Tag: GK VanPatter

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!

24
Dec

On-Boarding Advanced Problem Solving

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We are always happy, happy, happy to see writers and organizations setting aside the often appearing verbal volley-ball around terms such as problem finding/problem solving and instead return to recognizing the value of such skills in the context of the challenges being faced today by organizations in every industry. Michael Skok modeled such a return recently writing in the Harvard Business Review blog entitled: “Amazon Turned a Flaw into Gold with Advanced Problem-Solving”

In the Amazon story, problem finding, problem solving and the orientation of seeing problems as opportunities play significant roles as does the turning of a specific internal situational solution into an external global solution offering.

Here are 10 things that we liked and agreed with in Skok’s post:

1.  “…make it everyone’s responsibility to solve problems at EVERY level in the organization.”

2. “Grass roots collaborative solutions are so often the best.”

3. “Some of the best solutions come from multi-disciplinary, multi-level, 
cross-functional problem solving.”

4. “Try even to engage your customers, partners and communities from 
outside the company. This co-creation often fosters trust and understanding.”

 5. “Encourage self-awareness and motivate people to ask for help to develop their weaknesses and team around their strengths.”

6. “Offer training and development for those who want to reach higher.”

7. “Recognize and reward progress up…problem solving [Skills Progression] levels.”

8. “Look beyond problem prevention – create new opportunities from continuous improvement.”

 9. “Taking this approach to problem solving will build both abundance and resilience on your team.”

 10. “I’ve found that the companies that attract, nourish and reward people with great problem-solving skills as a core competency get tremendous competitive advantage from it.”

Of course making it everyone’s responsibility to solve problems at EVERY level in the organization suggests the on-boarding of an adaptable skill-set that extends beyond product, service, experience and interface creation. Today most organizational leaders recognize that many types of challenges exist in their organizations in addition to product and service related creation.

Whether organizations choose to call what they are using to address such diverse challenges their innovation toolbox, problem solving toolbox or complexity navigation toolbox matters a whole lot less than what is actually inside it, what it is designed to help you do. Whatever you choose to call it we agree that having an adaptable change-making tool-set and skill-set applicable in multi-disciplinary contexts remains key.

Related:

ReAppreciating Applied Creativity History

 

 

20
Dec

Out of Balance Issue Published

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The Out Of Balance Competition entries have just been published in Berlin by ARCH+ magazine as a spectacular 240 page special issue. The international competition: “OUT OF BALANCE – CRITIQUE OF THE PRESENT, Information Design after Otto Neurath” wrapped up last April with the mammoth task of judging of 180 entries submitted by 499 participants.

The work of Otto Neurath and Isotype was the inspiration for this competition sponsored by Humantific, Autodesk, and Museum für Architektur und Ingenieurkunst.

Thanks to ARCH+ Editor, Sabine Kraft and her small team for all the hard work involved in putting this publication together. Those who can read German will find inside this special issue descriptions and color documentation of many entries along with an overview of information design history.

Yes it’s true that information design has been around adding value in many change making contexts long before the arrival of the “Big-Data” wave!

Neurath and the Isotype team remain an inspiration to many, not only in terms of style but also in purpose. Lots of knowledge, history and courage to build from there.

We look forward to next year’s competition!

2013 Jury:

Heinz Bude, Social Scientist/Economist
Joost Grootens, Graphic Artist
Sabine Kraft, Editor ARCH+
Joachim Krausse, Cultural Scientist
Philipp Oswalt, Bauhaus Dessau Foundation
Philippe Rekacewicz, Geographer/Cartographer
Simon Rogers, The Guardian
Christian Weiss, Autodesk
GK VanPatter, Humantific
Ursula Kleefisch-Jobs, M:AI

Related:

Out of Balance Competition Winners

Before, During & After Isotype

Lost Stories Information Design History

 

 

 

 

 

19
Dec

Beyond Brainstorming

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What Humantific Clients Already Know…

Andy Warhol was once asked in an interview what he thought about Jasper Johns. Andy replied that he thought Jasper was great. The interviewer then asked why he thought so. Andy replied, “Because he makes great lunches.”

Well that’s kind of a good way to think about brainstorming too. Practitioners of team facilitation with years of experience can see value in brainstorming and like Andy’s perspective shift on Jasper, probably not from the direction that you might expect and certainly not for the reasons being endlessly debated in the mainstream media these days.

