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The Innovator's Insights

  • How to Deal Better with Conflicts at Work

    Picture all the people at work with whom you regularly come into contact. If you’re like most people, your colleagues fall into one of four categories: Cool, okay, at times irritating, or really annoying. Now, what if you had a tool to better understand the dynamics behind conflicts at work, learn ways to handle them, and discover why the people who trouble you most should be your best friends?

    Background: How TIPS links to conflict at work

    TIPS is a new cognitive profiling tool that I’ve created for my innovation company Thinkergy. The method uses four home bases (theories, ideas, people, systems) and four styles (thinking, working, interacting, and living) to profile people into 11 innovator types.

    I created TIPS to point individuals and companies towards how everyone can contribute to a firm’s innovation efforts. However, the method has also many business applications, such as: pointing people towards a career environment that suits their talents; composing and aligning effective work teams; managing people according to their preferred styles; and others.

    TIPS can also help explain why some people clash at work. Such conflicts are grounded in different fundamental value orientations and cognitive styles. TIPS’ four bases and four styles can help us understand the situational dynamics that trigger work conflicts.

    How TIPS helps understand the conflict dynamics at work

    Let’s explore the conflict dynamics at work between the four TIPS bases, and how they relate to each of the four TIPS styles. Visualize a grid containing two rows and two squares each. Clockwise from top left, they read T-I-P-S:

    • Your “cool” colleagues tend to belong to the same TIPS base, as they share your core values: theories, theses and truth at the T-base; ideas, inspiration and innovation at the I-base; people, partnership and party at the P-base; or systems, structure and status at the S-base. They also prefer the same styles of thinking, working, interacting and living. So when people are essentially alike, they tend to like and respect each other, and the conflict potential here is “no” to “very low”.
    • Your “okay” colleagues belong to the base that vertically connects to yours (T vs. S and I vs. P). They occasionally disagree with you because they prefer a different work style (brain vs. brawn), which influences what kind of work we enjoy and how we prefer to schedule a work day. “Brainy” T- and I-workers love to think their way through conceptual projects that they work on in longer time blocks of 3-4 hours. In contrast, “brawny” S and P-workers enjoy laboring through a To Do list full of short-term tasks scheduled in much shorter intervals of 15-30 minutes. In roughly one in four work situations (often related to scheduling meetings or agreeing on completion times), these work style differences lead to frictions with people who are otherwise “okay”.
    • Your “irritating” colleagues belong to the TIPS bases that are horizontally opposite of yours (T vs. I and S vs. P). Here, arguments occur because your preferred thinking styles differ (figure vs. fantasy). For example, T-people logically deduce the one right solution by following a sequential flow, while I-people synthesize many solutions by connecting the dots between concepts in a more freewheeling style. When looking at each other’s solution, T-thinkers say I-thinkers have no proof to substantiate their solution logically; I-thinkers counter that the scientific approach of the T-thinkers is too slow, linear, and narrow in possible solutions. Such cognitive differences between Figure and Fantasy thinkers lead to disputes in every other work situation.
    • Your “really annoying” colleagues belong to a home base that is diagonally across your own one (T vs. P and S vs. I). Here, we can expect clashes in ca. three out of four work situations, as both thinking and work styles differ. Moreover, they also differ from you in either preferred interaction style or lifestyle:
      • Because of substantial differences in interaction styles (fact vs. feeling), expect frequent annoyances or hurt feelings when T- and P-people cross paths. Why? T-people make a case and decide based on facts and hard evidence. They argue in a direct, logical and often blunt way that offends sensitive P-people, who consider the feelings of others and are more emotional. On the other hand, “touchy-feely” P-people may annoy more aloof T people by invading their space and —heaven help— even engaging in physical contact.
      • A second major conflict zone runs across the S- and I-bases, given the differences in preferred lifestyle (form vs. flow). Highly dynamic I-people love to take risks, drive change and shake things up. This infuriates S-people, who greatly dislike anyone upsetting the status quote by “rocking the boat”, proposing to “fix something that ain’t broke”, or even proposing a crazy idea of a revolutionary new product. S-people want to preserve the status quo and cherish trusted rituals and past traditions, while I people love to create a better future and radical progress. Because they prefer living in different worlds, S- and I-people are prone to clash often at work.

    In conclusion, we may sum up that the conflict potential between the TIPS bases in the following likelihoods: 0% within a base; 25% between bases on the same vertical axis; 50% between bases on the same horizontal axis; and 75% between bases who are vertically across. However, please note that in all cases, the conflict potential can rise by another 25% due to occasional “clashes of egos” or “cat fights” that may break out between two individuals for reasons other than differences in their core values or preferred cognitive styles.

    What can we do to moderate and mitigate conflicts at work?

    So, now that you know why you get along so well with some colleagues and regularly have issues with others, how can we use these insights to reduce, moderate and mitigate conflicts? Here are four tips:

    1. Differences divide, diversity enriches. Every TIPS base and profile has it’s value and place in business. Good work performance and harmony arise from finding the right mix of talents and styles at the right time.
    2. I’m okay, you’re okay, everyone is okay. Many conflicts at work aren’t personal, but rather related to different value orientations and variations in the preferred styles of thinking, working, interacting and living. Make an effort to appreciate other points of view. Follow Stephen Covey’s advice: “First seek to understand, then to be understood.”
    3. Find moderators to bridge conflicts. Colleagues who express both TIPS bases or styles in their profile can help moderating conflicts. For example, Conceptualizers are ideal to cool an intellectual dispute between a Theorist and an Ideator because of their thinking style (figure and fantasy). Or use a Coach (located on the diagonal axis connecting the T and P bases) to moderate a conflict between a Theorist and Partner.
    4. Opposites complement. Who are your “new best friends at work” — or who should they be? Those colleagues who most annoy you. Why? Because they are strong in all those areas where you are weak; because they enjoy doing those things that you dislike doing; and because they value those aspects of business that you prefer to ignore. They cover your shadow-side, just like you light up their shadow. You balance each other’s energy to provide a Yin-Yang harmony, and like night complements day, and female complements male, so your colleagues located opposite your position on the TIPS profiling map complement you.

    How does TIPS extend to all the profiles?

    So far, we have only discussed the conflict potential between the four TIPS bases. How does the conflict potential break down when we look at each of the 11 TIPS profiles?

    • For the four pure TIPS profiles (Theorist, Ideator, Partner and Systematizer), we simply can adopt the indicative conflict potential likelihoods mentioned before to see how well they get along with each. For example, I am an Ideator, and I have hardly any issues with other Ideators (0%), occasional issues with Partners (25%), regular arguments with Theorists (50%), and frequent clashes with Systematizers (75%). With regards to how a pure profile relates to the other profiles, we can estimate an indicative conflict potential based on the averages of the conflict potentials between two bases.
    • For the dual TIPS profiles, the biggest conflict potential (75%) is with the profile on the opposite end of the TIPS map: Technocrats vs. Promoters, Conceptualizers vs. Organizers, and Coaches vs. Experimenters. We can also predict the conflict likelihood with other profiles by considering the differences in style and values between each profile combination.
    • But what if you profile as an All-Rounder in TIPS? Well, All-Rounders feel home on all four TIPS bases, so they get along great with each other and well with everyone else (no issues with other All-Rounders, and 25% conflict potential with all other profiles).

    Would you like to learn more about TIPS? Are you interested in determining your personal TIPS innovator profile? Would you like to profile your team with our online personality test? Or maybe even learn about TIPS in an experiential 1-day training course, The TIPS Innovation Profiling Workshop? Contact us and let us know more about your needs and how we may support you.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

    Acknowledgement: Robert “Alan” Black, Ph.D., a well-known US creativity coach for over four decades, was the person who brought to my attention how conflicts at work may relate to differences in people’s preferred cognitive styles. My estimates on the likelihoods of conflicts between certain bases and profiles align with Dr. Alan’s numbers, which he based on research findings in his Ph.D. thesis and observations in the field while facilitating workshops on creativity and his own cognitive profiling method (M.I.N.D. Design).


  • Why and how to protect your intellectual property

    In the last column, we discussed how investing in innovation pays dividends, and how much of a premium innovators (and their investors) can enjoy over their less innovative peers. That is, provided they’ve also secured the intellectual property rights of their innovations.

    What is intellectual property?

    At the end of the 19th century, intellectual property (IP) was formally recognized in two treaties: the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883) and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1886).

    According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which oversees both treaties, intellectual property refers to creations of the mind or intellect. Creators can file an application to be assigned the exclusive ownership of their creations, which can be inventions or discoveries; artistic works including literature and music; and symbols, names, phrases, designs and images used commercially.

    What are the most important types of intellectual property rights?

    Like any property right for tangible goods and assets, IP rights let creators (IP owners) benefit from their own creative work and the upfront investment in time, money and other resources. IP rights include patents, industrial design rights, trademarks and copyright:

    • Patents ensure that inventions cannot be commercially made, used, distributed or sold without the patent owner’s approval. Inventors can file a patent application for a product or a process (that provides a new way of doing something, or that offers a new technical solution to a problem). To be granted the patent, the applicant must credibly demonstrate that the invention is novel, original and useful (in short: creative), and that it introduces an “inventive step” that a person with average knowledge of the technical domain cannot deduce.
    • Industrial design rights protect new and original (but non-functional) ornamental or aesthetic aspects (such as shapes, patterns, lines, or colors) of an industrial product or handicraft. They are applied to a wide range of products, including technical and medical instruments watches, jewelry and other luxury items; house wares, electrical appliances, vehicles, architectural structures,; textiles and leisure goods, among others.
    • Trademarks are distinctive signs that signal to customers that certain products or services are made or provided by a trusted company or individual,  not by a counterfeiter. Trademarks may include words, letters and numerals, drawings, symbols and three-dimensional signs, such as the shape and packaging of goods (think of the shape of a Coca-Cola bottle, the logo and the ribbon).
    • Copyright protects the literary and artistic “works” of authors, artists and other creators. These include novels, poems, plays, reference works, newspapers, advertisements, software, databases, films, music, choreography, paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture, architecture, maps, technical drawings, web content, TV and sound recordings, among others.

    Other IP rights are geographical indications (such as “Swiss” or “Made in Germany”) including appellations of origin (e.g., “Bordeaux”, wine, “Champagne”, “Prosciutto di Parma”, “Habana” cigars) as well as trade secrets (in some jurisdictions only).

    Why should innovators secure their intellectual property?

    Innovators and content creators deserve financial compensation for their often substantial upfront investments of time, money and other resources, as well as a reputational reward for their creativity. They can monetize their intellectual property either by marketing it directly or by licensing or selling it to others.

    IP rights also protect consumers and society from criminal counterfeiters and “cheap” copycats eager to free-ride on innovations without investing their own time, money and brainpower.

    Moreover, patents in particular expand the total body of technical knowledge and stimulate further creativity and innovation, as patent owners need to publicly disclose information on their inventions in exchange for protection.

    How about creators who openly share work, such as open source software, with others for free? Clearly, such “open creation” is noble; however, these creators run the risk that others will monetize all or parts of their inventions and creations, and maybe secure the IP rights for themselves.

    My personal view is this: the more you can monetize your novel, original and meaningful creations, the more money you have to invest in future creative project, the more additional innovations you can produce, the more additional money you make to invest and grow, and the more serious other business players will take you. That is, provided all others play by the rules of IP laws.

    The dark side of intellectual property

    Does investing in securing IP rights mean that you’re always protected? Unfortunately not. Why?

    1. First, as with any physical assets, some people like to take from someone else what they want without paying for it. As Steve Jobs noted: “Stealing things is everybody’s problem. We [Apple]own a lot of intellectual property, and we don’t like when people steal it. So people are stealing stuff and we’re optimists.”
    2. Second, you may not be able to enforce your IP rights for various reasons. Smaller players may lack the deep pockets and screwed IP lawyers to fight a lengthy IP infringement lawsuit with several levels of appeals against a multinational or large local corporate player.
    3. Third, in developing countries with corrupt or nationalistic judiciary, even reputable multinational corporations regularly lose lawsuits against local parties that blatantly violated IP rights.

    As such, being right and having done everything right to protect your intellectual property still doesn’t mean that you’re protected against bullying and unfair practices.

    How do the different IP rights connect to the modern innovation typology?

    Copyrights and patents typically relate to products or other value offerings (value innovation). In contrast, trademarks and industrial design rights are mostly linked to innovation types that leverage value offerings through magnification, such as brand design and packaging design (leverage innovation). Finally, copyrighted works may either relate to a value innovation (products, solutions) but may also be magnifying leverage innovations (such as advertisement campaign designs).

    This article will be part of a new book that I am currently working on, The Beginner’s Guide to Innovation (targeted for publication in 2Q.2018 by Motivational Press). Intellectual property protection is also one of many other topics that we touch upon in Thinkergy’s executive innovation training. Let us know if you’re interested to learn more about our trainings or my upcoming book.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 


  • How Innovation Affects Financial Performance

    Does innovation really deliver tangible financial results a company? Do investments in innovation yield a positive return? Does innovation pay? And if yes, how much positive impact does it have on financial performance?

    Tracking the innovation premium

    In 2006, BusinessWeek magazine and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) jointly devised a ranking of the world’s 25 most innovative companies. The list was led by Apple, Google, and 3M, and also included Toyota, Microsoft, General Electric, Procter & Gamble, Nokia, Starbucks, IBM, Virgin and Samsung, among others. Then, they compared the profit margins and stock prices of these Top 25 innovators with the median for all companies in the Standard & Poor’s Global 1200 index over a 10-year time period.

    The Top 25 innovators delivered median profit margin growth of 3.4% a year from 1995-2005, compared with 0.4% for the S&P’s Global 1200. This striking difference, which BW attributed “in large parts to innovation”, also showed when comparing the median annual stock returns of both groups: The Top 25 innovators yielded 14.3% over the 10 years, a full three percentage points better than the S&P 1200 median. No wonder that BusinessWeek titled the article “Creativity Pays. Here’s How Much”.

    In a follow-up study in 2009, BCG found a similar result: Innovative companies achieved significantly higher total shareholder return premiums  — 4.3% higher over three years and 2.6% higher over 10 years — than their less innovative industry peers. Interestingly, the figures for Asia-Pacific were much higher, at 17.7% over three years and 5.5% over 10 years, suggesting that it pays even more to lead innovation in traditionally less innovative environments.

    One of the most dramatic examples of superior stock performance by an innovator is Apple. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple on July 9 1997, the firm was on the verge of bankruptcy and its stock closed at $0.49 (in today’s prices after various share splits in between). Ten years later, the share price had soared to $18.62, a multiple of 38 times. Twenty years later, the price had skyrocketed to $145.06, a multiple of nearly 300. Had you purchased two Apple shares for one dollar on the day of Steve Jobs’ return, they were now worth nearly $300.

    So, 20 years of fanatical focus on innovation at Apple led to tremendous value, not only for consumers who benefited from groundbreaking innovations such as the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad, but also for Apple shareholders who reaped massive wealth gains. 

    Investing in design pays too, as several studies have confirmed:

    • A 2007 study by the British Design Council found that design-focused firms didn’t need to compete on price as much as their peers. Every £100 they invested in design increased turnover by £225, and their shares outperformed key stock market indices by 200%.
    • In a 2014 Harvard Business Review article, Jeneanne Rae introduced the Design Value Index, a new tool to track the financial performance of design-centric companies against those that are not. When comparing the stock performance of 15 design-focused companies it showed that over 10 years, shares of design-centric firms (such as Target, Walt Disney or Nike) beat the S&P index by 228%.

    To summarize, all the aforementioned study findings suggest that investing in innovation and design pays huge dividends for companies and their shareholders alike.

    Why do innovative firms perform better financially?

    BCG found that innovative companies tend to grow faster, have richer product mixes than their peers, expand into adjacent or new categories (especially if these promise higher margins), and produce more patents than less innovative companies.

    Innovative companies also enjoy higher profit margins because customers are willing to pay higher prices for more innovative products perceived to offer more value than ‘plain vanilla’ products.

    Innovative companies can charge even higher prices for their more innovative value offering (products, services, solutions and experiences) if they also invest in standout design, which further magnifies the perceived value in the eyes of their customers.

    Ergo, they enjoy considerably higher operating profit margins — and the best innovators even amplify those further through operational innovations (such as optimized processes and innovative structures) that allow them to produce superior value at a lower cost base than their peers.

    Moreover, innovative products sell faster and more frequently than normal ones, thus boosting revenues further, especially if the top innovators also multiply revenues through the leverage innovation types.

    Mapping out the financial dynamics and implications of innovation investments

    We can sum-up the financial performance implication of investing in innovations as follows:

    1. Innovative value offerings sell at higher prices and in higher volumes, both of which increase revenues. The higher the value differential, the higher the revenue growth driven by both price and volumes.
    2. Firms that magnify the perception of value of their products (and other value offerings) through design can achieve higher prices, which again boosts revenues and increases (operating) profit margins.
    3. Likewise, companies who make operational innovations typically can produce their value offerings at lower costs, which also increases profit margins (albeit to a much lower degree).
    4. Companies that market a value proposition through innovative channels, networks, platforms, partnerships and business models can multiply their revenues even further.
    5. Strong revenue and profit margin growth increase the demand for a company’s stock and its share price, and may trigger a positively reinforcing loop. If the innovative company shares part of its superior profits with its investors in the form of dividends, the share price and demand for the stock rise even further. A rising share price increases market capitalization, and over time the company shifts from being a potential acquisition target to being a dominant player with amble opportunities for strategic acquisitions.

    Conclusion: Embrace innovation and invest in innovative firms, as innovative firms deliver a noticeably better financial performance compared to the market average. It’s seems to be a safe bet to increase your wealth in the long run. As Warren Buffet put it: “Value is what you get.”

    Contact us to let us know how we can help you improve your financial performance with our innovation solutions.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • What Keywords Reveal About People’s Personality

    Mahatma Gandhi once said: “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.” If you want to find out more about people’s core beliefs and thoughts, pay close attention to the words they’re using regularly. Today, I’d like to tell you what these keywords can tell you about someone’s personality, and how you can use these insights for making better decisions when recruiting talent or selecting candidates for talent development.

    Cognitive profiling method in talent acquisition and development

    Nowadays, many companies use personality profiling methods —often long-established tools with well-known acronyms such as MBTI, DISC or HBTI— to learn about the preferred styles of employees, managers and prospective recruits. But what if a candidate intentionally cheats by ticking certain answer options that don’t reflect their true style, but promise to help them landing that job, or getting into that fancy talent development program?

