Tag: Humantific Collection

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

 

 

 

 

 

08
Mar

Understanding Innovation History

The Gold Mine Between Your Ears by Alex Osborn is among numerous early applied creativity documents in the Humantific Innovation Collection. Published circa 1954-55 this now hard to find 21 page booklet documents the early applied creativity self-help approach by Osborn which tended to manifest itself around suggestions that readers should recognize their inherent ability to generate ideas as a route to a better life.

“The author proves that you have a gold mine between your ears – a mine from which you can dig riches rewards, not only in hard cash, but also in the coin of contentment.”

“Surely you would like to…make more money by winning promotions…think up more cash-winning ideas…become a better parent and spouse…get more fun out of life…The key in this case is a gift you were born with – your ability to think up ideas.”

Think UP was a concept that Osborn introduced in 1942 and it can be seen front and center throughout his various publications. Osborn died in 1966.

What is important to see in innovation history? 

Apart from the corny 1940s-50s remarks, such as Women can think up ideas with the best of men” what is valuable to see in applied creativity historical documents is the early appearance of numerous key innovation concepts such asEveryone is born with creative imagination.”

In practice we find that knowledge of such applied creativity history can significantly inform understanding of the innovation marketplace today. It can also enhance one’s ability to appreciate some of the inside jokes regarding some of the more entertaining marketplace trends..:-) Innovation leaders operating without such historical knowledge are susceptible to the “sliced bread has just been invented” phenomeneon often seen in popular business oriented publications seeking to excite new generations of readership.

For example: the notion of business leaders combining two ideas was not invented last week, but rather it is a well-known and certainly not advanced skill present in the historical innovation literature for 60+ years. Association of ideas and or idea combining (not two ideas but many) is a skill that appears in Osborn’s 1953 Applied Imagination text, abbreviated in this booklet, as well as in numerous addional applied creativity publications.

“Here is another powerful set of questions: What ideas can be combined? How about an alloy?- a blend? Combine Units? Combine purposes?”

Reading some of the more recent overhyped business design and innovation leadership books in the marketplace one might get the feeling that learning how to combine two ideas while converging (making a decision) is going to propell you into innovation leadership stardom today. Well, it’s always good to have a sense of humor is this business…:-) Clearly much more advanced innovation and cocreation skill is already required.

The truth is, many of the early innovation concepts seen inside The Gold Mine Between Your Ears including, idea combination, adaptation, borrowing, substituting, positive, negative, upside down, opposites, maximizing and minifying later evolved into what are considered today to be introductory Innovation 101 skills. Much has been built on those foundations. Many remain fundamental and important, but very few of those early notions are considered advanced innovation process skills today.

Idea generation and combination, once the central focus of the earlier applied creativity pioneers, is today considered low hanging fruit in the enabling innovation business. Today much more emphasis is placed on the framing of challenges and opportunities upstream from the generation of ideas. In the post-Osborn eras it became more widely recognized that if you get the challenges wrong or don’t know what they are, no amount of brainstorming solution ideas will do you much good.

Recognizing that much has changed in the innovation enabling business today, we think its always great to see original source materials.

Images Source: The Gold Mine Between Your Ears. Ticonderoga Publishers, 1954. Humantific Innovation Collection, New York.

Related:

Making Sense of Jonah Lehrer’s “GroupThink”

Teaching Complexity Navigation

Humantific Teaches at MBA Program

Humantific inspires SenseMaking MBA

Lost Stories in Applied Creativity History

31
Jul

ReAppreciating Mathematica

Among the historical Visual SenseMaking work that inspires Humantific is the astonishing output of the Eames Office. Pictured is the cover and inside images of a rare explanation booklet that accompanied the 1964 Mathematica exibition.

The Eames Office, led by Charles and Ray Eames, created some of the most memorable Visual SenseMaking work of the 1940s, 50s, 60s, & 70s that still inspires many of us in this business today. Created without computers, the output of the Eames Office is truly staggering.

Mathematica: A world of numbers…and beyond was the first major exhibition produced by the Eames Office. Sponsored by IBM, the purpose of the 3,000 foot exhibition was to stimulate interest in mathematics by visually explaining fundamental concepts. Mathematica was installed in a new science wing at the California Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles.

How Mathematica was described in 1964: “Mathematics has been called ‘the Queen of Sciences’, for its intrinsic beauty and because it has mothered a host of other sciences. Traditionally, its branches have been arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, statistics and logic. It forms the base of many practical sciences such as physics, chemistry, geology and meteorology. It provides the foundation for cultural arts such as music, art and architecture. It is rapidly being adapted as a basic tool by the social sciences and humanities—for studies of population, political trends and economic theories.

