HUMANTIFIC SEARCH RESULTS

05
Jun

ReAppreciating Richard Saul Wurman

Starving for Understanding?

Required historical background reading for anyone joining Humantific is Richard Saul Wurman’s Information Anxiety, published in this first edition in 1989. Years later Richard did a refresh and republished the book as Information Anxiety 2. The later version is easier to find than the original book. Either is recommended if you want to better understand the remarkable time-warp story of how the Understanding Business, the Explaining Business, the SenseMaking Business actually preceded, by decades, the Big Data business.

Of course, all of the technology-related references inside Information Anxiety are now dated, but Richard’s central message remains even more relevant today than when it first appeared. Forget all the Big Data buzz for a moment. It was 20+ years ago that Richard began expressing concern about “the black hole between data and knowledge” and “the widening gap between what we understand and what we think we should understand”. It is rather amazing to consider Information Anxiety in the timeline of technology history. It was in 1989 that the world-wide-web began appearing in public and Apple introduced its Mac SE/30 and the Mac 11ci, running at 25 MHz with an 80 megabyte hard drive!Continue Reading..

29
Mar

Making Sense of Alex Osborn

Beyond the “Brainstorming” Debate: What Organizational Leaders Really Need to Know about “Building Better Brainstorms”

Operating a busy innovation-capacity-building consultancy in New York City we do not always have the time to comment on all the innovation-related articles appearing in the various media streams but once in a while we see something that calls out to us.

In Fast Company’s recent article, entitled “Building A Better Brainstorm” by Anya Kamenetz, we noticed creative intention coupled with significant omission and oddly out-of-sync “straw-man” argument construction. In spite of noble efforts by Gerard Puccio and Bob Sutton to inject some deeper smarts into the moderated conversation, it seemed to be yet another dumbed-down new business media piece that succeeded in missing every important milestone around the subject for 60 years. Instead, it focused on regurgitating a few old sparks of constructed controversy. Certainly not very scholarly, what seemed to be missing in “Building A Better Brainstorm” was informative dot-connecting.

What struck me as particularly unfair in the article, constructed as a multi-participant conversation, was the notion of installing a fictitious Alex Osborn (1888-1966) into the mix and then dumbing down that character to the point where he was not enabled to speak up for himself and his idea developments in a meaningful way. Osborn would no doubt be rolling in his grave.

Not sure where Fast Company editors have been hanging out, but certainly in our corner of the innovation industry, it is widely recognized that trying to understand or appreciate the many contributions of Alex Osborn by focusing only on a single early work is a little like trying to understand the Beatles by looking only at Twist & Shout. As an important pioneer of applied creativity, Alex Osborn and his multifaceted work deserve better from collective us. The subject that brainstorming long ago transformed itself into also deserves better.

What purpose would it serve to pretend that what brainstorming was in 1953 is the sum total of the subject today? How is that an informed perspective? How is that fast learning?…fast adaptation?…fast synthesizing for readers?

Any post-graduate student of innovation worth his or her salt today would know that brainstorming was a rudimentary caterpillar that long ago transformed itself into a multidimensional innovation butterfly. If you don’t already know when, where, why and how that occurred, you are not likely to land a leadership job in any leading innovation practice today.

It does seem likely that our Humantific readers differ from those of Fast Company. It is for the former, more so than the latter, that we share this commentary here:

Ten Dots Not Connected in the Fast Company article:

1. It is widely recognized that brainstorming has not been considered a stand-alone creative methodology or technique since the late 1950s. No leading innovation consultancy that we know of uses any version of brainstorming as a standalone method.

2. The American workplace context in which brainstorming was created by Alex Osborn (in the late 1940s, early 50s) was one where generating raw ideas was thought to be the most valuable new creative currency. Coming from an advertising agency background, Osborn saw a need in that era for streams of raw ideas. His early work attempted to graft that notion onto every aspect of everyday work life. Of course, that relatively simple 1950s workplace context long ago radically changed, as did the notion that raw idea streams rule supreme in value. Between 1953 and 1959, Osborn himself made numerous revisions to his Applied Imagination book to reflect his own process-oriented, evolving and adapting realizations. Evolving and adapting would be key words there. Alex Osborn was not a stuck-in-time stationery object. As the context in which he was operating changed and grew more complex, Osborn, working with his primary collaborator Dr. Sid Parnes, recognized that ideas are only as good as the framing that precedes them. By 1959 the “ideas are king” orientation had been superseded by the broader realizations that framing and orchestration were already evolving into the heavier lifts. Don’t miss that moment and what it means. For more than 50 years the generation of raw solution ideas (brainstorming), in its many variations, has been widely considered the relatively easy lift in the innovation cycle.

