Tag: After Alex Osborn

01
Aug

Double Diamond Method

4x4goodg

Understanding What was Missed

Humantific CoFounder GK VanPatter posts to his LinkedIn blog:

Hello again Humantific readers. This week we are taking a short look at one of the most blogged about historical design community process models and that is the infamous Double Diamond circa 2005.

Recently I saw someone on LinkedIn offering up a critique of Double Diamond pointing out deficiencies and suggesting that Triple Diamond is really the solution today. :-) Others in the design community have offered a zillion redrawn versions of Double Diamond sometimes oddly grafting up to 14 steps within two diamond shapes. There seems to be an endless supply of blog posts on this subject, many coming from within the design community.

Of course method design experimentation can be wonderful AND what we find often missing from this particular exploration is any kind of meaningful historical context. To coin a popular knowledge management community phrase; it seems that often the Double Diamond experimenters do not know what they don’t know in terms of methods history. Never a great idea is designing innovation methods in a historical vacuum. :-)

See the entire post here on LinkedIn.

DDX

07
Jun

MAKING SENSE OF: “Creative Intelligence”

What Seasoned Innovation Leaders Already Know!

Since the term Creative Intelligence” has reresurfaced in the mainstream business media recently with considerable hype, we thought this might be a good moment to post a few points of clarification for our Humantific readers – many of whom are innovation initiative leaders inside organizations, engaged in continous learning and innovation capacity building. To do that work effectively understanding some innovation history is useful.

Unless you are just discovering the subject of Creative Intelligence, you will probably know that, by the late 1950s and early 60s, Alex Osborn, JP Guildford, Eugene Brunelle, Sid Parnes and others in the applied creativity community (also known as the CPS community) were already connecting creative intelligence to creative behaviors and to creative problem solving process mastery.

The notion that everyone has the capacity to be creative was brought forth and championed by numerous pioneers in the applied creativity community, including Alex Osborn, Sid Parnes and JP Guilford beginning in the late 1940s.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

21
Feb

Lost Stories Applied Creativity History

In this series, we are focusing on lost stories in innovation history.

At Humantific, we have always had great interest in the unsung milestones and off-the-beaten-path landmarks of innovation enabling history, as they tend to inform present-day understanding significantly. Many organizational challenges tend to repeat themselves, generation after generation. Without historical innovation knowledge, organizations can expend a lot of energy reinventing wheels. With the goal of inspiring others, we share a few gems from our lost stories innovation library.

Humantific works at the intersection of several knowledge arenas and, thus, over the years, we have become familiar with multiple streams of innovation enabling related histories. Here in this post today, we are looking at one not well-recognized milestone in one stream of innovation history, known to some as Applied Creativity, and perhaps to others as Creative Problem Solving (CPS) or Creative Intelligence. All are terms that have been around since the 1950s. It matters little to us which term you use. We are happy to engage in conversation around any of these terminologies.

Today it would be difficult for anyone to understand what is going on in the marketplace without cross-disciplinary historical innovation enabling knowledge. With all the ballyhoo going on around Design Thinking, we might point out that it is not possible to simply look at the history of design and understand what leading changemaking consultancies are already doing today and why.

A truth not always made clear in the highly competitive marketplace today is that what is being packaged and sold as Design Thinking often contains forms of knowledge originating from the parallel universe of Applied Creativity. To keep it simple: The composition of design at the scale of organizational change (Design 3) and societal change (Design 4) is already interwoven with the DNA of Applied Creativity. That is one reason why we believe that much of the recent writing on the subject of Design Thinking, interpreted as product, service, interface and or experince creation (Design 2), has been narrow and shortsighted—or should we say just plain dumb.

What we notice in the marketplace is that many aspects of innovation history are invisible to new generation audiences, in part because much of the original historical materials from the 1940s, 50s, 60s are out of print and therefore difficult to find. Unless you have access to original artifacts, it is unlikely that you would encounter much of that early material, as very little of it is found online today. That absence might be fortunate or unfortunate, depending on what one’s individual orientations and goals might be.

Certainly, we have been noticing a general lack of historical awareness and proper historical crediting in current discussions related to Creative Intelligence and Applied Creativity. It’s no secret that the lofty crediting protocols taught in graduate schools are routinely abandoned in the cut-throat competitive marketplace. Some of that omission is likely just plain ignorance. While such omissions and redepictions can be entertaining to observe, what that leads to, most often, is unenlightened or deliberate repeating starting-point initiatives being directed at unaware audiences. Ho Hum.

If we had to choose 10 early Applied Creativity books that Humantific considers to be most significant to innovation enabling history, near the top of the list would be Creative Behavior Guidebook by Sid Parnes.

