Tag: barriers

The Electrification Of Fruit (or Breaking Down Boundaries)

Banish boundariesWhilst standing in the shower I let my mind wander a little (well quite a bit actually) and it settled upon the electrification of fruit as a topic. I began to wonder what electrified fruit might look, smell and feel like. What functionality would it have, what consumer needs would it fulfill? My sensible, logical side then said ‘don’t be silly you can’t electrify fruit’. And it might be right but flip this on it’s head, what if fruit could supply electricity?

Many of us have at some time created a ‘potato clock’, a device powered by a potato. That will not save the energy problems that we have because it produces very little current but the subject of fruit & veg together with electricity is a very interesting space for ideas (bio mass etc).

This led me to thinking a little more seriously about assumptions and boundaries. Many people might assume that fruit and vegetables have no place mixing with electricity. Someone has created an arbitrary boundary there, a fence that says ‘do not enter’ to your brain. This might be a good idea but what if …?

Another interesting subject is that of stereotypes or categories. Do you remember when the EU first started meddling in food products? In Portugal they produced Carrot Marmalade. I’m sure that it is a fine product and the EU obviously thought so too. They had previously decreed that marmalade must be made from fruit and so redefined carrots as fruit rather than vegetables.

This arbitrary and silly categorisation has far reaching consequences but it is entirely un necessary. It now forces EU bureaucrats to think of the category of fruit as containing carrots whilst the category vegetables does not contain carrots. This might mean that carrot growers are treated as exactly as fruit growers or excluded from obtaining grants or subsidies aimed at farmers or vegetable growers.

How often does our categorisation of objects or behaviours prevent us from solving problems or taking a potentially advantageous course of action? Instead of being controlled by labels, we should focus on what works and what does not. Maybe one day we will electrify fruit, who knows? Until then, let us trample over the arbitrary boundaries that are created.

 

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A Creative Christmas Lesson

At this time of year I like to ponder the things that happen at Christmas and then find humorous ways of saying why they could not possibly happen. For example:

  1. Jingle Bells (and other assorted tunes) – too loud, causing environmental noise pollution and hearing damage
  2. Christmas dinner – responsible for obesity epidemic, only healthy eating lunches allowed
  3. Christmas presents – in order to hit recycling targets no wrapping paper is to be used
  4. Three wise men – how wise are they, set up league tables for comparison
  5. Santa’s Outfit – not suitable for visually impaired/colour blind people
  6. Gifts for baby Jesus – select alternative gifts as current ones are choking hazards
  7. Sleigh delivery – restrictions placed by RSPCA on reindeer speed due to potholes caused by government cutbacks
  8. Dining table – workstation assessments required due to incompatible dining chairs/table combinations

And there could be many more!

The point is that it is possible to raise objections, cancel events or avoid taking actions altogether by hiding behind ‘the givens’. Normally these are rules and regulations but sometimes these are just personal or organisational barriers that can be demolished if we have the will to.

So let’s turn this on its head. If we can find lots of reasons not to do something as big and fun as Christmas, just think what we could all do next year if we demolished all of the silly barriers or objections that stand in the way (or which we put in the way).

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Calling all CEOs – why do you avoid Innovation and Creativity?

The message from myself and many others banging the innovation drum is relatively simple. Embrace innovation and you have a unique competitive advantage. You will be able to fully exploit the skills of your workforce, develop new products, services or processes according to your type of business and most importantly of all you will create a business that is sustainable and which will survive not only the current economic crisis but any that may occur in the future. So why do you not take action, why do you think the risk is too high – or to put it another way, what are you scared of? Why do you avoid innovation?

First of all, let us look at risk. What is it? In its simplest guise it is just circumstances or events about which we know nothing or very little. So the more we know about something, the smaller the risk. Actually the likelihood of something bad happening may not actually change as we acquire knowledge ,but the fear associated with the potential risk may decrease or vanish. So CEOs may in fact be suffering from a fear of failure or looking foolish rather than actually considering the actual risks or benefits to their organisation.

What can be done to help? If we could provide you with the following, would that help?

  • An understanding of what is involved in leading an Innovative organisation – let’s remove the surprises
  • Support in providing awareness and education for managers and staff – everyone must know where they fit in
  • A proven methodology/framework so that you know what you are doing
  • A method of measuring innovation directly so you know where your money is being spent
  • New techniques to help you predict and plan for the future
  • Provision of some ongoing support

Would this help alleviate the risks so that you can harvest the benefits of Innovation? If not then Innovation may not be for you and sadly your long term future does not look too rosy.

