July 29, 2013

By Dan Markovitz via timebackmanagement.com/blog/   Article

“Many people view standard operating procedures — or standard work, in the Lean lexicon — as shackles, constraining flexibility, creativity, and innovation. They’re wrong.

…  the R&D engineers at Abbott Vascular created standard procedures to reduce the burden of their internal communication. Because their culture necessitated that they check their email when it arrived, they could never get any real work done—they were always interrupted by their smartphones. They solved this problem by establishing a standard communication protocol: urgent issues had to be communicated face-to-face or by cell phone; less urgent issues were communicated by office phone or email.

With this standard protocol in place, they were able turn off their email alerts and have more time for critical engineering issues. …

Standards shouldn’t be seen as manacles or part of a Taylorist “command and control” management system. Rather, they should be seen as a way to reduce errors, improve efficiency, and provide more room for creativity and innovation.”


Expensive trolls

July 29, 2013

By Brad Feld via feld.com   Article

How Patent Trolls Really Work

“I’ve been asserting for at least six years that patent system is completely broken for the software industry. I’ve given numerous examples, dealt with the issue first hand as patent trolls have tried to extort many of the companies I’m an investor in, and I’ve had many public discussions about the topic.

On my run on Sunday, I listed to This American Life – When Patents Attack… Part Two! It is easily the best and most detailed expose I’ve ever heard on this issue. If you care to really understand how patent trolls work, spend an hour of your life and listen to it.

The issue has finally gone mainstream. Here’s a great quote on patent trolls from an article in Time Magazine (how much more mainstream can you get than that.)

“In 2011, Apple and Google spent more money on patent litigation and defensive patent acquisitions than on research and development. That’s not a good sign for the U.S. economy; in fact, it’s a stark indication that our intellectual-property system is broken. Rampant patent litigation is impeding innovation and ultimately increasing the costs of gadgets for consumers, according to legal experts and industry observers. Now President Obama says he wants to reform the system.”

There was an outcry of support last week when President Obama issued a set of executive orders and suggested legislative actions to fix the broken patent system. While the press release from the White House had a bland title, the substance was solid and the articles about it got to the point.”

The reek of creativity

July 15, 2013

By Kevin Meyer via evolvingexcellence.com   Article

Justin Brady’s article on creativity in The Wall Street Journal: …

The process of real creativity is messy, chaotic, sometimes even disgusting, and it reeks of failure, experimentation and disorganization. Because of this, most leaders don’t actually want creativity, they just want the results of it. …

Creative environments aren’t planted, they are cultivated by leaders who:

Listen. Listening is much different from hearing. When someone is truly listening, they keep eye contact and they strain to find meaning. When you are listening, you discover insights that weren’t obvious before. …

Empathize. This is a giant problem today, not only in companies but in politics and even relationships. Empathizing takes work. People who truly empathize not only try to put themselves in the other person’s shoes, but they also make it a priority to find truth in their words. …

Trust. Listening and empathizing are useless if you can’t trust another individual. Some ideas or concepts won’t make sense to anyone but the innovator. That’s what makes them innovators, they were capable of seeing a solution or connection no one else could. 

… Effective leadership… and creativity and innovation and all that fine stuff… is a function of recognizing the value of people.  To be a bit more specific, the value of the brains of people – not just the hands.”


July 15, 2013

By Drake Baer via fastcompany.com   Article

How Habits Make You Less Creative

“… habits are powerful for sculpting a highly productive life because they take away the transaction cost of launching into an action: There’s much less mental overhead to going for a run if you do it every morning versus once a fortnight. …

And yet while habits may make you more productive, … they can make you less creative, contending that if you trying to expand your skill set, you should break your routines, since ‘too much consistency inevitably leads to a plateau where weaknesses ossify and improvement becomes harder.’

… quoting from British author Arthur Koestler’s The Act Of Creation:

‘The skills of reasoning rely on habit, governed by well-established rules of the game; the ‘reasonable person’–used as a standard norm in English common law–is level-headed instead of multi-level-headed; adaptive and not destructive; an enlightened conservative, not a revolutionary; willing to learn under proper guidance, but unable to be guided by his dreams.’