    Enter TIPS and a solution to the personality test dilemma

    TIPS is a cognitive profiling tool that I’ve created for Thinkergy. TIPS stands for four base orientations (theories, ideas, people, systems) that reflect how social and economic change unfolds over time. The TIPS bases also capture basic value orientations, allowing us to check if people fudge their test answers. How?

    Imagine you’re applying for a talent development program focused on innovation. You’re keen to get into this company-sponsored program, because it allows you to learn more about this “hot” topic and to increase both your internal career chances and external employability. But deep down you don’t consider yourself a “creative” person.

    Now imagine being asked to do a cognitive profiling test as part of the selection process. The test questionnaire has certain answer options that allow you to assert how creative you are. What will you do?

    I don’t know about your response, but some candidates will intentionally tick the “wrong” answer options that favorably portray themselves as a creative type and increase their odds of being selected for the program.

    TIPS addresses this problem in two ways:

    • First, I designed the test so that someone who tries to “game” the result will either end up with a balanced All-Rounder profile in the middle of the TIPS profiling map, or get a test score that just edges into one of the other 10 TIPS profiles.
    • Second, if the latter happens, we pay attention to the words that such “borderline” candidates use in a final interview to find out if they really lean more towards one the other TIPS profiles or are rather All-Rounders.  

     

    The keywords to listen for in TIPS

    What are typical keywords that people with different TIPS profiles enjoy using? I recently jotted down a number of them while interviewing 50 applicants for an innovation talent development program (whom we had earlier tested for their TIPS profile). Let’s first get a flavor for the language favored by the four pure TIPS profiles (Theorist, Ideator, Partner, and Systematizer) who rest solely on one TIPS base: 

    • Sitting at the top left Theories-base of the TIPS Map, Theorists  emphasize their passion for the truth through expressions such as “honestly speaking”, “if I am honest”, or “to tell the truth”. They use “reason” and are “reasonable”, and consider the “facts” or “evidence”. They “confront” people who talk nonsense, take intellectual short-cuts, or are not up to a job. They enjoy “thinking” in a “logical” way and use their “knowledge” to build an “argument”. They “define” concepts and “problems” and “weigh pros and cons” involved in a case. Their favorite question particle is “why”.
    • At the bottom-right People-base, Partners are in many ways a flip side of Theorists. They “enjoy” using verbs like “feel”, “touch”, “share”, “help”, “follow” and “lead”. They talk about “teamwork” and “partnerships”. They “care” for “people” and their “team” and “leader”, and cherish a work place that feels like “home” and “family”. Adjectives such as “happy”, “human” and “emotional” predominate. They also enjoy talking about “sales” and “closing deals”. For a Partner, the most important question is “who”.
    • Floating at the Ideas base on the top-right, Ideators like to use creative action verbs like “create”, “innovate, “make it better” or “make it happen”. They love to talk about “change”, “ideas” and “opportunities”, and use adjectives like “dynamic”, “entrepreneurial” and “meaningful”. You’ll hear a lot of “new” phrases — “new ideas”, “new products”, “new services”, “new business”, “new concepts”. Ideators enjoy formulating a lot of “what”-questions.
    • Anchored at the Systems-base on the bottom left, Systematizers are “accurate”, “diligent” and “responsible”. They enjoy talking about the “system” and “processes” that they “implement” and “optimize”. They “manage” “performance”. They make sure that everyone is “compliant” and “follows the rules”. As the profile most concerned with the past, they often use words with the prefix “re-” (meaning either “again” or “again and again” to indicate repetition, or “back” or “backward” to indicate withdrawal or backward motion): so, Systematizers “review”, “remove” and “renovate” where Ideators “view”, “move” and “innovate”. When Systematizers ask questions, they often start with “how” — including “how much” and “how many”.

    How about the keywords of the six dual TIPS profiles (Conceptualizer, Promoter, Organizer, Technocrat, Coach and Experimenter)? Because they locate between two bases, they tend to borrow a lot of the words from the neighboring two profiles at each base. However, each dual profile type also employs certain words that hint at their dual profile. Let’s look at some two sample profiles here:

    • Sitting in between the Theories  and Ideas bases on the top line of the TIPS map, Conceptualizerslove to “learn” about new “tools”, “methods” and “technologies” that they then “apply” or “teach”. They enjoy thinking “big” and focusing on the “big picture”. They enjoy asking “what”  or “why” questions.
    • Promoters connect Ideas with People (on the right side of the TIPS map). They are “lively” and “expressive”, “stylish” and “easy”-going. Promoters enjoy “life” and having “fun”, and love to “communicate” and “convince” people and to “present” in front of them. Promoters tend to ask a lot of questions starting with “what” or “who”.

    Conclusion: Your TIPS profile is hidden in your words — and so is mine and everybody else’s. The keywords that we frequently use in conversations reveal what we value and what makes us tick. So, first pay attention to your own keywords to get hints of your profile. Then, enjoy listening to the conversations of others to learn more about what makes them tick and what personality type they probably have.

    And what if you want to know for sure and do the TIPS online personality test for yourself or your team?  Contact us to find out how you can purchase a coupon for our online personality test.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 


  • How Cyclicality Drives Business and Innovation

    What do the state of the economy, a product, a corporate venture, a leading technology, the four seasons, and living things such as human beings have in common? All evolve and revolve in cycles, in “waves of change”. And as innovation means meaningful change, it often kick-starts a new cycle. Today, let’s understand how cyclicality influences the flow of business and innovation.

    What is cyclicality?

    Cyclicality can be defined as the property or characteristic of being cyclical or revolving in cycles. Cycles are series of events that are regularly repeated in the same order. Many business and economic developments unfold in a cycle comprising several distinct stages over a certain period of time. Just like a wave flows up and down, a particular economic development moves upwards until it reaches a peak, then falls and ebbs out in a trough.

    When tracking a particular cyclical flow in business, we can distinguish between three factors — the type of cycle, its stages and its duration:

    • The cycle type captures what kind of business parameters a cycle describes and how it is measured. Think of a product or company life cycle, a business or economic cycle, and long cycles that capture pace-setting technologies.
    • A cycle typically unfolds in distinct stages. Many business cycles unfold in four stages that some economists likened these to the four seasons: spring (growth), summer (peak), autumn (decline), and winter (trough).
    • Finally, the cycle duration captures how long it takes to complete a full cycle. Some cycles in business are short-lived and complete after a couple of quarters, many take years, and some are long-term and unfold over decades.

    What are types of cycles in business?

    Let’s look at the four most important cycles in business that leaders and innovators should be aware of:

    • The product life cycle captures how a product evolves in the market by tracking its sales and profits over time. Typical stages that the product lifecycle concept distinguishes are development and introduction (spring), growth (summer), maturity (autumn), and decline (winter). The duration varies in different industries: fashion companies think in months, tech ventures in quarters, fast-moving consumer goods companies in years, and energy companies in decades.
    • The company life cycle often maps the stages of the product life cycle. A startup creates and launches an innovative product (spring). Then, it evolves into growth- and sales-focused small- and medium-sized enterprise (summer), which later matures into an established large corporation (autumn) that eventually begins its long, steady decline (winter) before it is closed down. A recent World Economic forum study put the average life span of today’s multinational, Fortune 500-size corporation is 40 to 50 years; interestingly, corporate life spans have shortened in recent years.
    • The business cycle (or economic cycle) captures upward and downward movements of a country’s economy as measured by the gross domestic product. These GDP fluctuations involve shifts between periods of dynamic economic growth (expansions and booms) and periods of decline and stagnation (recessions and depressions). For example, the US economy passed through 11 business cycles from 1945 to 2009, with the average cycle lasting about 69 months, or a little less than six years. Expansions tend to last longer than contractions (58 months vs. 11 months for the US).
    • Long cycles describe major technological shifts that happen in long waves of four to six decades, known as Kondratiev waves for the Russian economist who uncovered these tech-driven long cycles. In the last 235 years, we have passed through five such long cycles, each of which was driven by distinct lead technologies: Water power, textiles and iron led the first wave (1785-1845), followed by steam, railway and steel (1845-1900), electricity, chemicals and automobiles (1900-1950) and petrochemicals, aviation, and electronics (1950-1990). The current fifth wave is driven by digital networks, software, and new media (1990-2020). The  sixth wave (2020-2045) is expected to be driven by clean technologies that promote resource efficiency. Interestingly, the duration of the long waves shortens with each new one — and so does the average life span of corporations.

    These four major cycle types not only connect to each other, but also influence many other phenomena in business. For example, the stock market tends to move with the business cycle. Industries (and the technologies that get them started) move into a new season with each new long wave. Moreover, each long wave comprises five or more business cycles. Some analysts even suggest that peace and war cycles can be explained with the help of long waves.

    Why is it important to track cyclicality in business?

    Depending on the season (or cycle phase), a business needs to have a different focus, embrace a different leadership type, and shoot for a different type of creativity:

    • In spring, focus on creating new value (a product or technology) and of launching it in the market. This phase requires upfront investment and an agile creative leader who drives fast, meaningful change. Creativity is often technology-driven and pushes for bold, revolutionary ideas.
    • In summer, the focus shifts to customers and sales. Here, a people-oriented leader is the best choice to entice customers and motivate the team to reach ambitious growth targets. Creativity is marketing- and customer-driven and targets more evolutionary ideas.
    • In autumn, revenue growth flattens but profitability is still high. Now, a business needs to consolidate its growth with stable operations. The ideal leader here is a person focused on operational excellence and getting things done. Creativity focuses on practical improvements and customer service.
    • In winter, the emphasis shifts to setting up efficient, well-structured processes and systems that allow for scaling the business. As revenues and profits start to decline, the best leader is someone who enjoys tracking performance and enforcing organizational efficiency and financial discipline. Creativity targets incremental improvements of products and processes following an adaptive approach.

    Interested to learn more about this? Contact us to learn more about how to master cyclicality and successfully ride the waves of change in our innovation training courses.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 


  • Understanding the Inner Workings of Innovation Methods

    Have you ever wondered what an innovation process method is? And what it’s good for? And how it works? Today, let’s answer these questions and find out what innovation methods are good for and all have in common.

    Setting the scene:

    What if you were assigned to lead a new innovation project to develop a new product? What concrete work activities do you need to do? Please take a moment to think about this scenario.

    So what innovation project-related activities have you come up with? When I give graduate students and delegates in innovation training courses a few minutes to think about this, typical  answers that emerge include:

    “Brainstorm for ideas” … “Implement the idea” … “Do market research” … “Create a prototype” … “Analyze our competitors and their products” … “Pitch our idea” … “Look at trends” … “Ship the product” … “Select the best ideas” … “Empathize with the users” … “Frame the innovation challenge” … “Calculate the expected return on investment from an idea” … “Check on project-related facts and evidence” … “Evaluate ideas” … and so on.

    Have thought of some of the above — or something similar? If so: congratulations. You’re on track to becoming an innovator if you do such things. But here is another important question:

    WHAT exactly do we need to DO and WHEN to get WHAT kind of RESULTS?

    Or put in other words: What activities do we need to perform when in an innovation project do produce what kind of outputs? To answer these questions, a few people who enjoy thinking about such things (including myself) have created different kinds of innovation methods.

    What are innovation methods?

    Innovation methods (sometimes called creative problem-solving methods or creative processes) are systematic process flows that outline the steps and cognitive activities that an individual or a team needs to follow while thinking their way through an innovation challenge, or while working on solving a problem creatively.

    What are prominent examples of innovation methods?

    Going back on the work of the creativity pioneers Alex Osborne and Sid Parnes, the classic Creative Problem-Solving Model (CPS) is probably the longest-serving and best-known process method. Others include Design Thinking (created by the Palo Alto-based innovation company IDEO and its academic offspring, the D-School at Stanford University); the “Idea Machine” of the Swiss innovation company Brainstorm; or Systematic Inventive Thinking created by the Israeli company of the same name, among others. Finally, X-IDEA is an up-and-coming new innovation method that I created for Thinkergy.

    Why are innovation methods useful?

    All innovation process methods are based on the belief that if you follow a systematic thinking process, you will get better ideas and results compared to when you think through an innovation project in a largely unstructured way. Why?

    Innovation projects are messy and lengthy affairs. They may last anything from a few days to weeks, months or even years. They often involve a smaller core team and dozens of supporters who join in for certain activities (such as idea generation). They also produce large amounts of interim outputs (for example, dozens of new insights or hundreds of raw ideas) needed to eventually arrive at a final innovation deliverable.

    An elegant, well-designed and effective innovation process method can cut through the messiness and safely guide an individual or team towards meaningful results. It provides focus to the innovation efforts by specifying what do to next to produce the outputs needed in the subsequent steps.

    How do innovation methods work in general?

    An innovation method provides you with a systematic order of work or thinking steps: First do this, then that, then do a third thing, followed by another task, until you eventually  conclude the process. Most innovation processes propose a linear sequence of steps and associated cognitive activities / work tasks that wanna-be-innovators need to perform while working on a case.

    Some innovation methods are more detailed and comprehensive than others and require more steps and related work activities. But while it allows innovators to work more thoroughly, more steps and details also make it harder for novices to learn the method  — and for facilitators to keep track of the correct order of doing things.

    To resolve this potential conflict between high accuracy and simplicity, some innovation methods aggregate three or more process steps on a higher level of abstraction in a process stage. For example, looking through the activities listed in our “warm-up exercise”, we may integrate “Evaluate ideas”, “Prototype ideas” and “Select the best ideas” in a stage that we call “Evaluation”.

    Consequently, more thorough innovation process methods such as Design Thinking or X-IDEA consist of typically 3-5 process stages, with each stage having subordinated work steps.

    Finally, many innovation process methods imply circularity on two levels:

    • On a micro-level, you may have to circle back to the previous step to repeat the related work activities whenever you notice that the inputs form the preceding step are insufficient in quality or quality to produce the desired outputs in the current step.
    • On a macro-level, circularity means that once you’ve successfully completed an innovation project, you start a new one. Enter a new project into your innovation process method, and take step one in stage one.

    Which innovation method should you adopt?

    Please don’t ask me. I have a clear recommendation for you, and I admit I am biased. But after putting on a neutral thinker cap, I advise would to proceed as follows:

    1. Select an innovation method that promises to fit your situation with regards to:
      (a) how often you do innovation projects,
      (b) how sophisticated or simple you want the method to be, and
      (c) what innovation types you typically pursue.
    2. Then, experiment with different creative processes and innovation methods.
    3. Continue trying out the different innovation methods until you find the one that best suits your innovation needs and fits your people.

    Would you love to learn more about the X-IDEA innovation method and our related trainingcourses and innovation project workshops? Contact us and tell us more about your company and innovation needs.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • The ten rules of the innovation types game (Part 2)

    A couple weeks ago, I introduced to you a systematic scheme to organize modern innovation types on three levels: operational, value and leverage innovations. We discussed some of the main innovation types and their position in those three hierarchical levels. Then, we looked at the first four rules of using innovation types: #1. Play to stay in the game. #2. You won’t win with a strong defense only. #3. Create meaningful new value first. #4. Shift the value differential in your favor. Today, let’s learn more about the remaining six rules of the innovation types game.

    Rule #5: Leverage meaningful value only.

    Once you have created a meaningful new value proposition (a new product, service, solution, or experience), you can move to the top level of innovation types and leverage it. Why do you need to wait until you know your value differential is good? Leverage is a neutral agent. It boosts your reputation and profits if your value wows your customers, and it can sink your firm if your value proposition sucks.

    In order to leverage a value offering, you can use two different strategies (and related innovation types):

    • Leverage through multiplication helps you sell your creation dozens, hundreds, thousands, and even millions of times. Innovation types that leverage through multiplication are channel innovation (physical and virtual distribution), network innovation (strategic partnerships, physical and virtual networks, and digital platforms), and business model innovation (multiplying revenues through new ways to get paid for your value).
    • Leverage through magnification: Make your product appear more valuable in the eyes of your customers through a strong brand, cool campaigns or sensual packaging. If you successfully magnify the value perception, you entice customers to pay more and thus increase your margin.

    Rule #6: Strategy innovation to redraw the business on all levels.

    Proactive corporations —or those with their backs against the wall— may pursue a strategy innovation project at least once every decade. Strategy innovation aims to create and leverage meaningful new value propositions produced in more cost-effective ways. Ideally done in an uncontested and/or newly emerging market, strategy innovation can lead to sustainable revenue and profit margin growth at a lower cost base by using all three innovation type levels (operations, value creation and leverage).

    For example, Cirque du Soleil reinvented the circus by dropping all the elements perceived as antiquated (animals, clowns, etc.), and keeping and amplifying the artistic and aesthetic elements to deliver artistic, sensational show experiences under a circus tent. Cirque du Soleil enjoys higher profit margins because it created a memorable customer experience magnified through a global acknowledged brand and delivered at reduced cost.

    Rule #7: Innovation leaders play on the full spectrum of innovation types.

    Many companies that lead innovation in their industry have gradually built their dominance by starting with one innovation type, and then adding more and more.

    For example, after Steve Jobs returned as CEO in 1997, Apple created not only super-strong products including game-changing devices (iPhone, iPad) that launched new categories (smartphones and tablets), but also expande repair and training services, opened experiential stores and hosted cult-like product launch events and developer conferences. Apple also created new channels and platforms (iTunes, App Store) to multiply revenues, and is a design-driven company with eclectic brands, sleek packaging and trendy campaigns.

    Rule #8: Focus on “orphan” innovation types.

    Most players in an industry focus their innovation efforts on the same “traditional” innovation types. You can stand out by identifying what your industry is ignoring.

    For example, Nestle started to sell its Nespresso coffee machines and capsules in luxury shopping malls, which was a channel innovation in an industry used to selling coffee in supermarkets or coffee shops.

    Likewise, Tesla Motors and SpaceX achieved prominent positions in electric cars and space transport because Elon Musk’s insistence on developing all required components in-house (a structure innovation that allows them to be faster and cheaper than their industry peers who have outsourced the production of major components to external suppliers).

    Rule #9: Connect the dots on different levels.

    Newcomers to an industry can create new value for customers —and shock incumbents— by combining a focused selection of innovation types on all three levels (operations, value creation and leverage).

    For example, AirBnB has created a digital solution to connect people in need of affordable lodging with people who can supply it. Some guests also get to experience a city like a local and connect with the hosts on a personal level. Likewise, Uber created a meaningful new solution to connect consumers who need car transportation with drivers eager to earn income with their personal vehicles. Uber drivers also provide  transportation services to users living in remote areas where most taxis don’t want to go.

    Both AirBnB and Uber facilitate the match between the demand and supply via mobile apps and websites. These are network innovations that  easily leverage matching solutions and can quickly multiply to different cities and countries. Best of all, unlike their competitors, neither needs to commit any physical assets. AirBnB is now considered the largest accommodation company in the world without owning any hotel room, while Uber is the biggest taxi company without owning any cars. Both have integrated this structure innovation into their business set-up.

