inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #26 of 107: Public persona (jmcarlin) Wed 27 Jun 07 20:39
    

Catching up on all the posts so far caused me to reflect on my work
experiences.  The phrase "think outside the box" has often used in
the same sense as you use "innovate". I suppose the box image is
supposed to be evocative, but I've found that if you really try to
do so you run into the organizational double bind about needing to
follow the established procedures.

And, if woe betide you, some idea causes a problem, the result is ever
more bureacracy. I'm not sure why, but it seems that too many people 
don't learn the lesson that bureaucracy does not solve problems. Instead
when the problems persist, more bureaucracy is added on.

To a different point, I've been impressed about how Google is operating.
They seem to have a way, in Google labs, that ideas can be tried out.
However, I suspect that internally the same old story is being reinvented
with ever more structure as they grow and mature, but at least there
they still appear to have a way of allowing at least some creativity
to be expressed.
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #27 of 107: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Wed 27 Jun 07 21:29
    
"think outside the box"

This is a cliché almost as common now as litter.  When cats do this,
it's "stink outside the box." 
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #28 of 107: Get Shorty (esau) Wed 27 Jun 07 22:51
    
I think a more useful version of that cliche is "rethink the box."
Redefining -- or at least re-examining -- the constraints you're
working within can move you well along the road to something valuable.
Are you asking the right questions? Who is asking, and who is
answering?
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #29 of 107: Christian Crumlish (xian) Thu 28 Jun 07 00:29
    
Or, as my friends from nForm like to do with their clients "design the
box" as a way of freely envisioning a final product...
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #30 of 107: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Thu 28 Jun 07 09:51
    
In the course on creative thinking I teach, we talk about "thinking
outside the box". It comes from a brain-teaser puzzle
(http://www.sangraal.com/library/outside_the_box.htm) and I agree with
MacFarlane, it's a cliché of clichés. You rarely hear people who are
creative saying it.

The framework I use in the course is this: ideas are combinations. And
we have inhibitions about trying certain combinations. Thinking out of
the box means simply to question assumptions and go to strange,
different, unique places. Problem is we're taught from
parents/schools/bosses to stay in boxes. Most of us have trouble
turning those filters off and thats where the course, or creative
thinking games come in.

So I agree with esau - creativity, in part, is redefining constraints
and learning how flexible they are, if we're not afraid to play.
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #31 of 107: David Adam Edelstein (davadam) Thu 28 Jun 07 10:41
    
Certainly that's always been my belief as a designer -- that part of
the design process is a very clear understanding of the "box", that is,
the constraints on the work.  

In my experience, without a clear understanding of the constraints,
all thinking is muddy.  "What if we did X?" "I'm not sure we can do
that." 

With a clear understanding of the constraints (this has to work on
tiny screens, this must be waterproof, the owner's husband drew the
ugly logo and it has to be used as large as possible) the design
process can be very crisp, sometimes even drawing inspiration from the
constraints.
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #32 of 107: Get Shorty (esau) Thu 28 Jun 07 10:54
    
So, Scott, I'm interested in your path, and how it led to you teaching,
consulting, and writing a book on innovation. You worked on the
Internet Explorer team at Microsoft, an experience that perhaps allowed
you to see both the good and the bad aspects of project management and
"creativity management." 

My sense is that most authors on innovation come from the consulting
and management world, but you seem to have spent your time in the
trenches working on an influential design project. How did you make
the leap?
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #33 of 107: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Thu 28 Jun 07 11:46
    

It's hard to be concise about this as like all career stories it's
complicated :) In short: I love making things, writing and teaching. I
spent about a decade making things or managing the making of things, so
it's natural that I'd write and teach about how to do that well. 

I was very lucky to come to Microsoft in 1994 and start on the early
days of Internet Explorer, and be near the center of the birth of the
web. I worked with some great people and learned how to manage and
design from some true rock stars. I can't say the same for the 2nd half
of my career at Microsoft, but context is everything. I wouldn't know
how lucky I was if I hadn't been kicked around a few times too.
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #34 of 107: Get Shorty (esau) Thu 28 Jun 07 14:51
    
I thought as much! Learning from failure, etc.