Unofficially published as an experimental edition in 1966 under the title, Instructors Manual for Institutes and Courses in Creative-Problem Solving, this volume was officially published as Creative Behavior Guidebook in 1967. It was subsequently improved upon and republished as Creative ActionBook in 1976 and Guide to Creative Action in 1977. In the later 2 volumes, Sid collaborated with Ruth B. Noller and Angelo M. Biondi. At Humantific, we call this amazing 3-part series of publications the SidTrilogy. Inside, in a mixture of elementary and advanced states, is what amounts to the foundations of all future Applied Creativity workshops.

Dr. Sidney J. Parnes (1922-present) was a Professor of Creative Studies at State University New York College at Buffalo in 1967. Sid cofounded, and later became President of, the Buffalo-based Creative Education Foundation. Competitors of Sid tend to point out that he was an “academic” (he had a Phd in Education), but a little unsung industry secret is that much of what appeared in the SidTrilogy was rapidly transported to the operational realm of consulting practice, and remains at the center of numerous innovation consultancies still today. (It is unlikely that you will be reading about this on Wikipedia.) Having already begun to work in the 1950s on how to make the world a better place, it would be fair to Sid Parnes to say that he was before his time in many ways.

Prior to the publication of Creative Behavior Guidebook, Sid worked closely with the most recognized hero in Applied Creativity history: Alex Osborn (1888-1966). In 1955, Sid attended the first Applied Creativity conference organized by Osborn. Attendence at that event changed the course of Sid’s life. In Sid Parnes, Osborn saw a person who could help him operationalize Applied Creativity as it was then conceived. Osborn and Parnes co-founded the Creative Education Foundation in Buffalo. They worked together to cocreate the most influential, deliberate creative problem solving process model (it had numerous iterations) in Applied Creativity history, as well as the Institute’s learning program–a version of which still remains in operation today. Within what we now refer to as the Buffalo School of Applied Creativity, Alex and Sid remain highly respected Giants in that Hall of Fame. Outside that corner of the universe, what Sid did, how, when, and why is not widely understood today.

The 1967 version of Creative Behavior Guidebook was published a year after Alex Osborn had passed away. It was the same year that JP Guilford (1897-1987) published Structure of the Intellect and The Journal of Creative Behavior (founded by Sid) first appeared. None of this is ancient history, but these are important milestones in the timeline of the modern Applied Creativity movement that is still very much active today.

What else was going on in 1967? Yes, it was the year that Elvis starred in Clambake!, Warhol showed Marilyn and the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper. Can you believe that the average cost of a new house in the US in 1967 was $14,250? Of course, Sgt. Pepper eventually landed on the list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and it has been occurring to us, recently, that Sid’s much more humble Creative Behavior Guidebook was also a legendary album of sorts, from a quite different, less glamorous realm of knowledge.

Breathtakingly under-designed (some might say awful), Sid’s Guidebook is a 345 page, soft cover volume that looks like it was created on a primitive typewriter by an engineer. With an introduction written by J.P. Guilford, the book contains 99% text, with only a couple of primitive visualizations. Inside, however, is a mother-load of what might be called the beginning synthesis of modern Applied Creativity knowledge for which there is, frankly, no equivalent in Design Thinking history.

“This Creative Guidebook is written for the creative educator in schools or in industry, for the leader who desires to see blossom in others this trait he holds most valuable: the ability to perform effectively by bringing to any task a part of one’s unique self…The teaching manual is the culmination of eighteen years of research and development with creative problem-solving courses and institutes of the State University of New York at Buffalo…It reflects the extensive experiences of scores of instructors in the Creative Education Foundation’s Creative Leadership Council..”

To say this another way: Sid’s Guidebook was a synthesis of experiments in teaching that had been underway in Applied Creativity workshops since 1950. Considering the context of that moment, it was a gathering up and offering up of momentous proportions.

Having worked with Osborn, Sid saw, early on, a need to systematize and structure the delivery of teaching others the emerging skills of Applied Creativity in an experiential way. Sidney was already thinking about scale and global delivery of Applied Creativity skill-building in 1967. In Guidebook, Sid generously lays out an experiential logic connected to process orchestration that underlies many Applied Creativity workshops still today. Of course, it’s not difficult to see that Parnes did not yet have everything figured out in ’67 that is known today, but he certainly did place a large chunk of experiential knowledge on the table for public viewing.

In Guidebook Sid wrote: “Within five years, about one-half of what I have told you will either be untrue or not worth a darn. This doesn’t really bother me; but what does irritate me is that I can’t even tell you which half is which.”

Today, forty-five years later, the half that was most important can more clearly be put into perspective. In rediscovering the early work of Sid Parnes, perhaps most important is to appreciate his basic orientations in the world. His orientation towards sharing knowledge, tools, and techniques has many parallels to the interests and pursuits of the OPEN Innovation movement today.

Long before the competitive copyrighting “I own this technique” wave of the 1970s and 80s changed the dynamics of the Buffalo Applied Creativity community there was Sid, sharing with a global perspective. 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.