The question, then, is really one of framing: what are we trying to do here? If we’re trying to produce as much as possible as fast as possible, habit seems to be useful. But … if we’re trying to make something new–as in, commit the act of heresy otherwise known as innovation–smartly breaking and experimenting with habits can be a way to prime creativity, since the creative act so often begins at the intersection of previously unrelated ideas.”

Language kills innovation

July 8, 2013

By Lyden Foust via innovationexcellence.com   Article

Language Is Killing Our Ability To Innovate

“Before we had language, we made sense of the world through pictures, sounds, and smells. … Eventually we developed the capacity for language as a form of communication. …

The problem with grammar is that it locks us into certain ways of thinking about things. … if there are no words for certain concepts, we tend not to think about them. This means a key component of successful innovation is our ability to think beyond the constraints of language. …

Be Able to Switch Between Visual & Verbal Communication

… The use of images, diagrams, and models can help reveal patterns of thinking and new directions you can take that would be hard to imagine exclusively in words. …

Put it to work

… When attempting to sketch an idea, we must observe it closely, gaining a feel through our fingers on how to bring it to life. When you are trying to solve a hard problem, think beyond words. …

Is there a way you could depict all the stakeholders in a process …? … Could you create a mental map of your to do list? What are all the possible outcomes of a negotiation …? What does your supply chain look like? Have you tried mind mapping a presentation or a meeting?

Revert to your most primal form of intelligence, visualize the problem, and watch the solution illuminate before your eyes.”

Coors beer

June 24, 2013

By  via Innovate on Purpose Blog   Article

The logical limits of product innovation

“Innovation appears stalled in many industries because the product or service has reached its point of diminishing marginal returns for innovation. … We’ve perfected the brewing of beer.  We’ve created thousands of types of beer – lager, stout, porter, hefeweizen (my favorite), bock, etc.   Have we reached the point of diminishing returns for beer innovation?  I think the signals are flashing “yes”.  Here’s why.

Coors recently ran an ad that highlighted the beer can.  The can had three significant attributes they wanted to call to attention.  First, the mountains on the can change color when the beer is cold.  Second, the can has a liner to keep the beer cold.  Third, the can has a new pop-top to improve airflow and drinkability.  All of these things may be labelled “innovation”, but they are innovation in packaging, in marketing and in information signalling, not beer innovation. …

Note that some of these “innovations” are a bit perverse.  Many beer drinkers will tell you that beer shouldn’t be too cold, otherwise you lose the flavor.  And does anyone need a more technical pop-top?  Were there unacceptable incidents of beer spillage or individuals who failed to get the beer from can to mouth previously?

When product manufacturers start innovating the packaging, the information about the product, the channel or the business model, it’s a good signal that they’ve reached a diminishing return on innovation in the product itself, and only a significant disruption will spark new product innovation in the sector.

Innovation itself isn’t stalled, it’s simply on hold for the next disruptive evolutionary cycle.  Innovation isn’t a smooth, continuous process but a spiky discontinuous process made up of long period of incremental innovation punctuated by short bursts of disruptive innovation.”

Decelerating education

June 24, 2013

By Drake Baer via fastcompany.com   Article

Hone “Strategic Patience,” Watch Your Creativity Spike

“Deep patience. Close attention. … the skills for finding the ‘details, relationships, and orders that take time to see’ can be introduced.

[Harvard art history professor Jennifer L. Roberts] calls it ‘decelerating education’ … she prompted her pupils to plop down in front of a painting forthree hours … details began to reveal themselves, like about the shape of the boy’s ear or the squirrel’s ruff, the way the boy’s hand was in proportion to the glass of water, how the folds of the curtain fell, how the eye was depicted, and what these varied symbols may mean. …

Smart people have told us about how acute, focused observation births creativity. And we’ve discussed, innovation often begins with observation before moving to addition or subtraction. …

When P&G wanted to make new a product for people’s homes, they studied they way we cleaned. After hours of fieldwork, they realized that people were spending as much time cleaning their mops as they used the mops themselves. …

In the same way that a gourmet can savor the flavors of a dish and reverse-engineer its preparation, the patience-practicing, insight-seeking observer becomes familiar with the subject of her study, whether canvases or customers–and in so doing, can begin to know their needs.”