Funny Innovation Quotes (video)

July 14, 2010

A client of mine developed this video for a conference.  They showed it as people entered the room and got seated.  It contains some VERY funny quotes about innovation and change.  Be sure to watch in full screen, add your own music, and enjoy!

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Doing Nothing to Enhance Creativity

July 12, 2010

Enhancing Creativity and InnovationWe are in such a fast paced society that we are always focused on achieving our goals.  In business, these goals might be hitting quarterly earnings targets, sales quotas, or operating budgets.  Even innovation initiatives are goal-driven.  We measure ideas generated, time-to-market, and percent of revenue from new products.

We are indeed a goal-driven society.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  But there are times when this obsession can be counter-productive.

In previous posts, I talked extensively about the “Performance Paradox” (the link brings you to several articles on the topic). This is the phenomenon whereby a hyper-focus on your goals is the very thing that prevents you from achieving them. Dan Pink also wrote about this concept in his recent book, Drive.

Yesterday it was a beautiful, sunny day here in Boston, so I decided to walk the ocean near where I live. I spent most of my time walking up and down the beach, listening to my iPod, and eating a delicious lobster roll. As I started to walk back home, I decided to walk into the water and just stand there. I did nothing for about 20 minutes. The picture above is what I looked at (you can click on it for a larger version). I just stood there. My mind wandered. At first I wondered what others were thinking of my “statue-like” position. Then my mind drifted towards work…in particular the marketing efforts for my new book, Personality Poker. I let my mind meander, but I stayed focus on the book. After about 5 minutes, a flood of ideas started to come through. By the end of the 20 minutes, I had more ideas than I had in the previous few weeks.

I have been incredibly busy lately. And I never felt I had the time to reflect. But what I realized very quickly was that I needed to detach myself from my goals in order to help me achieve the goal of a New York Times best seller. The more I hyper-focused on the work I needed to do, the less it seemed I could develop new ideas and solutions.

As I walked back home, I realized very quickly that the phenomenon I experienced is something I had written about many times before. I forgot the value of doing nothing.

In my book, Goal-Free Living, when discussing the process for clearing the mind, I wrote…

The word Mushin is used extensively in Japan. It means silent mind, empty mind. A mind that is void of thought patterns and mental chatter. The ability to listen to that inner voice is critical on the journey to self-awareness. It is said that Aristotle used to lie in bed with a ball in his hand so that when he would fall asleep the ball would drop and bang a copper plate below. The noise would wake him up, keeping him in a quasi state of sleep and consciousness. This is where he generated his best ideas and insights.

In Personality Poker (due in stores November 2010), I provided some of the neuroscience behind this…

A particular area of the brain known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is most active during conscious thought. This is among the most advanced parts of the brain, parts which separate us from other animals that cannot analyze and calculate the way humans can. However, when we are in a state of “flow,” this part of the brain is quiet, and we move into a more playful mindset. Flow casts the human brain back to a more primitive state where thoughts and sensations come through without being controlled, judged, or censored. Anyone who meditates knows what it’s like to be in this state, as the purpose of meditation is to go behind the judgmental veil of that prefrontal cortex and enter a state of flow. When the conscious part of the brain is activated, the flow state is interrupted. Interestingly, in children, the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed, which allows them a more natural state of play.

Research by Northwestern University neuroscientist Mark Jung-Beeman shows that people who are in a good mood not only tap into different parts of the brain, but also solve more problems through “flashes of insight.” Playfulness helps to put us in a good mood and enjoy a more relaxed frame of mind. Studies have shown that people in this state generate more unusual ideas when brainstorming. This explains why we get so many good ideas while showering or half-dozing; a relaxed frame of mind is conducive to insight, helping us bring forth new knowledge or ideas without forcing them. Like playfulness and a positive mood, the “drowsy” brain induces a relaxed state and encourages insights. How many times have you been bombarded by an amazing idea or thought, or solved a problem in your mind just seconds before falling asleep? This “stroke of genius” is a flash of insight thanks to your brain’s calm state.

I realize that businesses are designed to provide financial returns to the shareholders. And as a result, there is a lot of goal-setting going on.

But in order to achieve long-term goals, innovation is a must. And one component of innovation is the development of creative ideas. And sometimes the best way to develop those new insights is to stop focusing on innovation.

So, take time to do nothing. Sit and stare out the window. Relax. Meditate.

And if your boss asks you what you are doing, tell him/her, “I am quieting my dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in order to be more innovative.”

I’m sure after that, they will stop asking you questions.

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From Tarot Cards to Poker Cards to Personality Poker

July 9, 2010

The video above is a beautiful rendition of Sting’s “Shape of My Heart.” In it, he tells the history of poker cards.

