Spring is in the air – and this blog has had a facelift.
If you’re receiving this via RSS, you may want to visit the blog. As I said – big changes. We’re well into version 2.0.
Where did the older posts go? We’ve taken them down and will be re-releasing the “greatest hits” as time goes by.
If you’re here for the first time – I’m really, really glad you made it.
We’re still in beta, BUT things are basically stable at this point. You’ll notice that certain features and functions aren’t exactly 100% online. They’re coming soon. I promise. Let us know if you’d like to see any features that haven’t been included in the redesign.
Anyways, that’s house cleaning. What’s on the menu this Spring?
Coming Up This Spring…
I’m planning a series of book reviews and interviews in the business design and innovation category. I think it’s a good time to do this. Spring always brings that breath of fresh air and, with it, there are bound to come some new ideas. So, I’m going to spend the next few months drilling down into uber-efficient ideation and innovation processes.
Here are some of the top questions I’d like to answer:
- What is effective ideation? What does it look like?
- How do we do it?
- How do we shorten the time from idea to launch?
- What are the benefits of launching early? Does this work? How do we apply these lessons to our products and services?
- Is design thinking the master key? If so, why? How do we use it?
- What is the value of open innovation? How do I practically leverage crowdsourcing?
- Are constraints (such as money, environmental, social) beneficial to the innovation process or detrimental? How do we work with them?
That should get us started.
So, without further ado, let’s dive straight into it.
I’ve designed a sort of “book interview” process that’s aimed at extracting the real NUGGETS. If there’s any question you’d like to have answered that isn’t listed, please let me know in the comments and I’ll update this post.
Enter Disciplined Dreaming
Summarize the book in 1-3 sentences
Creativity is essentially a learned skill. Individuals can cultivate it, but creativity and outside-of-the-box thinking thrive in cultures that reward it. Disciplined Dreaming is project-driven blueprint, and tactical toolbox, for organizations ready to make that transition.
Who is the author and what is his/her experience with the subject?
The author is Josh Linker, founder of the interactive promotion agency ePrize. ePrize has produced digital promotions for top brands including Kraft, Kirkland’s, Carhartt, and the National Hockey League.
What was the number one takeaway from the book?
Creativity is a cycle. There are no hard and fast rules, but successful innovation/creation does seem to have unique stages. By learning to recognize and facilitate those steps and stages, we can maximize their effective application. They are:
- Identify the “Creativity Challenge” (i.e., what are you trying to solve/create/do?)
- Build a sense of curiosity and awareness around the project
- Prepare your own mind and prepare your team culture
- Prepare your environment (create a space for creativity to flourish)
- Acquaint your team with the creative process / flex your creativity muscles / warm up
- Get ideas related to the project flowing (“creative sparks”)
- Build a supportive framework for more robust idea-generation
- Collect all ideas
- Systematically narrow down your team’s best ideas
- Establish metrics to help measure and refine your ideas once they launch
- Establish an action plan
Josh also lays out this cycle in four broad phases: ASK > PREPARE > IGNITE > LAUNCH.
Key leadership lessons from the book
The leader’s role in this process is essentially that of facilitator and participant. I’m reminded of Edmund S. Morgan’s words about Benjamin Franklin’s approach to project leadership:
He found it easier to gain support for an enterprise if it seemed to arise spontaneously and not as something of his own devising. His procedure was to lay the groundwork in discussion … and to run articles in his newspaper that would suggest the need for a new institution.
Sustainable projects (like volunteer fire departments, a Franklin project) seem to be a “look what we did” project, and never a “he/she did this” project.
It’s also clear that design/creation is a democratic process. We all have access to it and anyone can do it. All it takes unquenchable passion to make things better.
Key brand and marketing lessons from the book
As always, organizations that are willing to go there in terms of really doing the work to build a creative culture and business model will get a proportionate amount of feedback in the form of sales and customer interaction. Examples of this abound. The message is the design or, as Josh calls it, the “Creativity Challenge”.
Key design and innovation strategy lessons from the book
Josh points out that a more complex goal, such as designing and developing a new product line, or a new business, requires a more robust process. On the flip side, this process can be condensed to serve everyday innovation as well.
The way I see it, a great organization or business is essentially a constellation of interconnected and nested Creativity Challenges. For instance, if your goal is to design a business, the “macro” project should be broken down into smaller projects, and those projects, may be even further subdivided. This structure can work for start-ups and for mature organizations alike.
Most challenging ideas from the book
An idea is a very fragile thing. We all know it’s a lot easier to chase quick results than it is to stick to a sustainable plan for innovation. The problem is, the fallout of that course is often severe. When we kill our own or others’ ideas prematurely through criticism (usually because they sound “implausible” or “silly”), it’s a blow to the culture and a blow to the possibility of future creativity and innovation. It can take a while for a team to recover from that.
Ideation is rarely a linear process, and it’s often messy. The best we can do is principles, or guidelines, for creation. No innovation, ideation, or design process is ever going to be the same and it’s difficult to simultaneously “let it go where it wants to” and to “keep an eye on the prize”. That’s the art. Getting comfortable with ambiguity, I’ve found, is an important first step.
3-5 most helpful tools and tactics that the book recommends
- The Creativity Brief – The Creativity Brief is a question-driven template (included in the book) that helps identify key elements of the project (overview, history, objective, deliverables, etc.) and will guide the team as the ideas develop. It comes in two forms – robust and “light” for different sized projects.
- The Wrong Answer – Generate ideas to solve the opposite of your Creativity Challenge. This is designed to simultaneously defuse fears of “being wrong” and to generate some good ideas (flip the negatives around to get positives)
- Mach 10 Innovation – Flip the innovation cycle upside down. Instead of Idea > Development > Sales/Launch, go to Idea > Sales/Launch > Development. Bring ideas/products to the audience as early as possible, and tweak and perfect based on feedback that comes in.
- Find the inflection points – An inflection point is a point of change that opens up doors for innovation. Think: automobile, internet, civil rights movement, etc. Make a study of identifying inflection points. List as many as you can. What ideas does the list inspire?
Have you read the book? Have you applied these ideas? Tell us more!