"I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas.
I'm frightened of the old ones."
— John Cage
(Photo: Janine Cheng)
"Every industry has its buzzwords. (Ask a management consultant about 'core competencies,' or a banker about 'synergies.') And 'disrupt' is entering a league of its own. But when everything is disruptive, nothing is. Which is exactly why it might be time to kill the word disruption altogether."Kevin Roose, a contributor to New York Magazine, author of Young Money, and graduate of Brown University, has the courage to say that the emperor has no clothes. Or at least they're not the clothes the emperor thinks they are.
"For starters, the word is frequently used incorrectly. 'Disruptive' doesn't mean 'inventive,' 'unorthodox,' or 'cool.' It has a specific, concrete definition that originated with Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen's 1995 paper, "Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave,” and his 1997 book, The Innovator's Dilemma. Christensen defined 'disruptive innovation' as the process by which 'technologically straightfoward' services and products target the bottom end of an established market, then move their way up the chain until, eventually, they overtake the existing market leaders.
By this token, lots of today's "disruptive" start-ups aren't disruptive at all.
Harvard Business Review, which published Christensen's original definition of disruptive innovation, agrees it's being overused. Maxwell Wessel writes: 'If a start-up starts launches a better product, at a higher margin, to an incumbent’s best customers — that’s not disruption. That’s just … innovation.'
In this week's The New Yorker, Jill Lepore deconstructs Christensen's writings on disruptive innovation — pointing out, for example, that many of the case studies he uses to illustrate what happens to a disrupted incumbent aren't supported by history.
For example, although Christensen writes that U.S. Steel struggled to adapt to disruptive innovation in the form of 'minimilling' — a process for making cheaper sheet metal — what really differentiated U.S. Steel from its minimilling competitors was that U.S. Steel had labor unions and minimilling companies didn't. The 'disruptive' part of minimilling wasn't the technology, in other words — it was money-saving labor arrangements.
We know that not all disruptive change is good, of course. (As Lepore points out, 'When the financial-services industry disruptively innovated, it led to a global financial crisis.') But much of it is.""I'm not opposed to the concept of disruptive innovation," writes Roose, "just the incessant droning on about it, and the unfortunately common practice among corporate executives of blindly waving the flag of disruption instead of engaging in real discussions about their creations."
EXTRINSIC MOTIVATION is a force outside the individual — and the most common one is money, as in bonuses or promotions. But, extrinsic motivators may sabotage creative efforts because they often encourage doing the job just to get something desirable or avoid something painful. And, they leave employees looking merely for the simplest, straightest path, solving the problem exactly as it was solved before. Teresa Amabile years ago posed a question to participants in a study: If you were paid more, would you do better work? The surprising answer was “no.”
INTRINSIC MOTIVATION, from within the individual and the work itself, encourages people to work for the challenge, enjoyment, and satisfaction of doing a particular task or project. The advantage of intrinsic motivators is that the level of reward and gratification an employee experiences is directly tied to the success of the assignment. Amabile found that intrinsic motivations are more effective for creativity. An inner passion to solve a problem, and a love of the process, lead to far more creative solutions than do external rewards like money.CREATIVE-THINKING SKILLS are the multiple tools that individuals apply to problems — in particular, their capacity to put existing ideas together in new combinations. These creative-thinking skills include techniques for accurately defining a problem, seeing challenges from new perspectives, generating multiple ideas, selecting the optimum alternatives, and implementing those solutions as products. Students and workers in many fields are well versed in critical thinking, but most are much less familiar with its opposite skill; creative thinking.
Regardless of how much expertise and motivation we might have, if we don't know how to develop new ideas, we never will be innovative.In more detail, the subsets of these creative-thinking skills can be examined on four deeper levels — cognitive; affective; personal and motivational; and social or environmental.
(Based on the research of Teresa Amabile, the Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and author of Growing Up Creative: Nurturing a Lifetime of Creativity, as well as Creativity in Context, and The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement and Creativity at Work, with Steven Kramer.)
|INVITE SOMEONE WHO'S DIFFERENT.|
"Critics challenge assumptions and are usually very passionate. Invite them in; hear them out. You may be surprised by how much you learn, and also by how thinking about a problem from a different perspective can refresh and energize your own ideas. In the best case scenario, your harsh critic is now your teammate, and not incidentally, will own the particular issue you asked them about. Turning a critic into a passionate advocate and supporter is a great goal in innovation."Diversity trumps ability. Outsiders arrive with skills, experiences and ways of operating that insiders might not possess. The author of "The Difference," Scott E. Page, Professor of Complex Systems, Politics and Economics at the University of Michigan understands the creative opportunity in including a unique team member.
