Tag: Applied Creativity

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!)

05
May

Thoughts on AIGA’s One Day For Design

Since a lot of what we do here at Humantific is upstream strategy cocreation with organizations as part of changemaking initiatives, we were somewhat puzzled to see how AIGA (formerly American Institute of Graphic Arts), a professional graphic design association seeking to reposition itself, undertook a one day Twitter event on April 13th entitled “One Day For Design” (1D4D). The session was promoted with intriguing prompters including “What if you had one day to alter the future of design”.

From a cocreation perspective we could not help but notice that the 1D4D event seemed to contain a veritable smorgasbord of large scale, highly complex, some might say conflicting framing messages. This entanglement seemed to be combined with additional mixed messages around what the dialogue type was intended to be. How the complexity of the subject to be addressed and the intended dialogue type connected to the technology platform chosen was of equal mystery.

Among the complex simultaneous topics posed by AIGA for the 1D4D session on Twitter were: “The meaning of design, The future of design, The meaning of professional design associations, and The future of professional design associations.”

We noticed that 1D4D participants had wildly differing perspectives on session purpose and dialogue expectations. Some participants thought the purpose was to engage in “online global debate” focused on “the future of design.”

Others perceived intentions included:

“roundtable discussion”…“with every designer on Twitter.”

“dialogue between designers and the general public.”

“24-hour brainstorming on the future of design”

“allow creative folks to discuss current issues in design”

“get the pulse of the industry”

“a global conversation” “to alter the future of design.”

“[AIGA] expect[s] to better understand our role”

“explore ways [for AIGA] to better serve the needs of the design community.”

“bring designers and design followers together with leading minds in our profession”

“engage designers in a global conversation”

“exchange ideas, challenge viewpoints and push boundaries”

“an online, real-time think-tank”

“bring together a global community of designers and design enthusiasts.”

“evolve ideas, make connections and initiate change.”

Somehow others got the impression that “the ultimate goal” of 1D4D was:

“understanding how design could shape the future of the world”.

We love experiments but OMG what a confusing framing mix! There are at least half a dozen different dialogue mode types in that mix and more than a dozen different focus paths. That’s a lot of fuzzy complexity to hoist onto participants.

Maybe these designer types are from another planet and can digest multiple streams of giant-size fuzzy complexity while leaping tall buildings! It seemed more likely that 1D4D participants were going to be humans from planet earth. We could not help but wonder if anyone thought about the framing of this session from a human-centered perspective. Without that orientation the confusion of event dynamics can be as complicated as the subjects to be addressed. That cognitive double whammy tends to undermine and deplete participant energy.

All organizations face a continuously changing world and AIGA would be no exception. This could have been important strategic thinking work involving complex present and emerging future states, fuzzy challenges and opportunities. Apart from the romancing of social network technology, since when is Twitter geared up for such complex work?

Some of this framing implied outcomes other than casual chit-chat. Was it possible that 1D4D organizers did not understand the difference between a conversation, a debate, a roundtable, open dialogue and outcome oriented dialogue? Was it possible that 1D4D organizers did not understand the default dynamics of 100% emergence? We wondered what happened to the much-vaunted AIGA design process. It seemed to be completely absent.

We noticed that 1D4D participants were asked to imagine the future of something that AIGA leaders have presented no framing for in the present. How does that work? Was this event about the present and future of graphic design or something else?

We will gladly leave the post-session parsing of words used in the One Day for Design event to the analysis by others. We will happily leave commentary on how to improve the collaborative functionality of Twitter to our interaction oriented colleagues. With all due respect we leave AIGA members to sort out their own challenges as a still graphic design oriented professional association, struggling to reposition itself and expand into the broader strategic design community.

Our only concern is that it seems likely as a result of the AIGA Twitter event that considerable misunderstanding around what strategic design is and does, now seems to have been generated in the broader community outside of design. If the “meaning of design” was in fact tweaked by AIGA’s One Day for Design, it was not in a way that was particularly constructive, not in a way that relates to the many challenges and opportunities facing design. An unfortunate message seems to have been sent by 1D4D: that the design community of communities thinks change making cocreation and meaning making can be accomplished with sloganeering and soundbites. We assume that this meaning making was not AIGA’s intended message.

With all due respect to AIGA and its no doubt noble intentions:

Please don’t assume that AIGA represents the entire design community. It does not.

Please don’t assume that AIGA´s One Day for Design event on Twitter had anything to do with the present or future states of best design practice, methods, modes or consciousness outside of graphic design.

Please don’t assume that 1D4D has anything to do with how strategies are being cocreated today by organizational leaders interested in meaningful change making.