    Rule #10: Innovate for the less fortunate through social innovation.

    Social innovation aims to empower the less fortunate and make the world a better place. But how can you actually innovate here? Look at a particular social issue, then pick the innovation type that best suits your challenge.

    For example, micro-finance is a social service innovation of Grameen Bank to reduce poverty in Bangladesh by providing micro-loans to poor women only. In contrast, Greenpeace rights environmental wrongs by creating whopping action campaigns with local, regional or even global impact (social campaign design).

    Would you love to learn how to play with modern innovation types in one of our Thinkergy training courses? Contact us or one of our certified trainers and tell us more about your needs.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • The ten rules of the innovation types game (Part 1)

    When companies pursued innovation in the past, they typically worked on one of two innovation types: product innovation (also called new product development) and process innovation. Over the last two decades, however, a compendium of modern innovation types has emerged that allow companies to play the innovation game in many new ways. But as with any other game, you need to follow a set of rules. In this 2-part article we’ll look at the spectrum of modern innovation types, and then learn more about the 10 rules that you need to understand and follow.

    The spectrum of modern innovation types

    At Thinkergy, we position modern innovation types on three levels related to operations, value creation, and the leverage of a created value offering:

    • Operation innovations locate at the entry level. Companies pursue them to enhance and optimise the operations needed to create value propositions. Here we can see two innovation types: process innovation (redesigning operational processes in leaner, more efficient and cheaper ways) and structure innovation (restructuring the  units and related assets needed for creating value).
    • Value innovations aim to create meaningful, novel and original value propositions. The related innovation types encompass product innovation (developing new products in an established or new category), service innovation (new services offered stand-alone or in connection with a product), solution design (new solutions that address specific problems of business clients or end consumers), and customer experience design (crafting an impactful customer journey full of emotional, sensory-pleasing and “sticky” moments).
    • Finally, leverage innovations aim to allow organizations to multiply revenues or magnify profits from their value propositions. Innovation types include channel innovation (delivering the value through new channel concepts), network innovation (mushrooming analog and digital networks through delivery partnerships and digital platforms), business model innovation (creating new ways to get paid for a given value), brand design (creating an impactful, emotive brand that attracts a tribe of loyal customers), campaign design (crafting moving, clever and effective campaigns) and packaging design (presenting a value offering in elegant, sensory-pleasing and aesthetics coverings).

    Now you have a good overview of modern innovation types, with the exception of strategy innovation and social innovation, which we will cover later. But what about the rules for playing the innovation types game? 

    Rule #1: Play to stay in the game.

    In today's innovation economy, you need to play the game on the field to avoid falling behind. Watching the moves of other innovators as a spectator on the sidelines won’t suffice. What happens to a company that only settles for milking the cash cows of a once-better past? Gradual decline and eventual extinction.

    Nowadays, depending on the industry you’re in, you may fall behind faster than you think possible. Who dominated the photographical film business before the turn of the millennium? Kodak, which missed the transition from analog to digital imaging. Who led the mobile phone market mid in the early noughties? Motorola and Nokia, who were slow to embrace the shift from dumb to smart phones. 

    As Rubert Murdoch said: “The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.” So, get on the field and start playing. And if you’re already on the field, keep playing and enjoy the innovation game.

    Rule #2: You won’t win with a strong defense only.

    The easiest way to innovate is through operation innovations, which is why most corporations do it. Successful process and structure innovation initiatives help save costs, increase efficiencies and improve the bottomline. They add a few pennies to your corporate piggy bank, but won’t bring you industry-leading profits. Having a strong defense is keeping you in the game longer, but it won’t bring you a major trophy.

    Rule #3: Create meaningful new value first.

    Value innovations such as product and service innovation as well as solutions and customer experience design are on the next level. Focus your efforts on creating a novel, original and meaningful value proposition first. In particular, ensure that a new product, service, solution or experience truly makes meaning to customers; when it does, it will make you money, too. But when it does not, you end up with a wacky invention such as the Dynasphere (a monowheel electric vehicle from 1932) that may be new and original, but fails to impress buyers. As Thomas Edison said: “Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.”

    Rule #4: Shift the value differential in your favor.

    While pursuing value innovation, aim to boost your profit margins by raising the value perception in the eyes of your customers. You can do this through one of two strategies:

    • Aim to add significantly more value to an existing value proposition. For example, Dyson has concentrated on product innovation in traditional household goods such as vacuum cleaners, fans and hair dryers. While staying in established product categories, Dyson has pushed the value differential to new levels of usability, aesthetics and performance, enabling the company to command higher prices and enjoy higher margins. Inventor James Dyson puts it simply: “People buy products if they’re better.”
    • Climb up the value pyramid to higher levels of value perception by moving from products or services to solutions and customer experiences. For example, carmakers are promoting car-sharing solutions to urban consumers who don’t want to own a vehicle. Likewise, Starbucks is not just a coffee shop; it has designed an experience that allows guests to hang out in a “third place” between home and work where they can relax and connect with like-minded, sophisticated people.

    What are the remaining six rules of playing the innovation types game? We'll share those in part 2.

    Would you be interested to learn more about modern innovation types in a keynote or an Executive Innovation Brief? Contact us and tell us more about how we can help you.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 


  • Does your talent fit your work environment?

    Albert Einstein once said: “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Sadly, many businesspeople are on career tracks where they feel like a fish being asked to climb trees. 

    I used to be one of those people earlier in my professional career, before I discovered which work environment best fits my innate talents. But how about you? Do you work in a “hot” work environment that supports your natural abilities? Or are you stuck in a “not” environment that does not allow you to flourish?

    Background: Hot or not? 

    In TIPS (theories, ideas, people, systems), Thinkergy’s innovation people profiling method, my profile is that of an “extreme Ideator” — a colorful creative entrepreneurial business person who operates at the forefront of change. Twelve years ago I started Thinkergy, an innovation company that allows me to play on my TIPS home base “Ideas” and my dominant TIPS style of “flow”. Ever since, I’ve been in a “hot” environment that perfectly suits my preferred styles and natural talents.

    But that’s not how I started my professional career. For more than 15 years, I tried hard to make a career in banking, an industry I entered to fund my graduate and doctoral studies. I worked hard and did my best to fit in, but at heart I was not a banker. I preferred to think, work, interact, live and even dress differently than the typical banker.

    As I know now, the banking industry operates on the opposite TIPS base (Systems) and TIPS style (form) from mine. Big banks favor people who adhere to rules and formal protocols and don’t rock the boat. In many ways, I am just the opposite. I went from a career that increasingly felt DDD (dull, drudgery, de-energizing) to one that feels EEE (easy, effortless and enjoyable).

    Why is it important to align talent to a hot environment?

    From a macroeconomic point of view, it’s a giant waste of talent, money and energy invested in education if people lose years or even decades of productive work time in a career that isn’t their natural path.

    On a personal level, it’s a travesty to labor in a DDD job when you could make major meaningful contributions in an EEE career. Fortunately, knowing your TIPS profile can help you to align yourself with a “hot” environment.

    What do I mean by “work environment”? The concept can encompass (1) a business function such as marketing, sales or accounting; (2) an industry such as finance, fast-moving consumer goods or consulting; and/or (3) an organizational type such as a start-up, a government agency or a non-government organization (NGO).

    What are “hot” and “not” environments for different profiles?

    Each of the 11 TIPS profiles has a dominant style, which points you to work environments that suit your profile. While we can’t list all the combinations, here are some “hot fits”:

    • Theorists do well in “smart”, evidence-driven universities, think tanks and research institutions.
    • Ideators excel at starting new (technology) ventures or working on new product development, content creation or design projects.
    • Partners shine in people- and service-driven industries such as healthcare, hotels and gastronomy. They also feel at home in NGOs.
    • Systematizers do well in asset-driven, consolidating industries such as banking, oil and gas, steel or utilities.
    • Conceptualizers play out their brains best in industries such as consulting or software development.
    • Promoters show their creative communication talents in creative industries such as advertising, PR or entertainment.
    • Organizers ensure smooth operations in industries such as manufacturing, logistics or airlines, where it’s important to pay attention to small details.
    • Finally, Technocrats can best contribute with their thorough, accurate business minds in administrative, quantitative environments such as accounting and law firms, as well as in government agencies.

    Note that every profile has also a “not” work environment that suppresses your talents. You can find it diametrically opposite your profile on the TIPS Profiling Map.

    So what does this all mean to you?

    What can you do to check if you’re on a career track that is “hot” or “not”?

    • Take the TIPS online personality test to find out what’s your TIPS profile.
    • Check the section “hot or not” in your profiling report, and see if you’re currently working in environment that is “hot”, “okay” or “not” for you.
    • If come out as “hot” fit, smile and be happy that you’re aligned to an environment that suits your natural styles and talents.
    • If you find out that —as I did years ago— that you’re on the wrong track, check out the recommended “hot” work environments and ponder if one of the fields entices you.
    • But if you want to make a change, resist the temptation to do so right away. Instead, first acquire the know-how, skills and contacts needed to succeed in your new field (which should feel highly motivating and empowering to you). Then, once you’re sure that you can earn sufficient income in a new role in your “hot” work environment, take the plunge and enjoy the flight.

    To discover how TIPS, and its 20 applications for talent development, business and innovation, can benefit you and your organization, or to find a Certified TIPS Trainer, contact us today

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • Tracking the long-term impacts of innovation training

    What are the long-term impacts on learners who have taken training in structured innovation? What do they recall from the course? What is the long-term effectiveness of a systematic creativity training with regards to building-up creative confidence and creative confidence in learners? Did the learning journey to the creative side of life inspire some former learners to pursuit creative careers?

    My colleague Dr. Brian Hunt and I investigated these questions in a new research study that is part of my research program “Teaching and learning creativity and innovation”. We will publish our complete results in a conference paper titled “Training Businesspeople in Structured Innovation: Tracking down Long-Term Impacts” that I will present at the ISPIM (International Society for Professional Innovation Management) Innovation Conference in Vienna in two months. Today, allow me to share some of our interesting findings here.

    Background of the study

    Our new research builds on two earlier papers that introduced the course content and pedagogical design of a training program in structured innovation, and then mapped out the  learner’s emotional journey through an experiential training course in business creativity (these findings were published in this previous article on Uncovering the Innovation Learner's Experience.

    To investigate the long-term impacts of innovation training, we contacted 400 former learners via email and social media and collected 53 usable responses. The mean time that had passed since the respondents completed the course in structured innovation training course was 4 years, in spans varying from 1.5 to 11.5 years.

    The respondents were almost equally split between male and female, with ages ranging from 24 to 69 years with a mean of 33. 

    What are some of the findings that we uncovered on the long-term impacts of structured innovation training?

    Finding 1: Structured innovation training can anchor creative confidence and competence

    Taking a well-designed training program in structured innovation improved both learners’ creative confidence (self-belief in one’s creativity) and creative competence (knowledge and skills in the fields of creativity and innovation) in the long run. Almost 80% of the former learners confirmed that they consider themselves to be more creative than their colleagues at work (creative confidence) and to know more about creativity and innovation than their colleagues (creative competence).

    Many comments echoed the notion that “everyone can be creative” and that “you can systematically create creative results using methods and tools”, underlining the themes of creative confidence and competence. One former learner said: “I now truly believe everyone is creative, I look at people around and especially myself very differently. I have a lot more confidence in thinking out of the box and pitching ideas. And with the belief, ideas flow.” Another respondent voiced surprise on “how little other people know about business creativity”.

    Finding 2: Structured innovation training can inspire more creative career paths

    Our data confirmed that being exposed to experiential innovation training encourages roughly half of the learners to pursue careers in creative industries or more creative business functions, or even to start their own creative ventures.

    One former learner said: “I left the corporate world and joined startups in order to be able to create and try different approaches instead of being stuck with corporate compliance”. Others said the training “helped me to launch my startup instead of working in a big company. I work on innovation because of it”, or “inspired me to pursue a career in indie game development where creativity truly thrives”.

    Others said the training helped them to approach their existing job responsibilities more creatively and successfully. One former learner stated the training “has given me a wider perspective and know-how in how to approach creative team building and brainstorm or knowledge accumulation process”.

    Finding 3: An enjoyable learning experience can enhance the recall and application of innovation know-how

    Given that on average four years had passed since the learners took their innovation training, we were pleasantly surprised how well they recalled innovation methods and thinking tools as well as key creative principles taught:

    • Many explicitly remembered X-IDEA, Thinkergy’s innovation process method X-IDEA that formed the structural backbone of the innovation training program: “I remember all the stages of X-IDEA and their significance along with tools used in each stage like jotting down as many ideas as possible on post-its, merging them together to combine ideas, etc.” Others praised X-IDEA’s effectiveness as follows: “A systematic innovation process is always effective when going through an innovation project – hence, a systematic process with a focus on productivity is key”; and “we had our final idea and thought it would not have been even remotely possible to come up with such an idea with the convention thinking process”.
    • Other course graduates recalled and applied the TIPS (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems) profiling method. (“I understand myself more with TIPS and apply it to I work with people”; “My most memorable moment was when we leaned about our TIPS profile and how our type relates to and interacts with others”.)
    • A number of former learners recalled important creative principles, such as moving from idea quantity to idea quality, thereby transforming wild ideas into novel, original and meaningful concepts: “One main insight I gained was never to judge and kill any ideas at the beginning. They can lead to potentially become the big idea.” Others noted that in the context of a structured creative process, a “crazy idea can become a practical one” and that a “wild idea creates innovation”.

    Finding 4: Course application and appreciation is most intensive at the upper and top management levels

    Interestingly, those former learners who now play leading roles in their organizations voiced the highest long-term appreciation of the innovation training’s usefulness and creative effectiveness. While middle managers coordinate teams and work “in the business” with a focus on efficiency and “getting things done”, top-level leaders work more strategically and creatively “on the business”.

    Conclusion: Our findings suggest that an effective training in structured innovation with long-term impact on the learners should follow these course design tips:

    1. Make learning fun, enjoyable and creative (“The course was in a complete different style than any other lecture. The different approach led to a different way of learning and unfolding creative potential”.)
    2. Design “sticky” activities and memorable moments (“fun activities”, “laying flat on floor”, “balloons and paper airplanes”, “the alien game”) into the creative learning journey to aid long-term knowledge recall .
    3. Teach useful knowledge and skills with a focus on practical application. (“The way of X-IDEA was very practical and logical”.)
    4. Build-up and anchor the creative confidence and creative competence of learners through realistic innovation practice cases. (“I’m more creative and I always think out of the box”.)

    Do you want to build-up your creative competence and creative confidence with a structured innovation training?  Do you want to learn more about our systematic innovation method X-IDEA? Or find out what’s your preferred cognitive style and your TIPS innovator profile? Contact us to learn how our team of certified trainers can unbox the thinking of your people with a long-term impact.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 


  • How to put the right people into the right job

    Wouldn’t it be great if all your new recruits fit perfectly  into the vacant positions you wanted them to fill? And if everyone on a team worked in a role that allowed them to let their talents shine and played on their strengths, while others compensated for any weakness?

    Some of the hardest things to get right in business are staffing open positions and aligning the members of a team so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. But what if there were a tool that allowed you to put the right people into the right job — and to turn your organization into a true “human capital bank”?

    Background:

    Thinkergy’s innovation people profiling method TIPS (theories, ideas, people, systems) profiles people based on their preferred styles of thinking, working, interacting, living, and innovating. Every candidate who answers the TIPS profiling questionnaire is classified in line with their cognitive preferences as one of 11 innovator profiles (theorist, ideator, partner, systematizer, conceptualizer, promoter, organizer, technocrat, coach, experimenter and all-rounder).

    While I created TIPS originally to improve the people side of innovation, it has many other applications, and can give organizations more talent and people awareness. So, how do we help organizations optimize their mix of human talents and put the right people into the right job?

    Step 1. Profile your staff:

    Start by making a small investment in your human capital by allowing us to profile all your staff to unveil their innovator profiles and personal styles. Ideally, send them also through a TIPS Innovation Profiling Workshop to animate their different styles and profiles.

    Step 2. Create a group profiling map:

    Next, we position each one of your employees on a TIPS group profiling map based on their test scores and innovator profiles; a group can be a work team, a department, a business unit, the entire organization, or all of the aforementioned. When looking at a group profiling map, we ask you a number of questions:

    • Is there any concentration of profiles in this group? Typically, a map reflects a dominant base and style in line with either your business function, industry, or corporate life cycle stage. 
For example, Thinkergy is an innovation company, and we’ve just began moving from the initial development to our growth phase. Thus we have a heavy profile concentration around the TIPS base “Ideas” and the TIPS style “Flow”.
    • Are there any profile gaps? When you notice a profile concentration, consider adding a few members to the team who are strong in those tasks that don’t come naturally easy to the others

     

    Step 3. Define each job profile:

    A good job profile describes in detail what each position is all about:

    • What responsibilities and regular tasks are associated with the role?
    • What outputs is the job owner expected to produce?
    • What decisions need to be made, and how important are these?

    Step 4. Link each job profile to specifics:

    How would you sum-up each job profile in just three words? We’ve created a deck with 33 cards (featuring descriptive attribute labels such as “entrepreneurial”, “conceptual” or “quantitative”) to translate a comprehensive job profile into the simple language of TIPS.

    We ask a client to pick those three attributes that best describe the essential success factors of each job profile. For example, attributes that fittingly describe a project manager responsible for implementing concrete projects could be “practical”, “operational” and “down-to-earth”.

    Step 5. Define suitable TIPS profiles for the role:

    Each of the 11 TIPS profiles links to three primary attributes. We use the descriptive labels that a client chooses for each role to recommend a primary, best-fitting as well as one to two secondary profiles. For example, profiles that fit to a project manager (based on the previously listed attributes) are the organizer (primary) and either partner or systematizer (secondary options).

    Step 6. Align the job to candidates with a fitting profile:

    If the position is already staffed, we check if the incumbent has one of the suggested TIPS profiles. If yes, all is already well. If not, we investigate if swapping the person with a better fitting colleague may lead to a mutually satisfying realignment that makes everyone happy and more productive.

    If a role isn’t staffed yet, or if no one in the organization has a fitting profile, then you need to recruit a new candidate — and you can use the TIPS personality test to profile each of them for a good fit.

    At the end of this exercise, you should have put every person into the right job —at least in theory. So, with the final step, you take care of linking theory with reality.

    Step 7. Track job satisfaction and teamwork improvement:

    Do a survey with each individual employee involved in the exercise a few weeks and then six months after the exercise to track satisfaction. Use the feedback to make further alignments if needed. If all is well, give yourself a pat on the back: You have mastered the science and art of putting the right person into the right job.