One lesson I enjoyed reading was about setting out to make a disruptive
techology, which is foolhardy at best. As you say, Tim Berners-Lee
didn't set out to transform communication and entertainment when he
"invented" the World Wide Web (typing that phrase out feels practically
Victorian).

I saw Guy Kawasaki speak recently, and he also made pointed out that
most sure winners only look that way in retrospect -- or else he and
every other VC would be rich beyond imagining. Luck plays such a large
role in whether a perfectly wonderful products or services gets noticed
let alone adopted, how can anyone ever set out to change the world?
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #35 of 107: Ludo, Ergo Sum (robertflink) Thu 28 Jun 07 15:41
    
I recall a book called "Synectics" that investigated the creative
process. One concept that struck me was the idea of a (possibly) absurd
idea as an intermediate state to getting a real advance.

Scott, are you aware of the book (about 1970) and or the idea of
absurdity as one means to a practical advance?
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #36 of 107: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Thu 28 Jun 07 16:28
    
Luck is a tricky word. I think it's best to think of it this way:

There are:

1. Factors within your control
2. Factors out of your control you can be aware of
3. Factors out of your control you can't forsee

2 & 3 are very different. You can make bets about #2 and try to plan
for responses to things. So separating "luck" into things you can
speculate about and try to account for, and those you can't can help.

But more importantly, if innovation were easy everyone would be doing
it. I think what draws many people to entrepreneurship and invention is
that they want to think big and take some chances. They're not sure
what will happen and want to test all of their talents & passions. If
the outcome were certain, they'be bored.
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #37 of 107: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Thu 28 Jun 07 16:32
    
I'm familiar with the word synectics - though i'm not sure if I've
seen the book or not.

Absurdity works for this reason: ridiculous ideas reduce our
inhibitions. We don't apply the normal constraints and allow ourselves
to be silly, absurd, crazy, increasing the # of combinations of ideas
we're willing to play with. There are other ways to do this, but one
game I've used is to say "What is the possible product we can make" and
brainstorm on that. It always gets people laughing, it's so bizzare
that people feel safe offering crazy ideas, and then before you know
it, you find a really bad idea that can easily be flipped around into a
very interesting *good* idea. 
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #38 of 107: bill braasch (bbraasch) Fri 29 Jun 07 15:28
    
One of the best things your book helped me appreciate was the number of
variables that can go out of control during innovation.  We all put some
time in there for the learning curve, but nobody expects the SPANISH
INQUISITION, or the overhead of various styles of project management (your
blog on that was almost painful but still funny), the realities of the
market, the cost of sales and marketing, or the mid-life crisis that has the
marketing guy in Europe when the market is in the US.

It makes it all so much more wonderful to get something in the box when
these events somehow fit into the scheme and it all works anyway.

Looks like everyone took today off to go read the book.  I'm creating
Powerpoint slides.

What advice would you give the market driven technologist about human nature
and where it goes on these gannt charts?
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #39 of 107: Get Shorty (esau) Fri 29 Jun 07 15:43
    
Einstein supposedly said, "If at first, the idea is not absurd, then
there is no hope for it." Absurd ideas help break the ice in
brainstorms, and it's always easier to take silly ideas and bring them
back down to earth than to take safe ideas and make something wild and
different from them. 

But what then? You take a previously inhibited, "uncreative" team and
teach them them some techniques for generating innovative ideas. They
identify a topic and write 200 ideas on the white board. Not what? How
can you get them to recognize the cream of their ideas, and how do you
get them to avoid groupthink?
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #40 of 107: Get Shorty (esau) Fri 29 Jun 07 15:44
    
Bill slipped in!
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #41 of 107: thinking outside the pants (xian) Fri 29 Jun 07 17:03
    
Someone taught me an interesting format for brainstorming called
Sacred Cow brainstorming. (Easier with a diagram but...) You put the
project in the center of the white board and ring it with brief
staments of the known constraints of the project. Then for each
limitation you imagine what its opposites are, without regard to
feasability. Maybe the screen doesn't have to be that size, maybe the
user doesn't want to be able to seach, etc.

Mostly you get nonsense, but sometimes you end up testing and finding
a flaw in a perceived limitation.