What was most interesting to us about One Day for Design was seen, not in the event itself, but rather in its aftermath. In the wave of post-event commentaries could be seen a thread of cocreation awareness connected to the not often talked about subject of emergence. It is becoming clear that there is rapidly rising awareness in several communities of practice including design, that fuzzy 100% emergent events are very time consuming for participants and typically problematic along what has already become a well-worn path (a subject onto itself).

Picture ahead: Multiply that 1D4D experience by 5 or 10 or 100 and at some point along the way, for some sooner, for others later, most will no doubt be ready for something, anything other than 100% emergence. That romance is rapidly dwindling. This is probably not so good news for those selling 100% emergence as a new collaboration holy grail.

As the number of professionals in various fields reach that realization it seems inevitable that much in the current mix will change. It is that rising awareness that will change not only how we work, but what we expect of our technologies, our organizations, our leaders and ultimately of ourselves.

Whether all of us like it or not, at the end of the day 1D4D represented one of many small defining moments in the slippery decline of 100% emergent events. Unless you have a lot of time on your hands, unless you want to repeat those outcomes, it is already time to rethink the think and move on. In that moving on many design opportunities can be found.

31
Aug

Humantific in Finland

Humantific CoFounder GK VanPatter will be giving several presentations on NextDesign Geographies / Understanding Design 1,2,3,4 and SenseMaking for ChangeMaking at Savonia University of Applied Sciences and Kuopio Academy of Design in Finland Sept 14, 15, 16. He will also be meeting with program leadership, observing studios, student work, etc.

To learn more about the PALMU UnConference at Kuopio Academy of Designsee Facebook:

 

30
Aug

40 Reasons Why “UnConferences” Disappoint

After attending many formally and informally structured events framed as “design thinking” sessions branded as conferences, workshops, meetings and unconferences we have observed several dialogue patterns that are relatively consistent.

Many informal design thinking unconference-like events seem to reflect the fact that much of the newly forming “design thinking community” is relatively new to cross-disciplinary cocreation and thus assumptions from old ways of working are being imported into a new era. The emphasis seen often is on event brand building rather than event substance. The focus seems to on creatively selling old skills under a new banner rather than actually changing or admitting that new skills might be needed for a new way of working.

At such events the often conflicting universes of Design 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 can be seen in action. When I say “design thinking” which design are you referring to? At such events one can see that some present want “design thinking” to simply be a reflection of old Design 1.0 skills relying primarily on intuitive process now being creatively reframed as “emergence”. Alot of coffee-time chit chat occurs while often the goals and challenges pre-identified are not insignificant. This misalignment between meeting goals and the process in use is one of 40 dynamics seen at such events as described below.

40 Reasons Why “UnConferences” Disappoint

1.    Vastly different, unarticulated, unaligned expectations among participants.

2.    Lack of awareness that many types of dialogue exist.

3.    Lack of acknowledgement regarding what the default dialogue mode is.

4.    Disconnect between (serious significant) expected outcomes and (tea party-like) processes.

5.    Lack of acknowledgement that the scale of challenges facing us has changed.

6.    Lack of acknowledgement that few adults in the mix presently have been educated at high levels in cross-disciplinary work skills.

