Tag: Applied Creativity History

23
Jun

Boosting Sid Parnes Tribute

 

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On Saturday, June 21, I attended the keynote “Tribute to Sid Parnes” presentation given by Teresa Amabile of Harvard as part of the closing events for the 60th anniversary CPSI 2014 conference at the University of Buffalo.

Anticipating a great tribute, I was surprised to see that while Amabile went into considerable detail regarding her own academic work, her presentation barely touched on Sid’s many contributions to the field. Teresa’s central message that Sid was a generous, open, visionary person missed all the important meat and potatoes. It was, to say the very least, a lightweight, not particularly deeply-informed treatment of Sid’s legacy.

Innovation methods scholars understand there is much more to Sid’s contributions to the Creative Problem Solving Methods field, the modern era of which has its historical roots in the 1940s and 50s. Sid Parnes was a central thought leader in that community for decades, ushering in numerous methodology innovations.

At Humantific we consider Sid to be one of our pioneering inspirations, and in the spirit of honoring him we decided to repost our earlier paper entitled Lost Stories Applied Creativity as a boost to his well-deserved tribute.

In this document, first published by Humantific in February 2012, we unpack in more detail a list of Sid’s key contributions. Much more than just suggesting that everyone had the capacity to be creative, Sid Parnes placed on the table beginning in 1967 what is widely considered to be the crown jewels of the CPS movement at that time, in the form of teachable exercises, orientations, methods, etc. By 1967, Sid was already in synthesized, codified knowledge mode, sharing and teaching others. Many have built on his foundations.

Those involved in innovation enabling practice understand that Sid’s contributions were not soft abstractions. Many of Sid’s contributions remain as foundational materials inside numerous innovation bootcamp workshops, and inside many subsequently designed process models active in the marketplace today including those of Humantific, IDEO and others.

Applied Creativity Lost Stories / Tribute to Sid Parnes

Related:

Origins of How Might We?

Who Owns How Might We?

Making Sense of Creative Intelligence

25
Feb

ReResequencing Applied Creativity

If you are looking for an excellent plunge into the messiness, complexity and confusion that exists around the subjects of creativity and applied creativity today, such an opportunity was provided recently by a New York Times article and its accompanying reader comments. The well-meaning introductory article written by Laura Pappano of Wellesley College was entitled “Learning to Think Outside The Box / Creativity Becomes an Academic Discipline”. In this instance the resulting multitude of comments posted by readers of the article are as interesting as the article itself. Intermixed with considerable good intentions, one can see numerous misunderstandings, assumptions, sequential omissions and misfires in the works, some posted with quite a sense of humor.

This Times article was pointed out to us by several Humantific clients so we thought it might be useful to our own audience to offer a few historical context clarifications. [See hand written notations in red above and Modern Applied Creativity Eras below.]

It is not difficult to see that part of the confusion around the article stems from the author, knowingly or unknowingly, intermixing two different subjects: creativity and applied creativity. This confusion is seen in the article’s subtitle, throughout the article text, and subsequently in the numerous reader comments.

In addition the article has an odd time resequencing orientation in that it positions numerous well-known applied creativity historical developments as if they are just now being introduced. Resequencing to suggest newness seems to be a common strategy or misstep (depending on your point of view), seen often in mainstream media with its interest in, and appetite for, depicting simple, excitement generating newness. Resequencing tends to work best in situations where readers have little or no historical knowledge. As evidenced by numerous reader comments, resequencing seemed to not work so well in this particular instance.

Some of the reader comments were downright entertaining.

“akrupat: If you define “creativity” as predominantly the ability to spot problems and produce solutions, you’ve defined it in a way that has nothing whatever to do with the production of literature, painting, music–of art. That kind of definition of “creativity” is about as good as Mark Zuckerberg’s definition of a “friend.”

 “Patrick Stevens: The mistake is that the authors of this learning process have confused creativity with problem solving. they may be related, but they are not the same. Problem solving can be taught. Creativity cannot. These instructors are simply giving students useful ways to reach solutions to complex problems. there is no creativity involved. Creativity is inborn and individually specific. It is finding your muse and conversing with him.”