Not only was Parnes already writing in 1967 about everyone, everywhere working creatively together, he was advocating the global sharing of the knowledge and tools that he and his collaborators were placing on the table—without strings attached. The good news is that much of what Parnes created and shared early on has long since passed into the public domain. Many have built on Sidney’s work and that of his collaborators.

Probably what transpired in the competitive arena since the SidTrilogy was published was not exactly what Parnes had in mind at the outset, but, from a global sharing and impact perspective, Sidney rocked!  The spirit of Sid Parnes has inspired many movements, past and present. We have great respect for his many contributions.

Here are ten solid gold enduring innovation themes and ideas that appear in the original 1967 version of Sidney’s Creative Behavior Guidebook:

1. Adaptability

In Guidebook, a prescient Sid Parnes wrote, in 1967, about the importance of adaptability in a continuously changing world. That was six years before Paul Mott published his 1972 study. Characteristics of Effective Organizations, and forty years before Fast Company was telling its readers in 2012 that the next new thing is for individuals and organizations to forget history and become continuously adaptable as part of Generation Flux“...:-)

In 1967, Sidney wrote: “Obviously there is an urgency for developing in people the ability to live with constant change in a dynamic society.”

Sidney saw deliberate creative process mastery as the way for humans to realize sustainable adaptability, instead of chasing flavor-of-the-month trends.

In Guidebook he wrote: “Problem solving may be considered the process of human adaptation to cultural life. This means adapting ourselves to our environment, as well as adapting our environment to suit us. Throughout our lives, this process of adapting ourselves and our environment is a continuing challenge. Creating deliberate means of treating perplexing situations is therefore an opportunity, a challenge. The means or workable ways of meeting challenge or opportunity are only temporary measures that change as our needs change. Thus each of these means of treating perplexing situations becomes in itself another challenge.”

Whether you refer to it as Adaptability, Agility, Flexibility, Resilience, Fluency, Fluxability, Adaptive Capacity, or something else, adapting to continuous change has been a recognized human challenge spanning numerous generations. It is a theme that has been reframed, renamed, and repurposed over the years, by thought leaders from numerous fields—including Alex Osborn, Sid Parnes, Herbert A. Simon, Paul Mott, Russ Ackoff, West Churchman, Harold J. Leavitt, Ikujiro Nonaka, Karl Weick, and others. As is evidenced by Guidebook, enabling adaptability has been at the center of Applied Creativity skill-building for decades. What’s fundamentally different now is not the theme, not the re-renaming of it as “Flux,” or the need for adaptability capability, but rather the ever-evolving combination of tools and skills that are brought to the table to address this enduring challenge for teams, organizations, and societies.

2. Creativity is Everyone

Contrary to the once-popular notion that creativity was the realm of an elite few, Sid Parnes was among the early Applied Creativity pioneers strongly advocating an opposite perspective. Underlying much of Buffalo School Applied Creativity history is an optimistic, American (United States), can-do orientation that was sprouted during the (1940s) war years when everyone was expected to pitch in. Front and center is the notion that everyone has the capacity to be creative, and that there is a place for everyone. It is an orientation not found in Design Thinking history. It’s probably not possible to overstate the importance that Sidney and other Applied Creativity pioneers placed on encouraging and enabling creativity among laypersons of everyday work life. Radically different from traditional Design Thinking orientations in Applied Creativity there is no special group called the “Creatives.” This simple truth has had enormous implications, past and present. While the notion of “Participatory Design” is a relatively new phenomenon to the Design Thinking community, the goal and orientation of intentionally enabling wide participation in deliberate creative processes has been central to Applied Creativity since the 1940s. In Sid’s Guidebook, one can see the early seeds of “Here Comes Everybody,” long before the technology existed to globally enable it. That prolonged focus has resulted in the creation and refinement of many tools for enabling inclusion of everyone that are not found in Design Thinking history. Thanks to Sid, in Guidebook, we can see the philosophical roots of the “Creativity is Everyone” movement in practice circa 1967. Today, with many organizational leaders seeking to maximize inside and outside brainpower, it’s a theme that resonates more than ever. Again, what’s different now is the greatly expanded, hybrid toolkit that is utilized to realize thinking diversity via deliberate inclusion in the context of changing organizations and societies.