The progress of mathematics and devices for calculating and computing has been closely interrelated since the invention of the abacus. Today’s modern computers solve in seconds problems that would have taken mathematicians months or years just two decades ago. 

IBM hopes that this book based on the exhibit will help communicate the scope of mathematics and the work mathematicians do.”

The original Mathematica exhibition is now owned by, and on display at, the New York Hall of Science.

Image Source: Mathematica: A world of numbers…and beyond. 1964. Designed by the Eames Office. Humantific Collection, New York.

 

26
Jun

Rediscovering Alvin Lustig


 

We are delighted to add 36 of Alvin Lustig’s New Classics to the Humantific Collection. The series was published in the 1940s and 50s by New Directions Books, located just down the street at 500 Fifth Avenue here in New York.

The series included E.M Forster’s Room with a View, Gertrude Stein’s Three Lives, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust, and many others. Alvin designed the covers for the entire series.

At Humantific, we love historical artifacts of all kinds! What we find, is that having original materials to hold and behold informs and inspires in ways that are very different from just looking at photographs. To hold and view the original books from the 1940s and 50s is rich!

Austin Lustig (1915-1955) was a design pioneer who studied briefly with Frank Lloyd Wright before his own prolific career took flight. Largely self-taught, he revolutionized the approach to book cover design in the late 1940s, rejecting the common practice of creating a generalized image that summarized the book’s plot. Instead, Alvin adopted a process that involved reading the book to “get a feel for the author’s creative drive,” and then translating it into his own graphic style. His use of small, discrete lettering for the book title was seen as marketing sacrilege; Lustig famously proclaimed that he was “born modern.”

Alvin Lustig died too young, at the age of 40.  His career was short, but his output was stunning! His use of simplified shapes, flat colors, fragmented images, photo-illustration, and minimal typography still inspire many communication designers today.

More about Alvin Lustig

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.

30
Jan

Lost Stories Information Design History

In a competitive business marketplace, not everyone wants to acknowledge that each generation tends to learn from, build on, or divert from the previous generation’s ideas and output. We see this phenomenon clearly evident in the various streams of Visual SenseMaking history.

Predating the important work of Isotype Institute are numerous landmarks in the history of Statistical Graphics, which later evolved into Information Design—some aspects of which evolved into “Information Architecture” and then in a different direction “Visual SenseMaking” today, a subsubsetset of which has evolved into Data Visualization (long story for another day). Some historical landmarks are well known to many, while others remain off most radar screens, especially to new generations. Particularly online, we notice a general lack of historical awareness and crediting in many current data visualization, design and innovation-related discussions.

At Humantific, we have significant interest in the forgotten stories, lost stories, and off-the-beaten-path landmarks of sensemaking and changemaking history, as they have the potential to inform present day understanding significantly. We try to gather such stories and make them part of the collection that we share here publicly. One such landmark publication is Willard Cope Brinton’s 1917 book, Graphic Methods for Presenting Facts.

Willard C. Brinton (1880-1957) remains a relative unknown, one of several largely unsung, historical visual thinking pioneers. No entry for Brinton appears on Wikipedia, for example. Who he was, what he did, and why it was important is one of many stories buried in the history of Information Design.

Published in black and white when Brinton was thirty-four years old, the 371 page Graphic Methods for Presenting Facts is an impressive, early survey of what would today be considered to be bare-bones statistical diagrams and graphic techniques that existed at that moment. Now scarce in original form, this early volume is recognized as the first American book focused on graphic techniques geared for a general audience.

What a rockin’ idea it must have been in 1917 to do a “visual thinking techniques” book! From the book’s introduction: “As far as the author is aware, there is no book published in any language covering the field which it has been attempted to cover here.”

In the book, Brinton refers to himself as a “Consulting Engineer,” and member of the Society of Mechanical Engineers. He had an office here in New York City! He was Chairman of a committee on standards for graphic presentation formed in 1914, as well as a fellow of the American Statistical Association.  An engineering approach is clearly evident, as is the focus on building diagrams based on data, statistics, and facts. Notably, Brinton’s orientation in the book is one of advisor and commentator on the assembled work of others—an orientation that can also be seen, much later, in the work of Edward Tufte.

Graphic Methods for Presenting Facts contains numerous gems, including one particularly significant page in 20th century information design history. On page 39 (shown middle above), one can see an important design idea that Isotype is often given credit for originating. The evolutionary notion of repeating figure icons, rather than increasing their size, to depict size of a group became part of Isotype’s now well-known visual language style. Rumor has it, that Brinton’s book was in Otto Neurath’s 1920’s library. Ninety+ years after it appeared in Brinton’s book, this design idea, in refined form, is still very much in use today.

