Tag Archives: innovation

The Ideas of Frank Chimero

Design­er Frank Chi­mero presents his ‘Ideas’: his mani­festo of sorts prin­ciples on cre­ativ­ity, motiv­a­tion and innov­a­tion. Chi­mero briefly cov­ers sev­en top­ics, entitled:

  • Why is Great­er Than How
  • Not More. Instead, Bet­ter.
  • Sur­prise + Clar­ity = Delight
  • Sin­cire, Authen­t­ic & Hon­est
  • No Sil­ver Bul­lets, No Secrets
  • Qual­ity + Sin­cer­ity = Enthu­si­asm
  • Everything is Some­thing or Oth­er

I’m par­tic­u­larly fond of the final two top­ics and this, from Why is Great­er Than How:

This com­plex world has made us over-emphas­ize How-based think­ing and edu­ca­tion. Once the tools are under­stood, under­stand­ing why to do cer­tain things becomes more valu­able than how to do them. How is recipes, and learn­ing a craft is more than fol­low­ing instruc­tions.

How is import­ant for new prac­ti­tion­ers focused on avoid­ing mis­takes. Why is for those who wish to push, are not risk-averse and seek to improve. How is coulda, Why is shoulda. How is fin­ish­ing tasks, Why is ful­filling object­ives. How usu­ally res­ults in more. Why usu­ally res­ults in bet­ter.

via Link Banana

Motivation and the Cognitive Surplus

This short dis­cus­sion between Clay Shirky and Daniel Pink on cog­nit­ive sur­plus and motiv­a­tion is full of little insights and allu­sions to inter­est­ing pieces of research.

This, from Dan Pink, is a won­der­ful over­view of the research into motiv­a­tion, presen­ted in typ­ic­al Pink clar­ity:

We have a bio­lo­gic­al drive. We eat when we’re hungry, drink when we’re thirsty, have sex to sat­is­fy our car­nal urges. We also have a second drive—we respond to rewards and pun­ish­ments in our envir­on­ment. But what we’ve forgotten—and what the sci­ence shows—is that we also have a third drive. We do things because they’re inter­est­ing, because they’re enga­ging, because they’re the right things to do, because they con­trib­ute to the world. The prob­lem is that, espe­cially in our organ­iz­a­tions, we stop at that second drive. We think the only reas­on people do pro­duct­ive things is to snag a car­rot or avoid a stick. But that’s just not true. Our third drive—our intrins­ic motivation—can be even more power­ful. […]

Both of us cite research from Uni­ver­sity of Rochester psy­cho­lo­gist Edward Deci show­ing that if you give people a con­tin­gent reward—as in “if you do this, then you’ll get that“—for some­thing they find inter­est­ing, they can become less inter­ested in the task. When Deci took people who enjoyed solv­ing com­plic­ated puzzles for fun and began pay­ing them if they did the puzzles, they no longer wanted to play with those puzzles dur­ing their free time. And the sci­ence is over­whelm­ing that for cre­at­ive, con­cep­tu­al tasks, those if-then rewards rarely work and often do harm.

via Link Banana

Innovation and the ‘Creation’ of Time

I make no secret of being a huge fan of Matt Ridley’s body of work, and his latest addi­tion to this, The Ration­al Optim­ist, seems like a wel­come addi­tion.

A won­der­ful sum­mary of the book’s main theme–that innov­a­tion and the spread­ing of the­or­ies and ideas is the key to a pros­per­ous future and we should be optim­ist­ic for what lies ahead because of this–has been writ­ten by John Tier­ney, with a nice look at one reas­on why innov­a­tion and its com­pan­ions are import­ant for pro­gress:

“For­get wars, reli­gions, fam­ines and poems for the moment,” Dr. Rid­ley writes. “This is history’s greatest theme: the meta­stas­is of exchange, spe­cial­iz­a­tion and the inven­tion it has called forth, the ‘cre­ation’ of time.”