In my upcoming book, “Personality Poker,” I had an appendix which discussed the history of poker cards and how this led to the Personality Poker card game.  But when it came time for the final printing, the publisher felt that the book was too long.  Therefore the appendix was cut and is included below for your enjoyment.

From Dominoes to Tarot

At first, I thought that linking personality styles to poker cards was a new concept. However, as I dug deeper, I discovered that this was done more than six hundred years ago. For those who are interested, this article shares some of the history of card playing, and how a game can evolve from ancient, mysterious beginnings to a modern-day pastime enjoyed by millions.

Poker cards have a long and rich history. By some accounts, card games were in existence in China as far back as the third century and may have originated in the form of dominoes. Other accounts suggest that cards emerged in the ninth or tenth century.

Regardless of when the card games were developed, we know that the poker cards used today in casinos can be most closely tied back to Tarot cards. Historians believe that the Tarot deck originated in Italy, with the oldest surviving examples dating from the mid-1400s in Milan.

For those who are unfamiliar with the basics of Tarot cards, and I suspect that’s most of you, let me give you a quick summary. The standard Tarot deck comprises seventy-eight cards. There are four suits—Swords, Cups, Coins, and Wands—each with “pip” cards numbering from ace to ten and four face cards (Page, Knight, Queen, and King) for a total of fifty-six cards. These are often referred to as the Minor Arcana cards, and the suits represent the four main classes of feudal society: military, clergy, mercantile trade, and agriculture, respectively. Because Tarot cards emerged during feudal times, it makes sense that they were based on how society was set up. In addition, the deck of Tarot cards is distinguished from poker cards by a separate twenty-one-card trump suit (often referred to as Major Arcana cards) and a single card known as the Fool.

From Tarot to Poker

The French Tarot decks became the basis of modern-day poker cards. The Page became the Jack. The Knight was eliminated. The four suits were changed to spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs. And the trump cards and the Fool were dropped from the deck.

Later, when they were transformed into modern-day playing cards, the symbolism and meaning of the cards shifted. The question remains as to how the suits in the Tarot deck map to those in poker cards. In his song “Shape of My Heart,” Sting provides a simple and somewhat accurate depiction of the meaning of each suit. He sings, “I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier. I know that the clubs are weapons of war. I know that diamonds mean money for this art. But that’s not the shape of my heart.”

The actual meaning behind each suit is a bit more complex. And although there is not complete agreement on which suits in a poker deck correspond to which suits in a Tarot deck, there seems to be support for the following mapping:

  • Spades = Swords in Tarot and they represent thoughts, the intellect, conflict, and communication. In Personality Poker, the spades represent those who like facts and principles. They are considered the more intellectual of the bunch. This is somewhat consistent with the Tarot’s depiction of swords as those who battle with the mind and body. The Swords were the military and aristocracy, which included the scientists of the day.
  • Diamonds = Coins (also called Pentacles) in Tarot and they represent money, manifesting, and property. In Personality Poker, the diamonds are motivated by experiences and ideas rather than money. They are often thought of as “worldly.” Although the diamonds are typically not materialistic (seeking money and property), they are often the best at manifesting things because their diverse experiences seem to make them luckier. The Pentacles were the merchants and they traveled extensively (i.e., they were worldly).
  • Clubs = Wands (also called Staves) in Tarot and they represent activity, energy, business, and work. In Personality Poker, clubs are the prototypical workers. They like both plans and actions. They are about activities and getting things done. They are often driven by success in the business world. This is a very common style in most large corporations. Wands were the farmers and hardworking peasants.
  • Hearts = Cups in Tarot and they represent emotions, relationships, love, and intuition. In Personality Poker, the hearts are the ones who like people and relationships. In Tarot, the water molds itself to the cup. Hearts do the same. They mold themselves to the needs of others. Cups were the clergy.

For the first three hundred years of their existence, Tarot cards were used in various parts of Europe to play card games such as Italian Tarocchini and Triumphs. They were largely used for entertainment purposes only, just as playing cards are today. Then, in the late 1700s, occult organizations adopted Tarot cards as a tool for divination. Over the centuries, reading of the Tarot has incorporated various concepts, everything from astrology and Kabbalah to runes (which predate the Tarot by a thousand years) and the I Ching (which predates the Tarot by 2,500 years). Today, Tarot cards are one of the most popular tools for providing spiritual guidance and predicting the future.

Those who use Tarot cards for spiritual purposes believe that when a deck is shuffled, the resulting order tells the reader everything about their past, present, and future. The person whose fortune is being read has no conscious role in card selection. The spiritual world is aligning the cards in the deck.

This is in stark contrast to Personality Poker, where you consciously choose the cards that best fit your style. There is no magic or mystery. It is not left to divine intervention or luck. It is a matter of choice.