The truth is, much of the early writing on the subject of Statistical Graphics tends to be tactical; Brinton writes, in his comments, on a particular diagram by others: “This is an admirable piece of presentation even though the lettering and drafting are not quite as good as they might have been if more care had been used…” This kind of tactical commentary on now-out-of-date techniques makes up a large part of the book. Even today, many techniques in any technology get dated very quickly. It is often hard to know what has legs, and what will be gone tomorrow.

Street-parade-charts-p343

At Humantific, we are generally less interested in rapidly dated tactics, and more interested in broader considerations. What we do is look at historical Information Design materials through a time-oriented viewing frame, a simple 3-part lens that we call SenseWHEN. Apart from technique considerations, we want to know: WHEN was the focus of the picture being viewed? Was the goal to create a sensemaking picture of  Yesterday, Today or Tomorrow? We also want to know, at what scale were the views taken? Is this a picture of a person, a product, an organization, or a society?

Utilizing these simple viewing lenses, we notice that much of Information Design history, including that appearing in this early book, has been focused on creating sensemaking pictures of Yesterday and Today. Most often, these are pictures that can be constructed from data sets and facts. Much less frequently in that history, do you see pictures of Tomorrow. This is an entire subject unto itself that we will be writing more about, as it connects directly to what we do at Humantific: How can pictures of Tomorrow be cocreated in real time, by humans from multiple disciplines? It remains a subject that is near and dear to us. It certainly does connect to the history of Information Design seen here, but is rather different in orientation.

If Brinton preceded Neurath’s Isotype, you might be wondering: Who preceded Brinton? In his later, much more graphic, 1939 self-published book entitled Graphic Presentation, Brinton acknowledged that he did not know of the earlier groundbreaking work of William Playfair (1759-1823) when he was working, in 1912, on Graphic Methods for Presenting Facts. Brinton dedicated his 1939 book to Playfair, who is credited with creating some of the earliest examples of diagrams in his 1786, 1801, 1805, and 1822 books. William Playfair was also an Engineer, making pictures of Yesterday and Today.

For those who might not know—yes, before Playfair, there was Joseph Priestly (not an Engineer) who made timelines of Yesterday and Today. On and on it goes…:-)

Images Source: Brinton, Willard Cope. Graphic Methods for Presenting Facts. 1917. Diagrams by Willard Cope Brinton & Others. Humantific Collection, New York.

Related:

Data Visualization Meets CoCreation

Humantific: SenseMaking for ChangeMaking

Humantific: The OTHER Design Thinking

Making Sense of Early SenseMakers

 

16
Jan

Making Sense of Industries

We love and respect the complex history of what has become the sensemaking profession today. Here are more example images from Humantific’s Isotype Institute Collection. These are from 1955.

The Vienna-based Isotype Institute team, active in the 1920s-1950s, is widely recognized as an early pioneer in the commercial application of visual sensemaking. They applied their unique skill-set to the explanation of many business subjects, in addition to their social subjects work. These “Isotype Charts” are part of a 16-diagram series that explains the chemistry, manufacture, and use of plastics, with an emphasis on their application in the building industries. They appeared in the 1955 book, entitled Plastics and Building.

Isotype Institute work was not always focused on driving towards changemaking. In examples like this one, their focus was on explaining existing conditions within industries—what we would call the “today” picture—without any particular reference or speculation about the “tomorrow” picture.

Today, Humantific would consider this to be part of the Yin (without the Yang) component of changemaking. Pictures of “today” are not only helpful in constructing collective understanding of existing conditions—they are also great jumping-off points for cocreating futures.

We might point out that Isotype Institute was not just making sense of data-sets and information. They were looking at, and deciphering, many complex phenomena taking place in the field of focus, much of it rather abstract—including processes, chemical compositions, and various applications. They were using skills which can be referred to as information design, but they were not just designers of information. They could make sense of any subject, regardless of its state. From the Humantific perspective, they were early professional sensemakers. Their professional sensemaking often informed and accelerated the everyday sensemaking of others operating in organizational settings and in the public realm.

The output of Isotype Institute is immensely impressive and still highly influential today.

More on Isotype Institute

More on Otto Neurath, Gerd Antz & Maria Neurath

Note: For those interested in the finer points of Information Design history, we will point out three additional details:

1. Design was not a word that was used within Isotype Institute.

2. Isotype images were not made by individuals, but rather by a collaborative effort, within which the ‘Transformer” played a significant role—acting as Mediator, Organizer, Shaper between the information research and the graphic form.