3. Facilitation as Creative Leadership

Among the radical ideas embedded in Guidebook, and throughout the SidTrilogy, is the then revolutionary notion that facilitation can be a form of leadership. Sid Parnes is the de-facto godfather of this approach to leadership that was much different from what was being taught in business schools (and design schools) in the 60s. The truth is, this approach to leadership is still not widely appreciated, understood, and/or taught—even today. In hardball subjects, where, traditionally, content knowledge has been king, the notion of facilitation as leadership is a bit of a mind-bender for some people not accustomed to this approach. Unlike in traditional Design Thinking mode, in Applied Creativity mode, content knowledge is separated from process knowledge. In a practical sense, what it means is that the person at the front of the room, leading the meeting, is in a process, not content, role. This separation is found throughout Applied Creativity history, and remains central to the movement today. With increasingly complex challenges facing planet Earth, the page has turned, in favor of this leadership approach. Today there is growing awareness that, as the scales of challenges grow, more stakeholders are involved, more diverse forms of knowledge are involved, and, thus, more facilitation of cocreation across many disciplines is needed. Guidebook predates the arrival of this public awareness by many decades. This is the form of leadership that Sidney advocated, modeled, and taught throughout his life. In practical terms, facilitation as leadership remains in its infancy, but its relevance today is stronger than ever. The reality is that much of what was taught as facilitation in those days by Parnes and others at Creative Education Foundation looked a lot like Sid’s Guidebook: very engineering-oriented, dominated by words. What is different today can be summed up in the word “bundled”. Rather than trying to address complex issues by operating in only one language mode, utilizing primarily words, today we address complexity with bundled modes that includes much more visualization and involves more than just facilitation. In this approach, leadership by facilitation of cocreation is one of several streams of skills being recognized as extremely useful for change-making leaders. Whether you want to call it bundled, meshed, combined, integrated, fused, or Sid+, the notion is that we recognize this as the era of the hybrid toolbox rather than the engineering toolbox. OMG did I just say Flux meets Fuse! :-)

4. Creative Behaviors

As is evidenced by the book title, Sid Parnes and his collaborators had deep interest and expertise in behaviors. One of the most striking differences between Design Thinking history and Applied Creativity history is the appearance of behaviors as a focus in early literature. Always front and center in Applied Creativity historical literature, the behavior consideration is essentially missing-in-action in Design Thinking history. That presence and that absence have had enormous consequences that reverberate across education and practice still today. Building on the 1950s-60s era work of JP Guilford, some might say that the Buffalo-based Creative Education Foundation was, and still is, the de-facto Behavioral School of Applied Creativity. Early key pioneers of that school were Paul Torrance, JP Guilford, Alex Osborn and Sid Parnes. Today, it’s easy to take this perspective for granted, but, at that time, it was like they discovered and opened a window unto a new dimension of space that had not previously been considered in the context of creativity. In Guidebook, and throughout the SidTrilogy, one can see the excitement and the certainty of purpose there. The behaviorists’ position then and now was/is to advocate recognition that much of formal education serves to kill the creative spirit, resulting in blocks to creativity in many adults.

In Guidebook Parnes wrote: “The basic techniques of invention and innovation…ought to be taught, but are not, among the fundamentals generally taught in the engineering and business schools. The same can be said of schools in general..Although teachers show increasing awareness of the need and opportunities for encouraging creative behavior, our present educational system to a large extent still overlooks the intentional enhancement of such behavior.”

The difficult truth is, Guidebook and the rest of the SidTrilogy series, spanning from 1967 to 1977, are so poorly designed graphically, that it is easy to miss the big picture within. Embedded in SidTrilogy, is a strong orientation towards the optimistic notion that a better place—a better world—can willfully be created. In the workshops described in SidTrilogy, participants undergo a journey, of sorts, that includes a sense of heightened self-awareness, departure, transport, and arrival. In essence, workshop participants are transported to a new land where old habits are left behind, values are different, new, much more inclusive rules apply, and all are appreciated. What Parnes and his collaborators discovered (teaching workshops early on in the 1950s and 60s) was that many adults in the workplace longed for such a place. Due to the state of everyday work-life for many, it is a longing that has endured across the generations, as we see in Humantific workshops today.

At a tactical level, one can see, in Guidebook, the philosophy of deliberate behavior-enhancement played out in the various hands-on exercises designed to raise awareness of blocks, help restore dormant creativity circuits and connect rekindled capability to synchronized action. Many exercises from the Behavioral School seen in Guidebook were designed to make habitual behaviors transparent and visible for the good of all. The resultant learnings by participants remain at the center of many Applied Creativity workshops today, the thinking being that it is difficult to change habits if there is no collective awareness of what the habits are. Today there is additional recognition that many historical Applied Creativity interventions, including numerous exercises seen in Guidebook, were geared towards increasing generative capacity. In the Guidebook era, the assumption that there was such a need was often an educated guess, based on general awareness of what was not being taught in various business schools, engineering schools, etc. The temperature-check instruments that exist today, that are capable of mapping the existing thinking styles of a team to an organization’s innovation strategy, did not exist in the era of Guidebook. As a result, what is different today is that such blind assumptions regarding what the nature of the intervention might be—should be—need no longer be made. Today, we do not automatically assume that there is a default lack of generative thinking capability. Today, cross-disciplinary innovation skill-building can be geared to the thinking style “fingerprints,” to the mapped “innovation DNA” of the team or organization, and to deliberate strategy. Now we customize the fit. Depending on what that “fingerprint” turns out to be, we may gear intervention towards increasing generative ability or a number of other objectives. Thinkerprints talk…We listen…:-)

5. 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 Guidebook. 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.

