Tag: Applied Creativity

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

20
May

Humantific at Icograda Madrid

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Humantific CoFounder Elizabeth Pastor will be speaking on SenseMaking for ChangeMaking at Icograda’s Straight to Business Conference in Madrid, June 24-25.

“Straight to Business: Icograda Design Week in Madrid 2010 will bring together designers, business leaders, key regional and international stakeholders. This event will be a forum to discuss the business side of design and recognise communication design as a key strategic tool to drive economic growth.

Icograda regards the Icograda Design Week in Madrid 2010 as an opportunity to build on existing relationships and create new dialogue with Members, key stakeholders and decision makers driving the global agenda.

The conference takes place from 24-25 June and will include invited European and international speakers. The theme ‘Straight to Business’ has been organized around these four topics:

  1. New business models
  2. Keys to growth in business
  3. Design and new economy
  4. Design beyond business

Simultaneous English/Spanish translation will be available throughout the conference sessions.”

Register Here!