7.    Lack of awareness that content knowledge is not process knowledge.

8.    Deeply engrained academic value system based on argument dialogue dynamics.

9.    Lack of appropriate content knowledge among participants.

10. Lack of adaptable process knowledge among participants.

11. Lack of adaptable process mastery among session organizers and leaders.

12. Lack of common change making language.

13. Acting out of bad behaviors learned in previous eras.

14. Dialogue filled with tribal acronyms.

15. Habitual reliance and overemphasis on judgment/convergent thinking.

16. Lack of ownership of challenges among participants.

17. Lack of trust among participants.

18. Competitive marketplace forces (includes schools).

19. Assumptions that participants are all using the same cognitive processes.

20. Over-reliance on words, no visual sensemaking present.

21. Fear of looking dumb among participant colleagues.

22. Over emphasis on portfolio presentation of preconceived solutions.

23. Little upstream navigation awareness present.

24. Lack of awareness that sustainability is a type of challenge (content) not an innovation (problem solving) process.

25. Lack of awareness regarding the messiness of human cognition.

26. Inattention to the cognitive aspects of the psychical work-space.

27. Blank slate phenomenon, no acceleration research materials present.

28. Assumption that technology equals innovation.

29. Assumption that with technology present no process or process skills are needed.

30. Importation of conflict oriented online interaction dynamics.

31. Assumption that observing (lurking) is constructive participation.

32. Over reliance on feel-good ego-based (emergent) chat dialogue rather than on outcomes.

33. Resistance to learning by adult participants.

34. Lack of acknowledgement that new learning is needed.

35. Lets wait until they fail and then return to the default mode approach.

36. Lack of appropriately scaled and designed integrative thinking tools.

37. Challenge overload and fatigue among participants.

38. Constant churn, session activity overload.

39. Assumption that simply putting diverse minds in proximity to each other creates innovation.

40. Assumption that broadcast mode equals cocreation mode.

Humans are amazingly adapatable creatures. Even in these kinds of conditions event organizers can often be seen expecting participants to magically produce meaningful outcomes. While coffee-time chit chat is an important form of dialogue, assuming that it will lead to complexity navigation, opportunity finding, problem solving and or meaningful solutions is a giant leap of logic that does not reflect what is already known. Not knowing and or agreeing to what is already known remains a stable of the hotly competitive “design thinking” marketplace. There are alot of repeating starting point initiatives going on out there. For the most part “design thinking unconference” events remain far behind best practice cocreation. Are you looking forward to the era of beyond unconferences as much as we are?

20
Aug

Humantific at Transforming Design UK

Humantific CoFounder, Elizabeth Pastor will be speaking on the subject of SenseMaking for ChangeMaking at the Transforming Design Conference in London on Sept 7. Around the world we continue to see significant interest in real world examples of how design thinking is being applied to complex fuzzy challenges in the context of organizations and societies.

This conference is being organized by the Design Management Institute, one of numerous professional associations working hard to signal to its membership how leading transformation practices are driving change in the design and design management communities.

Read more on the conference site: “The world is changing, business is changing, the role of design is changing, and so too design managers need to change…Design is now recognized as an enabler of business transformation, because design leads change, which is critically needed to save and solve our future. It is a solution that addresses problems, and problems behind problems. Design connects businesses to their customers, and customers to new products, services and experiences. Design is a process tool, an innovation tool, a tool to build experiences, and a transformation tool. Transformation is as much a way of thinking as it is a result.

04
Aug

Design Thinking Research Tops 12,000 Readers

This week Humantific’s Design Thinking Made Visible Project topped 12,000 readers. Published on ISSUU as part of Humantific’s virtual book series this project book provides a glimpse into our ongoing Integrative Thinking Research Initiative underway for ten years. The book provides a window into how design thinking has already been reinvented to better serve as enabler of organizational and societal transformation.

UPDATE January 2014: This virtual book has now topped 28,000 readers.

If your organization would like to learn more about participating in our Thinking Made Visible Research send an email to research (at) humantific (dot) com.

 

 

 

 

02
Aug

SenseMaking for ChangeMaking on ISSUU

Humantific CoFounder Elizabeth Pastor presented SenseMaking for ChangeMaking at Icograda’s Straight to Business Conference in Madrid, June 24-25, 2010. Inside the presentation Elizabeth explains how Humantific has been working in the realm of enabling Integrated Thinking for Innovation in large organizations for more than ten years. Connecting SenseMaking and ChangeMaking Humantific helps organizational leaders tackle complex fuzzy challenges and embedd the capability to do so into their organizations.

To inquire about how SenseMaking for ChangeMaking can super-charge transformation initiatives in your organization send an email to engage (at) humantific (dot) com

01
Jul

Elizabeth Pastor at Hub / Madrid

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Elizabeth Pastor visits with friends at The Hub Madrid for spontaneous social innovation. A great place that brings entrepreneurs and social innovators, right next to the great CaixaForum in Paseo del Prado. Thanks Felix for inviting us!

http://madrid.the-hub.net/

27
Jun

Markets for Giving Workshop

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Humantific has been working with LiquidNet for Good and Global Giving to codesign a three day Markets for Giving strategic cocreation workshop that was codelivered June 23-25 at Liquidnet corporate headquarters in New York.

Multinational workshop participants included thought leaders from numerous philanthropic organizations. In addition, Humantific provided the strategy cocreation methologies, the visual sensemaking and the hands-on process facilitation for this important event.

Working accross mutiple disciplines and organizations the participants were able to come together to cocreate a unified future philanthropic eco system visual model. Navigating through significant complexity the group was able to create unified challenge maps that became go-forward roadmaps for this important on-going initiative.

Helping diverse groups tackle complex social innovation challenges including infrastructure creation is exciting and meaningful work for the Humantific team. These are projects that we love to pitch in on and help out.

Participating organizations included:

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Hewlett Foundation

Network for Good

Conexion Columbia

Help Argentina

Give Well

New Philanthropy Capital

Keystone Accountability

Hope Consulting

Great Non Profits

GuideStar

Mission Fish

Betterplace

Acumen Fund

Donors Choose

Charity Navigator

Net4kids

Root Cause

Social Actions

Nexii

Jumo

Sea Change Capital Partners