    Do you want to learn more about how our new innovation people profiling method TIPS can help you putting the right people into the right job? Contact us to find a certified TIPS trainer who can help maximize your organization's talent.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017.

  • Play “The Dating Game” to Find New Growth

    Discovering new meaning for an established product with a stagnant or negative revenue outlook is like re-entering the dating game. This metaphor underlies a new thinking tool called “The Dating Game” that I’ve created as a new addition to our X-IDEA Thinking Toolbox. Today, allow me to share with you how you may the dating analogy to find new ways to reinvigorate sales of a flailing product.

    The background story

    A few weeks ago, I was in Germany to kick-off the first phase of a X-IDEA Innovation Project with a Multinational Corporation. The workshop focused on the initial stage of our X -IDEA innovation method, Xploration. We sent three project teams on an Xplorer’s Journey to get a new take on a high-performance product that until now has enjoyed profitable growth. However, almost all sales are concentrated in one application that is due to be replaced by a technical innovation that most clients are predicted to switch over to in the coming years.

    As such, the teams explored the wider emerging market field to understand what other applications, market fields and business models could be considered to extend the product’s lifecycle.

    We invited the teams to check their assumptions, asked lot’s of provocative questions, made them look at the challenge from different angles to identify new opportunities and unmet customer needs, and mapped out trends as well as potential market fields. All these activities helped the teams to gain novel insights into their real challenges related to this niche product.

    For this workshop, I also created a new thinking tool called “The Dating Game” — a popular US TV show ran from the 1990s to the 1990s — to help people look at their product with fresh eyes. In the end, I decided against using it because some delegates were too conservative. But as I trust the readers of this column to be creative at heart, I am sharing this new tool with you now.

    Step 1: Characterize your dating client

    Imagine a struggling product as a person who —after the break-up of a long relationship— re-enters the dating game to find new love. How would you describe your product’s attributes?

    • What’s it’s essential nature? How old is it? Young, middle-aged or old? Is it male, female or maybe transexual? Modern-progressive or conservative-traditional? Dynamic or static? Small or large? Heavy or light? Fashionable and stylish or old-fashioned and classic? Hip or time-honored?
    • How does it look? Clear, black-and-white, uni-color or very colorful? Light or dark? Sharp or blurry?
    • How does it sound? Soft or loud? Slow or fast? Low or High? Far or near?
    • How does it feel? Soft or hard? Hot or cool? Rough or smooth? Intermittent or constant?
    • How would it smell? Strong or faint?Pleasant or unpleasant? Natural or chemical? Floral? Musky? Sweet or sharp?
    • How would it taste? Mild or strong? Spicy-hot or bland? Salty? Sweet? Bitter? Sour?
    • What other attributes come to your mind?

    Once you have identified the fitting attributes, use them to write a compelling, attractive dating profile for your product.

    Step 2: Describe the attributes of your ideal date

    Imagine the new application, customer or business opportunity for your product were a person you’d love to date? What are the characteristics or your ideal date? List down all attributes of your ideal date. List them all.

    Of course, while we dream of finding the perfect partner, we rarely get everything we’re looking for. As such, go through your list of attributes and underline those that your date really must have to be the right fit. The fewer “must haves” you insist on, the broader your pool of possible candidates. Once you have narrowed down your list, create one or —even better— a few target profiles to use.

    Step 3: Do a make-over

    Now go back to your product’s dating profile and take a critical look at it: How attractive is your product to these target dates? Does it need a makeover? New profile photos? A physical tune-up to boost your product’s attractiveness? Write down any ideas you get here.

    Step 4: Specify appropriate dating channels

    Nowadays, people use both traditional and modern activities, venues, media and communication channels to find love, beyond just going to a pub or club. Ask friends for recommendations and introductions. Go to networking events. Enroll in clubs and classes. Use a matchmaking service. Use online dating platforms like Match.com. Use dating apps like Tinder. And use social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and maybe even LinkedIn, to befriend potential dating targets.

    How does this all relate to your product? What’s the equivalent of all the aforementioned activities, events, places, brokers and communication channels when it comes to your product? How can you discover and hook up with potential target dates for your product — and vice versa? Remember that dating is a numbers game: the more channels you use and the more dates you go on, the more potential opportunities you have.

    Step 5: How to wow your date and start a relationship?

    Now that you’ve identified fitting activities, events, channels and media, how do you wow dates at your first sight? How can you present your product’s attributes at their best? How can you make your dates reveal their secret wants and needs? Can your product satisfy them? If yes, in what ways? How can you explore a mutually satisfying future? How can you co-create a win-win partnership? And how will you know that you’ve really clicked?

    Once again, add fresh insights and initial ideas on how to transform a date into a lasting, mutually satisfying partnership. Finally, at the end of the Xploration, extract your final challenge that you want to work on in a subsequent IDEA workshop introducing the remaining four stages of X-IDEA.

    Do you have a good product with declining sales? Would you like to extend its lifecycle by playing the dating game? Are you interested in doing an innovation project by having us expose your team to our systematic innovation method X-IDEA? Contact us to tell us more about your innovation needs.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • Harnessing the Yin Yang flow of innovation

    Two weeks ago, we discussed how to embrace the Yin Yang concept of Chinese philosophy as a simple but effective way to talk about creativity and innovation. We learned that to build a creative company, we need to focus on boosting its creative Yin energy: hire and promote more creative Yin people; have a leader with a creative Yin mindset; and gradually build a creative Yin culture. Today, let’s talk about the fourth and final aspect: the creative process — and how you may use the Yin Yang flow of innovation to guide your thinking while working on a creative project.

    Master creative projects using a Yin Yang flow in the creative process

    When you want to pursue a creative project with an innovation project team, you can use the dynamic interplay of Yin Yang to guide you in a simple way through the various phases of the creative process. Why? Almost all creative processes unfold in a harmonious rhythm of divergent thinking alternating with convergent thinking:

    • Yang energy represents convergent thinking, meaning we “narrow down” our thinking by employing more left brain-directed cognitive processes like analysis, critical evaluation and rational decision-making.
    • In contrast, Yin energy aligns with divergent thinking, broadening our horizons by using more right brain-directed cognitive activities such as empathizing, ideating and imagining.

    How does the Yin Yang flow of innovation unfold?

    I designed a simple creative process flow that unfolds in seven Yin Yang-cycles. Each starts convergent thinking (Yang) that is followed by a phase of divergent thinking (Yin). An innovation project team can apply these seven cycles over seven time intervals (e.g., half-days, days or weeks). How exactly do these seven cycles of the Yin Yang flow work?

    Yang 1: State your case. Specify what the innovation project is all about: the creative challenge, and what you know about the case. We converge our thinking to what we initially perceive to be the essential facets of the case.

    Yin 1: Explore your challenge. Next, diverge the thinking by examining the case more broadly, based on the four cardinal points of the compass:

    • Check for “True North” by examining facts, assumptions, beliefs and rules.
    • Go West to curiously ask and answer many questions related to the case, especially those that make people feel uncomfortable.
    • Head South to look at your case from new viewpoints, especially those of your customers and other key stakeholders.
    • Look East to map and sketch what you know about your case.

    Yang 2: Frame your real challenge. Condense all your learnings from phase 1 by framing what you uncovered as your real innovation challenge, which typically differs from what you initially perceived.

    Yin 2: Generate hundreds of ideas. Have fun and enjoy brainstorming and ideating many, many ideas for your challenge with the help of creativity tools. Make an effort to generate at least 250 ideas with your innovation team. Follow the ground rules of brainstorming and ideation, especially Rule No. 1: “No killing of ideas.”

    Yang 3: Discover intriguing ideas. Review what you’ve generated to find roughly fifty ideas that are more interesting — or maybe even a bit wild. When you narrow down your idea pool, and throw away all conventional and obvious ideas, you engage in Yang-style convergent thinking.

    Yin 3: Design realistic, meaningful concepts. Use the three creative principles of elaboration, combination and transmutation:

    • Detail out and enlarge interesting ideas that already carry enough value potential by themselves (elaboration).
    • Find ideas that seem to connect, then combine those into more valuable concepts (combination).
    • Take a wild idea and creatively look for ways to tame its wild nature while preserving its intriguing aspects (transmutation).

    Shoot for at least a dozen idea concept with your innovation team in this phase.

    Yang 4: Evaluate your idea concepts. Now it’s time for some critical convergent thinking. Evaluate and critique each concept in your idea concept portfolio to better understand its pros and cons.

    Yin 4: Enhance and rapidly prototype promising concepts. Take a look at the cons of each concept and ask: “How can we creatively fix these bugs?” Then, do rapid prototyping on the most promising concepts to quickly learn more about their value potential and feasibility through iterative rounds of trial and error coupled with feedback.

    Yang 5: Select your top idea concept. Select at least one top idea for real life activation. Use simple voting techniques to reach a team consensus, or employ more advanced decision-making tools to settle diverging views.

    Yin 5: Design a winning pitch. Every top idea needs support from superiors, sponsors and suppliers to secure the resources to bring it to life. Create an impactful idea pitch that animates the benefits of your idea by addressing both the functional and emotional needs of those whose support is critical.

    Yang 6: Pitch your top idea. Use Yang energy to pitch and convincingly respond to any questions raised. If your pitch succeeds, move to the next Yin phase, otherwise lick your wounds and go back to the previous one.

    Yin 6: Party. You’ve succeeded and earned the funding and approval needed for activating your top idea. Celebrate the moment. You’ve thought and worked hard to create a winning idea, and you will have to put in lots more effort to bring it to life.

    Yang 7: Plan for idea activation, then activate your top idea. Specify key parameters, and begin with the activation of your funded idea, reviewing your progress at every critical milestone and adjusting your plan if needed.

    Yin 7: Release the idea into the market. Create a momentum-building launch event. Then, start shipping and continue creatively promoting your “wow” innovation. Finally, begin the Yin Yang flow anew by starting a new innovation project.

    Nota bene: The Yin Yang flow of innovation is a simplification of Thinkergy’s awards-winning innovation process method X-IDEA. If you like to learn more about the Yin-Yang nature of innovation, check out an earlier article that was published in this blog titled "The Yin of Creativity".

    Contact us if you want to learn more about our innovation trainings, or become a Thinkergy certified trainer.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • The Yin of Creativity

    “How can we make our organization more creative? And please, keep it simple,” a client interested in a creativity training for a group of senior executives asked me. Infusing more creativity into an organization comes down to four basic challenges. 

    They are:
    (1) Find out who your creative people are, and how many of them you have.
    (2) Ensure most of your leaders have a creative mindset, especially those at the top.
    (3) Use your creative leaders as change catalysts to build a creative culture.
    (4) Pursue meaningful creative projects with the help of a well-structured creative process.

    The client sighs: “Is there a way to explain this to them in an even easier way?”
    “Yes”, I said. “Think Yin and Yang — and simply use the Yin of creativity.”

    How the Yin Yang concept relates to business and creativity

    The ancient Chinese concept of Yin Yang highlights the interplay of polar opposites in nature. It postulates that dual opposites both dynamically challenge and harmoniously balance each other. Common examples of such interdependent and interconnected opposites (listed in the order Yang before Yin) are male and female, day and night, sun and moon, among others.

    How can you employ Yin Yang to make your organization more creative? How to use the Yin of creativity?

    • Think of creativity (and related concepts of customer care and change) as Yin, and opposite business concepts such as financial performance, facts and efficiency are Yang.
    • Next, look at the the organization from a Yin Yang perspective: the personality of people working in it; the prevailing mindset of executives leading it; the culture driving people’s behaviors; and the thinking tools and process used while working on projects.
    • Finally, if you notice Yang energy dominates the organization, address the four factors — employee personality, leader mindset, corporate culture and thinking process — and gradually shift them one by one from Yang to Yin.

    Creative people have a Yin personality

    How do you identify the creative people in your organization? Use an effective cognitive profiling method (personality test) that clearly identifies those people who prefer creative thinking.

    In Thinkergy’s innovation people profiling method TIPS, we mainly identify creative people by probing for a person’s preferred thinking style. Thereby, “fantasy thinkers” are Yin, while “figure thinkers” are Yang. TIPS also checks on two related styles preferred by creative people: creative Yin thinkers tend to interact with others using Yin-style empathy, emotion and feeling; and they tend to prefer a Yin-lifestyle (i.e. flexibly going with the flow of life).

    Question: Are the people in your team more Yin (creative, empathic, flexible) or Yang (analytical, factual, formal)? Do some express both elements?

    Creative leaders have a Yin mindset

    Mindset describes the way you routinely do things and think about things and people (including yourself). Typically, a creative mindset aligns with a creative personality.  People with a Yin personality have an easier path to develop into a creative leader. However, they still need to change a few limiting habitual thought patterns to a creative Yin mindset.

    A Yin mindset indicates that you enjoy creative thinking, and also have many interests apart from having expertise in a domain that excites you. You insist on your own personality and original creativity rather than copying the thoughts, ways and ideas of others. You dare to act and take initiative. As a positive, playful optimist, you’re open to other viewpoints and ideas. Yin leaders love what they do, so they passionately work hard in a focused way. But they also know when to let go of work and relax to invite fresh inspirations.

    How can you develop authentic creative leaders to creatively lead your organization in line with the Yin of creativity? Employ an effective creative leadership method (such as Genius Journey) that can show them how to adopt and adapt the Yin mindsets of a creative leader.

    Questions: Do you possess more of a Yin mindset or are you more Yang — a critical, analytical expert who stays in the safe confines of established doctrines and action routines, who mainly works for the pay, perks and prestige linked to your job, and who’s always busy keeping up with all the demands of the job without being overly productive? And how about your superiors — are they more of a Yin or Yang leader?

    Creative organizations have a Yin culture

    Culture is the way things are typically done in an organization. Many well-established corporations have a Yang culture embedded in the organizational DNA by generations of Yang leaders who succeeded the original Yin founder of the venture long ago. So, put a Yin leader in charge to switch the corporate culture back.

    A creative Yin culture encourages everyone to express individuality, and embraces diversity of thoughts, backgrounds and interests. Such openness fosters a playful, friendly climate that encourages people to share, nurture and act on ideas by rapidly prototyping them (in line with the maxim “Fail earlier to succeed sooner”).

    In a Yin culture, employees and teams largely manage themselves and work in a disciplined, focused way; high degrees of freedom blend with a pursuit of excellence. Employees enjoy coming to work because they are intrinsically motivated by interesting projects; they empathically care to resolve creative challenges that make meaning for customers.

    In contrast, a Yang culture prefers a uniform set of people conforming to expected norms and behaviors that are monitored and controlled by superiors, leading to a tense, serious work climate where everyone is  working busily (often on internal matters), ideas are quickly dismissed and people are reactive because they’re afraid of failure — and where mediocre, “it’s good enough” results are the norm because people essentially are in their job only for the money.

    Questions: Do you work in a Yin or Yang culture? And if you long for a cool change to the Yin of creativity, do you have an effective culture transformation method (such as CooL – Creativity UnLimited) to help you switch?

    Outlook: Today, you learned that if you want to make your organization more creative, you need to focus on strengthen its creative Yin energy: Hire and promote more creative Yin people; and put a leader with a creative Yin mindset in charge to gradually build a creative Yin culture. Finally, use the dynamic interplay between Yin and Yang to pursue a concrete creative project. Come back to this column in two weeks to find out how exactly this creative process unfolds.

    Want to learn more about how the Yin of creativity, or the Yin Yang of innovation? Or do you want to dig deeper and delve into one of our four proprietary innovation methods? Contact us to tell us more about your innovation needs.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • Why so afraid? Human up! (Part 2)


    In the first part of this article, I pointed out that we are all descendants of brave, action-oriented and creative primal humans who boldly acted, created and collaborated to make humanity rise to the pinnacle of the evolutionary pyramid. I was moved to explore this subject because I’d been encountering so many businesspeople who seem paralyzed by doubts, worries and fears. Why so scared, I wondered?

    In order to remain the dominant species (in light of the onset of robots and artificially intelligent machines), we had better learn how to rein in all those doubts, worries and fears, and reconnect to our essential core of being courageous, action-oriented and creative humans. But how exactly can we “human up”? Here are ten tips.

    1. Let go of the illusion of total control of your destiny. “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans,” said Woody Allen. We’re living in a highly dynamic world with too many variables beyond our control. So, while I endorse making plans, I recommend executing them in a flexible way to respond to changes and surprises.

    2. Believe all will work out well in the end. Have you ever experienced a negative incident that in hindsight turned out to be a blessing in disguise? Start seeing setbacks and temporary failures as what they really are: feedback to stir you forward towards personal happiness and success. Don’t be afraid. Honestly confront the facts of your present reality, do what’s needed to survive now and increase the odds of future success, and believe that in the end, everything will turn out well. Consider living by the following mantra: “Everything that happens to me is the best possible thing that can happen to me.”

    3. Realize most doubts, worries and fears aren’t real. They are just disempowering, limiting thoughts going on in your head. As Mark Twain put it, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”

    So, instead of entertaining fearful thoughts about a distant future, focus on what you need to do now. Practice mindfulness to gain more awareness of your inner dialogue, let anxious thoughts pass without attaching energy to them, and to pay attention to the present moment.

    4. Just do it. “Always do what you fear”, recommends the American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson. So, human up. Proactively facing a fear is the fastest way to overcome it, and to turn the unknown into a new experience. So, why not human up and finally ask your boss for the raise you both know you deserve?

    5. Be bold but don’t be stupid. The Greek philosopher Aristotle considered courage  “the mean between fear and recklessness.” For example, if you’re afraid of snakes, consider visiting a snake farm to encounter and learn about their ways, and maybe touch a non-poisonous one — but don’t be reckless and step in front of a cobra.
 In business, courageously take action on new projects, but don’t engage in activities that may bring you into serious trouble, such as: doing things that are illegal, highly speculative or unethical.

    6. Shape up. Getting and staying fit will not only make your body stronger, leaner and more flexible; thanks to the body-mind connection, it will have the same effects on your mind. Physical exercise positively changes the neurochemical balance in your brain to make you more confident, courageous and happy. As the ancient Romans already knew, “Mens sana in corpore sano” (A sound mind in a sound body).

    7. Open up. Anxiety is a sign of a closed, judgmental mind. It’s the opposite of the curious, open and flexible mindset of primal humans who explored the world and learned how to seize its opportunities. So, open your mind to new trends, ideas, viewpoints and ways of doing things to keep from falling behind in a fast-changing world. As the American social philosopher Eric Hoffer said: “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”

    8. Relax, recharge and sleep. Sleep is crucially important to ensure optimum physical and cognitive performance. Consider taking a power nap once you notice your energy levels are down, and plan for enough downtime in your day to recharge and relax. But most importantly, ensure you get 7-8 hours of reenergizing sleep every night.