3. It would be no surprise to most of us that any study of any creativity technique or technology that focuses on humans with no training, no skill, will likely result in a clumsy, negative picture. Imagine trying to understand bicycle riding or piano playing by conducting a study of folks trying to ride a bike or play piano for the first time with no training. Would the clumsy results mean that there are no master bike riders and no master piano players? This has been the logic in use around much of the “research” focused in the direction of brainstorming. In addition, much of it has been conducted by academics, holding levels of process skill that would, in the context of practice today, be considered elementary. To add even more fuzz to the mix, many young, ambitious “journalists/bloggers” seeking to generate heat in the on-line attention wars of today can be seen citing the “research” that never made any sense in the first place. This cascade of silly-billy dysfunction has, for years, muddied the waters on this subject. Perhaps the most important truth in all of that fuzzy mess is to simply appreciate that, by 1959, Osborn himself had already moved beyond brainstorming as he recognized there were bigger applied creativity fish to fry. Moving forward, Alex Osborn and Sid Parnes saw broader applications for the principle ingredients or DNA inside brainstorming. They also recognized a need for a more robust framework for their expanding list of ingredients to operate within.

4. With the help of Dr. JP Guilford, Osborn and Parnes had, by the late 1950s, already significantly reformulated brainstorming into broader recognition of divergence and convergence. Working on the creation of their first (and later to become highly influential) creative problem solving process, Osborn and Parnes realized that divergence and convergence occurs not once, but rather throughout the multi-phase innovation cycle. At that time such articulation was a milestone that significantly advanced the early thinking about brainstorming solution ideas into a different league of consideration. With this integration, brainstorming morphed into a three step dance (divergence, convergence, orchestration) that occurs repeatedly from end to end in the innovation process. It was no longer a one-off event but rather a repeating, adjustable flow-a basic innovation language construction. Still today many do not understand the significance of this milestone in process innovation, as is evidenced by this Fast Company article appearing 60 years later.

5. By 1959-1960, Osborn and Parnes had already recognized that building innovation capacity in the context of organizations involves the integration of divergent thinking and convergent thinking. If you stay frozen in the old brainstorming “ideas are king” mode, you never get to those realizations. At Humantific we consider Osborn and Parnes to be the largely unrecognized founding fathers of the modern age integrative thinking movement. Anyone studying their work would see that they intended thinking integration to be a deliberate orchestration or modulation of divergent and convergent thinking, imaginative and analytical thinking, not a decision-making technique. The truth is, any graduate student of applied creativity can tell you that from the outset in the 1940s, the essential purpose of the applied creativity movement has been thinking integration. Thanks in large part to Osborn and Parnes, that integrative and orchestrative thinking train was already on the tracks, documented and rolling forward decades ago. Many subsequently built on those foundations.

6. With the integration of divergence and convergence into a visible Osborn/Parnes innovation cycle framework, Osborn, Parnes and Guilford effectively introduced the notion of learnable creative behaviors. Interconnected was a belief deeply held by these three pioneers: that everyone has the capacity to be creative. These notions, too, were significant process innovation contributions at that time. By 1959 Osborn and Parnes, working in collaboration with many associates, had already developed a behavior-based, experiential learning program, complete with workbooks that rival in detail, many innovation programs seen today. What is important to appreciate, in terms of timeline sequence, is that what Osborn and Parnes were already teaching by 1958-59 was not brainstorming, but rather an entire mash-up of thinking dynamic skills, both divergent and convergent. They were teaching thinking dynamic orchestration. They were teaching end–to-end creative problem finding and solving. They were teaching the underlying mechanics of continuous adaptability. Among the gems that can be seen in the early workbooks is the now popular invitation stem, How Might We? which, of course, had nothing to do with brainstorming and everything to do with challenge framing. These guys were lightyears ahead of their time, and many others subsequently benefitted from how they shared their many innovations. When Alex Osborn died in 1966, Parnes published, in the following year, Creative Behavior Guidebook, which encapsulated the 15 + years of learning by Osborn, Parnes and their many associates. Always the generous open innovation advocate, Sid Parnes included in Guidebook all the crown jewels of behavioral applied creativity that existed at that time. In that same year Parnes also launched Journal of Creative Behavior, officially grounding the behavioral school of applied creativity. How important was all of that? Behaviors, orchestration and integration all remain not only extremely important but are at the center of most leading innovation consultancies today. Much of that behavior oriented work stands on the shoulders of Alex Osborn, Sid Parnes and JP Guilford.