Here at Humantific we often ask ourselves; what’s the big deal about brainstorming? Other than driving attention to websites what’s the hullabaloo in the media all about? The topic seems to translate into a lot of dogs chasing tails when with a little more context, a little more insight, that energy could be better invested elsewhere.

As we have pointed out to our readers on this blog several times: In this innovation enabling industry; “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 [including Humantific] uses any version of brainstorming as a standalone method.”

In most practice-based innovation skill-building programs, including Humantific Academy, brainstorming in its various reinvented forms is considered introductory skill, boot camp level knowledge. Once organizational leaders are engaged in their innovation journey they rapidly see that serious innovation capacity building is like building a house. Saying brainstorming is ineffective is akin to saying a hammer doesn’t work to build a house. Clearly you are going to need more than a hammer! Yes indeed you will need to conceive of the house design before you start building and once under way you will need an arsenal of tools in your innovation toolbox not just a hammer. In addition to a great design and multiple tools, you need the deep knowledge of the house building process. No organizational leader that we work with today operates under the assumption that mastering brainstorming is going to get the innovation job done.

To build that innovation house will not only require a variety of tools, you will also need to know how to use them effectively. As a skilled cocreation facilitator, you should have many tools and know how and when to use them. Walking around as a hammer is not very effective. As an innovation leader what you want to have in your back pocket is more like a Swiss-army-knife.

For seasoned facilitation practitioners the key to extracting the value of brainstorming is to understand its ingredients, its DNA, the ‘what’s inside’ part and then know what is needed to reconfigure those elements in ways that bring to bear their full power. Experienced practitioners know how to get at the key ingredients and how to reformulate their value in the context of everyday work. This is “the great lunch” of brainstorming.

Years after brainstorming was created, Alex Osborn and Sid Parnes had already embarked on that reformulation road when they shifted towards a more powerful mash-up that included what we now refer to as root behaviors that operate inside an adaptable framework that is focused, not on ideation but rather moves from fuzzy front end through to implementation and today measurement. Osborn and Parnes recognized early on that much more than brainstorming was going to be required. Don’t miss that turn in the road.

Shift and build, shift and build more or less describes the continuous cycle of knowledge construction that has been occurring ever since. Many experts and non-experts have made contributions to that ever-evolving knowledge field at the center of this hybrid community of practice. If you miss all the shifting and building that has occurred it is unlikely that you will understand what’s needed and what’s possible today.

At this point, many additional tools, instruments, techniques, refinements and ways of working have been added or subtracted to that knowledge soup. Of course the hammer itself has also been redesigned many, many times and is today a shadow of its original self. For this reason, we don’t expend energy re-debating the effectiveness of the 1953 perspective as it has long ago been superseded.

From the early pioneering days of addressing relatively simple challenges to the current era of tackling highly complex fuzzy situations, integrating upstream framing and data/information visualization, there are two things that have remained constant. However you choose to slice and dice all of those many knowledge additions the principles of skills and behaviors remain key elements today.

It is mastery of root innovation behavior orchestration in the context of multiple disciplines that holds the possibility for organizations to create sustainable adaptive cultures today. Unless you are up for the long, painful route to house building, don’t miss that key ingredient.  Even if you seek to put your house on wheels or attach wings, a strong foundational platform is crucial to its success. In sustainable innovation culture construction everything builds from foundational root behaviors. It sounds easy. It’s the getting there that takes the real work.

If your organizations’ goal is to build capacity for proactive innovation, changemaking, adaptability, flexibility, fluxability, resilience, whatever you choose to call that, you will want to set your sights far beyond the capacity to simply generate ideas. Forward thinking leaders in every industry are busy on-boarding advanced innovation skills to the point where having them has already become an essential component in many next generation leadership programs. The truth is root behavior mastery is foundational to many advanced innovation skills. Mastering those behaviors individually and collectively represents an important step along the skills progression ladder, not the current end state of innovation capacity-building today.

Thanks again for the perspective shifts Mr. Warhol. Lets all have a great lunch on Andy today!

GK VanPatter & Janet Getto

Humantific’s 3 Universal Beyond Brainstorming Principles:

1. BrainFraming Preceeds BrainStorming

Unless you have undertaken some form of upstream framing with multiple participants there is a 75% chance that your brainstorm is being focused in the wrong direction, at the wrong altitude on the wrong problem. Before you begin, back-up and make sure you are pointing your brainstorm in the right direction. Conscious real-time participatory reframing is now possible. Understanding context of the challenge precedes getting to a strategic and meaningful launch point for ideation.