    9. Reconnect to the hunter in you. Nowadays, too many businesspeople have become “farmers”: they passively sit back, hoping to perpetually reap the rewards of the seeds sown long ago, and to squeeze the last drops of milk out of ragged cash cows. Recall that primal humans were hunters. It’s in our essential primal nature to move and actively hunt for —and bring down— prey that often is much bigger than us. Become a hunter again, too: life is full of new opportunities once you venture out.

    10. Move on when too much is wrong. When you work in an  environment that regularly fills your mind with doubtful, worrisome and fearful thoughts, it’s a sign that something is seriously wrong. Whether you feel afraid of a venomous colleague or drained by constant political manoeuvring, acknowledge persistent feelings of anxiety, stress and unhappiness for what they really are: a signal to make a change.

    Leave that poisonous, energy-sapping or stagnant environment behind for a new hunting ground. Join another firm, found or join a start-up, or dedicate your talents to a meaningful non-profit organization. Life is too short to waste on a cause that doesn’t feel right for you. So if its time for you to move on, human up!

    Want to learn more about how to human up? Enroll in one of our Genius Journey training courses.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • Creativity in the Year of the Rooster

    Kung Hai Fat Choy, Happy Chinese New Year! This month marks the start of the Year of the Rooster, or to be more precise: The Red Fire Rooster. What creative inspirations can we get from roosters, hens and young chicken to help us flourish and succeed in the coming twelve months?

    Follow the ways of the rooster

    Chinese astrology ascribes characteristics and behaviors observed in an animal to sum-up personality traits of people born in the corresponding year of the Chinese Zodiac. People born in the year of the rooster are said to be hardworking, very active and responsible. They are  social, gregarious and communicative. While they can be boastful and presumptuous, they are generally trustworthy and honest. Roosters are also praised for their punctuality and sense of timeliness.

    Inspiration: In the Year of the Rooster, do as roosters do. Work hard and be active. Make an effort to go out and socialize with other businesspeople to offer your services and help. In your communication, strive for the safe middle ground of being confident without coming across as arrogant, and  honest without coming across as blunt. If you’re a night-owl like me, experiment with rising in the wee hours as rooster do, to gauge whether an early start positively affects your life and work productivity.

    Aim for hen-like productivity

    Hens tirelessly produce eggs throughout the year. Some hens can produce over 300 eggs per year, and the world record in egg-laying stands at 371 eggs in 364 days. In other words, productive hens lay roughly one egg per day, six days a week.

    Inspiration: In the Year of the Rooster, emulate the high productivity of hens by producing a lot of outputs. Ideally, follow the output rate of egg-laying hens and produce a tangible output on six of the seven days of the week. Depending on what you do, a tangible output might be a sale that you close, a presentation you design, an article you write, an account you audit, a spreadsheet you create, or an investment that you enter into. Imagine the progress if you produced a tangible output on 300 of the next 365 days.

    Be on the lookout

    A rooster guards the nests of his hens, often from a high perch (hence the term “rooster”), and attacks other roosters that enter his territory. If he spots predators nearby, he warns the group with a special alarm call.

    Inspiration: While the turbulent Year of the Monkey has come to end, the Year of the Rooster may still be affected by a lot of market uncertainty and political and economic discontinuity. Make it a habit to regularly “sit on a high perch” to observe the wider business environment for potential dangers and risks. When you sound the alarm on imminent danger, don’t forget that opportunity hides in every difficulty.

    Incubate for ideas

    Domestic hens lay eggs only until a clutch (usually about a dozen) is complete, and then “go broody”. A broody hen sits on the nest and incubates its eggs, and rarely leaves the nest to eat, drink, or dust-bathe. At the end of the incubation period of about 21 days, fertile eggs hatch and a young chicken enters the world.

    Inspiration: Do as the hens and experiment with “incubating” ideas. Incubation is the most advanced —and most challenging— creative thinking strategy. To make the this process work its magic, you must first immerse yourself for a substantial amount of time (several weeks or months) with a creative challenge that is really important and cognitively stimulating. This may be a specific scientific or technological challenge, or a broader personal challenge you’d love to tackle (such as what you really should do in your life other than working only for the money).

    
Once you feel you’ve worked exhaustively to find “the right answer”, stop all mental striving. “Sit on” the challenge and incubate on it. Focus on something else and allow your subconscious mind to breed out the right idea. Have courage to trust in the power of the incubation process — and all of a sudden, a breakthrough idea may appear in front of your eye. If it happens, you instantly know that “this is it”, and all that is left for you to do is to verify the solution and implement the idea.

    Embrace other viewpoints

    One of the most fascinating and distinguishing features of a true rooster is his unique shout. Roosters crow in the early morning to welcome the day, but they often crow on other occasions throughout the day as well.

    Have you ever noticed how different cultures describe this sound? In my home country Germany, we hear and say “ki-keri-ki”. The Italians (chicchiricchi) and Spanish (quiquiriquí) hear a similar sound — unlike the French (Coceri-coc) and the Swedes (kuekeli-kue), as well as the Brits, Aussies, Kiwis and Americans (cock-a-doodle-do).

    How about Asia? In Thailand, the rooster goes “eg-i-eg-eg”, while the Vietnamese describe the sound as “gà gáy vang ò ó o” and the Japanese as “ko-ke-kok-ko”. In China, we find even two rooster calls: “ko-ko-ko-ko” in Southern China and “o-o-o-o” in the rest of the country. And in the Philippines, I tracked down three different rooster shouts: “tik-ti-la-ok”, “tok-to-ga-ok”, and “top-sali-o”. Given so many different names for the same sound, we may wonder: Who’s right? They all are — or aren’t, depending on your point of view.

    Inspiration: Flexibly shift your perspective. Instead of insisting on your point of view as the “absolute truth”, realize that on almost every issue, there are many alternative viewpoints. Mental flexibility and the ability to entertain other people’s viewpoints are a hallmark of a true creative mind, so become more flexible, open and emphatic in the Year of the Rooster.

    How can Thinkergy serve you in the Year of the Rooster with our expertise in creativity and innovation? Contact us let us know more about your innovation needs to explore how we may help you.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • 10 Predictions on How Innovation Will Disrupt Business in 2017

    In his recent article outline the "10 Predictions on How Innovation Will Disrupt Business and Culture in 2017", author Alex Goryachev shared some alarming revelations for companies that don't have an innovation strategy in place. 

    According to Goryachev, the pace of change will force companies to look at new ways to adapt or create disruptive solutions - not only to the products and services they market, but in how they are developed internally. 

    His predictions are:

    1. Companies will disrupt themselves to survive the digital age
    2. The pace of change will force businesses to create game-changing solutions rather than incremental improvements
    3. Smart companies will recognize that innovation can come from anywhere
    4. Silicon Valley startup traits will be infused into corporate workforces
    5. Successful companies will adapt the best of both worlds by balancing the tension between startup and big-enterprise cultures
    6. Coaches and mentors will become more important than traditional managers
    7. Organizations will encourage cross-functional innovation teams
    8. Organizations will encourage cross-functional innovation teams
    9. The rise of innovation ecosystem and co-innovation
    10. Internal and external innovation will converge

    For companies that want to embrace these changes, Thinkergy's methods for ideation, talent development, leadership development and culture are a great solution. 

  • Forbes' Article on Stimulating Innovation Misses One Key Point

    Forbes just published an article on "25 Easy Ways to Stimulate Innovation". Basically it is a simple list of techniques to shift your perspective so you come at your challenge from a new direction.  However a key point it misses is WHEN to use those techniques within the ideation process.

    Within Thinkergy's X-IDEA there are over 150 tools and techniques that are used, but each is only used at a specific stage. For instance:

         - 5 Times Why, Assumptions Check and Insights list are used during the Xploration stage

         - What If, Other Worlds, Idea Planes and Matrix are used during the Ideation stage

         - Pass The Buck, Idea Circles and SCAMPER are used during the Development stage

    With additional techniques used during the Evaluation and Action stages.

    It isn't enough just to have a lot of tools. Knowing how and when to use them in a systematic way is essential to getting results. Even in a one day session our clients generate hundreds and hundreds of ideas, refine them and turn them action. The process matters.

  • Why so afraid? Time to “human up” (Part 1)


    In recent months, I have encountered many businesspeople who somehow seemed to be afraid: afraid of making a mistake at work; afraid of failing with a project they’ve been assigned to lead; afraid of not having all details the of how an event will unfold; afraid of making decisions; afraid of standing up for their beliefs, values and convictions; afraid of harming their career; afraid of potentially losing their job. Many of the worried faces belonged to smart and seasoned business professionals who had every reason to walk and stand tall.  I started to wonder: Why are they so afraid?

    What’s behind the emotional state of being afraid? Doubts, worries and fears. In my creative leadership method Genius Journey, learning to overcome your doubts, worries and fears is the pivotal first stepping stone you need to pass to enter the realm of unlimited creativity.
    Fear is a natural response to prevent us from physical harm. But the doubts, worries and fears of modern businesspeople rarely concern physical survival, but are based on emotional and psychological dread that  takes place only in our minds. Common examples of such socially conditioned and learned fears are the fear of losing control, of social rejection (“losing face”), or of having to face the unknown. Often these fears don’t constitute a real threat now, but relate to an event imagined to possibly take place in future.

    What’s wrong with being afraid? Doubts, worries and fears stop you from producing results, from growing as a person or as a business, from reaching your full potential. They keep you small, stagnant, and limited. In order to start the journey to rediscover your genius and true potential, you need to stop your doubts, worries and fears, and start being a courageous, action-oriented and persistent believer.

    Some of you may want to argue: It’s easy to talk down to me from your point of view. Just imagine walking in my shoes: I have a family to feed. I have bills and debts to pay. I have a job to loose. I may not have enough money to retire when I am old. Can’t you see why I am so afraid?

    Well, I was once walking in shoes very similar to yours — heavy, bulky and ill-fitting shoes. When I realized who I really am and what I should really do with my life, I courageously walked away from a high-paying job in corporate banking. I’ve continued my journey on the less-trodden path — boldly and barefoot. I have never looked back.

    My new journey into the unknown was adventurous and risky, arduous and at times rocky, but also highly rewarding and wondrous. In 2005, I started the innovation company Thinkergy and embarked on a mission to create innovators. In the last decade, I didn’t make as much money as I would have in my old career, but it didn’t really matter (and it was always enough to pay the bills and live simply but comfortably). In the coming decade, I probably am going to make a lot more money in my new career, but it really doesn’t matter either.

    What matters is that in primal human style, I have courageously moved forward together with those who chose to join me on our Thinkergy journey, and we creatively deal with all opportunities and challenges that we encounter..

    How can you stop being so afraid? Human up! Commit to becoming a true human being again. Have you ever wondered how primal humans rose to the pinnacle of the evolutionary pyramid? Because of our long teeth and sharp claws? Because of our giant size and heavy weight? Because we move faster or outmuscle all others?

    Humans have become the dominant species because we think smartly and act courageously. Because we flexibly and creatively deal with dangers and challenges. Because we try things and fail, then try again until we succeed. Because we eagerly and curiously learn and grow. Because we creatively invented tools to hunt, defend ourselves and make our lives easier. Because we care and feel for others. Because we cooperate and jointly develop effective tactics and strategies to hunt prey and overcome predators and competitors.

    Humanities journey started in the African savannah with a small group of primal humans who had the curiosity and tremendous courage to explore and venture out into the unknown. They wandered lands and continents. They crossed mountain ranges and oceans. They flexibly and creatively dealt with new challenges of life in a foreign, often hostile environment. In his theory of evolution, Charles Darwin observed, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” That’s us! That’s you!

    We’re all descendants of these brave, action-oriented, curious, flexible creative primal humans who, against all odds, conquered the world. So why are you so afraid of not being able to live up to the future? How did we allow society and our institutions to condition us and turn so many of us into fearful, docile sheep — to neglect our essential nature of being bold, confident and creative?

    What can you do to bounce back? Human up! Stop down all those doubts, worries and fears in your mind. Shape up and stand up confident and tall. Go primal and reconnect to your essential core as a courageous, flexible, creative, and caring human.

    We need to “human up” quickly to ensure our species stays on top of the pyramid in view of the onset of robots and artificial intelligence. What will keep us on top is not our ability to carefully deliberate, calculate, analyze and scrutinize. It’s our courageous human core, our ability to flexibly adapt, create, cooperate, care and love.

    So how exactly can you “human up”? Come back to this column on February 16, when I will share ten tips on how to fight your doubts, worries and fears and reconnect to your essential creative core.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • Uncovering the innovation learner’s experience

    What’s going on in the minds of businesspeople who undergo training in business creativity and the use of a structured innovation method? What is their creative learning experience like? How do learners feel as they get trained in innovation?

    Together with my colleague Dr. Brian Hunt, I investigated these questions in a comprehensive research project involving young business professionals learning creativity and applied innovation in a Business Creativity course taught as part of a master in management program at the College of Management, Mahidol University. The findings were presented in a conference paper at the ISPIM (International Society for Professional Innovation Management) Innovation Summit 2016 in Kuala Lumpur. Today, let’s take a peek at some of the interesting results of our research.

    How we researched the innovation learner’s experience

    In our empirical study, Brian and I employed a longitudinal research design to investigate the innovation learner’s experience. We collected data from learners at four points of time during the training program: Immediately before, half-way, three-quarters through, and at the end of the course. We gathered data from six courses with overall 158 learners using a combined quantitative and qualitative survey design, which we then analyzed using descriptive statistics, word cloud technology and qualitative data analysis.

    What’s going on in the learners’ minds as they get trained in innovation?

    Let me introduce the innovation learner’s experience in chronological order by sharing with you what happens in the training program, and what responses the course design elicits in the learners’ minds:

    • With the first survey, we tracked learners’ feelings and expectations right before the start of the first training session. Most learners had no prior exposure to creativity and innovation concepts and tools. How did most learners feel right before the start of their creative learning journey? Positively excited, curious and a bit nervous.
    • All activities in the first half of the training program are designed to build-up creative competence (know-how and creative thinking skills) and creative confidence (belief in one’s creativity). The learners acquire foundational know-how about the concepts of creativity and innovation, gain an understanding of mindsets and routines that limit or fuel their individual creativity, and learn about their preferred cognitive styles and their innovator profile. They also work on a potpourri of creative puzzles, exercises, tests, games and individual homework assignments.
    • From week 4 onwards, I introduce X-IDEA, the awards-winning systematic innovation process method and related toolbox that I’ve created for Thinkergy. In the first stage of X-IDEA, Xploration, participants learn how to thoroughly explore an innovation case in order to gain novel insights and frame their real innovation challenge. Next, in the energetic Ideation stage, they learn how to easily and playfully produce many raw ideas by using creativity tools and following the ground rules of ideation (especially no 1: No killing of ideas).
    • What are the effects of this empowering creative learning regime? Our second survey half-way through the course revealed that the learners felt delighted, happy and creative. They express recognizing and enjoying their creativity. Some said that for the first time in their education, they felt empowered to freely express even unconventional or really wild ideas and opinions without being criticised, which they regarded as liberating.
    • The third quarter of the innovation training program is designed to blend awakened creative energy with a more sober focus on realistic, meaningful outputs and results.
      At this point, the participants get introduced to the more pragmatic final three process stages of X-IDEA. They learn how to design realistic, relevant and meaningful concepts (Development); how to evaluate those concepts —and do rapid prototyping with the most promising ones— to find the top ideas (Evaluation); and how to pitch these top ideas for support and real-life activation (Action stage). In addition, they begin to individually and collectively work on simulated yet realistic innovation project cases (which get scored and graded).
    • How do learners feel at this point? Challenged but motivated by interesting project cases — and in some cases, confused and a bit overwhelmed. The innovation project cases are unlike the usual school assignments, which require learners to work through a clearly defined assignment to produce the one “right” solution on the answer sheet.
      In contrast, innovation cases are usually fuzzy, ill-defined and expansive, with many possible routes to travel and many possible solutions for each possible challenge. Here is a typical learner comment: “It’s very interesting. However, I have to spend a lot of time to think and understand the question. I have to think a lot.” Another related: “It’s quite tough but we’re having a lot of fun.”
    • In the final three weeks of the training program, the learners go through an intensive realistic Ideation & Development workshop with their innovation project case, learn how to evaluate their idea concepts, and finally have to pitch their top ideas in the final Action-stage.
    • How do participants feel at the end of the innovation training program? Creatively accomplished, happy and proud that they have risen to the occasion and successfully created novel, original and meaningful solutions. The overall satisfaction rating with the course is very high, and the learners agree that the training format has noticeably enhanced their creativity and structured thinking capabilities.

    Key take-aways from our research:

    The results of our empirical research led us to five main findings on how to design and improve the innovation learner’s experience:

    1. Creative thinking skills and structured innovation know-how can be effectively taught to and acquired by business professionals in a training program (of ca. 36 hours) that combines theoretical instructions with the practical application of the course contents and creative skills on real-life innovation cases.
    2. The learners confirmed that when working on an innovation case, the use of a structured innovation method and related thinking tools improves the quality of both thinking and outputs.
    3. Most learners appreciate it when they get challenged by ambitious, real-life innovation cases as project assignments; difficult but interesting innovation challenges increase motivation, effort and creativity.
    4. Rising up to and successfully mastering these challenges augments learners’ overall course satisfaction — and contributes to improving their confidence in their creative skills.
    5. A successful creative learning journey in structured innovation resembles an emotional roller-coaster that flows along the four emotional states: learners first feel “positively excited”, then “playfully creative”, then “interestingly challenged”, and finally “creatively accomplished”.

    Curious to live the innovation learner’s experience yourself? Contact us if you want to find out more about our innovation training courses related to X-IDEA and other structured innovation methods.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. 

  • How to Creatively Plan for the New Year

    Happy New Year to you! If you’re proactive person like me, then the first week of 2017 is the time to creatively plan for the new year. How can you make 2017 a successful, joyful and happy one? Here are some dos and don’ts for you to consider.