7. As early applied creativity pioneers, Osborn and Parnes recognized in the 1950s that the default thinking orientation of western culture including the business schools was convergent thinking. Both men were deeply concerned about the potential for convergent thinking to overpower and dominate western culture organizations at the expense of divergent thinking. Anyone can see in the historical literature that Osborn and Parnes were strong, consistent advocates of what they considered to be much needed change and innovation in American business schools. To keep it simple, what they had in mind was more deliberate teaching of divergent and convergent thinking. Underneath, and often underappreciated, was/is the heavier lift of advocacy for equal valuing of both in organizations and in society. More than a process innovation milestone, this thinking dynamics advocacy integrated into creative problem solving was among the most significant, most enduring contributions to the field of creative intelligence by Osborn and Parnes. Regardless of how innovation process models have changed, it is this advocacy for think-balance awareness that continues to have enormous implications for organizations working on innovation capacity-building today.

8. In the early 1950s, the Osborn/Parnes perspective on the relationship between thinking dynamics and innovation was embraced by adventuresome business leaders in the real world and largely ignored by many American business school leaders entangled in academic legacy systems. One result was that the applied creativity skill-building business was born, in large measure, outside the business schools. Some might say it remains largely outside still today. It took more than 50 years for most business school leaders to awaken to the realization that talking creativity and innovation while teaching the privileging of convergence was not a route to innovation leadership. Although in the last few years this orientation has finally begun to change, still today the default thinking mode taught as the highest form of value in most business schools remains convergent thinking, decision-making. That legacy continues. Inside the innovation enabling industry, this continuing phenomenon is well known to have enormous consequences in organizational contexts. Among the top ten most often seen organizational culture challenges is convergent-thinking-dominated cultures struggling to keep up in a continuously reinventing marketplace. Common symptoms of such corporate cultures include having few ideas in the pipeline and little active generative dialogue. These deeply ingrained repeating business culture dynamics explain in part, the reasons for the enduring relevance and interest in the thinking orchestration and integrative thinking work of Osborn and Parnes. That interest extends far beyond brainstorming.

9. Today it is no big secret that divergent thinking techniques beyond the bare-bones of brainstorming 101 have been plentiful for years. Many convergent thinking techniques also exist. Most are hybrids containing some mixture of alone work and group work, writing and visualizing. Most leading innovation consultancies help organizational leaders master combinations that work best in their particular organization, depending on many variables. Most divergent and convergent thinking techniques require skill-building. Some require considerable skill-building to master deeply. Today leading innovation skill-building programs are focused on enhancing capacity-not for brainstorming 101, but rather for better balance and recognition that both styles of thinking, divergent and convergent, are of equal importance and value. The challenges embedded there are far greater than the mechanics of brainstorming. The implications of that think-balance embrace are huge for organizational leaders. Diversity (of thinking) in the workplace streams directly out of that think-balance embrace. Inclusive innovation, inclusive organizational cultures stream from that think-balance embrace. Lets connect the dots sitting right there on the table. To put it in Fast Company terms “The Art [and Science, and Design] of Creative Dialogue” springs from that embrace! It is a lack of that thinking diversity embrace that is at the center of most innovation challenges facing organizations today. It takes courage on the part of leadership to commit to that think-balance embrace. The brainstorming debates, driven largely by media are a side-show distraction in comparison to the challenges involved in integrating think-balance considerations into organizational value systems and into everyday behaviors.