Over and out!

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The politics of Innovation – wising up to the gatekeepers

Organisations are filled with politics and organisational games. Here are just a few insights into the politics of innovation, common culprits for stifling innovation.

An interesting idea
In a mild form, resistance can be as simple as declaring that “I thought the ideas in your presentation were really interesting”. “Interesting” is the key word here, because it is the word people frequently use when they want to appear supportive and positive about an idea when really they are indirectly resisting. We say “interesting” when asked for feedback and we do not want to reveal our concerns and doubts. “Interesting” can even be a euphemism for “your ideas are rubbish and I will not support them”.

Another Time
This is the tactic of resisting an idea or suggestion by pretending that the timing just isn’t right (and at the same time implying that at some future, unspecified date the timing may be better) “The only thing wrong with your idea is the timing, come back in the New Year and we will take another look” This usually means “no way is this idea going any further!” Of course, the timing may genuinely be bad but often this tactic is used for sabotaging ideas that someone does not want to see implemented (out of political self interest).

More Information
This is the tactic of deliberately stalling a valid suggestion by continuously demanding more information, hoping that the other party will eventually drop the idea, or forget it.
It is entirely reasonable that before new ideas are acted upon, that they should be researched and tested. It is good practice for competent managers to ensure that bright new ideas do not propel organisations into oblivion but this can go too far. This is a convincing, ‘professional’ and deliberate viewpoint that hides genuine resistance.

The Wise One
They have seen it all and done it all before, and with their vast experience we would be foolish to ignore their protestations when they say it is a poor idea and won’t work. We face an uphill struggle against arrogance and ego, it is them or us! Note the key to disarming such a person is that their wisdom is rooted in the past. Times change.

Techno-Babble
The idea is challenged on the scientific level and the resistance takes the form of long winded, confusing, jargon filled explanations which are presented as just being “helpful”. They have seen it all before (and have a pile of facts to prove it) and see no new reason to go down a road which has already proved fruitless.

Once recognised, these ploys can often be countered or you may just choose another course of action rather than waste your valuable energy.

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Removing blocks to Creativity

As if dealing with emotional and perceptual blocks to creativity isn’t enough, we also need to overcome our cultural conditioning. Cultural blocks are created by attitudes in society and among our peers which have the effect of inhibiting creative thinking. Sometimes these cultural blocks are so much a part of our upbringing that we’re practically blind to them.

Here are some of the most common cultural blocks:

“We must be logical about this”
Why is this so? You might need to specify your desired outcome but not the journey. Once in a awhile you might like to ban logic altogether and see what happens. Remember these three things:

  • Logic can solve problems, but creativity often requires a leap of the imagination
  • Creative ideas often don’t make any sense at first
  • Just because an idea is illogical doesn’t mean its ‘bad’

Role stereotyping
Our inherently conservative culture sees to it that most of us grow up with the idea that creativity is not possible without advanced training, higher education, superior intelligence, etc. This is simply nonsense. Also creativity is often seen as the preserve of a particular function within a business.

“Playing is for kids”
Being creative means being willing and able to play with ideas, materials, and even your most basic ideas about reality. Creative thinking is a form of mental play. Relax your grown-up inhibitions and let your mind out to play more often. Also, many of us already work with prototypes which is simply a slightly restricted form of play.

“Fantasy and daydreams are useless distractions”
Early in life, we’re taught that fantasy and daydreaming are unproductive and even dangerous to our health. Creative thinking requires that you be able to daydream and fantasize without feeling guilty for doing so. Strive to recognize and get past your conditioning. Those daydreams can also be useful as part of a futures programme where we predict the future many years in advance.

“Though shalt try nothing new”
This is the great unspoken commandment that directs many of our thoughts and actions. While change for its own sake is rarely creative, creativity requires openness to challenging the status quo. Ideas such as the wheel and space travel must have been as a result of trying something new. Just think what you could do!

“Creativity is too abstract”
Well yes and no. The techniques that we use to help generate and explore ideas can be a little strange but we can calibrate creative processes so we know how much return we get for a particular amount of time and effort. Those who like to plan and budget have no excuse for not joining in.

“I don’t like to ask questions or criticise”
In many cultures it is not natural to openly question or comment on the ideas of others or examine the status quo. This can prevent progress so you can try and gently nudge people and show that questioning is ok but also we can use techniques with the ‘challenging’ built in or which concentrate on building ideas. There is no excuse not to embrace creative thinking.

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