"An outsider can be very helpful, not because they are necessarily smarter than you, but because they are different than you. And this difference is in how they naturally or innately think about what is important when they see a problem or a situation. Diverse perspectives sometimes give you the equivalent of more brain power because they give you more search power. They give you more places you can look for ideas and solutions."A homogeneous collection of individuals is likely to be too cozy with each other; comfort is another enemy of creativity. What the group needs is stimulation, surprises and an unusual direction. A newcomer who's curious, and even playful, will be willing to say and ask anything -- sparking unexpected conversations.
“‘Aliens' come in with a different perspective than the organization or the profession has, which can be very helpful. 'Aliens' are useful because they see problems and opportunities with new eyes. 'Aliens' jar an organizational pattern of thinking, or an individual pattern of thinking. You have someone coming in asking naive or uncomfortable questions like, "Why do you do it that way?" It can cause a lot of discomfort if the members of a group don't understand that that is the function of the 'alien', and that it actually serves a very useful purpose."-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"...a curriculum grounded on three principles: (1) sense and perception as starting points; (2) meta-conceptual links between visual and verbal texts; and (3) the art of visualization in the writing process.The emphasis on sensory experience, perceptual thinking, and visualization is a deliberate attempt to challenge reason, critical thinking, and linearity of thought that have come to dominate the teaching of writing in contemporary English classrooms.Typically in such classrooms, critical-thinking skills in various forms are emphasized, such as the ability to write a persuasive argument using logical reasoning or the ability to write an informed response by analyzing and evaluating a given text."
"First, visual texts provide an easier access to printed texts, particularly for English Language Learners, via the facilitation of meta-conceptual links. Secondly, for native speakers of English, the inclusion of strategies that promote visual thinking along with critical thinking is especially relevant given the image-saturated, mass-mediated societies that they are likely to be immersed in."
"The primary goal of such an approach is to provide creative spaces in the writing classroom that would empower students to become not just writers but also composers of texts."
Ask the average adult for ideas and you will be amazed at how few ideas they have. For example, ask a friend to come up with alternative uses for the common brick and my hunch is your friend may come up with not many, perhaps, three or four.
However, if I asked you to come up with 60 uses for the common brick as fast as you can, this forces you to come with 60 ideas. By forcing yourself to meet a quota, you put your internal critic on hold and write everything down, including the obvious and weak.
The first third will be the same-old, same-old ideas you always get. These ideas are the familiar and safe responses that lie closest to your consciousness, and therefore, are naturally thought of first. The second third will be more interesting and the last third will show more insight, curiosity and complexity because now you are stretching your imagination.
To meet your quota, you find yourself listing all the usual uses (build a wall, fireplace, outdoor barbeque and so on) as well as listing everything that comes to mind (anchor, projectile in riots, ballast, a tool for leveling dirt, material for sculptures, doorstop, device to hold down newspapers, a portable step to carry with you so you can stand on it in crowds, stone crab cracker and so on) as you stretch your imagination to meet your quota. A quota allows you to generate more imaginative alternatives than you otherwise would.
We are taught to be exclusionary thinkers, which means we exclude anything that is not immediately related to our subject. If there is any ambiguity, the average person will invariably censor it and the thought dissipates back into nothingness. This exclusionary way of thinking is how we lost our natural capacity to spontaneously generate ideas.
This is why the average person produces only a handful of ideas when brainstorming; whereas, a creative genius will produce great quantities of ideas. Thomas Edison, for example, created 3000 different ideas for a lighting system before he stepped back to evaluate them for practicality and profitability.
All geniuses produce great quantities of ideas because they uncritically search for all possible alternatives. Albert Einstein was asked once what the difference was between him and the average person, he answered “If you ask the average person to find a needle in a haystack, he or she will stop when they find a needle. I, on the other hand, will go through the entire haystack looking for all the possible needles."Read the full post here.
Richard Gingras says that at this moment in journalism, “transformation” is a four letter word.
Gingras, the head of news and social products for Google, spoke to a group of journalism professors at this year’s Scripps Howard Journalism Entrepreneurship Institute event at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Fifteen instructors from around the United States came to Phoenix to “learn principles of journalism entrepreneurship.”
Gingras stressed that old models for revenue, content and storytelling need to be completely rethought, rather than merely transformed, in order for the news business to thrive in the digital age.