See Origins of How Might We Part 2 and Part 3 here.

6. Divergence and Convergence

Deeply embedded in SidTrilogy, as well as in the field Applied Creativity itself, are three important dance steps. Do you know them? Extrapolating from JP Guilford‘s Structure of Intellect Theory (1967), and The Analysis of Intelligence (1971), Parnes and others in the Buffalo school embraced Guilford’s spirit and much of his science. Sidney once generously described Guilford as “a true astronaut of human intellect.” A giant figure in the early days of the Buffalo school, Guilford is among the celebrated Applied Creativity Hall of Famers. While his Structure of Intellect model contained 6 “Operational” dimensions, 3 “Content” dimensions, and 6 “Product” dimensions, it was two of the “Operational” dimensions that proved to be most useful in the context of Applied Creativity. Guilford called those 2 dimensions divergent and convergent production. Parnes and others embraced divergence and convergence as brain functions, thinking types, and as visible behaviors interconnected to creativity. Divergence is generally understood to be the ability to generate multiple options. Convergence is generally understood to be the ability to narrow options. What the polarities of right and left are to a direction system, light and dark are to a color system, full and empty are to a philosophy system, diverge and converge are to Applied Creativity thinking systems. Looking across histories, what is fascinating is that, while divergence and convergence played important roles in the thinking synchronization-focused Applied Creativity history, those two dimensions are not found front and center in the much less synchronization-focused Design Thinking history. That presence, and that absence, continue to have far reaching ramifications (we will write more about this another day). While in later years Guilford’s Structure of Intellect model (and the research behind it) was criticized by John Bissel Carol (he created another intellect model) and various other detractors, the notions of divergence and convergence survived intact as a useful construct, worthy of further research. Both dimensions remain central building blocks in much of Applied Creativity logic still today. Both are embedded in many current Applied Creativity methods and thinking systems, including most creative problem solving models. A close reading of the SidTrilogy suggests that by the 1970s, Parnes and his collaborators had already figured out that divergent and convergent thinking (separated by deferral of judgement) occur in every step of creative problem solving—and not just in idea finding (brainstorming). Again, this is very different from the logic of Design Thinking. Without getting too complicated, one might describe the process that Applied Creativity advocates have in mind as a particular 3-Step-Dance centering around ability to differentiate between 1. content and process, 2. divergent and convergent thinking and 3. between one step in creative problem solving and another. In SidTrilogy, that 3-Step-Dance can be seen repeating throughout. It is that dance that Sid has focused on advocating and teaching throughout his life. In Applied Creativity circles, the mastery of that dance represents the keys to the (collectively created) Promise Land. Underneath is the belief that without collective understanding of that basic dance, synchronization of thinking and action across multiple disciplines is unlikely. In the era of SidTrilogy, there were no instruments capable of determining human preference for divergence or convergence. Now there certainly are. This continues to change the enabling-innovation equation dramatically. Today, this awareness seems to be absent from numerous articles written on the subset subject of “brainstorming” (its rise, demise, and revisions), often from rather unenlightened perspectives. There is a lot going on outside those narrow pictures.

7. MetaThink ChallengeScapes

Don’t look for any insightful visual models in Guidebook. There aren’t any, but underneath the primative book design, Sid lays out a set of ideas that indicate that he and his collaborators had, in 1967, already moved beyond the idea generation (brainstorming) focused era of Alex Osborn. Synthesizing 18 years of experimentation, Guidebook presents a much more diversified Applied Creativity operationscape and toolbox. Among the most important strategic ideas visible in Guidebook, are the beginning realizations regarding how to get to “Meta.” Found early in Applied Creativity literature is the realization that challenges exist—not as isolated one-off entities, but rather in interconnected constellations. The challenge constellation idea alone changed the nature of 20th century problem finding forever. Significantly different from the “brief” (framed problem) focused Design Thinking community, the parallel community of Applied Creativity has been focused on exploring and developing tools for creating pictures of upstream challenges—Meta challenge—for decades. In SidTrilogy, it is clear that the early focus was on questioning challenge possibilities, to ensure that one was working on the right challenge. How to construct pictures of challenge (not solution) constellations, inclusive of Meta, has undergone a long history of development within the Applied Creativity community, and is still a work in progress today. Although Sidney did not, in 1967, have every nuance of what is being done in mapping, today, figured out, we still consider him to be among the pioneers of challenge constellation logic. Did Henry Ford know about automatic transmissions and GPS? No, but he was certainly important in a timeline. In the context of challenge constellation logic, so is Sidney Parnes. Today, how to make sense of fuzzy challenges or opportunities on the fuzzy front end of innovation has become an important dimension of sensemaking. Today, every major design innovation consultancy has, or would like to have, deep skills in upstream framing. Numerous variations now exist, and the mechanics are forever being reinvented. One can view the budding seeds of that historical timeline in Sid’s Guidebook, and throughout the SidTrilogy.