    • DO creatively plan for the new year ahead. Why? As the motivational expert Brian Tracy points out, “Every minute in planning saves ten minutes in execution.” A good plan provides direction and focus. It clarifies what you need to do when in order to achieve specific goals and results. It creates an overview of key events, activities and projects that you encounter or want to tackle in the coming twelve months. It sets you up for progress and success.
      And why should you creatively plan for the new year? We’re all unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach for an effective yearly plan. So, be creative and listen to your intuition as you factor in those things that will make a positive difference in your life.
    • DO start your planning by recalling your “strategic core”: (1) Who are you? What’s your core identity? (2) Why are you here? What’s your mission (or ultimate calling in life)? (3) How do you approach this mission? What are your values? (4) What is your general strategy that you employ to live up to your mission?
      For example, I am an innovation expert and meta-creator on a mission to create innovators. I value creativity, progress and meaningful change. With my innovation company Thinkergy, we live up to this mission and values by setting up a network of licensed partners who train wanna-be innovators to effectively use our of novel, original and meaningful innovation methods.
    • DON’T miss the opportunity to learn from the past. Look back to last year: How happy are you with your activities and achievements in 2016? How can you improve in the new year?
      For example, overall I was happy with 2016. I wrote a book, upgraded one of our innovation methods and launched Thinkergy US, among others. I pushed myself really hard, but at a cost: By year end, I felt exhausted — no wonder, as I didn’t take time for an extended vacation. Lesson learned: do better this year.
    • DO creatively plan your vacation first. It’s important to ensure your long-term productivity by avoiding burnout. I’ve blocked three weeks in August for a longer vacation, and earmarked four other extended weekends off. When will you take your time-outs in 2017?
    • DON’T cram too much into your plan for 2017. Most people overestimate how much they can achieve in the short run (a day, week, month or year). So, be realistic when you creatively plan how much you can do in a year — and the following point can help you to set priorities.
    • DO focus on “The ONE Thing”. In his book of the same title, Gary Keller recommends to ask a simple question: “What’s the ONE Thing I can do so that by doing it everything else will be easier or redundant?”
      When you plan your year ahead, determine your “one thing” for the whole year, as well as for each quarter and each month.  Keep these in mind as you go through the year, and ask what’s the one thing you can do this week and today to move closer to your goals.
    • DO cultivate an output focus. You only make progress if you produce tangible results. So, plan your main outputs for the year in total and for each quarter. As you go through 2017, settle on the one output you intend to produce by the end of each day, week, and month.
    • DO  check on your progress regularly. At the end of each time interval (day, week, month, quarter), review your results. Feel good about the outputs you’ve produced, celebrate major achievements and, if necessary, adjust your plans to reflect changes in priorities or the external environment.
    • DO reflect on both your professional and private roles when you creatively plan for the new year. For example, I am an entrepreneur, creator, innovation guide, trainer, speaker, author, blogger, professor and researcher as part of my professional roles, as well as a partner, family member, friend, and society member as part of my private roles. How about you? Do you want to give all your roles equal weight in 2017? Or are there some that you want to emphasize in the year ahead? Here consider using ABC classification to rank your priorities.
      In your private roles, for instance, you might ask yourself: What good things can I do for me in 2017? How can I deepen my personal relationships, make a better home, and improve my financial position?
    • DO plan how you want to grow. After all, as the saying goes, “A tree is either growing or dying”. It’s important that we don’t stand still, but rather actively seek new learning and experiences. What new knowledge, skills or experiences do you want to acquire in 2017?
    • DON’T forget to plan how you want to play. A good way to boost short-term happiness and ensure long-term productivity is to establish daily routines for play and balance. Do you take part in physical activities such as running or yoga to train your body and balance your mind? Do you engage in spiritual practices such as meditation? What can you do to play more and balance yourself?
    • DON’T forget to say “No”. Many people don’t achieve their goals because they agree to take on tasks that are of high priority to others but not to themselves. In 2017, resolve to say “No” to all those things that take your time away from your “one thing”.
    • Last but not least: DON’T be a slave to your yearly plan. A plan is only a rough guide to focus your efforts, so interpret it flexibly to react to unexpected events and surprises that could lead to dangers and/or new opportunities.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 


  • Why death is the unlikely ally of creation

    The email is titled “2017 Creative Mornings Themes” and opens with the question: “Interested to talk about one topic as keynote speaker?” I go through the list of themes: mystery, moments, taboo, beyond, serendipity, survival, equality, genius, compassion, pioneer, death, and context. Instantly, I am attracted to “genius”. After all, reconnecting to our inner genius is what Thinkergy’s creative leadership method Genius Journey is all about.
    But one topic in the list surprises me and makes me feel uncomfortable: death. Does the Grim Reaper have a creative side? I begin thinking about it — and indeed, death is an unlikely ally of creativity and creation.

    What are Creative Mornings?

    Creative Mornings is an hour-long creative speaker held in cities across the globe once a month. In each city, invited keynote speakers discuss one theme in the context of creativity. The organizer in Bangkok is the Institute for Knowledge & Innovation – South-East Asia (IKI-SEA), Bangkok University organizes the Creative Mornings events, which I have just joined as an Assistant Professor on a part-time basis. Bangkok University positions itself as “The Creative University”, which seems like a good fit to my innovation company Thinkergy and our mission to create more innovators.

    What are the creative dimensions of death?

    Death is the action or fact of dying or being killed; it can also be the destruction or permanent end of something. Death and destruction are antonyms of life and creation. So how can they have a creative side? Interestingly, these opposites seem to feed on each other in three paradoxical ways:

    1. Creation and creative destruction (death) complement each other, depend on each other, and complete each other.
    2. While we cannot avoid death, creation is the way to circumvent it.
    3. In order to a that, death can remind us to focus our creative energies wisely.

    Let’s discuss each of these three insights in greater detail in the following.

    Insight 1. Death completes and supports creation, and vice versa

    “For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.” Just as the writer Khalil Gibran noted in The Prophet, life and death are intertwined in a never-ending cycle. Every form of life passes through this cycle of creative conception, birth, growth, maturity, death, and decay. The cycle of life applies to human beings, animals or natural phenomena like plants, typhoons or galaxies, and it also holds true for an idea, a theory, a product, a technology, a company, or an industry.

    What if this cycle had no end? What if there were only creation and life without any destruction and death? We would live in a world overcrowded with people and stuff. And old people, things and ideas would suppress the new, and limit its ability to develop, thrive and mature. Apple’s Steve Jobs put it this way: “No one wants to die… And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”

    Insight 2. Creation is a way to circumvent death

    While none of us can avoid death, we can live on after we’re gone. How? By using the force of creation. Human beings are the only species that can employ two creative strategies to prolong life after death:

    1. Procreation. “Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them,” noted the British author George Eliot. So, procreate. Start a family and having children that live on and remember you once you’re gone. It is likely to prolong your life for one to two generations before you will be eventually forgotten and dead for good.
    2. Creation. In this life, focus your work and energy on creative output in a field where your talents, skills and passions intersect. The more outputs you create during your life time, the greater the odds that at least one of your creations becomes an eternal masterpiece and you  live on in the hearts of present and future generations, just like Steve Jobs does.

    Insight 3. Death is a tool to focus creative energy

    Use the prospect of death as a tool to focus your time and energy on those things that are most important for you. Steve Jobs said in this context: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

    Sadly, most busy businesspeople use time management systems to deal with their schedules. What they forget is that “busyness” (filling hours with activity) doesn’t equate to productivity and creativity (producing results and creative outputs). Moreover, how can you manage time if you don’t know how much time you have left? Here’s Steve Jobs again: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

    So, “carpe diem” — use each day wisely. Make each day you’ve left count by living your life instead of living up to the expectations of others. Make it count by spending time with people you love and who bring out the best in you. Make it count by procreating and bringing up functional children. Make it count by following your passion and doing what you think is important. Make it count by leaving a lasting legacy. Then, when you have your appointment with death, you can look back with a gratifying smile, and look forward to a new adventure.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016.

  • A Creepy Creative Story

    Have you ever wondered what it feels like to check-in at Bates Motel? Or to wander the dark corridors of Dracula’s castle on a stormy night? Earlier this year, I got a taste of it. Allow me to share with you a strange, creepy, and maybe even slightly embarrassing personal creative story, and explain how it connects to one of our innovation methods.

    Last September, we launched Thinkergy US, a network of licensed Thinkergy innovation trainers to help spread our innovation methods across North America. It was my last day in Minneapolis after eight days of highly intensive —and successful— train-the-trainer workshops. All I longed for was a drink and a comfy bed for the night before flying on to New York the next morning.

    Unfortunately, the hotel I had stayed at all week was fully booked on my final day. I needed a five-star hotel close to the airport. Kevin Ehlinger Wilde, my host and local business partner, hadn’t booked a hotel yet, but with over 200 four- and five-star hotels in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, we foresaw no problem.

    We checked out all the four and five-star hotels near the airport. All were fully booked. We widened our search online and no luck. The only place with a vacancy was a country club close to Kevin’s home at Lake Minnetonka. “I know the place,” he told me. “Let’s bring you there for the night.”

    As we drove towards Lake Minnetonka, the sky darkened. Night was falling fast. Thunder rolled in the distance. A tremendous thunderstorm was about to break lose. Five miles later, a torrential rain set in. We had to maneuvre around large puddles and storm-tossed trees. “It seems I’m doomed”, I remarked. Finally, the outline of a large mansion emerged. “Here we are. This is the country club you’re staying tonight”, said Kevin. The building lay in complete darkness. A line from the Eagles’ song “Hotel California” entered my mind: “You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

    We parked the car under the roof terrace and entered a dark hotel lobby. “Sorry, we have a brownout,” was the receptionist’s welcome message: “Probably some trees crashed on the electric cables.”

    “How long does it take to bring the power back,” I asked.

    “Maybe an hour or two. Maybe the whole night. But we have a flashlight for each guest to take to their rooms.”

    Kevin comes in: “We’ll take one room for my guest. Here is my credit card.”

    “Sorry, Sir, we can’t do a check-in now as the computers are down. Here’s the key to the room on the third floor. Sorry the elevators don’t work, so please take the stairs.”

    Like the thunder, my gut rumbled: “This all feels bad.” But Kevin had already taken one of my bags. I grabbed the other one and followed him upstairs. Reaching the third floor, we pushed open a heavy wooden door. A loud, creaking noise reverberated. My room was right opposite. I entered the pitch dark room and dropped my bags. In the glow of the flashlight the room looked luxurious, but my gut was now rebelling and yelling: “Don’t stay here.”

    I followed Kevin back to the lobby. I had a really uneasy feeling. We had a quick chat on our pick-up arrangement for the next morning. Suddenly, four firemen, drenched from the storm and armed with heavy axes, entered the lobby. Without a word, they walked upstairs. I commented on the absurdity of the situation: “The Ghostbusters have arrived. Finally!”

    Kevin started laughing, but now my gut told me: “Walk away.”

    I mastered all my courage and went to the receptionist: “Sorry, Ma’am, may I ask you a stupid question: Is this place haunted?”

    She looked at me in surprise: “How did you know?” Then, looking down, she said: “We occasionally have sightings on the third floor, but down here it’s safe.”

    “Thanks for your honesty,” I replied. “I can feel it. Sorry, I won’t stay.”

    We went back to the room, grabbed my bags, and drove off to Kevin’s apartment. He put out an air mattress on the floor for me. It felt simple, humble and good. Opening my phone to check for messages, I noticed that, by accident, I seemed to have recorded a short video at the time I was in the room at the country club. It showed a door handle repeatedly moving up and down. I deleted it to put the incident out of my mind. Finally, feeling safe and sound, I drifted off into a deep sleep.

    So why do I tell you this creepy creative story?

    It relates to Genius Journey, the creative leadership development method that I created for Thinkergy and will publish as a book mid of next year. Genius Journey teaches how to identify and discard disempowering mindsets and action routines and replace them with corresponding empowering mindsets that set you and your creativity free.

    On the foundational level, Genius Journey asks you first to stop your doubts, worries and fears. Instead, become a courageous, action-oriented and persistent believer. Now guess how I train candidates on the Genius Journey to fight their fears? I take them through a fake haunted house. Now you’re asking: Why did I chicken out at the country club at Lake Minnetonka?

    Creative leaders trained in the Genius Journey method are integrated whole-mind thinkers. They’ve built-up a highly attuned intuitive, creative mind that complements their well-developed rational, scientific mind:

    • My rational mind knew that statistically, it’s highly improbable for so many unlikely events occur all at once: my hotel is fully booked on my last day; my host forgot to book another room; all but one of more than 200 hotels are fully booked; a heavy storm knocked out the power to my last-chance hotel; and so on.
    • But more importantly, my intuitive mind signaled me that something felt wrong all along. It took real courage to ask if the hotel was haunted. I felt stupid, but it would have been more stupid, even reckless, to ignore my gut feeling.

    What would you have done? Stayed the night with a flashlight in a dark room? It all comes back to our beliefs, the starting point of Genius Journey. 

    Personally, I believe in the existence of a higher spiritual force for good that guides and protects me on my path. I also believe in the Yin-Yang principle: Where there is good, there are also dark, evil forces somewhere at work. And I have learned that if trust my inner sense of self and listen to my gut, all things turn out well in the end — and even a strange, creepy creative story will have a happy end.

    Happy Holidays to all of you!

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 22 December 2016.

  • How Muhammad Ali exemplified the genius mindsets of creative leaders (Part 2)

    Two weeks ago, we discussed in this column how Muhammad Ali epitomized the genius mindsets of creative leaders that I identified while studying the biographies of geniuses, creative business leaders and top achievers. These genius mindsets help form my creative leadership development method Genius Journey that features 10 destination stops were you learn more about how to reconnect with your inner genius.

    In part 1 we discussed how Ali, “The Greatest of all times”, truly exemplified the four foundational mindsets that we encounter on destination stops 1-4 of the Genius Journey. Today, let’s continue honoring the legend of Muhammad Ali as we learn more about the remaining six genius mindsets of creative leaders.

    Stop 5: Intrinsic Motivation, Passion and Purpose

    The fifth destination stop on the Genius Journey reminds you to stop working only for the money, and to start loving what you do — and knowing why you do it.

    Ali wasn’t fighting for the money only, but because he loved boxing. It was his natural talent, which he jokingly expressed as follows: “Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.” But he became a legend not because he was a world champion. He transcended his passion of boxing by also having a purpose of why he did it: “I wanted to use my fame and this face that everyone knows so well to help uplift and inspire people around the world.”

    In and out of the boxing ring, he fought what he believed was the good fight, the just fight, the right fight. For example, fighting for more civil rights for Afro-American citizens was a good fight, while fighting an unjust war in Vietnam was not.

    Ali was doing what he did because he wanted to help and inspire ordinary people. In a tribute, a reporter recalled how on a joint tour through South America, he saw Ali giving away 100 dollar each to beggars lining up outside his hotel in the morning. “Champ, why are you doing it?” Ali responded: “For me, it’s just a 100 dollar, but for them, it’s worth here as much as ten thousand dollars for me at home.”

    Stop 6: Integrated Whole Mind

    Stop 6 of the Genius Journey invites you to start becoming an integrated whole-brain thinker and stop using only half of your mind.

    Muhammad Ali was an ingenious boxer who employed his creativity not only to come up with witty entertaining sayings and one of the shortest and most impactful poems of all times (“I shook up the world. Me! We!”), but also to devise creative tactics that won fights everyone expected him to lose.

    Before the epic “rumble in the jungle” with George Foreman, Ali announced that to win the fight, “I’m going to dance”. But to the surprise of everyone, he switched in round 2 to a new creative tactic, the “rope-a-dope”, leaning back against the rope for three rounds and absorbing punches while protecting his head. Soon Foreman was tired and Ali went on the offensive, ending the fight in round 8 with a knockout to regain his World Championship title. “The man who has no imagination, has no wings”, he said, and elaborated further: “If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it – then I can achieve it.”

    Stop 7: Expert & Generalist (T-Shaped Leader)

    Stop 7 of the Genius Journey asks you to stop getting trapped in the expert tunnel and start living, working and learning as a modern renaissance man or woman with many talents and interests.

    Muhammad Ali exemplifies the concept of a T-shaped person who combines expertise in one focus domain (boxing) with a broad repertoire of knowledge, skills and experience. Outside the ring, Ali was a civil rights fighter and political activist, a religious disciple and preacher, an entertainer and joker, a magician and poet, a promoter and businessman. Ali sought to experience life in all it’s dimensions: “Live every day as if it were your last because some day you’re going to right.”

    Stop 8: Movement, Flexibility & Change

    Stop 8 of the Genius Journey reminds you to stop being habitual, rigid and fixated; instead, start to change, move and flex yourself.

    Ali had a very unorthodox boxing style he described as: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. You can’t hit what your eyes don’t see.” In his fights, Ali was constantly moving, dancing through the ring and doing the “Ali shuffle” (a famous series of boxing footwork he created as a taunting mechanism), making it difficult for his opponents to strike and pin him down.

    Stop 9: Mindfulness & Present Moment Awareness

    Stop 9 of the Genius Journey asks you to stop acting mindlessly, and instead start taking focused actions now.

    Clearly, as one of world Champion in boxing, Ali tuned into the moment and pay attention with all of his senses to what’s happening right now.

    In a famous footage showing him training for the “rumble in the jungle”, he boxed against a camera to demonstrate from an unusual perspective what it would mean every moment for George Foreman to fight against Ali: “Now you see me, now you don’t”, Ali joked as he appeared and disappeared out of the camera’s field of sight.

    Stop 10: Focused Doing, Relaxed Being (Balance, Rhythm & Flow)

    At the tenth stop of the Genius Journey, you’re prompted to stop doing, doing, doing something all the time. Instead, start harmoniously balancing focused doing with relaxed being to develop a rhythm that brings you into flow, the state of optimal experience were everything flows easily and you perform at your very peak.

    A box bout follows an inherent rhythm of focused action (the fighting in each round), alternating with breaks for the fighters to recharge and get advice. Interestingly, Ali used the breaks for being with himself and reconnecting to his inner core, his inner self, his beliefs and willpower — and not for strategizing: “My trainer don’t tell me nothing between rounds. I don’t allow him to. I fight the fight. All I want to know is did I win the round. It’s too late for advice,” he said.

    Stop 11: Subconscious Creativity (Preparation- Incubation-Illumination- Verification)

    For some people, the Genius Journey may reveal a secret eleventh stop. When all genius mindsets are in sync, you may experience a moment of breakthrough creativity, where you receive a breakthrough idea in an instant moment of flash illumination, which typically happens in a moment of flow. While there is no account of Ali sharing a Eureka experiences, he probably had moments of sparks in those split seconds when he intuitively unleashed his Championship-winning knockout punches.

    Conclusion: Muhammad Ali was not only an iconic boxer, he was a true genius who exemplified all genius mindsets and action routines of outstanding creative leaders. “I’ve made my share of mistakes along the way, but if I have changed even one life for the better, I haven’t lived in vain.” You have touched the lives of millions of people and inspired them to the better. R.I.P. you legendary genius, you were truly The Greatest.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. 