“Wsch: This is America at its best. And I am envious. I have been told I am a very creative thinker, with pretty good critical analytical abilities. It is so nice to see a new genre of courses coming up in colleges called “creative thinking” and “creative problem solving…..”

“al7jj: PhD programs and the publication requirements for promotion basically ensure that creative people are unlikely ever to become tenured professors. Even if a creative person survived 12-15 years of competitive conformity to get tenure, the university environment actively stifles any type of original thought, which makes it ironic for universities to try to teach creativity. I am a retired professor and administrator from a research university, and can safely say that I have never met a really creative colleague in either role.”

 “Dan Styer: What confuses me is that this is considered innovative. I was taught creative problem solving in the physics department at Swarthmore College starting in 1973. I have been teaching creative problem solving since I started teaching at Oberlin College in 1985. This physics tradition extends well back into the nineteenth century (James Clerk Maxwell used it) and probably earlier.

 “jessica: Seems as though people have at least two concepts of creativity–the artistic kind and then the problem solving kind. This article has nothing to do with the artistic side, it seems to be purely about problem solving.”

“MW: One important caveat to this trend for all the professors out there: out-of-the-box thinking is often confused with bending the rules and operating in a dishonest way. I have noticed that some people who are anxious to be unbound by traditional ways of thinking have a tendency to think the normal rules of social engagement, laws, regulations don’t apply and are there to be broken. The importance of personal integrity and honesty should be taught alongside creative and innovative problem solving. As an example, the so-called “successful” money people at SAC Capital probably justified their unscrupulous behavior as being an out-of-the-box thinking.”

Ironically while this Times article points out the enduring applied creativity perspective regarding need for organizational adaptability in a continuously changing world, it completely misses the central point that rapid adaptation did occur in some academies decades ago, while slow adaptation occurred in numerous knowledge neighborhoods, including many graduate business schools. The fact that many universities have been slow to adapt, slow to integrate applied creativity/adaptability knowledge is a rather different, more nuanced, less politically-correct message than to simply suggest the knowledge has just become available…:-)

As is evidenced in the reader comments, anyone suggesting that applied creativity is just launching as a discipline today would cause considerable head scratching among already informed readers. Of course many seasoned professionals will know that an enthusiastic author’s arrival in a subject terrain is typically considerably different from the arrival of the subject itself.

Many of our Humantific readers know that applied creativity pioneer Sid Parnes *(P) began, decades ago, articulating the various development eras of the modern applied creativity movement. Building from where he left off, Humantific *(H) added some time ago several eras to update Sid’s Modern Eras list.

Modern Applied Creativity Eras:


1940s: Era 1: The Cry in the Dark Stage*(P)
1950s: Era 2: The Hope and Hunch Stage*(P)
1960s: Era 3: The Research, Replication and Report Stage*(P)
1970s: Era 4: The Widespread Application Stage*(P)
1980s: Era 5: The Mainstream Application Stage*(P)
1990s: Era 6: The Deepening Research & Innovation Stage *(H)
2000-2010: Era 7: The Rediscovery & Readaptation Stage *(H)
2011-Present: Era 8: The Global Collaboration & Readaptation Stage *(H)

Perhaps most unfortunately the dumbed-down resequenced approach seen in the Times article unfortunately leaves out the possibility to articulate/appreciate that the initial launch of applied creativity Stage 1 (1940s) was considerably different from what is going on inside Stage 8 (2014) today.  Such a resequencing misses that significant rethinking, and reinvention is underway inside the applied creativity community of practice, and that is where much of the innovation action is today. Practice leaders working on the front lines of real-world engagements well know that how smart organizations are rethinking innovation involves continuous adaptation. The newness of Stage 8 today is, and by necessity has to be, significantly different from what was once new in the now long gone Stage 1.