8. Challenges = Opportunities.

We won’t mention it to our friends over at Appreciative Inquiry but Sid Parnes was, as leader of the Buffalo School of Applied Creativity, already making the case for considering problems as opportunities in 1967—long before such ideas became popular elsewhere.

“Sometimes our long established attitudes prevent us from seeing an opportunity or challenge in a situation. Sometimes it’s hard to realize all challenges we face because we are used to thinking of challenges as conflicts and we tend to blind ourselves to some of our problems in order to feel more comfortable. If we were to reverse the procedure, and think of problems as challenges or opportunities we might be less inclined to ignore so many of them.”

Adopting even a little “Sidness” can help anyone avoid getting hung up on (often political) terminology semantics, and, instead, focus on constructive outcomes. Thanks to Sidney and others, today students of Applied Creativity advancing beyond basic skills Level 1 understand there is no real difference between a problem and an opportunity.

9. Brainstretch Exercises

Perhaps most evident in Guidebook is Sid sharing the Buffalo School version of what we call the BrainStretch Exercise Toolkit. There on the table, in convenient sequential order, Parnes places numerous Applied Creativity exercises that were later injected into zillions of behavioral-based innovation learning programs around the world. Among them, the behavior-revealing classics, such as Arms Crossed and Hands Folded, as well as others, such as Brick and Mousetrap. While hundreds of technology cycles have come and gone in forty years, the truth is, each generation of adults struggles with numerous fundamental cognitive challenges (e.g., breaking habits, framing fuzzy situations, creating new patterns, etc.) that have existed for decades. These are the human-centered dimensions of innovation that Sid and his collaborators were interested in and focused on. It is the fact that many of these challenges reappear with each new generation of organizational leaders that is among the reasons why the work of Sid Parnes has remained so relevant to so many. While some of those exercises have fallen away, others have been updated, and many from other schools of thought have been added—yes, more bundling. Today, most leading consultancies working in the realm of human behavior synchronization use a continuously changing hybrid collection of brainstretch tools and exercises. In workshops today, we can talk honestly and openly about why some challenges among us endure across multiple generations.

10. Research Questions

In the final pages of Guidebook, Sidney included a super bonus in the form of four Appendices. (See Sid’s Super Bonus below.) Perhaps most important, for those looking for dissertation suggestions, was a list of Sidney’s 52 recommendations for further Applied Creativity research—including these 10 topics below:

1. “What is the effect of various types of creative problem-solving training on an individual’s performance on Mednick’s Remote Associates Test?”

2. “When does the “best” idea occur—early or late in the idea-production process?”

3. “What are optimum lengths of sessions and optimum allocations of time for group effort in problem-solving? For individual effort?”

4. “What type of individual is most favorably affected by creativity-development programs? What are the reactions of different personality-types to these programs?”

5. “At what ages do children naturally use the principle of deferred judgment without being taught to use it?”

6. “What effect does participation in group creative sessions have upon personalities of individuals? Upon creative abilities of individuals?”

7. “What are the member roles in a group creative problem-solving session? How do these compare with those in typical group dynamics studies?”

8. “How can the creative process be analyzed in action?”

9. “What is originality? Is it an ability or attitude?”

10. “What is the proper place of critical thinking in relation to creative thinking? What is the proper balance of the two in education?”

Part of the underlying message of SidTrilogy is that once workshop participants have seen and experienced that promise land—that better world—it is up to them to self-generate it everyday. Nobody knew more about how difficult that job was going to be than Sidney J. Parnes.

Wooooo Hooooo Sidney! Thanks for so many contributions!

end.

Sid’s Super Bonus

In the spirit of Sidney J. Parnes, we are including, in full-text, here the four Appendices from his 1967 Creative Behavior Guidebook:

Appendix 1 – Creativity: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: This article written by JP Guildford appeared in the inaugural issue of Journal of Creative Behavior in 1967.

Appendix 2 – Applied Creativity Annotated Bibliography: A rare very detailed 30 page bibliography that provides a window into the state of Applied Creativity literature in 1967.

Appendix 3 – Survey of Applied Creativity Courses: A rare snap-shot of Applied Creativity Courses that existed in 1967.

Appendix 4 – Questions and Topics for Applied Creativity Research: A rare view into 1967 suggestions by Sid Parnes for needed Applied Creativity research.

Note: 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.

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

20
May

The Power of Your Mind 1952

We love and respect innovation history. In the marketplace, we see some experts running around claiming to have invented everything from integrative thinking to various forms of innovation. To us, such claims are nonsense. We all stand on the shoulders of many smart folks who contributed much before us. Let’s respect that.

Sure, we have updated, extended, and changed much of what was done historically, integrating new knowledge, methods, and tools to address contemporary needs, but there is a lot we can learn from the various streams of innovation history.

