More thoughts on creativity

Business framework review

In brainstorming, creativity, etc sessions, the aim is to take people out of their day-to-day business routines and encourage them to generate ideas by disconnecting from orthodoxies, set beliefs, current paradigms/mindsets, etc

Ideation = a creative process or generating a large number of business model ideas and successfully isolating the best ones
It is easy to map existing business models but designing new and innovative ones is another thing.

Traditionally, most industries are characterised by a dominant business model but this is changing with many different business models competing in the same markets and the boundaries between industries becoming less distinct.

Also, the past is not a good indicator about the future, ie what worked in the past is not necessarily suitable for the future. Furthermore, looking at competitors as a way of copying via benchmarking can restrict the chance of creating something new

"...business model innovation is about challenging orthodoxies to design original models that meet unsatisfied, new, or hidden customer needs..."
Alexander Osterwalder et al, 2010

To find better options, there is a need to generate as many ideas as possible and then narrow these down to the best. The 2 main phases are

- idea generation (where quantity matters)

- synthesis ( ideas are discussed, combined and narrowed down to the small number of viable options)

(NB these options do not naturally have to be disruptive. They can be innovations which expand your current business model to improve competitiveness, etc)

For the best result, you need to

- ignore the status quo
- forget the past
- stop focusing on competition
- challenge orthodoxies

(NB think of a greenfield operation)

Some questions to help with the approach to the ideation process

1. Team Composition

Is our team sufficiently diverse to generate fresh ideas?

(members should be
- representative of staff from different areas in the entire organisation;
- diverse in terms of seniority, age/generational, experience level, business unit representation, customer knowledge, professional expertise, ethnic groups, cultural backgrounds, gender, stakeholders (like customers), etc

The more diverse the membership, the more likely new ideas will be generated.

NB need to teach people to listen actively and consider engaging an outside facilitator to conduct the session)

2. Immersion

Which elements need to be studied before generating business model ideas?

(This involves general research, studying customers (current and potential), scrutinising new technologies, assessing business models (existing and alternatives), etc

3. Expanding

What alternatives can be imagined for each business building block like value proposition, customer segment, communication channels, key activities, etc?
(Explore the range of possible solutions, aiming to generate as many ideas as possible using brainstorming and creative thinking concepts like fan, random word, Po, etc (see later). During brainstorming (see later), it is important to

- focus on quantity rather than quality of ideas
- defer judgement
- have one conversation at a time
- encourage wild ideas, etc

In generating ideas, quantity more important than quality; focus on generating ideas rather than critiquing them (this can come later).

4. Criteria Selection

What are the most important criteria for prioritising the ideas generated?

(Define the criteria for reducing the number of ideas to a manageable tally; these criteria must be specific to the content of your business, eg estimated implementation time, revenue potential, implementation cost, possible resistance, impact on competitive advantage, etc)

5. Prototyping

The basis for prototyping is in design and engineering disciplines at the intersection of business & design; it has recently been used in business management to handle the less tangible elements around organisational behaviour and strategy. It is a tool that serves the purpose of discussion, enquiry or proof of concept. It can take the form of a simple sketch through to a fully thought-out concept or a spreadsheet simulating the financial workings. It is a thinking tool that helps to explore different directions in which the business model could develop, eg what happens if we add another client segment? What is the consequence of removing a costly source?, etc

Exploring a prototype encourages us to address issues of structure, relationship, logic, etc , in different ways, eg understand the pros and cons of different possibilities. It is thought-provoking, ie go beyond business as usual, and encourages deep and relentless enquiry, ie spirit of enquiry which is a willingness to explore ideas, rapidly discard them, and take time to examine multiple possibilities before choosing to fly in a few. Accepting uncertainty until the design direction matures is necessary.

The design attitude involves changing one's orientation from decision-making to creating options from which to choose. This attitude

"...stands for an uncompromising commitment to discover new and better business models by stretching out many prototypes - both rough and detailed - representing many strategic options..."
Alexander Osterwalder et al, 2010

Some questions

What do short-listed business models look like?

(Ideally, reduce the number of business models to no more than 5)

Does it need modifying?

(what happens if you change parts of it?)

