking skills. Day to day, operationally, that’s what’s called for and that’s what’s rewarded. The bad news is the more imaginative and divergent thinking required at the front end of innovation is rarely used and almost never rewarded. That’s why those sessions often start with a great deal of pizazz but fade into lethargy right after lunch. A good facilitator can help but the artist formerly known as Prince couldn’t keep some of these sessions rockin. Mercy!

    Energy, motivation, even inspiration are important factors in getting innovation rolling. But none of them, or all of them together, are enough to overcome untrained thinking. Creative thinking skills are taken for granted — and that’s a problem because without training and practice very few people are naturally good at creative thinking. Everyone is creative, everyone has that capacity, but it’s latent until trained. I have the capacity to run a Marathon — it’s possible — but if I went out there today I’d be lucky to walk 26 miles.

    Yes, you can train the various aspects of creative thinking (imaginative, divergent, visioning, strategic, conceptual). If you want idea generation of any kind to work – don’t skip training. Much of the research that says brainstorming doesn’t work studied groups with no training. Training, a good facilitator, and frequent practice are foundational elements to effective sessions and organizational innovation culture.

    That difficult bit of  invention that analysis can’t quite solve on its own is especially challenging for corporations. Training can make a big difference in bridging the gap between market knowledge and… what could be. It’s not enough to know a market white space. It’s not enough to have “insights” from in-depth research. It’s the creative thinking that builds on that research and insight that gets you workable concepts and ultimately market results.

    Managers, leaders, and innovation teams need to understand how to think about innovation — and they need to know how to think and implement innovation. It doesn’t just happen.

    You’ll see immediate and positive results with creativity and innovation training. Min Basadur did a rigorous study, see here, and that’s not the only proof. Individuals learn how to think and express ideas in a more positive, focused, and free flowing way with certain types of creativity training. Teams achieve breakthrough results when properly facilitated through through a rapid, flexible, but structured process at the front end of innovation. Frameworks like CPS are essential. Power tools like applied improvisation games can help you run faster. Stimulus tools like KILN’s IdeaKeg help you scaffold your thinking using trends from outside your industry or category.

    Creativity training feeds innovation process like wood wool feeds flame.

    The creative training many experts advocate is structured Creative Problem Solving training (CPS, aka ‘Osborn-Parnes model’) and Front End of Innovation process training (FEI). CPS is a time-tested framework. Many innovation consultants use CPS or their own modified versions of CPS (see my business novel about CPS, Jack’s Notebook.) CPS is broad enough and flexible enough to incorporate Design Thinking tools and even applied improvisation games. FEI process training is about how to conduct and orchestrate a series of activities that happen before the classic stage-gate/pipeline of new product development. Stage-gate is in the textbooks. FEI training is being done, but is relatively obscure. CPS training is generally more available — but not ubiquitous.

    If you have a team that is already trained, take it to the next level with an Improv to Innovate workshop. Improv isn’t just about comedy — it’s about improved access to spontaneous thinking, and applied creativity to business challenges.

    Sadly, it’s notable that as an innovation budget line item — it is often left out entirely, or, it’s the first sacrificial lamb to be cut. It should be the first thing done because creativity and innovation training is an accelerant towards more rapid business results.

    Training Accelerates Innovation in Five Strategic Ways:

    1. Improved creative thinking skill leads to more breakthrough new business concepts
    2. Training helps instil structured creative thinking and innovation process as a cultural value and habit
    3. CPS and FEI training provide innovation teams with a common language and framework to solve problems. This means expedited resolution of challenges and more rapid iteration of new business concepts
    4. Training corrects many of the common myths that surround creativity and innovation. There is a science to this that is largely ignored. For those that learn and practice the science — it’s a competitive advantage.
    5. Team efficiency improves because a lot of useless chatter, debate, and conflict is reduced or eliminated

    If you are in charge of an innovation program or initiative — do training first. All activities that happen afterwards will be performed at a higher level, and from day one. Imagine creativity applied to research, platform question framing, idea generation, concept development, and management presentations. Imagine an innovation framework your team can get better and better at…

    Creative training is the fuel for innovation fire.