  • New Research Study Proves Innovation Training Works

    Dr. Detlef Reis (Dr. D), the founder of Thinkergy, presented the results of a research study at The ISPIM Innovation Summit 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last week. The paper titled "Training Business People in Structured Innovation: Uncovering the Innovation Learner's Experience" revealed some significant insights into innovation training. 

    The study aimed to shed more light on the following research questions:

    1. What is going on inside learners’ minds while undertaking a training program in business creativity and applied innovation?

    2. How might educators use the insights drawn from the learners’ experiences to design more effective creativity and innovation training programs?

    3. How do learners value and subsequently personalize the benefits of using a structured innovation method and related thinking tools?

    Conclusions:

    The outcomes of this study provide insights for innovation educators and facilitators of innovation workshops on to design more effective creativity and innovation courses in line with the learning experience of business professionals. Some of the key insight from the study include:

    • Over twice as many participants considered themselves to be "highly creative" upon completion of the training
    • 72% strongly agreed that "individual creativity can be improved through training and exercises" while the remaining 28% somewhat agreed or were neutral. 
    • Business professionals asserted that such a course improved their creative competence and confidence.
    • They also the confirmed that using a systematic innovation method increases the quantity and quality of insights, ideas and innovative outputs.
    • 74% strongly agreed that the "use of thinking tools leads to more meaningful value creation.

    Creative skills can be effectively taught to and acquired by business professionals in a course that combines theoretical instructions with the practical application on real-life innovation cases like those found in X-IDEA.

    Click here to download the complete paper and slide deck from the ISPIM Innovation Summit.

  • Creative cultural change is like striving to live a healthier life

    This week, I attended the ISPIM (International Society of Professional Innovation Management) 2016 Innovation Summit in Kuala Lumpur. Apart from presenting an academic conference paper on the innovation learner’s experience and running a workshop on our innovation people profiling method TIPS, I also was asked to moderate a panel discussion on “Creating a Culture for Innovation”. While preparing for the session, I noticed an interesting similarity: Creating an innovation-friendly, creative culture in an organization is like striving to live a healthier life.

    All change starts with a major impetus

    When do people begin to long for a healthier lifestyle? Only when they realize that something is seriously wrong. It might be burnout, weight gain, a performance drop at work, or even a heart attack that sends an unmistakable signal: you must change your lifestyle NOW.

    Likewise, every established corporation occasionally receives an urgent wake-up call that now is the time for building a creative culture: a sharp drop in sales or profits; a fast-growing, agile new player that is eating up your market share; or a new technology that threatens to make your business obsolete.

    Get a check-up

    What do you do when you notice something’s wrong with your health? You see a doctor, who will examine you and perform tests to identify the causes for your declining well-being, and then recommends effective treatments.

    When a corporation expresses a desire to evolve into a more creative culture, an innovation consultant prescribes a comprehensive innovation capacity audit. This “health check” identifies the presence or, more typically, absence of certain organizational factors that support creativity and innovation.

    For example, in the innovation audit that is a key feature of Thinkergy’s innovation transformation method CooL – Creativity UnLimited, we check for 64 bipolar factors that relate to five bases: leadership, commitment, collaboration, culture and structure. A good “innovation health check” creates a clear profiles of the organizational innovation capacity, and identifies problem areas that need fixing to perform a “cool change” towards a more creative culture.

    Adopt an open, curious mindset

    After a health checkup, you know in theory what things you need to do to start living better. Does this awareness alone help you succeed? Nope. First take a look at your existing mindset: What habitual thoughts and action routines led to your decline in the first place? Become aware of your unhealthy ways and the disempowering thoughts and situations that trigger them. Then you can replace them with new, empowering healthy action strategies, and reframe your health challenge as an opportunity to discover a new, exciting side of life.

    Similarly, an innovation consultant needs to determine if the “brains” of the organization are willing —and able— to change. Leading change towards a more creative culture requires top executives to stop talking the innovation talk, and start walking it. Ask: Are they willing to revisit the strategic core of the organization (vision, mission, values, core value propositions)? Are they eager to conduct a strategy innovation project to discover new fields of sustained, profitable future growth? And on a personal level, are they open to undergo a creative leadership development program such as Thinkergy’s Genius Journey method?

    Commit to the achieve the desired changes

    Once you’ve begun cultivating an open, curious mindset for healthy change, you need commit the necessary resources: enough time to exercise, meditate and sleep; additional money to purchase healthier meals, and so on.

    Likewise, corporate leaders need to make serious commitments of resources for the creative culture change initiative: committing their own time to create momentum; setting budgets for new projects and innovation initiatives; and forming an innovation team to support the creative change effort. Commitment is the acid test to find out how serious the leadership really is towards creating a creative culture.

    Collaborate to jointly change

    Now you have a motivated mindset to pursue a healthy lifestyle and have earmarked sufficient time and money to achieve success. But how can you be sure you won’t fall back to your old, unhealthy habits? You could team-up with “buddies” who have similar health goals, or hire a coach. Your collaborators will check on your progress and hold you accountable if you stray from the path.

    In an organization, you can introduce collaborative creative projects and innovation initiatives that break down boundaries and silos, unite like-minded, progressive creative minds, and build momentum and enthusiasm for creativity and innovation.

    Work on the cultural factors

    Finally, everything is in place to create a healthier you. Now you just need to do it, which is easier said then done. So, develop new routines and actions that make health and wellness a core part of the way you live: mediate first thing in the morning; eat a healthy breakfast; take supplements; go running, or do a gym or Yoga session on your lunch break; replace unhealthy snacks and drinks with healthy alternatives; go to bed in time to for allow for sufficient sleep.

    Likewise, organizations need to get busy changing their routines and cultural habits to foster a more innovation-friendly climate: practice rapid prototyping; praise people who take initiative even if they sometimes fail; be more flexible about how, when and where people work — while at the same time raising standards and output expectations from “good enough” to the pursuit of excellence.

    Measure your progress

    Shifting to a healthier lifestyle isn’t easy and takes time — and the same holds true for organisations craving a creative culture. Avoid sliding back to your old ways by measuring your progress. The data tell you which strategies and regimens work and which you need adjusting. And seeing progress creates momentum to intensify and sustain the change.

    On a personal level, you regularly track vital signs (resting pulse rate, blood pressure, weight) and annually check how your lifestyle changes are reflected in key health indicators on a cellular level.

    In just the same way, organizations should work together with innovation experts to develop their individualized set of innovation-related key performance indicators on three levels (inputs, throughputs, outputs) that get tracked on a quarterly and annual basis.

    Contact us if you want to find out how we can jointly co-create a innovative change in your organization and help you cultivate a creative culture.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 8 December 2016.

  • How Muhammad Ali exemplified the genius mindsets of creative leaders (Part 1)


    I was half-way in an exercise set at the gym when my eye spotted the breaking news on CNN: “Boxing legend Muhammad Ali dead at 74″. I feel great sadness that one of my heroes has moved on to a higher place. Muhammad Ali was one of the creative role models I studied when I was devising Genius Journey, my creative leadership development method. “The Greatest” exemplified all genius mindsets that most great creative leaders share.

    The Genius Journey sends people in search of their creativity on a journey to visit 10 destination stops. At each stop, they learn about one mindset that stops them, limits them, keeps them small, keeps them thinking inside the box. And they learn about 10 corresponding mindsets that allow them to unbox their thinking, expand their consciousness, and rediscover their creative selfs.

    To honor the life of Muhammad Ali, and to inspire more businesspeople to build-up their genius mindsets and reconnect with their inner genius, let’s tour the 10 destinations stops of the Genius Journey together with Ali today and in two weeks from now.

    Journey Stop 1: Belief, courage, action-orientation and persistence

    Muhammad Ali is a role-model for the foundational first stop of the Genius Journey: Stop your doubts, worries and fears. Start to be a courageous, action-oriented and persistent believer.

    “I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given. I believed in myself, and I believe in the goodness of others,” he once said, and he also noted: “It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.”

    Ali knew: “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” Hence, he used affirmations as a tactic to convince himself and others that he is the greatest indeed: “I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.” And the greatest he became, true to his belief that, “What you are thinking about, you are becoming.”

    Ali was also aware that belief powers courage: “It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges.” His faith gave Ali the courage to go into the ring against towering champions like Sonny Liston and George Foreman, and to win fights most experts considered impossible for him. But Ali looked at an impossible as a motivating challenge: “Impossible is just a word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

    His faith also gave Ali the courage to refuse to be drafted to fight in what he saw as  an unjust war in Vietnam. That conviction would cost him his title, his money and his freedom: “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? … I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But … I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”

    “He who is not courageous enough to take risks, will accomplish nothing in life,” noted Ali. His courage gave him the willpower to act and persist in the face of hardship and pain that every champion and genius leader needs to master: “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them-a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.” He admitted he hated every minute of training, but told himself: “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”

    Journey Stop 2: Self-confidence and individuality

    Stop 2 of the Genius Journey is where you learn to stop your ego — your false self, the role you’re playing to please others — and start being yourself.

    “I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want,” said Ali. Instead of copying the thoughts, values and opinions of others, he insisted upon himself: “My principles are more important than the money or my title.” His insistence on his individuality even made him change his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali (which means ‘beloved of God’). When people continued calling him with his old name, he responded confidently: “I’m not your slave. I’m Muhammad Ali.”

    While extremely self-confident, Ali was also humble and respectful to ordinary fellow humans. He admitted once: “At home I am a nice guy: but I don’t want the world to know. Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.”

    Stop 3: Curiosity and open-mindedness


    Stop 4: Playfulness, positivity & optimism

    The genius mindsets at the stops 3 and 4 of the Genius Journey are located at the same consciousness level. Here you’re asked to stop being judgmental and closed, a negative, serious pessimist. Instead, start being open and curious, a positive playful optimist.

    Muhammad Ali was open and curious to meet people and learn: “I sought the advice and cooperation from all of those around me – but not permission.” He became popular because he loved people and entertained them with funny rants against  opponents (“I’ve seen George Foreman shadow boxing, and the shadow won”) and witty poems (“I’ve wrestled with alligators, I’ve tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning, And throw thunder in jail.”).

    Clearly, throughout his life, Ali maintained a curious, open, positive and playful beginner’s mind of a child, which explains while disease ravaged his body in his last decades, it “couldn’t take the spark from his eyes”, as US President Obama said it his tribute.

    In two weeks, we will continue the remaining stops of the Genius Journey to see how “The Greatest of all times”also epitomized the other genius mindsets. Contact us if you want to learn more about how you can become a genius and discover your genius mindsets with our creative leadership method Genius Journey.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. 

  • Escaping the GIGO principle of innovation

    Last week, I began planning a comprehensive innovation project with a client. This project is of a high importance for this Multinational Corporation, which is seeking for new applications in new industries for a highly profitable product that is now locked into one industry and one application niche. The first challenge in this complex innovation project, I told the client, would be to understand —and escape— the GIGO principle of innovation.

    What is the GIGO principle?

    GIGO stands for “Garbage in, garbage out”. Originating from the domain of computer science and information technology, the GIGO principle describes the following fact:

    If you input unintended, even nonsensical, data (“garbage in”) to a computer (operated by logical processes), then it will unquestioningly produce undesired, often nonsensical, output (“garbage out”).

    In more than a decade of working on over 150 innovation projects, I’ve seen how GIGO also applies to the field of innovation in five dimensions: project, process, money, time, and people.

    The project dimension

    The project dimension of the GIGO principle of innovation goes as follows:

    If you input an unintended, even nonsensical, innovation case at the start of an innovation project (garbage in), then it will produce undesired, often nonsensical, ideas and innovation outputs (garbage out).

    How to escape “garbage in” on the project side?

    • When you plan a new innovation project, ensure that it is relevant, realistic and meaningful for both your organization and key project stakeholders. Ask yourself: How to make key stakeholders rally behind this project? How to make participants feel eager to take part, and look forward to starting?
    • Identify the main innovation type you intend to pursue (e.g., process innovation, product innovation, service innovation, customer experience design, campaign design, business model innovation, or strategy innovation, among others).

    The process dimension

    On a meta-level, we can formulate the process dimension of the GIGO principle of innovation as follows:

    If you use an incomplete or dysfunctional innovation process for an innovation project (garbage in), then it will result in incomplete or substandard ideas and innovation results (garbage out).

    Moreover, every innovation process consists of different process stages, and employs thinking tools that innovation teams apply while working in a stage. As such, the process-related GIGO principle of innovation has a corollary on a stage-level:

    If you enter an insufficient quantity and/or poor quality of inputs into a process stage of a well-structured innovation method (garbage in), then it will produce too few, substandard outputs and results at the end of this stage (garbage out).

    The same holds true on the tool-level: Even the best, most carefully selected thinking tools will produce undesired, or even nonsensical, outputs (“garbage out”) if you input low-quality information (“garbage in”).

    How to escape “garbage in” on the process side?

    • Select and use an innovation process that is well-structured and complete, and that measures inputs and outputs on different levels (such as Thinkergy’s awards-winning X-IDEA method).
    • At the end of a process stage (or a thinking tool-exercise within a stage), make sure that you have outputs in a sufficient quantity and an adequate quality before you move on to the next stage (tool).

    The monetary dimension

    Going through an innovation project requires an adequate budget investment, which leads us to the monetary dimension of the GIGO principle of innovation:

    If you run an innovation project on a shoestring (garbage in), then your pennies will buy you only third-rate delivery partners with faulty innovation processes and limited experience, leading to suboptimal innovation results (garbage out).

    How to escape “garbage in” on the monetary side?

    • Relate the budget to the relative importance of the innovation project (high, medium, low).
    • Hire external innovation professionals with effective process methods to facilitate projects of medium and especially high importance. Recall David Ogilvy’s advice: “Pay peanuts, get monkeys”.
    • Ensure you budget can also pay for a functional event space and for the logistics and travel costs related to the innovation events.
    • Quantify the potential financial benefits of the project, such as estimated revenue and/or profit margin growth. View your project budget in relation to these desired benefits to arrive at an adequate level. For example, a project budget of USD 100,000 seems like a lot, but when viewed in relative terms against expected project benefits (say, USD 50 mio), it translates into a tiny fraction (here 0.2%).

    The time dimension

    Good thinking leading to great innovations takes time. All too often, businesspeople underestimate the time needed to do an innovation project adequately (a phenomenon related to a cognitive bias known as planning fallacy). This leads us to the time dimension of the GIGO principle of innovation:

    If you provide inadequate time commitments to an innovation project and each of its stages; garbage in), then it will produce half-baked outputs and results (garbage out).

    How to escape “garbage in” on the time side?

    • Relate the time commitment to the relative importance of the project (high, medium, low). Consider the following minimum number of innovation workshop days for each importance level: one event day (low), two to three days (medium), and four to five days (high).
    • For high importance cases, spread the innovation project out over a couple of months. Invest time upfront for a thorough immersion during an initial Xploration phase. It will pay dividends later on, ensuring that your innovation teams can address your real innovation challenge, which typically differs from the one you initially perceive to be your challenge.

    The people dimension

    The right number of the right people create great innovation to improve people’s lives. Last but not least, this notion is reflected in the people dimension of the GIGO principle of innovation:

    If an insufficient number of, or the wrong type of people work on an innovation project (or a particular process stage; garbage in), then they will produce too few or suboptimal ideas and innovation outputs (garbage out).

    How to escape “garbage in” on the people side?

    • For innovation projects of medium or high importance, have more than one innovation team (comprising eight to 10 members) working on the project case in parallel.
    • Optimize the people side of innovation: Use cognitive profiling tools (such as Thinkergy’s people innovation profiling method TIPS) to invite people to each innovation process stage who have a natural talent for the type of thinking required in that stage. For example, when applying X-IDEA, I noted that conceptual thinkers do well in the initial Xploration stage; creative thinkers shine in the two creative stages Ideation and Development; critical thinkers help a team to get real in the Evaluation stage; and operational doers get things done in the Action-stage.
    • For highly important innovation projects, broaden viewpoints and the pool of ideas by inviting topic experts (e.g., scientists, futurists, trend scouts) and external collaborators (e.g., clients, suppliers, creative agency partners).

    Do you plan working on an important innovation project in 2017, too? Do you want to escape the GIGO principle of innovation? Contact us if you want to find out how we can guide you towards meaningful innovation results with our systematic innovation method X-IDEA.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. 

  • Understanding the cycles of change using TIPS (Part 2)


    In Part 1 of this article, we looked at the driving forces of change in societies by looking at four traditional roles that underpin most societies: a smart scholar or academic; a progressive merchant or entrepreneur; a collegial farmer or worker; and the rule-enforcing warrior or cop. We learned how these four traditional roles are associated with the four bases — Theories, Ideas, People, and Systems — of TIPS, Thinkergy’s innovation people-profiling method. 

    Today, allow me give you more insights into how to ride the cycles of change in society and business by looking at the four TIPS bases through another lens: the concepts of evolutionary economics and long cycles of Joseph Schumpeter and Nikolai Kondratiev.

    A brief introduction to Schumpeter

    Roughly a hundred years ago, the Austrian economist Joseph A. Schumpeter proposed a radically new theory of macroeconomics. Inspired by Darwin’s theory of evolution, evolutionary economics focuses on the non-equilibrium processes —especially technological and institutional innovations— that transform an economy from within and drive the cycles of change:

    • Most established industries are in a state of balance and relative stasis — the macroeconomic equilibrium that Schumpeter acknowledged as “the normal mode of economic affairs”, in which a few market leaders dominate the industry. According to Pareto theory (80/20 thinking), around 20% of companies in any industry make around 80% of revenues generated in that industry. Typically, two or three command the highest market shares, two or three follow at a distance, and a myriad of smaller players vie for the balance.
    • Over time, new research and new technologies surface. Progressive entrepreneurs and agile ventures operating at the fringes of an established market space recognize these as a business opportunity and pick them up. While the incumbents are preoccupied with “milking the cow”, making incremental improvements and fighting tactical battles for market share, entrepreneurs enter the market space with a truly innovative technology. As Schumpeter emphasized: “Innovations are changes which cannot be decomposed into infinitesimal steps.”
    • If the entrepreneurs succeed, their “disruptive technology” upsets the established order of economic life. They become the dominant players of a new market, and the incumbents fall behind.
    • Eventually, a once mighty outdated corporation or its flagship business gets acquired or is closed. Schumpeter called this process “creative destruction”, describing it as follows: “The opening up of new markets, foreign or domestic, and the organizational development from the craft shop and factory to such concerns as U. S. Steel illustrate the same process of industrial mutation — if I may use that biological term — that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.”
    • Radical shifts in lead technologies disrupt the traditional order of markets and societies, and instigate major social changes. As Schumpeter observed: “Capitalism inevitably and by virtue of the very logic of its civilization creates, educates and subsidizes a vested interest in social unrest.”
    • How does the story continue? Over time, a new equilibrium establishes itself in the new industry. The leaders of the now dominating new market eventually become part of the economic establishment and comfortably enjoy the returns of their disruptive innovation — until a new disruptive technology comes along. A new macroeconomic cycle has begun, giving birth to a new industry and a new round of creative destruction of the old.