Some different types of prototyping

i) napkin sketch (outline and pitch a rough idea of business model, eg focus on key elements like outline the idea, include the value proposition, main revenue streams, etc)

ii) elaborate canvas (elaborate upon napkin sketch to explore all the elements needed to make the business model work, ie elaborate on the 10 building blocks, think through your business logic, estimate market potential, do some basic fact checking, etc

iii) business case (explore the viability of the idea by, for example developing a spreadsheet to estimate earning potential that includes key data (calculating costs and revenues, estimating potential profit, explore financial scenarios, etc)

iv) field test (investigate customer acceptance and feasibility of your new business model by preparing a well justified business case that includes perspective or actual customers, ie market testing

Genius and insanity

· Why is there a thin line between genius and insanity?

"...Some people see things others cannot, and they are right, and we call them creative geniuses. Some people see things others cannot, and they are wrong, and we call them mentally ill..."

Nancy Andreasen, 2014

· Why are so many of the most creative minds in the world among the most afflicted by mental illness (mood disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety or panic disorder, alcoholism, schizophrenia etc)? There is a prevailing view that the tendencies towards psychosis and towards having creative and original ideas are closely linked (Nancy Andreasen, 2014). This may be linked to the personality type shared by many creative people, ie they

"...are adventuresome and exploratory. They take risks. Particularly in science, the best work tends to occur in new frontiers......they have to confront doubts and rejection. And yet they have to persist in spite of that, because they believe strongly in the value of what they do. This can lead to psychic pain, which may manifest itself as depression or anxiety, or lead people to attempt to reduce their discomfort by turning to pain relievers such as alcohol......since these ideas are almost always the opposite of obvious to other people, creative luminaries can face doubts and resistance when advocating for them......one interesting paradox is that, though many of them suffer from mood and anxiety disorder, they associate the gifts with a strong feeling of joy and excitement

as for how these ideas emerge almost all......confirmed that when eureka moments occur, they tend to be participated by long periods of preparation and incubation, and to strike when the mind is relaxed...... I make a connection. It may have nothing to do with what I am doing, but somehow or other, you see something or hear something or do something and it pops a connection together......others mention lighting on ideas when showering or exercising..."

Nancy Andreasen, 2014

· A high IQ does not necessarily produce high levels of creative achievement

· Where is creativity found in the brain?

"...Most of the human brain's high-level functions arise from the six layers of nerve cells and their dendrites embedded in its enormous surface area, called the cerebral cortex, which is compressed to a size small enough to be carried around on our shoulders through a process known as gyrification - essentially, producing lots of folds

The most extensive developed regions in the human brain are known as association cortices. These regions help us interpret and make use of the special information collected by our primary visual, auditory, sensory and motor regions.

For example, as you read these words on a page or a screen, they register as black lines on a white background in your primary visual cortex

to read, your brain, through miraculously complex processes that...... needs to forward those black letters on to dissociation-cortex regions, such as the angular gyrus, so that meaning is attached to them; and then on to language-association regions in the temporal lobes, so the words are connected not only to one another, but also to their associated memories and given richer meanings.

these associated memories and a meanings constitute a "verbal lexicon", which can be assessed for reading, speaking, listening and writing. Each person's lexicon is a bit different because each person has different dissociated memories and meanings. One difference between a great writer such as Shakespeare and, say, the typical stockbroker is the size and richness of the verbal lexicon in his or her temporal association cortices, as well as the complexity of the cortices' connections with other association regions in the frontal and parietal lobes........."

Nancy Andreasen, 2014

· The unconscious process called random episodic silent thought (REST) is an important component of creativity. This process involves the person lying quietly with their eyes closed, to relax and think about whatever comes to mind, ie engage in a free association by letting the mind wander. The association cortices are very active during REST.

· Also, creative people are better at recognising relationships, making associations and connections, and seeing things in an original way, ie seeing things that others cannot. For many, the archetype of a creative person is someone thinking differently

· You cannot force creativity to happen. The essence of creativity is making spontaneous connections and solving puzzles.