2. Everyday Innovation Trumps Brainstorming

Don’t wait for special occasion “brainstorming sessions” to skill your team from a behavioral perspective. Embed mastery of generative thinking as separate to evaluative thinking as one root behavior in your everyday innovation learning program. Do the work to understand that the behaviors appear in every meeting, in every organization, in every industry, in every country, everyday. Make an investment in understanding the dynamics of everyday innovation.

3. Practical Realizations Trump Media Slogans

Forget the endless sloganeering being generated in the media to attract readers. Stay grounded in real needs and practical realizations. Connect root behaviors directly into your already existing corporate values. If you have identified diversity and innovation as among your values you are half-way home. Now do the work to figure out how root behaviors are connected to these values. Doing such work represents a much smarter investment than reading yet another armchair experts blog post on “Let’s Kill Brainstorming”. Lets understand what trumps what and keep moving forward beyond individual techniques and towards inclusive innovation culture building.

Related:

Making Sense of Alex Osborn

Lost Stories Applied Creativity History

Teaching Complexity Navigation

10
Dec

Scrooge Meets Data Analytics

We love the 1951 film adaptation of Christmas Carol story and its relationship to data analytics and data storytelling so we are reposting this for our readers who might have missed it last year…:-)

You have no doubt watched the classic Scrooge a million times but try watching it this year anew with your Making Sense of Big Data hat on. Is data analytics a form of time travel? You betcha! Take a wild guess where data analysts are most often traveling to? Whats often missing in data analytics chit-chat? View Scrooge and reflect!

Written by social change advocate Charles Dickens in 1843, Christmas Carol contains so many themes that are relevant today. It can be viewed as a story about poverty and injustice, redemption and transformation, the demise of industrial capitalism, workaholics versus lifeaholics, corporate values, how not to create corporate cultures, ghosts, greed and morality, the reenvisioning of philanthropy, etc.

What Dickens originally had in mind in 1843 was an advocacy-oriented report regarding the state of the poor and the need for change in 19th century England. Instead of doing a report he decided to create a softer, much more sticky and enduring advocacy, in the form of the Christmas Carol story.

We could not help but notice that miraculously the structure of this classic film maps directly to our SenseWHEN lens that we often use in transformation work with organizational leaders. In SenseWHEN we ask: When is the picture that you want to create? Are you seeking to create pictures of Yesterday, Today or Tomorrow? In the context of the film this is the equivalent to visitation from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come.

Thinking business school case studies for a moment, one could say that Ebenezer Scrooge was in fact an organizational leader. In the film we get to see him embark on what turns out to be a journey to create a new personal and organizational strategy. He takes the journey unwillingly but perhaps what is most important to take note of in the film is where he ends up in relation to what the data was projecting.

Of course from a cinematic perspective the pictures seen in the film of Yesterday (Christmas Past), Today (Christmas Present) and Tomorrow (Christmas Yet to Come) all look the same visually. In real life, real world we would recognize that two of those views, Yesterday and Today, could be / would be based on data and one would be a Tomorrow prediction based on existing patterns. The picture of Christmas Yet to Come was, on Ebenezer’s behalf, a product of 1843 predictive analytics in action.

This is beautifully remarkable when we consider that our own recent study of two centuries of data visualizations showed that 98% were pictures of Yesterday and or Today. Out of almost 1000 data visualizations in the study only 2% were attempts at pictures of Tomorrow. Here in this 1951 film we can see not only a picture of Tomorrow but also coming into view is what role it played in the formulation of Ebenezer’s strategy.

We noticed that the future picture that was based on data projections turns out to be NOT the future that comes true for Ebenezer. In a wonderfully entertaining way the story makes clear that there are multiple futures possible. Of course data based prediction is useful but not necessarily conclusive.

After seeing the picture of Tomorrow based on behavioral projections, the film shows Scrooge waking up in a state of enlightenment to begin immediately redesigning his future in real time starting immediately on Christmas morning. The future that Ebenezer now has in mind for himself and his organization is quite opposite to the future that was based on projecting patterns from Yesterday and Today into the future.

In this sense the story brings into focus a magical juncture that is known by many of us doing generative future work to exist between today and tomorrow. It is a moment that occurs after the three SenseWHEN views have appeared and been absorbed. In the film we see Scrooge in that magic moment essentially stepping through a doorway or gateway rejecting one future and embracing the possibility of designing another. It is a beautiful thing!