10. Perhaps the most relevant dots unfortunately and ironically not connected on behalf of Alex Osborn in the “Building Better Brainstorms” article have to do with adaptive capacity…more recently being creatively redepicted by Fast Company itself as “Generation Flux”. The dots were sitting right there on the table but they remained unconnected. Apart from a fundamental misreading of brainstorming’s relevance there seems to be a complete absence of understanding regarding the underlying intentions of Osborn’s life’s work. Above and beyond the many milestones and mountains of details, what was it all about Alfi? Once we appreciate that the various streams of Osborn and Parne’s work can be viewed from numerous perspectives, it is not difficult to see that underneath was/is a fundamental acknowledgment on their part of continuous change and an advocacy for continuous adaptability. “Adaptation”, “adapt”, “adapting” are terms used by Osborn more than twenty times in his 1953 version of Applied Creativity. Here is Sid Parnes in 1967: “Obviously there is an urgency for developing in people the ability to live with constant change in a dynamic society.”  Osborn and Parnes saw creative intelligence, creative process mastery, not brainstorming, as the way for humans to realize sustainable adaptability, agility, flexibility, resilience, fluency, fluxability, adaptive capacity or what ever you choose you call that. Osborn and Parnes were among the original enablers of complexity navigation. Their entire body of work is about equipping leaders with adaptability tools. That was what it was all about for Osborn and Parnes then and that is what it is still about for many organizational leaders today. While that need remains, what is different today is that the tools continue to change and evolve. For inclusive culture building, for adaptive capacity building many more strategies and tools now exist.

Conclusion:

What Organizational Leaders Really Need to Know about Building, not Better Brainstorms, but Better Cultures can be summed up in five words: Embrace Diversity of Thinking Now!

Forget the artificially constructed brainstorm wars. The innovation enabling community has long ago moved on. So should you. There is no brainstorming advocacy group out there. What you will find is advocacy for inclusive innovation, for inclusive culture building, for diversity of thinking, for think-balance awareness, for rethinking corporate value systems and reward systems to include the contributions by divergent and convergent thinkers. Tackling these complex tasks will keep zillions of organizational leaders around the world busy for decades to come.

As part of that advocacy for more inclusive think-balance, we would not want to see the brainstorm wars get misinterpreted or misread as advocacy for killing divergent thinking, or advocacy for the continuing dominance of convergent thinking in our organizations and societies. Beware of  Trojan horses that serve to undermine diversity and inclusive innovation. Let’s not let the brainstorm wars be that kind of innovation busting vehicle. Let’s be smarter. Going that route is a recipe for maintaining the status quo, or worse, sending organizations backwards, not for rethinking the future. Whether everyone is oriented in that direction or not, reinvention requires divergence-so we certainly advocate not killing that part of our collective selves anytime soon.

Today what savvy organizational leaders are working on is Building Better Teams, Building Better Cultures, Building Better Organizations. Maximizing brainpower, inventing and adapting will always be part of those equations.

Whether you chose to embrace it, build on it or reject it, to learn from the multifaceted work of Alex Osborn and Sid Parnes, let’s understand it first in all of its amazing courage and timely imperfections!

Thanks so much to Alex and Sid for getting the think-balance revolution underway. You guys did an amazing job!

Much work remains. Let’s get to it!

End.

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Related by GK VanPatter

Making Sense of Jonah Lehrer’s “New GroupThink”

Origins of How Might We

Lost Stories in Applied Creativity History

 

 

08
Mar

Understanding Innovation History

The Gold Mine Between Your Ears by Alex Osborn is among numerous early applied creativity documents in the Humantific Innovation Collection. Published circa 1954-55 this now hard to find 21 page booklet documents the early applied creativity self-help approach by Osborn which tended to manifest itself around suggestions that readers should recognize their inherent ability to generate ideas as a route to a better life.

“The author proves that you have a gold mine between your ears – a mine from which you can dig riches rewards, not only in hard cash, but also in the coin of contentment.”

“Surely you would like to…make more money by winning promotions…think up more cash-winning ideas…become a better parent and spouse…get more fun out of life…The key in this case is a gift you were born with – your ability to think up ideas.”

Think UP was a concept that Osborn introduced in 1942 and it can be seen front and center throughout his various publications. Osborn died in 1966.

What is important to see in innovation history? 

Apart from the corny 1940s-50s remarks, such as Women can think up ideas with the best of men” what is valuable to see in applied creativity historical documents is the early appearance of numerous key innovation concepts such asEveryone is born with creative imagination.”