3. Otto Neurath died in 1945, at the age of 63. Some see significant differences in images acredited to Isotype made after this date.

Image Source: Mactaggart, E. F. and H. H. Chambers. Plastic and Building. 1955. Diagrams designed by the Isotype Institute. Humantific Collection, New York.

Related:

Social Visual SenseMaking / InfoGraphics 1890

Humantific Teaching Visual SenseMaking

02
Nov

Isotype Building Bridges

We are happy to share more historical sensemaking images from Humantific’s Isotype Collection. Active long before the “Big Data Era” arrived these Isotype examples are from 1943.

In early Isotype studio work, one can find many great examples of sensemaking acceleration techniques that are still in use today, including the comparison. Experts in presenting complex data-informed subjects clearly, the Isotype Institute team often used comparisons to help explain differences and similarities between groups, regions, and countries.

Reflecting a “simpler” time in history, Isotype work often (not always) involved two-party comparisons on select issues, as in this example. In this 1943 book, America and Britan, Only an Ocean Between, published in London for an English speaking audience, numerous aspects of the two countries are compared. In addition, a few 9-10 country comparisons are included in “18 Pictoral Charts Designed by Isotype Institute.” This human-centered approach to book creation, combining text, photographs, and diagrams, was referred to by the authors as “Reading Without Tears.”

As in much of Isotype work, the underlying purpose was optimistic and constructive: to build a bridge; to help accelerate understanding between diverse humans with the hope that this might create a better world.

From the book’s Foreword, by John Winant, then American Ambassador to Great Britain:

“America and Britain are learning to know one another… Such mutual knowledge will be more than ever essential when the battle ends and the task of reconstruction lies before us…If this century is to be the century of the common man, the common man must be informed of the facts by every means in the power of the expert — by writing, by pictures, by charts. For only so can he form the judgements on which a durable and democratic international reconstruction depends. This book will, I am sure, help to bridge whatever ocean still flows between our two countries’ knowledge and understanding of each other.”

Isotype created the visual symbol language (“International Picture Language”) as well as the diagrams. Considering that computers did not exist then, it is clear that Isotype Institute created—by hand—a staggering amount of excellent-quality social sensemaking material during their time. Even with its imperfections, much of that work remains inspiring for many still today.

Image Source: Florence, L. Secor. America and Britain, Only An Ocean Between. 1943. Diagrams designed by the Isotype Institute. Humantific Collection, New York.

Related:

More on Isotype Institute 

GK VanPatter: What is SenseMaking?
[Speaking at SenseMaker Dialogs]

GK VanPatter: SenseMaking / The Karl Weick Question

CoCreation Missing No More: See: Markets for Giving Workshop

 

 

03
Oct

ReAppreciating Otto Neurath

At Humantific, we have tremendous respect for the work of the early Social SenseMaking pioneers—among them, the central figures of Isotype Institute: Otto Neurath (1882-1945), Gerd Arntz (1900-1988) and Marie Neurath (1898-1986).

In the Humantific Collection, we have numerous Isotype (International Picture Language System) artifacts. We will share some of the lesser-known example diagrams here, in this inspiration archive.

Based initially in Vienna, what the relatively small Isotype group was able to accomplish in the 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s remains a towering achievement in the practice of what we know today as Social SenseMaking.

At Humantific, we are interested in the Before, During, and After-Isotype eras, acknowledging that what we do today has many similarities, and as many differences.

Neurath, in particular, was deeply interested in contributing to the creation of a better, more unified world (“Words Divide, Pictures Unite”) and had specific notions regarding how that might best be accomplished.

Perhaps due to the orientations of its founders, Isotype Institute work tended to be strong on making sense of complex, data-driven content, while the participatory change-making process (cocreation process) component that we know today to be so important was essentially missing. Today we are more aware that making sense of the data is not in itself going to change the world. Hands-on participatory cocreation leadership is needed in orchestration with visualization.

Regardless of its imperfections, Isotype remains an important historical inspiration for many practicing SenseMakers, including the UnderstandingLab team at Humantific.

Stay tuned for more inspiring, early SenseMaking examples from the Humantific Collection.

Image Source: Central Bureau Voor de Statistiek 1944-1946: Statistisch Zakboek by Uitgeversmaatschappij W. De Haan N.V. Utrecht. 1947. Diagrams designed by the Isotype Institute. Humantific Collection, New York.

Related:

More on Isotype Institute 

More on Otto Neurath

More on Gerd Antz

More on Maria Neurath

GK VanPatter: What is SenseMaking?

GK VanPatter: SenseMaking / The Karl Weick Question

CoCreation Missing No More: See: Markets for Giving Workshop

The OTHER Design Thinking

 

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!)