· Many creative people are polymath, ie people with broad interests in many fields. Also, many are autodidacts, ie they like to teach themselves rather than be spoon-fed information or knowledge from standard educational facilities. For example, Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steven Jobs (Apple), Larry Ellison (Oracle) & Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) are university "dropouts".

· Generally, creative people work much harder than the average person. The main reason for this is that they love their work.

· Most grow up in environments where learning and education are highly valued.

· They are very persistent, even when confronted with scepticism or rejection.

· ·Both technology and the pace of our lives have reduced the time for creativity thinking and at the same time increased the need for this thinking. Furthermore, work has invaded our private life as technology makes us available 24/7. Creating thinking requires deep, concentrated thinking in an environment of peace and quiet. This environment is not found in most workplaces.

"...creative thinking at its best - meaning it was chock-full of failures and dead ends..."

Brent Schlender, 2015

Management needs to be

"...more open to the talent of others, be inspired by and challenged by that talent, but also......inspiring them to do amazing things..." you can't do yourself plus make decisions with sincerity, depth of feeling and rationality.

John Lasseter (Pixar) as quoted by Brent Schlender, 2015

"...talk about the topic, not about who was right who is wrong. For a lot of people, their egos are tied up in an idea that gets in the way of learning. You have to separate yourself from the idea..."

Ed Catmull (Pixar) as quoted by Brent Schlender, 2015

· In a survey, the following dialogue occurred:

Q How many of you do the your best thinking and get your most creative ideas at work?

A None!!!!

Q In what room in your house do you do your best thinking?

A Bathroom!!!!!!

This includes activities like taking a shower, having a bath, using the toilet, shaving, etc. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many people have creative bursts or great insights when walking in nature, lying in bed, looking at water, listening to classical music, exercise (running, walking, etc), and driving.

In times of turbulence and great change, the expert and experience can be a major obstacle to change and innovation. Yesterday's solutions, strategies and systems are not necessarily suitable for today's problems. Most experts rely on the past and trade on the illusion of knowledge and are experts in the old paradigms.

In a world changing so quickly, you never know when fantasy and reality will meet.

When people become cautious, such as when they exhibit a "no mistake" attitude and "tested to death" syndrome, etc, then innovation, creativity and originality disappear. In an aggressively competitive environment, you cannot afford not to experiment, and mistakes are a natural by-product of this. Furthermore, striving to avoid mistakes leads to rehashing old ideas that may have worked in the past, rather than looking for fresh ideas and approaches, eg the Swiss watchmakers who missed the benefits of quartz and digital technology.

People who are afraid of making mistakes are petrified of making decisions. Complacency is linked with the "no mistakes" environment

Most organisations do not encourage originality, ie

"...be it in dress, political views, or business sagacity - is taboo: too expensive, too risky, too divisive. Conventionality is rewarded; deviants are marginalized or fired. Yet other businesses solve the problem by spinning of creativity - relegating it to Skunk Works, or allowing only the most recently acquired divisions to march to their own drummer. Experience shows that this divide-and-conquer strategy rarely lasts - its creativity does not infiltrate the DNA of organisation, it is unlikely to be passed on to the next generation. Of course, inappropriate creativity in accounting and financing can be suicidal, and as Arthur Andersen and Enron learnt shortly after the turn-of-the-century.....much of the so-called creativity was pseudo creativity - based on false estimates, hopes rather than data, and good (correction: bad) old-fashioned criminality...a trademark example of creativity undermined by lack of discipline..."

Howard Gardner, 2006a

On the other hand,

"...creativity is a chancy undertaking that can never be guaranteed - only fostered or thwarted......creative breakthroughs do not last forever ..."

Howard Gardner, 2006a

Some examples of creativity have occurred recently around the Internet are Amazon, Google and Ebay. They have had their ups and downs but have succeeded in identifying fundamental human needs and ingeniously filling those needs. Amazon made it easy to buy products (starting with books) while seated at your computer and provides user-based feedback. Google responds to the human desire for free information as reliably and quickly as possible. Ebay is an electronic bazaar that is efficient and trustworthy, and is where one can purchase and/or sell just about anything

(sources: Robert Kriegel et al 1996; Howard Gardner, 2006a; Fiona Smith 2009m)

 

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