In practice we find that knowledge of such applied creativity history can significantly inform understanding of the innovation marketplace today. It can also enhance one’s ability to appreciate some of the inside jokes regarding some of the more entertaining marketplace trends..:-) Innovation leaders operating without such historical knowledge are susceptible to the “sliced bread has just been invented” phenomeneon often seen in popular business oriented publications seeking to excite new generations of readership.

For example: the notion of business leaders combining two ideas was not invented last week, but rather it is a well-known and certainly not advanced skill present in the historical innovation literature for 60+ years. Association of ideas and or idea combining (not two ideas but many) is a skill that appears in Osborn’s 1953 Applied Imagination text, abbreviated in this booklet, as well as in numerous addional applied creativity publications.

“Here is another powerful set of questions: What ideas can be combined? How about an alloy?- a blend? Combine Units? Combine purposes?”

Reading some of the more recent overhyped business design and innovation leadership books in the marketplace one might get the feeling that learning how to combine two ideas while converging (making a decision) is going to propell you into innovation leadership stardom today. Well, it’s always good to have a sense of humor is this business…:-) Clearly much more advanced innovation and cocreation skill is already required.

The truth is, many of the early innovation concepts seen inside The Gold Mine Between Your Ears including, idea combination, adaptation, borrowing, substituting, positive, negative, upside down, opposites, maximizing and minifying later evolved into what are considered today to be introductory Innovation 101 skills. Much has been built on those foundations. Many remain fundamental and important, but very few of those early notions are considered advanced innovation process skills today.

Idea generation and combination, once the central focus of the earlier applied creativity pioneers, is today considered low hanging fruit in the enabling innovation business. Today much more emphasis is placed on the framing of challenges and opportunities upstream from the generation of ideas. In the post-Osborn eras it became more widely recognized that if you get the challenges wrong or don’t know what they are, no amount of brainstorming solution ideas will do you much good.

Recognizing that much has changed in the innovation enabling business today, we think its always great to see original source materials.

Images Source: The Gold Mine Between Your Ears. Ticonderoga Publishers, 1954. Humantific Innovation Collection, New York.

Related:

Making Sense of Jonah Lehrer’s “GroupThink”

Teaching Complexity Navigation

Humantific Teaches at MBA Program

Humantific inspires SenseMaking MBA

Lost Stories in Applied Creativity History

09
Dec

Consider TIME / Big Data For WHEN?

In this new series, Humantific SenseMaker Insights, we will be sharing a few tips based on our 15+ years of work and experience in the realm of helping organizational leaders make sense of complex fuzzy situations. Sometimes mountains of data exists in those often pressing situations, while in others, little or no data exists–but regardless there is need to drive forward.

Today, in the avalanche of Big Data crashing on all of our shores and in the marketplace push to consider data a “new natural resource”, a now abundant shapeable material, do you ever get the feeling that something important in that messaging is not being acknowledged, explained, or talked about?

In the competitive (some might say over-hyped) marketplace, what we often see missing in Big Data conversations is the simple acknowledgement that data sets are particularly useful in the construction of certain types, not all types of pictures. Apart from the many technology-related advances, certain basic data-related principles still apply–at least until humans figure out how to work around or change the underlying physics of the universe..:-)

Recently a Humantific Visual Analytics Team undertook an analysis of 200 years of data visualizations with the goal of better understanding what kinds of pictures have been made, historically, using various forms of data. Some readers might be surprised by the findings.

Acknowledging that not all data visualization is being used in the context of organizational or societal innovation it is this particular realm that we remain focused on and interested in. The interconnections between information and innovation acceleration have been at the center of Humantific’s work for more than fifteen years. While swimming in the data tsunami lets not forget a few innovation fundamentals.

In all of our visual sensemaking work we are building-block agnostic. We are not tied to only being able to make pictures based on data-sets alone. Others might be. At Humantific data is just one material used in the construction of informing pictures.

Among our first questions in any visual sensemaking engagement is this one introducing the consideration of time: WHEN is the picture that you seek to create? Asking WHEN inevitably informs the equation of what it is that will likely be needed to construct your picture. Data might or might not be the right “material”. To consider such a question, we, at Humantific, use a simple SenseWHEN viewing lens that contains these three parts: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

We recognize that the creation of Yesterday (Past), Today (Present) and Tomorrow (Future) pictures require quite different considerations and building materials. We have known for some time that data analytics and data visualizations are great for constructing pictures of Yesterday and Today. Tomorrow pictures are often inspired and/or informed by data, but no data exists for the not-yet-arrived future, regardless if that future is next year, next week, or ten minutes from now.