With so much hype around innovation and creativity today, we find it useful to be aware, at a deeper level, of the history of innovation, applied creativity, creative problem solving, and design thinking. There are many overlaps in the history that are quite amazing, in retrospect.

Pictured here is a gem from the Humantific Collection. This terrific, little booklet by Alex Osborn, entitled The Power of Your Mind, was published an astonishing 59 years ago, in conjunction with his book Wake Up Your Mind (also published in 1952).

In the historical publications, one can see early acknowledgement of numerous challenges that many organizations and societies still grapple with today.

Like time capsules, the early publications on the subject of applied creativity reveal the optimism of the post-World War II era—a focus on encouraging imagination, and the application of creativity in an American business context.

In 1952, Osborn wrote, “Exercise your imagination—the more creative you become, the more you will get out of life.”

It’s not difficult to see that, as early as the 1940’s, thought leaders were trying to make the case that American business schools, and schools in general, get more serious about teaching, and encouraging imagination and creative thinking. Evidently, many educational institutions, including the business schools, did not listen to that message for a very long time.

Also revealed in the historical creative problem solving materials are the societal stereotypes of that era. In the early publications, women were often depicted as housewives engaged in creative domestic work, while men were often depicted as business-oriented workers not making effective use of their imaginations.

“Many housewives work their imaginations more than their husbands do.”

Apart from the stereotypes that now seem comical, what is interesting to see is the view into a simpler world, the emphasis on idea finding in the context of product objects, and orientation towards engineering or science. Also fascinating to see is how little some of the problems around changing behaviors, in the direction of innovation, have changed since Alex Osborn, Sidney Parnes, and others began writing about the subject decades ago.

Today, organizational leaders face a vastly more complicated world in a state of constant change. Those engaged, today, in driving organizational change or innovation-enabling understand that many organizations have built judgment-dominated cultures, and simultaneously wonder why no innovation is occurring. How to create more balanced, more innovative cultures remains among the top ten most-encountered organizational business challenges even today.

Here is a small sample of Alex Osborn’s 1952 commentary on the subject:

“The thinking mind finds it easier to judge than to create. Nearly all of our education tends to develop our critical faculty. And our experience likewise builds up our judgment…The more we exercise our judgment, the less likely we are to exercise our imagination. By overuse of our judicial power we may even cramp our creative power.”

“Loss of imagination can be even more deplorable than loss of musculation… We can get along with less brawn in our later years but to surmount the obstacles which age piles in our paths we need more than seasoned judgment, we need well trained imagination.”

“When it comes to business, ideas are almost everything. Their value can often exceed that of any asset on any financial statement.”

Also, in the early 1950-era materials, one can see concern expressed that America was losing its creative edge—perhaps a timeless topic!

“There are many signs that Yankee ingenuity is on the wane — not because we are born with less creative talent, but because we no longer try hard enough to use the talent that is in us… Our softer living numbs our sense of enterprise and deadens our creative spirit.”

With the internet now enabling global interaction, and with it built-in judgment functionality, we are interested in how present-day and emerging technologies might serve to repair, balance, and address several deeply rooted human innovation challenges that have existed for generations.

Being aware of the history of education and innovation helps us and our client partners think about such issues in a context beyond the flavor trend of the moment.

Image Source: The Power of Your Mind. Chicago: National Research Bureau, 1952. Humantific Collection, New York.

(Originally posted in June 2009. Its a classic!)

07
Jun

The Power of Your Mind

In 1952, Alex Osborn wrote: “Exercise your imagination — the more creative you become, the more you will get out of life.”

With so much hype around innovation and creativity today, we find it useful to be aware at a deeper level of the history of innovation, applied creativity, creative problem solving and design thinking. There are many overlaps in the history that are quite amazing in retrospect.

Pictured here is a gem from the Humantific Collection. This terrific little booklet by Alex Osborn entitled The Power of Your Mind was published an astonishing 57 years ago in conjunction with his book Wake Up Your Mind also published in 1952.

In the historical publications one can see early acknowledgement of numerous challenges that many organizations and societies still grapple with today.

Like time capsules, the early publications on the subject of applied creativity reveal the optimism of the post-world war two era, a focus on encouraging imagination and the application of creativity in an American business context.

It’s not difficult to see that as early as the 1940’s thought leaders were trying to make the case that American business schools and schools in general get more serious about teaching and encouraging imagination and creative thinking. Evidently many educational institutions including the business schools did not listen to that message for a very long time.

Also revealed in the historical creative problem solving materials are the societal stereotypes of that era. In the early publications women were often depicted as housewives engaged in creative domestic work while men were often depicted as business oriented workers not making effective use of their imaginations.

“Many housewives work their imaginations more than their husbands do.”