“As long as one thinks transformationally, you limit your capabilities because you limit yourself,” he said. “… It doesn’t work. Worse than not working, it becomes self defeating. … We really do need to rethink everything.”
Rather than focusing on transformation, he said, journalists should be focused on invention.
An example of that thinking is the lack of innovation when it comes to story pages online: “It stuns me that 15 years in we’re still seeing story architectures mimicking the traditional architecture of print,” he said.
Instead, he told the professors to encourage journalism students to develop ideas, products and companies that operate with “zero baggage.” “We owe it to ourselves, to the importance of our journalistic mission, to consider all opportunities,” he said.
CRITICAL THINKING is the linear, fact-based, judgmental consideration of a form of knowledge, the grounds that support it, and the logical conclusions that follow. It involves analyzing and evaluating one’s own thinking and that of others.
CREATIVE THINKING involves creating something new or original. It involves the skills of flexibility, originality, fluency, elaboration, brainstorming, modification, imagery, associative thinking, attribute listing, metaphorical thinking, and forced relationships. The aim of creative thinking is to stimulate curiosity and promote divergence.
Creative thinking draws upon or intentionally breaks with established symbolic rules and procedures. It usually involves the individual or collective behaviors of preparation, incubation, insight, evaluation, elaboration, and communication, but may also occur spontaneously.
In the context of college teaching and learning, creative thinking engages students in:
(See chart above for more definitions)
- Bringing together existing ideas into new configurations
- Developing new properties or possibilities for something that already exists
- Discovering something entirely new -- with an emphasis on the use of the imagination
"[This chart was] inspired by Maslow's famous Hierarchy of Needs. I was impressed how Patti had a clear mental model of why "teaching creativity doesn't work but expanding their imaginations might work better" in the context of some of her work in patient healthcare. Her basic thought was that in order to get patients to take control of their health, they need to imagine what it looks like to be more healthy.
At the base of the pyramid is human reflex -- i.e. response to a stimuli. One level above it is problem solving which in her mind doesn't require creativity and just a set of processes that can be activated. Above that is creativity -- an elevated form of problem solving that involves invention and improvisation. And at the very top is imagination, which Patti insisted is "boundless creativity." You can mix the different levels at the interfaces and see a different kind of creativity/action happening. I sincerely enjoyed how this model felt in my mind."
|WASHINGTON, DC: PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON, KEYNOTE SPEAKER, THE CREATIVITY CONFERENCE, SPONSORED BY TIME MAGAZINE, MICROSOFT AND THE MOTION PICTURE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA.|
"It would greatly help to have an explicit innovation budget in federal government." — President Bill Clinton
|STEVEN BATHICHE, MICROSOFT|
"Develop a space, an environment, where creative people can be inspired, take risks, and fail."
Working with the Motion Picture Association of America and Microsoft, TIME polled Americans about creativity in the workplace, schools and government. Does the U.S. still have the momentum to be a global leader in innovation? Is our creativity being harnessed at work? The results are encouraging—and not.— Paula Kerger, President, CEO of PBS
"More than 50% of creative ideas are horrible. But how do we say 'no' without tamping down creativity?"
Creativity is a renewable resource, one that’s universally, if not evenly, distributed. We don’t decide how much we get, but it’s up to each of us—and the nation as a whole—to tap what’s there.— Walter Isaacson, President, CEO of The Aspen Institute
"Existing research [on brainstorming] often focuses on how many ideas groups come up with, as opposed to evaluating the merit of those ideas. It turns out that brainstorming groups "are very bad at evaluating ideas," according to Terwiesch. "Certain members will get hung up on certain ideas, and often there is a strong personality whose opinion will dominate."The complete article is available at here. (Image source: InnovationTools)
To combat this dynamic, the authors, in their research, split people into two groups: those generating ideas and those assessing them. After a group came up with new product ideas, researchers asked as many as 20 outside experts to subjectively assess the concepts.
Two types of groups generated ideas. One followed a traditional model, assembling a group - in this case, students studying product design - and having them come up with appropriate product ideas for dorm rooms. They worked solely in a group. The other group took a hybrid approach: Those students worked on ideas by themselves before coming together to share their thinking.
Which technique yielded the best ideas? Strictly speaking, the traditional brainstorming groups came up with the very best ideas. They also came up with the very worst ones. In other words, their results' quality varied much more than did the hybrid group's results. The hybrid group produced more ideas that were, on average, of higher quality. But, as Girotra notes, "when it comes to innovation, the extremes are what matter - not the norm and not the average." So, if both groups work for the same amount of time, the traditional brainstorming team "significantly outperforms" the hybrid group when it comes to producing the best ideas, according to the authors.