While we certainly acknowledge all the promising innovations underway in the realm of data-based predictive analytics, it remains true that today, in one way or another, pictures of Tomorrow have to be created from a “magic” mix of facts, presumptions, visions, projections, and ideas. In addition, many leaders are certainly well aware that in the context of organizational change and societal change (wicked problems), pictures of Tomorrow (solutions) most often have to be constructed in a manner that is conducive to buy-in by multiple constituents, ie: cocreation.

At Humantific we do a lot of futuring work with organizations and, so, are often called upon to help design and construct interfaces, tools, and experiences to help humans cocreate pictures of Today-Tomorrow as well as the subsequent bridge-building. Organizational leaders often call upon our team to lead the multi-stakeholder cocreation of the bridges of change between the Today and Tomorrow pictures. How are we going to get to that future? Often it’s going to take considerable work and change, including behaviors. We will talk more about this and share additional insights in this direction in future posts.

To undertake the sample view across a 200+ year period of data visualizations, the Humantific Visual Analytics Team utilized 5 well known books, including William Playfair’s 1786 AtlasGraphic Methods for Presenting Facts (1917), Graphic Presentation (1939), Visual Complexity Mapping Patterns of Information (2011), and Information Graphics (2012). Inside the 5 volumes we viewed nearly 1000 visualizations.

Looking across that two century time span, what we found was that 98% of the data visualizations were pictures of Yesterday or Today. Out of the 989 diagrams created over a two century period only 2% were attempts at pictures of Tomorrow.

In terms of proportional orientation, the earliest book from 1786 was not significantly different from the latest Information Graphics compendium for 2012. In Playfair’s 1786 book, 100% of the visualizations were comprised of Yesterday and Today pictures. In the new book Information Graphics, published in 2012, 95% of the visualizations were comprised of Yesterday and Today pictures. That is not much of a change across two centuries!

While embracing the many opportunities that Big Data represents, we have found in our own experience that organizational and societal changemaking tends to be more complex than data crunching, data visualization and data based projections. While all of those activities can certainly be informative we recognize that there is a lot more to changemaking and futuremaking then understanding pictures.

We share these kinds of perspectives with the organizational leaders working with Humantific, as they are tasked with figuring out how best to envision futures and then drive change in organizations and societies.

The Big Truth about Big Data is that it is unlikely that “data visualization” alone will get you to the future that you have in mind for your organization or your society. It can help you get there. It can help you better understand Yesterday and Today, which often informs Tomorrow–but let’s be real and acknowledge that more and different kinds of work are also going to be needed along the way. Humantific is already working on the other side of this realization. The “Beyond Big Data Visualization Era” is not only already here, it has been here for some time…:-)

Inspired by Humantific:

“The Other Visualization.”

Related here on this Humantific site:

Making Sense of the Early SenseMakers

Lost Stories Information Design History

Before, During and After Isotype

Feel free to subscribe to Humantific Quarterly.
08
Nov

Visualized Conference Rockin in NYC

Sponsored by Humantific, OReilly, Behance, Wiley and others the VISUALIZED Conference focused on Big Data Visualizaton is underway here in New York City today and tomorrow.

You can follow Humantific at the conference on Twitter.

See more here on the conference site

 

 

18
Oct

McKinsey: Calling all SenseMakers!

We enjoyed reading the impressive McKinsey Global Institute Report entitled: Big Data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity.” We would highly recommend this 245 page report to anyone interested in the interconnections between so-called Big Data and Innovation.

Heavily weighted towards the technology aspects of the Big Data wave we were delighted to see growing awareness expressed regarding the human-centered aspects of the role of data and information in problem-solving and innovation.

For us these were the most important points in the 145 page document:

“Presenting information in such a way that people can consume it effectively is a key challenge that needs to be met if analyzing data is to lead to concrete action.”

“Human beings may have limits in their ability to consume and understand big data. The generation of big data may be growing exponentially and advancing technology may allow the global economy to store and process ever greater quantities of data, but there may be limits to our innate human ability—our sensory and cognitive faculties—to process this data torrent. It is said that the mind can handle about seven pieces of information in its short-term memory.”