Although we attempted to preserve the deep meaning of the suits associated with Tarot cards for our game, we are not suggesting that Personality Poker is a tool for mystical or occult purposes. It is also not intended to be a game solely for entertainment purposes. Although playing Personality Poker is a lot of fun, it is designed to be an educational tool.

Tarot and Personality Typing

Interestingly, psychologist Carl Jung, one of the fathers of personality typing, attached importance to Tarot symbolism. Unlike poker cards, Tarot cards have pictures that tell a story. For example, in the Rider Tarot Deck (one of the most popular sets of Tarot cards), the nine of swords depicts a warrior resting on a table, weary after a battle, with a colorful stained-glass window in the background.

Jung regarded Tarot cards as representations of personalities. He felt that since each Tarot card tells a different story, an understanding of the subject’s self-perception could be gained by asking them to select a card that they “identify with.” In essence, this is how we play Personality Poker. You choose the cards, based on the words you identify with best.

I don’t expect you to fully understand Tarot cards, nor do I expect you to be an experienced poker player. But it is useful to be aware of the historical underpinnings to this common modern game and understand that we can derive “personalities” from the symbols and hidden meanings of this ancient practice. As you can see, although Tarot cards are now known as the tool of fortune-tellers, they were originally developed for entertainment and competitive purposes.

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Are You Smarter than a PhD?

July 7, 2010

“Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?” is an entertaining show.

In the world of innovation, the biggest question is, “Are you smarter than a PhD?”

Here’s what I mean…

In Personality Poker we address four primary innovation styles.  The spades are the ones who are, as we would say in Boston, “wicked smaht.”

We find that spades are analytical, fact-driven, and often quite intelligent.

One of the challenges with driving innovation into organizations is that smart people are often more interested in being right than doing right.  That is, experts want to believe that they can solve every problem under the sun.  Although this isn’t true, this pervasive belief can circumvent your innovation efforts.

Here’s a simple example…

A few years back, an InnoCentive client identified a very complex challenge they wanted solved.  They posted this challenge to the website.  Anyone who could solve this problem would get a cash prize.  Dozens of solutions were submitted.

One of the solutions was submitted by an employee of the client.  Let’s call her Sally.

Sally went to the individual who sponsored the challenge and said, “Why did you go outside to find a solution?  I already had the answer.”  She was clearly upset that her company went externally to find a solution.

Interestingly, Sally’s actions were the catalyst which helped this client build the case for open innovation.

When the evaluation team evaluated all of the solutions submitted, Sally’s was not viewed as innovative.  It was the same type of solution the company had been considering for years.  The breakthrough idea came from someone outside of their company and even outside of their industry.

The company now had proof positive of the value of open innovation.

To be clear, the objective of open innovation is not to replace the smarts you already have in your organization.  It is to augment this brilliance.  Most companies don’t have enough time to solve all of the challenges they are working on.  Unfortunately, R&D people often get spread thin working on a lot of different types of challenges, some of which could be better solved by others outside the company.

Here’s a simple model I use to help companies determine which challenges should be solved externally, versus those that can be solved internally. Challenge fall into roughly three broad categories:

Simple: These are challenges that someone else has probably solved.  Although you could solve them internally, this is not the best use of your resources.  The odds are that someone else already has a solution that you could buy or license for less money in less time.  Why waste your highly specialized experts on these types of challenges?

Unsolved: There are some challenges that are exceptionally complex that may have remained unsolved within your organization for years.  Or maybe it is something that is viewed as outside your area of expertise.  A well-worn, but useful example of this is the oil spill recovery in Alaska after the Exxon Valdez accident. For 20 years, oil/gas experts futilely tried to find a way to pump out the almost solidified oil at the bottom of Prince William Sound.  Eventually, through a challenge posted on InnoCentive, they found a solution from the cement industry, not the oil/gas industry.  John Davis, a chemist with expertise in cement, figured that if vibrating cement can keep it from hardening, then a similar concept can be adapted to keep the oil in the tanks from freezing.  It worked and solved a two decade old problem. These challenge are also best solved externally because you can increase the level of diversity in your solver base.

Differentiator: These challenges fall into the sweet-spot of your organization.  These are the challenges that your experts are best equipped to solve.  By “outsourcing” the simple and unsolved challenges, you can allow your team to focus on what they do best.  This will increase your ability to solve the problems that differentiate you from your competition.  For these types of challenges, it is often useful to post challenges internally, using a tool like InnoCentive’s @Work solution.  This allows you to tap into the collective intelligence of every employee, regardless of where they reside organizationally or geographically.

Smart people want to be (and should be) appreciated for their brilliance.  They have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of knowledge. But as the late, great Will Rogers said, “There is nothing so stupid as an educated man, if you get off the thing that he was educated in.

Everyone can not be educated in everything.  Therefore, figure out what you (and your organization) do best, and find others to help with everything else.

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