This finding contradicts most existing literature on the subject, which tends to conclude that while working in teams is more satisfying, working alone generates the most effective ideas."
SENSINGTHE MAIN WORK OF ADOPTION
Articulating a new possibility that would bring value to the community by addressing an issue or seizing an opportunity.
Building a compelling, engaging story of how the world would be better if the possibility were made real. more…
OFFERINGTHE ENVIRONMENT FOR THESE OTHER PRACTICES
Presenting a proposed practice and its benefits to a community and its leaders so that they commit to consider it.
Getting community members to commit to adopt the practice for the first time, reserving the option of dropping it if not satisfied after a trial period.
Getting community members to commit to the practice for an extended period, integrating it into their other practices, standards, incentives, and processes, and making it productive for its useful life.
EXECUTINGThe authors elaborate:
Coordinating actions, planning and carrying out all individual and team commitments needed to support adoption and deliver its value.
Working proactively to produce the essential outcomes of the other practices, overcoming obstacles, building and maintaining trust, and sustaining the leader’s own commitment.
Practicing the other practices until you can perform them automatically without conscious thought, and helping the community members embody the practice they are adopting.
ON MESSES, COLLABORATION AND INNOVATIONFrom The Innovator's Way: Essential Practices for Successful Innovation
"Messes are intransigent social situations that people want to exit but feel stuck in. While some messes may be irresolvable, we can often find ways out of messes through seven basic strategies augmenting the eight practices: declare, learn, question the paradigm, blend, develop a “we”, lead collaboration, and develop shared promises. Collaboration is at their core.
Collaboration is a practice of creating new observers and new possible actions together, in a mood of commitment to take care of the concerns of all parties as best possible. Through collaboration, a community creates a solution to a messy problem that takes care of all their concerns at the same time. Collaboration does not mean that community members give up or comprise their dearest concerns. It means they design a solution that recognizes their concerns. The process often leads to a reconfiguration of everyone’s concerns. The hallmark of successful collaboration is the experience of solidarity and new energy: a “we”.
History tells us that resolutions of messes are likely to be disruptive innovations. The reason is that the paradigm (belief system) hosting the mess does not allow the new thinking needed to resolve the mess. Only a belief-changing innovation driven by an entrepreneurial mindset will succeed. This is why many in the mess feel threatened about the prospect of a solution. The solution may challenge everything connected with the mess, including social power structures and deep beliefs."
In order to fulfill our mission, we will:
• Build a self-sustaining laboratory that will spur an open culture of innovation at both the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and in the associated cross-school programs of engineering, cinema, art, education, business and music.
• Enable faculty and students to learn, create and collaborate in a context that values diverse expertise, and to develop projects that have both practical application and social impact in the world at large.
• Create a meeting ground for world-class academics and students to engage with innovative firms, organizations, and communities that will define the media landscape for the next century.Sean Kelly was a 2012 USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Fellow.
"The roadmap for how to do things has disappeared. In the business world, creativity is now the number-one quality that head hunters are looking for in top-level chief executives. Most of the elite business schools in the country now have courses on creativity, and many Fortune 500 companies have hired creativity consultants. Creativity isn’t just for starving artists and musicians any more."And Dr. Carson knows that creativity can, and must, be taught.
"What we have found in recent years in the neuroscience of creativity is that highly creative people tend to activate certain neural patterns in their brain when they are solving a creative problem or doing creative work. We have also found through biofeedback programs and other types of cognitive behavioral research that it is possible to change your brain activation patterns. Therefore we can mimic the brain activation of highly creative people."Read more of the Globe interview.
"The trick is in understanding networks that connect our brain’s “hot spots” for creative thought, and then developing the ability to “turn on” these networks. Each of us is stronger in some areas than others – some are great at brainstorming but weak in follow-through. Others experience creative block because they’re too critical or inhibited. And some people squelch their imaginations when they’re feeling low, rather than recognize that there is creative potential in a negative mood."Based on the latest findings in neuroscience using brain imaging and neuropsychological testing, combined with interviews with hundreds of creative achievers, Dr. Carson's book constructs a set of seven brain states, through the acronym CREATES, standing for: Connect, Reason, Envision, Absorb, Transform, Evaluate, and Stream – and she describes how these "brainsets" relate to creativity, productivity, and innovation.