Underway for some time, applied creativity readaptation movement includes the addition of numerous tools, process redesigns, instruments, systematization to ecologies, culture building, enhanced skill-building programs, and the systematic integration of visualized data/information.

As per the earliest applied creativity eras, today often organizational leaders facing the very real need for timely change-making have the appetite for rapid adaptation and real meaningful action in advance of the slow-moving adaptation going on inside many graduate institutions.

Today leading applied creativity practices are moving into the future from Stage 8 not Stage 1.

Suffice it to say that today there is a lot more to organizations building capacity for “Learning to Think Outside the Box” than the resequenced and foreshortened picture created by this Times article!

20
Aug

Remembering Sid Parnes

Creative_Guidebook_Cover

It is with great respect and sadness that we say farewell to Sid Parnes, who passed away this week at age 91. An early applied creativity pioneer, Sid’s many innovative contributions to the field cannot likely be overstated. Discovery of Sid’s work was life-changing for many.

Sidney J. Parnes, PhD. authored 17+ books including: Creative Behavior Guidebook (1967), 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).

His legendary 1967 Creative Behavior Guidebook synthesized 10+ years of his learnings and contained many, many applied creativity contributions that remain in play today. (See Lost Stories below).

The spirit of Sid Parnes will live on in the work of many innovation-enabling professionals around the world who have been inspired by his insights, generosity, and spirit.

In recent years, Humantific has documented some of Sid’s many contributions to innovation history. You can find those materials here:

Lost Stories Applied Creativity History

Origins of How Might We?

Who Owns How Might We?

Making Sense of Creative Intelligence

Innovation Methods Mapping Preview

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

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.

14
Mar

Inspired by NextD Geographies

We are delighted to see many graduate and post-graduate students referencing and making use of NextD Geographies, a framework created in 2005 by Elizabeth Pastor and GK VanPatter to make sense of the design thinking community from a complexity scale perspective.  For many, that sensemaking framework has become a useful tool in their efforts to better understand the present and future states of strategic design thinking.

Perhaps a little like song writers seeing their creations adapted and interpreted by others, we might not always agree with every rendition of NextD Geographies, but it is interesting to see the various interpretations and applications across disciplines, geographies, and generations..:-)

Among the currently adapting post-graduate students is Jordan J. Lloyd, working on his PhD at the University of Sheffield School of Architecture, and is focused on “design-led approaches to managing large scale transitions in complex adaptive systems.” Jordan seems to be “interested in ‘developing a design methodology that utilises common threads between complex adaptive systems, then applying them to complex entities such as cities.'”

Of course, for us, Adaptability, Resilience and Adaptive Capacity building are not new ideas, but rather long-standing themes found in Applied Creativity history as early as 1950. What is most interesting to us is to see these themes being adapted to and imported into the rethinking of design thinking, as it continues to scale. The challenges of Adaptability have stood the test of time and remain at the center of many team, organizational, and societal challenges still today. Adaptability continues to be adapted! Friends of Humantific will know that it is the next-generation mechanics of Adaptive Capacity that we teach in Humantific and NextD workshops.

Go here to view the original NextD Geographies models.

Background Note:

Humantific launched the NextDesign Leadership initiative in 2002 as a community sensemaking and changemaking experiment outside of our practice. At that time, we viewed the traditional model of design leadership as a burning platform. Much change was needed, but existing conditions were not fully understood. Making them understood was part of the early NextD mission. Numerous frameworks, including NextD Geographies, have been published on ISSUU, and remain available for viewing for free in the NextD Archive. Some of the NextD models have been widely republished around the world, including NextD Reality Check. We continue to utilize those frameworks as NextDesign Assessment Tools when viewing design programs, faculties, leadership teams, program strategies, consultancies, innovation capacities, geographic region focuses, media focuses, design thinking skill-building programs, etc. On design thinking related questions, NextD Geographies continues to be among the most useful tools in the NextD toolbox.

To join the current conversations, go to NextDesign Leadership Network on LinkedIn. It’s an OPEN discussion group! You can follow NextD on Twitter!