Warren Berger, author of the blog (and forthcoming book) A More Beautiful Question, asserts in this post on the Harvard Businesss Review blog that Google, Facebook and IDEO and other idea powerhouses are able to come up with breakthrough thinking because they use three little words when they sit down to gather ideas: “how might we.”
According to Berger,
When people within companies try to innovate, they often talk about the challenges they’re facing by using language that can inhibit creativity instead of encouraging it, says the business consultant Min Basadur, who has taught the How Might We form of questioning to companies over the past four decades.
“People may start out asking, ‘How can we do this,’ or ‘How should we do that?,'” Basadur explained to me. “But as soon as you start using words like can and should, you’re implying judgment: Can we really do it? And should we?” By substituting the word might, he says, “you’re able to defer judgment, which helps people to create options more freely, and opens up more possibilities.”
Time-management life coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders discusses three types of guilt that can seep into the psyches of creatives who have arranged their lives to work only on a big “passion project” – guilt about having more time than others, not making money or progressing too slowly – and how to banish them to forge ahead and get things done.
Jeffery Phillips makes a bold assertion about the necessity of tight focus when doing “big picture” strategic creative work: you can’t sandwich it in between all the ordinary types of minutiae that fill your ordinary work life. He writes,
You cannot attempt to concentrate on day to day, routine tasks at the same time you are trying to create interesting new insights and ideas. Your brain doesn’t work this way, and you will be pulled in the direction of your expertise and competence. Which means you will revert to incremental ideas at best.
Real creative insights happen when you release what you know, your expertise and frameworks, and focus on expanding your thinking and considering broader possibilities. That kind of engagement and thinking cannot happen while you are answering emails on your cell phone, or while you are engaged on a conference call. You simply don’t have the expertise to handle routine, day to day issues and engage in broad, disruptive thinking at the same time. One of these activities will suffer, and it is always the idea generation that goes lacking.
A bracing, refreshing post about what it takes to shake up your company and industry – and perhaps one that will provide some ammo when you’re expected to do this between emails and status reports!
Fascinating article introducing an infographic linking to information about 50 forward-thinking designers, representing architecture, theater costuming, product design, sculpture, interior design and many other disciplines.
Scott Berkun, author of The Myths of Innovation and other books on business innovation, responds to a reader in a doctoral program asking about theories of idea diffusion not with simple theories but with a list of influential books on the topic. Several good recent books on the list (Made to Stick, The Tipping Point) as well as a few older books that are nonetheless quite instructive (Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Amusing Ourselves to Death). His post provides a great curriculum for readers interesting in learning about why certain ideas take hold and other (equally good or even better) do not.
Arizona State University is my employer for my day job, and as you might expect, there’s usually lots of cool research going on there. Recently the university announced the kickoff of a new study, conducted by John Parker, Honors Faculty Fellow at Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University and Edward Hackett, professor in ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change, which is a two-year project focusing on creative interaction among scientists.
What makes the National Science Foundation-funded project so interesting is that Parker and Hackett will use wearable computers, in the form of necklaces, on scientists who are collaborating in interdisciplinary working groups. The computers, called sociometric sensors, are outfitted with infrared transceivers, accelerometers, and microphones, and track how scientists interact with each other quantitatively and in real time. The neck-worn devices measure the duration, timing, volume, and pitch of participants’ speech, their physical movement and face-to-face orientation, as well as how many times and for how long they interact with each other.