THen again, one of my clients called it a constraints-validation
exercise.
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #42 of 107: bill braasch (bbraasch) Sat 30 Jun 07 07:45
    
I worked with a fellow once who would listen to a design and then ask, 'what
can go wrong?'.  that would get us to question assumptions, which he would
help us do.

bob stahl was his name.  he taught interface design for a while.  one of his
lines was "the principle of least astonishment should lead interface
design'.  I still think of that when I see someone astonished by an
interface that I understand from my perch further up the experience curve.
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #43 of 107: David Adam Edelstein (davadam) Sat 30 Jun 07 08:29
    
sacred cow... least astonishment... taking notes... great stuff.
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #44 of 107: Get Shorty (esau) Sat 30 Jun 07 11:02
    
One simple technique that's valuable in getting people to turn an
complaints into ideas is How Might We?

Pick a topic, like cleaning the oven or moving apartments, and for all
the observations you make -- I hate leaning over and reaching to the
back, I hate carrying the couch through doorways -- turn it into a
question: How Might We create a tool to clean the back of the oven?
HMW change the couch to make it easier to carry? Potentially
everything becomes a positive statement this way.
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #45 of 107: bill braasch (bbraasch) Sat 30 Jun 07 13:24
    
How might we run off the project manager?
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #46 of 107: Paul B. Israel (pauli) Sat 30 Jun 07 15:06
    <scribbled by pauli Sat 30 Jun 07 15:15>
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #47 of 107: streaming irreverent commentary (pauli) Sat 30 Jun 07 15:16
    
Turned out I didn't have much internet access while I was out of town so I'm
still trying to get caught up with the discussion.  I just picked up your
book Scott and plan to spend some time with it this weekend.
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #48 of 107: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Sat 30 Jun 07 16:57
    
> What advice would you give the market driven > technologist about
human nature and where it 
> goes on these gannt charts?

I'd say open your eyes. Gannt charts do little if your team doesn't
trust each other. Charts and graphs are fictions if people don't
believe in what they're making, or can't convince others to try what
they've made. My bias is waaay on the side of human factors. Science
and analysis are great, but the true stories of why things happen have
more to do with what's between the numbers and facts than the numbers
and facts themselves.
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #49 of 107: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Sat 30 Jun 07 17:00
    
> But what then? You take a previously inhibited, "uncreative" team
and > teach them them some techniques for generating innovative ideas. 
> They identify a topic and write 200 ideas on the white board. Not 
> what? How can you get them > to recognize the cream of their ideas, 
> and how do you get them to avoid groupthink?

Some things work in groups, others don't. If we have 200 ideas I'd
pick 3 people, or possibly even one person, to go off and rank them.
Categorize them. Someone has to take a stab at putting them into some
kind of order and bring that order back to the group. My first book
talks about one technique for doing this but there are plenty of
others.

Generally speaking, brainstorming meetings can be good for generating
piles of ideas, but they stink for developing ideas into designs - you
need smaller groups of people or individuals for that.

To be fair, you can do some design tasks with a large group, but you
need a strong facilitator, or leader, who drives the discussion, acts
as tiebreaker, etc.
  
inkwell.vue.302 : Scott Berkun, "The Myths of Innovation"
permalink #50 of 107: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Sat 30 Jun 07 17:06
    
A few posts ago jmcarlin wrote:

> And, if woe betide you, some idea causes a problem, the result 
> is ever more bureacracy. I'm not sure why, but it seems that 
> too many people don't learn the lesson that bureaucracy does 
> not solve problems. Instead when the problems persist, more 
> bureaucracy is added on.

I spent a lot of time studying management theory and asking why
bureaucracies develop. Is has a lot to do with diffusion of authority -
no one wants to be to blame with things go wrong, so they form a
committee, or a task force, distributing accountability. Creativity
can't work that well in this kind of environment as everyone is
scrambling for piece of creative authority in every decision. It just
doesn't work - imagine a film directed by 30 people (either each
getting 2 minutes, or working together on the whole thing), or a
painting painted by a committee of 20. There would be no clarity of
vision - no hope for simplicity. One easy way to increase innovation is
to clarify authority and isolate who has creative power to those
worthy of the responsibility (which may have little to do with an
organizations hierarchy).
  

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