Apart from the stereotypes that now seem comical, what is interesting to see is the view into a simpler world, the emphasis on idea finding in the context of product objects, and orientation towards engineering or science. Also fascinating to see is how little some of the problems around changing behaviors in the direction of innovation have changed since Alex Osborn, Sidney Parnes and others began writing about the subject decades ago.

Today organizational leaders face a vastly more complicated world in a state of constant change. Those engaged today in driving organizational change or innovation enabling understand that many organizations have built judgment dominated cultures and simultaneously wonder why no innovation is occurring. How to create more balanced, more innovative cultures remains among the top ten most encountered organizational business challenges even today:

Here is a small sample of Alex Osborn’s 1952 commentary on the subject:

“The thinking mind finds it easier to judge than to create. Nearly all of our education tends to develop our critical faculty. And our experience likewise builds up our judgment…The more we exercise our judgment, the less likely we are to exercise our imagination. By overuse of our judicial power we may even cramp our creative power.”

“Loss of imagination can be even more deplorable than loss of musculation… We can get along with less brawn in our later years but to surmount the obstacles which age piles in our paths we need more than seasoned judgment, we need well trained imagination.”

“When it comes to business, ideas are almost everything. Their value can often exceed that of any asset on any financial statement.”

Also in the early 1950 era materials one can see concern expressed that America was losing its creative edge, perhaps a timeless topic!

“There are many signs that Yankee ingenuity is on the wane — not because we are born with less creative talent, but because we no longer try hard enough to use the talent that is in us… Our softer living numbs our sense of enterprise and deadens our creative spirit.”

With the internet now enabling global interaction and with it built-in judgment functionality, we are interested in how present day and emerging technologies might serve to repair, balance and address several deeply rooted human innovation challenges that have existed for generations.

Being aware of the history of education and innovation helps us and our client partners think about such issues in a context beyond the flavor trend of the moment.

See also: How to Think Up!

Image Source: The Power of Your Mind, 1952, National Research Bureau, Chicago,   Humantific Collection, New York.

 

01
Feb

How to Think UP! 1942

 

In the Humantific Innovation Archives, we have many of the early books and papers from the history of creative thinking, applied imagination, applied creativity, creative problem solving, systems thinking, human intelligence, learning styles, structure of the intellect, etc.

From time to time we will post a few examples here, as these early materials contain many gems in spite of the fact that the world has changed a great deal since they first appeared.

This book How to Think UP, by Alex Osborn, is an early example, as it was published in 1942.

For those interested in understanding such history, these books are wonderful windows into the early thinking based on the context that existed at that time.

At Humantific, we have great respect for this early work, as we all stand on the shoulders of this history whether we know it or not. :-) Written at a different time, we do not have to agree with everything in the materials to appreciate these works.

The early pioneers of creative thinking methods were primarily focused on jumpstarting idea creation, and not on complex challenge/opportunity framing—not on the research and visual sense-making that would now occur as part of framing.

Seeking to encourage imagination, many of these early works are incredibly optimistic regarding American ingenuity and the challenges facing the country and the world. Here, one can see the seeds of the early “everyone can be creative” philosophy, where it came from, and how it was first applied.

Here are a few quotes from How to Think UP:

“When necessity reaches a crisis, the crisis cries out for ideas. American ingenuity is rising to the challenge.”

“Some of life’s stony problems can be cleared away by outside science, others by judgment, but most of them by ideas.”

“Ideas are the priceless keys to good living.”

“The more ideas we can think up, the more satisfying our lives will be.”

“Even old folks can think up things when they try.”

“There is no royal road to creation. The production of ideas can never be a science but will always be an art.”

“Too many employers just ask for ideas without specifying what about. Occasionally a problem is assigned, and ideas are asked for within that limit. Or employees are set to work in a group and asked to think up together. But, by and large, rank-and-file people are nearly always invited simply to pick their own subject and to do their brain-storming on their own.”

“Who can think up ideas? You and every other normally intelligent person. But you have to try.”

“Everybody loves to be a critic or a judge. Judicial judgment calls for no great mental sweat.”

“Ideas more than luck will land the job you want.”

And the all time classic: “If you can’t originate an idea, think up how someone else’s good idea can be turned into a better idea.”

Of course, it is equally interesting to reflect upon the context in which these early works were created.

In the introduction, by Bruce Barton of Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn Inc., he writes: “There is so little literature that might help Americans in their endeavor to think up more ideas for the war effort that I persuaded Mr. Osborn to send this manuscript to a publisher. I hope a large number will be circulated in American offices and plants.”

While some innovation consultants remain focused, even today, on ideation techniques, most operating in the realm of organizational and social change understand that much more is now required.

We are, at Humantific, always interested in the past, present and future of innovation. One of our internal projects underway involves researching and constructing a visual timeline that combines the history of the applied creativity movement and the history of the design thinking movement. If anyone else out there is working on such projects please feel free to let us know.

Image Source: Osborn, Alex. How to Think Up! New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Book, First Edition, Second Impression, 1942. Humantific Collection, New York.