Remarkably we see very similar patterns (without the ghosts) of reflection, analysis, generation, recombination, reformulation, gateway in much of the futuring work that we do with organizations today.

Rather than viewing data as prescriptive of future outcomes it is more often being used as fuel to inspire and create “straw man” scenarios, which may or may not ultimately be embraced as part of future design. For many enlightened leaders the purpose of data based scenarios is less about prescribing and more about informing possibilities.

While more and better data makes for better future projections the underlying physics of the universe have not changed much since the time of Dickens. Until humans figure out how to bend the laws of the universe the future remains one step ahead of us, whether we all like it or not.

If Ebenezer had mistaken the data projected future as the one and only option, if he took it as prescriptive rather than informative his transformation and that of his organization would not have been realized, at least not in the particularly positive way that comes into view as the film ends with Scrooge walking into his newly designed future. Lots to think about there.

Until someone takes the link down you can check out the 1951 film starring Alastir Sim as Scrooge for free on YouTube.

Related:

Big Data For WHEN?

Note: This post was first published here on the Humantific blog on December 22, 2012.

11
Nov

ReAppreciating Fritz Kahn

fritzKahnCoverCongratulations to our friends and colleagues Thilo von Debschitz and Uta von Debschitz for the successful redesign and republishing of the new expanded 390 page volume on Fritz Kahn. Bigger and better than the previous 2011 version this large format 2013 monograph will become an inspiring historical volume for many interested in the early days of what might be called metaphorical or analogous information design.

Inside are wonderful early versions of several forms of information design (now often being redepicted as “info-graphics”) including data visualizations and idea or concept visualizations. You don’t have to agree with every idea to appreciate the richness of this amazing work.Continue Reading..

29
Jul

15 Ways Making Innovation Real

GK VanPatter’s speech: 15 Ways to Make Innovation Real at Savonia University from the opening school year ceremony at innovation oriented Savonia University in Finland.

“In that moment I decided to embrace this accident.”

Enjoy this from the Humantific Archives.

08
Jul

Who Owns How Might We?

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Thanks Again, Sid Parnes!

With the marketplace vibe around the term “How Might We?” continuing, we thought this might be a good moment to revisit the subject and post a further clarification for our readers, many of whom are leading innovation-culture-building initiatives inside large organizations.

Our clients will already know that, for many years, numerous innovation firms, including Humantific, have been using How Might We? and other invitation stem phrases as part of how upstream challenge-framing is constructed. Use of the celebrated phrase is, by now, widespread around the world. With thousands of good people already integrating the phrase into their everyday work lives, the global How Might We? collaborative language adoption continues to grow every week, month, and year. At this point, many, many firms have played a role in that common innovation language adoption advocacy. As far as we can tell, it remains an open innovation adoption wave.Continue Reading..

30
Jun

GK VanPatter at Systemic Design

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Humantific CoFounder GK VanPatter will give a talk on the creation of the new book: Innovation Methods Mapping / DeMystifying 80+ Years of Innovation Process Design at the upcoming Systemic Design Conference in Oslo, Norway, October 8th-11th.

In the global marketplace today there continues to be rising interest in forms of design thinking operating at the scale of complex organizational and societal changemaking.

In tandem with that interest wave there is no shortage of terms being used in the marketplace right now for design thinking at scale, including Meta Design, Systemic Design, Systems Oriented Design, Strategic Design, Meta CoCreation, Design 3 & Design 4, NextDesign Leadership, Design At Scale, Whole Systems Design, Adaptable Inquiry, Strategic CoCreation, Complexity Navigation, the OTHER Design Thinking, etc. Whatever you choose to call it evidently recognition of the need for new forms of upstream design thinking at the scale of organizations and societies has arrived.

There is now a growing community of practioner leaders and academic leaders interested in this subject that Humantific has been involved in since its founding.

Being hosted by the Oslo School of Architecture & Design the Systemic Design conference is specifically focused on “Relating systems thinking & design.”

See more here on the conference site.

Related:

When [Old Design Thinking] Love is Not Enough

NextDesign Geographies
Understanding Design 1,2,3,4

SenseMaking is Rising

NextDesign Leadership Workshops

 

 

07
Jun

MAKING SENSE OF: “Creative Intelligence”

What Seasoned Innovation Leaders Already Know!

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

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

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