“The topic of information overload has been widely studied by academics from neuroscientists to economists. Economist Herbert Simon once said, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”

“Despite these apparent limits, there are ways to help organizations and individuals to process, visualize, and synthesize meaning from big data. For instance, more sophisticated visualization techniques and algorithms, including automated algorithms, can enable people to see patterns in large amounts of data and help them to unearth the most pertinent insights.”

“Advancing collaboration technology also allows a large number of individuals, each of whom may possess understanding of a special area of information, to come together in order to create a whole picture to tackle interdisciplinary problems.”

“If organizations and individuals deployed such techniques more widely, end-user demand for big data could strengthen significantly.”

 “Human beings have evolved to become highly effective at perceiving certain types of patterns with their senses but continue to face significant constraints in their ability to process other types of data such as large amounts of numerical or text data. For this reason, there is a currently a tremendous amount of research and innovation in the field of visualization, i.e., techniques and technologies used for creating images, diagrams, or animations to communicate, understand, and improve the results of big data analyses. We present some examples to provide a glimpse into this burgeoning and important field that supports big data.”

“We project a need for 1.5 million additional managers and analysts in the United States who can can ask the right questions and consume the results of the analysis of big data effectively.”

The visualization examples provided in this McKinsey report are somewhat primitive and there seemed to be little awareness regarding the information design community that has been focused on shaping data and information for human digestion long before the current Big Data wave arrived.

In addition there were no examples of humans interacting with visualized information that has been integrated directly into innovation process. This report did not really talk about how leading firms are already working at this intersection combining visual sensemaking with advanced problem solving. Humantific has been working this intersection since 2001! We have already learned alot about the human to information to innovation interface! In terms of capability we call this The New Adaptability….more soon!

Overall this is an excellent report worth reading. It can be downloaded for free.

Mc Kinsey Big Data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity.

Related:

Mc Kinsey: Trust Culture = Social = Gold

The Rise of Visual SenseMaking

Go Social or Go Home

Michelle Obama talks Data Analytics!

Humantific at Data Designed for Decisions Paris

Data Visualization 1890

20
Sep

Origins of How Might We?

Since the term “How Might We?” has been in the news so much recently we thought this might be a good moment to repost a small portion of an earlier article from our Lost Innovation Stories series that was published here on February 21, 2012.

In that tribute to the early work of Sidney J. Parnes Ph.D. we made reference to and gave due credit to the appearance of the term “How Might We” in Parnes’s 1967 book entitled Creative Behavior Guidebook. We consider that book to be among the top ten most important early books on the subject of Applied Creativity. Lets give credit where credit is due.

Many have since built on Sidney’s work. The good news is that much of what Parnes created and shared early on has long since passed into the public domain.

We consider Sidney Parnes to be one of several unsung pioneers in the still evolving OPEN Innovation movement. The truth is, that movement has its roots in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, rather than in 2003.

“Invitation Stems (“How Mights”)

The introduction of what are known as invitation stems, sometimes referred to as “How Mights,” are among the important tactical instruments included by Parnes in his Creative Behavior Guidebook published in 1967. Invitation stems became important, fundamental building blocks in the still-evolving logic of what is known today as “challenge framing” or “challenge mapping.” In Guidebook, Parnes introduces numerous key invitation stems that have sometimes been creatively attributed to later arriving others; included are: “How Might I?” (page131), “How Might We?” (page 125), “How Might You?” (page 161), and “In What Ways Might We?” (page 127). Since that 1967 publication, many additional invitation stems have been added by others, including “How Might They?”, “How Might Our Team?”, “How Might Our Organization?”, etc. Thanks to Sidney’s early work, “How Mights” have been in the public domain for decades, and have become integral to numerous creative thinking systems. Framed as questions in search of answers, “How Mights” can be seen in practical, everyday use within many innovation consultancies today, including Humantific, IDEO and many others. What’s different now is what we do with them.”

UPDATE: See Part 2 and Part 3 of Origins of How Might We? below in additional comments by GK VanPatter.