You can appre­ci­ate the timesav­ing bene­fits through a meas­ure devised by the eco­nom­ist Wil­li­am D. Nord­haus: how long it takes the aver­age work­er to pay for an hour of read­ing light. In ancient Babylon, it took more than 50 hours to pay for that light from a ses­ame-oil lamp. In 1800, it took more than six hours of work to pay for it from a tal­low candle. Today, thanks to the count­less spe­cial­ists pro­du­cing elec­tri­city and com­pact fluor­es­cent bulbs, it takes less than a second.

The Benefits of Side Projects

The cre­ation of 3M’s Scotch Tape, the Declar­a­tion of Inde­pend­ence and Metal­lica: just three of the stor­ies Ben Cas­nocha retells to show the import­ance of innov­a­tion through side pro­jects.

Is giv­ing away a day a week of your employ­ees’ time worth it? Google exec­ut­ives seem to think so. They cite first the enorm­ous good­will gen­er­ated intern­ally: “20-per­cent time sends a strong mes­sage of trust to the engin­eers,” says Marissa May­er, Google vice pres­id­ent of search products and user exper­i­ence. Then there is the actu­al product out­put which of late includes Google Sug­gest (auto-filled quer­ies) and Orkut (a social net­work). In a speech a couple of years ago, May­er said about 50 per­cent of new Google products got their start in 20 per­cent time.

Jack Hipple, a con­sult­ant who works with com­pan­ies on innov­a­tion, says cor­por­ate sup­port for employ­ees’ nat­ur­al curi­os­ity can lead to bet­ter new product ideas than tra­di­tion­al focus groups: “You have to have some vehicle for side-pro­ject time because seni­or man­agers or cus­tom­ers don’t know enough about the future to know what’s com­ing.”

Cas­nocha notes that not all com­pan­ies can offer side-pro­ject time, espe­cially star­tups:

There are too many essen­tial tasks that need to get done simply to sur­vive.

Tom Kin­near, a pro­fess­or of entre­pren­eur­i­al stud­ies at the Uni­ver­sity of Michigan, says Google and 3M both could sup­port exper­i­ment­ing after their core products became prof­it­able: “At the out­set there are such tight mar­gins it’s hard to allow for side pro­jects. The pres­sure from your investors to focus, focus, focus is just over­whelm­ing.”

Fostering Innovative Thinking

By inter­view­ing and sur­vey­ing 3,500 vis­ion­ary entre­pren­eurs over a six-year peri­od, a pair of pro­fess­ors believe they have iden­ti­fied the five habits and skills com­mon to ‘cre­at­ive exec­ut­ives’ that dis­tin­guish them from the rest:

  • Asso­ci­at­ing: the skill of con­nect­ing seem­ingly unre­lated ques­tions, prob­lems and ideas.
  • Ques­tion­ing, espe­cially “ques­tions that chal­lenge the status quo and open up the big­ger pic­ture”.
  • Close obser­va­tion of details, par­tic­u­larly of people’s beha­viour.
  • Exper­i­ment­a­tion.
  • Net­work­ing with smart people who have little in com­mon with them, but from whom they can learn”.

In this Har­vard Busi­ness Review art­icle the two researches go on to talk of the key role inquis­it­ive­ness plays in creativity–that same curi­os­ity one of the research­ers found through­out a sim­il­ar 20-year study look­ing at “great glob­al lead­ers” and that you find in chil­dren.

We […] believe that the most innov­at­ive entre­pren­eurs were very lucky to have been raised in an atmo­sphere where inquis­it­ive­ness was encour­aged. We were stuck by the stor­ies they told about being sus­tained by people who cared about exper­i­ment­a­tion and explor­a­tion. Some­times these people were rel­at­ives, but some­times they were neigh­bors, teach­ers or oth­er influ­en­tial adults. A num­ber of the innov­at­ive entre­pren­eurs also went to Montessori schools, where they learned to fol­low their curi­os­ity.

via Ben Cas­nocha