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    Indigan Storytellers Debut

    I had the pleasure of participating in the debut performance evening of the Indigan Storytellers group last Friday night. As Rocky Balboa once said “you shoulda been there.” It was an intimate evening of exquisitely told stories coupled with fine hand-crafted whiskey. The location was Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks, Michigan. The room was packed and a good time was had by all. I report on the event here for two reasons. First, because Storytelling as an art form is creativity of the highest order. Innovators of all kinds have much to learn about the craft as a method to elaborate new inventions, messages, and brands. Learning how to write and then perform a 10 minute story is an exercise

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    Ideational Speaker, Gregg Fraley

    I do keynotes on creativity and innovation topics — and this is not something I hide. It’s all over my website and I do my best to promote my speaking on FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and in my blog postings. So, it’s not unusual for me to be confronted — at a cocktail party or a business meeting — with the comment: So you’re a “Motivational Speaker.” It’s a fair observation, but it’s really…inexact when it comes to describing what I actually do. It’s not Wrong, but there’s more to my speaking than motivation. My talks are about ideas, so really, I’m an Ideational Speaker.  Yes, I make an effort to motivate people to be more creative and innovative. So, I

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    Orin Davis Report from World Innovation Forum

    The following are thoughts from Orin Davis, Phd, who is covering the World Innovation Forum. As always, Orin makes some good points, notes from talks from the Mayor of Asheville, NC, the On Your Feet Improv group, and Michael Martin of Vibram. So, here’s what you missed at WIF. ****** Ideas from the World Innovation Forum  (by Orin Davis, Phd) With some speakers, you just have to be there to really get the marrow of what they have to say, but here are some piquant ideas from speakers at the World Innovation Forum:  Terry Bellamy — Mayor of Asheville, NC Make an investment in a sustainability endeavor, and keep reusing the savings in other sustainability endeavors to have sustainable infrastructure

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    Spontaneous Thinking and the Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Jonathan Winters

    “If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to meet it.” Jonathan Winters Last week, a personal hero of mine, Jonathan Winters, passed away. He had a long, full, complicated, crazy, and indeed, mad, mad, mad, mad, life. If you don’t know who he is or why I’d be doing a post about him in a creativity and innovation blog, please just go to YouTube and watch this. If you really want to snort milk through your nose, try this one. Winters was a comic genius, a creative tour-de-force, and, a man who “used” his affliction with bi-polar disorder positively. He was one of the first public figures to admit to treatment for mental illness having “gone to the zoo”

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    Gonzeaux #8 — Florida

    I spent most of the past week in the great state of Florida. While I hardly exhausted the potential of it’s vast expanse and endless coastline, I did get a gonzeaux dose of it. The FEI 2012 Conference lived up to it’s billing and reputation as the “serious” innovation conference. Hard to summarise, but let me try: great, insightful, relevant speakers, interesting interactions with both participants and vendors, and lots of fun and conversations around the edges. All about innovation of course. It’s expensive, but it you’re serious about innovation at your organisation and want to be aware of trends in the “industry” it’s well worth going. I made some great connections for KILN, which was my personal goal in

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    Get Attention in Six Seconds — Or Have a Hindenberg Disaster

    For about three years in the early 80′s I was a stand-up comic. It was a humbling experience. I was bad. Really, really, bad — particularly at first. There is nothing quite like “dying” on stage as a stand-up, think the Hindenberg disaster. Multiply by 10 your most humiliating experience — that will give you some idea. Stand-up audiences have a notoriously short fuse for inauthentic, not-funny, boring, stupid, or pretentious comic wanna-be’s. Basically, you have a brief moment to get their attention and hold it. If you haven’t got the attention of a group in the first six seconds — and this is true for any presentation — you are on your way to death. Business groups may be

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    How To Be Open Minded, 5 Ways To Inspire Innovation

    Some people have no idea what it means to have a “Generative Discussion.” A generative discussion is when people talk, and in the process of discussing something, use a bit of vision, imagination, and ideation. Entrepreneurs and inventors are good at this; they tend to always be looking for the opportunity in what’s being talked about. “What If…” or “Wouldn’t it be Cool If…” or “How Might We…” are phrases you often hear. Now dig, I’m not talking about brainstorming (in any of its many forms and definitions).  I’m talking about, well, talking — but with a creative twist. Creative talking, Innovative talking (aka a Generative Discussion) is more than debate — which is usually about proving how right you

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    Adapting Improv Games to Ideation/Problem Solving

    I am often asked about how improv can be used in Idea Generation. I’m asked because I’ve done improv in Chicago at the schools there (IO and Players Workshop of Second City) and I do Idea Generation as a business.  While I’m not a serious candidate for Whose Line Is It Anyway, I have learned, and integrated, the basics into how I think. As for Idea Generation/Brainstorming/Corporate Problem Solving it’s practically all I do these days, so, I’d likely make that All Star team. Call me the spitballer who mixes pitches like structured problem solving and improvisation. Let me state it simply:  You can adapt classic comedy improvisation games to help solve serious business problems.  You can use these adapted

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