Note: Applied Creativity pioneer Sid Parnes authored 17 books from 1960 to 1997, including: Toward Supersanity: Channeled Freedom (1972), The Magic of Your Mind (1981), A Facilitating Style of Leadership (1985) and Source Book for Creative Problem Solving: A Fifty Year Digest of Proven Innovation Processes (1992). That list can be found on Wikipedia.

See the entire post here: Lost Stories Applied Creativity History.

Image Source: Parnes, Sidney J. Creative Behavior Guidebook. 1967. Page 125. Humantific Innovation Archives, New York.

Related:

Coming Soon:

Innovation Methods Mapping: De-Mystifying 80+ Years of Innovation Process Design.

Feel free to subscribe to Humantific Quarterly.

19
Sep

How Design is Changing? Huh?

We were baffled by the recent Fast Company “infographic” depiction of “how design is changing”. Huh? Where has Fast Company been for the past ten years?

Not only does this “infographic” make no sense at all, the content is completly out to lunch. That is the emerging future of design? How could such a widely read publication be so amaturishy misinformed? This is the future of design from what vantage point?…in what context?

The future of design and design thinking that is already here is about 10 zillion miles beyond that little Fast Company picture.

This might be a good moment for Fast Company to step back from the infographic craze and do some deeper research, some deeper thinking on what goes into such pictures. Making everything into eye candy is not going to get the job done unless the job is simply to make eye candy.

Related:

NextDesign Geographies / Understanding Design 1,2,3,4

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10
Sep

McKinsey: Trust Culture + Social = Gold

We were delighted to see the conclusions reached in the new McKinsey Global Institute Report entitled: The Social Economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies:

“To reap the full benefit of social technologies, organizations must transform their structures, processes, and cultures: they will need to become more open and nonhierarchical and to create a culture of trust. Ultimately, the power of social technologies hinges on the full and enthusiastic participation of employees who are not afraid to share their thoughts and trust that their contributions will be respected. Creating these conditions will be far more challenging than implementing the technologies themselves.”

We certainly agree!

This is a realization that arrived rather late in the previous eCommerce era so we are happy to see it being stated clearly up front in this emerging Social Economy era.

Related:

E2: Go Social or Go Home?

05
Sep

Michelle Obama talks Data Analytics!

We were delighted to see Michelle Obama’s insightful comments on the relationship between complex problems, data analytics and creating the future that were embedded in her speech last night at the Democratic National Convention. Who knew she knew data analytics?! Michelle gave a glimpse into Presidential sized challenges:

“I’ve seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk are always the hard ones – the problems where no amount of data or numbers will get you to the right answer…” Michelle Obama

We certainly agree!

As trendy as the data analytics and data visualization movements have become and as useful as data analytics are to all organizations today, outside of those movements it has been recognized for some time that data analysis is capable of generating only certain types of pictures.

In our change making work with organizational leaders we find that a useful first question to ask is WHEN is the picture that you seek to create? Are you seeking to create a picture of Yesterday, Today or Tomorrow?

We ask this knowing that any serious look at the history of data visualization will surface the realization that the vast majority of data visualizations that have been generated since the 18th century as well as those being generated today are pictures of yesterday and today, not pictures of tomorrow. In spite of advancing technology tools that orientation inside the data visualization business has not changed in 226+ years!

At Humantific we certainly recognize that while data analysis and data visualizations can significantly enhance organizational sensemaking of yesterday and today, pictures of tomorrow need to be cocreated. The not so hidden truth is that cocreating futures together requires a very different kind of skill-set than simply crunching and visualizing data sets.

Most forms of complex problem solving, all forms of meaningful organizational change and societal change require cocreation across many constituents, many disciplines. However well intentioned, change making is rarely as simple as placing visualized data in front of human eyeballs. Lets get real. If effective change making was that simple we would be living in a quite different world today.

This cocreation realization has been at the center of our Humantific work since we founded the company in 2001. We are deeply involved in visual sensemaking and realize that its real value is made possible in the context of cocreation. It is a realization that we share with the organizations that we have ongoing work with. Savvy organizational leaders are already operating in the beyond data analytics era. In that next era that is already here, sensemaking and cocreation are deeply intertwined.

Full transcript of Michelle Obama’s Convention Speech

Related:

Humantific CoFounder, Elizabeth Pastor presents SenseMaking for ChangeMaking at the “Data Designed for Decisions Conference” in Paris.

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