    The long waves of economic change

    Schumpeter and the Russian economist Nikolai Kondratiev both observed that major shifts in lead technologies happen in long cycles that flow in waves (known as Schumpeter-waves or Kondratiev-waves). What long cycles and related lead technologies can we distinguish?

    Water power, textiles and iron led the first wave (ca. 1785-1845), followed by steam, railway and steel (1845-1900). Electricity, chemicals and automobiles powered the third wave (1900-1950), followed by petrochemicals, aviation, and electronics in the fourth wave (1950-1990). The current fifth wave is driven by digital networks, software, and new media (1990-2020).

    What industries will dominate the next wave (2020-2045)? In his book The Sixth Wave, John Moody predicts that resources efficiency and clean technologies will be major drivers.

    By the way, have you noticed that the duration of the long waves seems to shorten? And so does the life span of corporations. The cycles of change are accelerating — or to put it in the words of Schumpeter: the incessant process of creative destruction is speeding up.

    Evolutionary economics, long cycles and TIPS

    Our innovation people profiling method TIPS distinguishes four bases that drive the behavior of individuals and organizations, industries or economies alike: Theories, Ideas, People and Systems. How do the evolutionary economic processes that drive the cycles of change relate to the four bases of TIPS?

    • An established industry resting in a macroeconomic equilibrium is Systems-driven. A few mighty corporations dominate the industry and focus on keeping control and defending their commanding market shares. Typically, they are too busy with themselves and their established peers to notice emerging trends on the horizon, thus facing the threat of creative destruction by a new disruptive technology.
    • Over time, the Theories base produces new base and applied research that crystallizes in new technologies, the catalyst of transformative change.
    • Entrepreneurs and agile ventures at the Ideas base are the first to recognize the market potential of an emerging technology. Thanks to their appetite for both progress and profit, they are willing to undertake both the risks related to investing in the new technology and the efforts to turn it into marketable products.
    • Finally, the People base is needed to make a new technology and a related products a market success. People become the consumers of the new technology, paying for it with money earned in an old industry or by switching to work in the new industry.

    Over time, the successful entrepreneurial venture grows through the People base and solidifies into a large corporation at the Systems base. A new macroeconomic equilibrium sets in that years later will be unsettled by the start of a new long cycle. And so flow the cycles of change, the incessant economic cycles of creation and creative destruction.

    Wanna learn more about our new innovation people profiling method TIPS? Take a look at this video — and contact us if you want to be informed of the launch of our new online profiling platform in a few weeks.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. 

  • The Creator-Manager Dilemma


    In my work, I play two major roles. One is as an innovator, creating new ideas and products. But I am also a manager. Thinking about these roles has made me aware of a dilemma facing creators, and the companies that employ them.

    Working styles
    There are as many work styles and cognitive preferences as there are people, but there are some clear categories into which they fall. One major division is what I call “brain vs. brawn”. Do you engage in abstract conceptual thinking (brain), or do you prefer to do things (brawn)? Are you a “brainiac” or a “brawniac” based on your thinking style and work style — or a mix of both?

    Braniacs are more abstract and strategic in their thinking, and look at the big picture. They think about the medium to long term, and enjoy pursuing and achieving what are often ambitious and challenging goals. They enjoy difficult conceptual problems, and are often the ones with breakthrough ideas.

    Brawniacs, on the other hand, focus more on operational issues. They take care of the details. They enjoy completing a list of tasks, and their short-term focus gets those tasks done quickly and efficiently.

    Creators and managers
    As you may already have guessed, brawniacs make excellent managers. They are good at identifying and solving operational issues, paying attention to detail, ensuring that things are working smoothly, and producing results, at least in the short term. They are good at these things because they enjoy them.

    In contrast, due to their conceptual cognitive preferences, brainiacs enjoy both thinking and creating new things. They don’t like dealing with the nuts and bolts. They are not managers, and they are unlikely to enjoy being managers, as it forces them to do things they don’t enjoy. Brainiacs can become great strategic leaders, but they will be, at best, competent managers.

    The dilemma
    Consider a hard-working, talented brainiac. The quality of her work brings her to the attention of higher management, who decide to “reward” her with a promotion to a managerial position. While she may enjoy the additional authority and status — not to mention an enhanced paycheck — she may soon come to regard her “reward” as a curse rather than a blessing. Now she has to direct and monitor the efforts of others, instead of doing the conceptual, analytical, and creative work she enjoys. She has to focus on short-term goals, and get her team to meet them. She spends much of her time in meetings. She has to pay attention to details, not only in her own work, but also in that of her team. She is likely to become frustrated and annoyed, perhaps even depressed, because as a manager, she can no longer do the conceptual, analytical or creative work that she enjoys and is good at.

    This is the dilemma: in most organizations, brainiacs need to become managers if they are to advance their careers. They don’t enjoy being managers, and would add significantly more value to the organization if they did the work they are best at. This is a problem not only for the brainiac; it is also a problem for the organization, even for society at large. Requiring creators to become managers to rise in an organization is a misuse of talent, and risks losing valuable ideas from a creator-turned-manager who no longer has time to create.

    The solution
    Because they cannot execute their preferred work style and cannot play out their preferred conceptual thinking style, many disillusioned creator-managers wind up leaving their managerial jobs and becoming free agents, or starting new ventures where they can do the strategic, creative work they love, and hire others to take care of the operational details. In this way, many organizations lose top talent, and with them the investment they have made in them.

    How can an organization resolve this problem? In industries such as software, some firms have dual career tracks. Employees can advance either as managers (e.g., managing a team of programmers) or as creators (e.g., writing software). Both the manager track and the creator track offer equal rewards, and those rewards are based on the value the individual adds to the organization, rather than, say, how many people work for them.

    Are we likely to see many organizations adopt dual career tracks to resolve the creator-manager dilemma? Probably not. Measuring the value added by individuals is in general very difficult. But more importantly, even though a dual career track program may be desirable from the perspective of the shareholders of a firm, the managers of that firm are unlikely to implement it, as they would see it as threatening their own status and rewards.

    If you’re a brawniac — a pragmatic doer and talented manager — be happy: you can do the managing that you love and that fits your cognitive preferences, and get both honored and paid well. But if you’re a brainiac, a conceptual thinker and creator stuck in a managerial role that doesn’t fit to your preferred thinking style and work style, think about whether you should stay for the money or cash out and start doing what you love and what is more in line with your cognitive preferences. That’s what I did, and it was the best decision I ever made.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis

  • The Brainiac-Brawniac Scheduling Conflict


    In the article “creator-manager dilemma”, we discussed categorizing people based on their preferred work style as “brainiacs”, who like abstract conceptual thinking, and “brawniacs”, who like getting things done. Good managers are typically brawniacs, as they are good at the nuts and bolts of business, and produce short-term results. Brainiacs, on the other hand, may become great strategic leaders, but will rarely be more than competent as managers, as they prefer strategic and abstract thinking. In most organizations, this leads to a dilemma for brainiacs. In order to advance in their careers, brainiacs need to become managers. This forces them to stop doing work they enjoy and are good at, and instead do work they dislike and at which they rarely excel.

    Even when the creator-manager dilemma isn’t a factor, there is a difference in the work style between brainiacs and brawniacs that causes a lot of frustration at work, and that is their differing approaches to time.

    It’s just a short meeting
    Recently, a fellow professor asked me to meet with him and the management team of a company to discuss human talent acquisition and retention. When I said no, my colleague objected, “But it’s just one hour.” Well, yes and no. For me, such a meeting would cost me much more than just one hour, even if the meeting miraculously ended on time. In fact, I would have lost a full day of work had I joined the meeting, because of the way that I, as a brainiac, use time.

    The brain-brawn scheduling conflict
    Brawniacs and brainiacs work on very different time schedules. This is because their tasks require different time commitments:

    • Brawniacs schedule their work in increments of 15 minutes to one hour. The tasks they work on are practical and operational, and can be started, and completed, in a short time, and that time is fairly predictable. Brawniacs tend to schedule as many tasks or meetings in a day as will fit into the available hours. At the end of the day, they feel satisfied if they’ve got many things done or have participated in successful meetings.
    • Brainiacs, however, must schedule their work in increments of at least half a day. Each day, they can focus on only one or two conceptual tasks requiring substantial abstract thought. These tasks —writing an article, coding software, creating a financial model of a company — can not be done quickly and cannot be done in a few minutes here and a few minutes there. They require at least a few hours, and frequently a whole day, of undisturbed, concentrated work. If all goes well, brainiacs may “get into flow” and become so deeply absorbed by the work that they forget about everything else. This, the most productive time for a brainiac, can never happen if their work gets interrupted.

    If you’re a brawniac — a pragmatic doer and talented manager — be glad. The world runs on a brawniac’s schedule. In the U.S. it’s estimated that two out of three people are brawniacs. Even more importantly, most managers are brawniacs, and manage on their own schedule.

    However, if you’re a brainiac — a conceptual thinker and creator — you will inevitably and frequently come in conflict with a brawniac’s schedule due to your preferred work style. Although you need long stretches of time to produce good work, you will be asked to schedule time as if you were a brawniac. That mid-morning meeting may cost the brawniacs only an hour, but you lose at least a half day’s work as a result.

    Solutions
    How can a brainiac, or a brawniac manager of brainiacs, most effectively deal with this conflict? How can the brainiac produce their best work in a world running on the brawniac’s schedule? Here are three ideas for a brainiac to consider:

    1. Learn to say no. When you have conceptual work to do, refuse demands on your time that would destroy your productivity, just as I did to my fellow professor above. The first few times, you’ll have to explain why a half-hour task can destroy a full day of conceptual work. Eventually they will come to understand that your needs are different from theirs, and they should be able to see that allowing you your schedule results in your producing more, and better, work. Find a compromise that gives you the time you need based on your preferred work style, but which also lets you be seen as a committed member of the team.
    2. Schedule meetings at your least productive times. Whenever possible, I schedule meetings in the late afternoon. By then I have usually done the most vital parts of my conceptual work for the day and am happy to deal with people’s needs or operational details.
    3. Be a brawniac for one day each week. Make an agreement with yourself, your superior, and your team members that on one day each week you will work on a brawniac’s schedule. Schedule all your meetings, short operational tasks, service calls, etc., on this day, and do your best to be a brawniac for that day. This will free up the other days for you to work on your brainiac’s schedule, and enjoy four days of undisturbed conceptual work each week.

    Finally, if you’re a brawniac manager of brainiacs, try to give your brainiacs as much advance notice as possible of meetings and the like so they can arrange their work schedules for the least disruption. When possible, schedule meetings late in the day. Your brainiacs will complain less about them, and regardless of their preferred work style, everyone can use the mornings to be productive. And as an added bonus, meetings late in the day are more focused and shorter, because everyone wants to go home.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis

  • What kind of innovator does your business need?

    In an earlier article titled Growing with the flow, I discussed that, like living things, companies develop by passing through distinct phases in their life cycle. What’s also true is that as a company develops from a startup to a multinational corporation, different basic innovator dimensions dominate at different stages of a company’s life. Let me explain.

    The four dimensions of innovators

    Over the past few years, I’ve been developing an innovation-focused personality profiling system, and am currently fine-tuning it for market release in the first quarter of 2014. This system that we call TIPS is based on the idea that your natural work style, thinking style, life style and innovation style depend on the mix of four basic dimensions that drive your mental focus and energy. These four dimensions are: THEORIES, IDEAS, PEOPLE, and SYSTEMS (which together make for the acronym TIPS).

    When assessed on their combinations of these fundamental orientations, people fall into 11 types: Theorists, Ideators, Partners, Systematizers, Conceptualizers, Promoters, Organizers, Technocrats, Coaches, Experimenters, and All-rounders. Each of these innovation styles can contribute to a company’s innovation efforts, but different innovation styles come to the forefront at different stages in the corporate life cycle.

    How different dimensions drive and affect a company during its life cycle

    Let’s follow the life of a company to better understand how the need for the various innovator types — and their profiles — changes as it goes from a tiny new venture to a mighty behemoth:

    Phase 1: Great companies start with great IDEAS
    The idea on which a business is founded may be to fill an unmet need. An example of this is YouTube, whose founders Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim noticed the lack of an easy way to share videos on the web. The idea might also be to exploit a new technology or method, as in the case of Polaroid, founded by Edwin H. Land. The more radical, game-changing, and bold the idea, the more risky it is, the more reward it offers, and the more it can change the world. Ideators, the idea creators, often create and lead start-ups through their initial phase.

    Phase 2: Spread the word about the IDEAS to PEOPLE
    The second phase of company growth calls on both the IDEAS and the PEOPLE dimensions. Once a new product has been developed, then it’s time to build a brand and promote both the product and the brand. Among the 11 innovator types, the Promoter is most naturally suited to create convincing campaigns and to spread the word to the market.

    Phase 3: Get PEOPLE for Sales and Delivery
    This third phase is all about PEOPLE. You need to find the right people to sell your brand and product, and ensure satisfactory delivery and customer care. Partners are the innovator type most needed at this stage of a company’s development.

    Phase 4: PEOPLE use SYSTEMS to tame the chaos
    Sooner or later, if your sales team is successful, you will have a new problem: your organization will have problems keeping up with growth and maintaining consistent quality in products, delivery and services. This phase involves mostly the PEOPLE and SYSTEMS dimensions, as management realizes the need for organization at the front end, as well as a need for a more sophisticated back-end organization to ensure consistent service quality and customer care. The Organizer is the innovator type best suited to bring both order and a focus on service to a fast-growing company.

    Phase 5: Build smooth-running SYSTEMS
    As a company matures into a large corporation, the SYSTEMS dimension gains added importance. Senior management focuses on efficiency and productivity. The Systematizer is the right kind of person needed to drive and direct the transformation of a company into an efficient, productive corporation that is self-sustaining and not dependent on any one individual.

    Phase 6: IDEAS improve the SYSTEMS
    Once well-oiled SYSTEMS have been put in place, they can be shaped to improve the company. In order to do this, IDEAS are needed, along with the willingness to experiment and tinker with things to find the right business model, delivery channels, and partnerships to multiply the firm’s value. The Experimenter is the innovator type best able to figure out how to make the company successful in different markets, countries or even industries.

    Phase 7: Reinvent yourself and start a new cycle — or decline and perish
    By this time, your once-tiny startup has become a mature multinational corporation. However, natural systems have another phase in their life cycle: decline and, finally, death. Sooner or later, a new technology, business idea, or venture will emerge which challenges your company’s existence. If your company cannot adapt, renovate or reinvent itself — often because everyone in the company ignores the world-changing events around them — your company will start to decline, and may even perish, the victim of Schumpeter’s “creative destruction”.

     

    What about THEORIES?

    If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that we’ve only mentioned the IDEAS, PEOPLE and SYSTEMS. Where do THEORIES come in? The answer is: Always.

    Theories and information inform your actions at every phase of the cycle. However, the focus of the theories shifts as the other dimensions come to the fore.

    • When IDEAS are most important, you need conceptual or creativity-related theories, such as basic research.
    • When PEOPLE are the focus, your firm needs marketing and human capital-related knowledge.
    • Building strong, flexible SYSTEMS requires a good theoretical grounding in operations, efficiency, and process.

    And those innovator types we haven’t mentioned yet —Theorists, Conceptualizers, Coaches, Technocrats, and All-Rounders? Their role is in creating, disseminating, and applying theories and information throughout all phases of the corporate life cycle.

     
    © Dr. Detlef Reis

  • Why using one creative process stage leads to dull ideas

    When you “brainstorm” for ideas with a team, do you typically deliver conventional ideas that —if you’re honest— you could have got without dedicating extra time? Well, the reason you ended up with these ordinary low-hanging fruits doesn’t mean that you and your teammates are not creative. Rather, it means that you used an ineffective process — if you used a process at all.

    Most innovation process methods don’t allow you to move beyond the “obvious” ideas — the ones everyone else in your industry also thinks of first — because they use only one creative process stage. Today, let me explain how you can move from ordinary ideas to extraordinary ideas by adding a second creative stage to your innovation process.

    The unspoken problem of most innovation processes:

    Most innovation process methods have only one creative process stage. For example, the classic Creative Problem-solving (CPS) model labels this creative stage “idea finding”; the models of Bragg & Bragg, Clegg & Birch or VanGundy call it “idea generation”; and the popular design thinking method names it “ideation”. In all these process methods, this sole creative process stage is directly followed by a stage used to critically evaluate the ideas and select the best ones for further implementation.

    “That’s precisely how we always do it, too”, you may be saying. “So what’s wrong with that?” Well, you’re likely to end up with a low number of ideas that are all safe, sane and set.

    What causes the problem?

    When generating ideas, innovation project team members are supposed to follow four ground rules of ideation suggested by Alex Osborn, the famous advertiser and inventor of Brainstorming and other creativity techniques:

    • #1. No killing of any idea. Defer judgment.
    • #2. Go for idea quantity as it breeds quality.
    • #3. Shoot for wild, crazy, funny off the wall ideas.
    • #4. Combine and improve on ideas.

    Unfortunately, it’s difficult to comply to these four ground rules if your innovation method has only one creative process stage. Why?

    Why using one creative stage isn’t enough

    If idea generation is going to be followed directly by evaluation, how likely are you adhere to all ground rules of ideation? Quantity over quality, no idea too wild or crazy?

    Most probably not. It’s highly likely that your inner voice of judgment dismisses any wild idea the very moment you think it — and you won’t write it down. As such, you end up with fewer ideas overall — and most of them are ordinary or even boring.

    There is another problem related to using only one creative process stage: Suppose that against all odds, you had really mastered all your courage to adhere to the ground rules of ideation. If there were only one creative stage, would you be likely to select any wild idea for further in-depth evaluation?

    No way! You would kill all wild ideas right at the beginning of the critical evaluation phase, as you regarded them as useless to resolve your innovation challenge.

    Interestingly, a wild idea is often the seedling of a truly outstanding idea. That’s why we need to have two creative stages to make an innovation process really work and move beyond the same set of conventional ideas.

    The solution: Move from one to two creative stages

    Thinkergy’s X-IDEA innovation method is designed to move beyond conventional ideas by introducing a second, distinctively different creative stage, Development. In X-IDEA, the creative process flows as follows.

    • First we investigate the innovation project case in the Xploration stage to gain novel insights into what our real challenge is.
    • Then, the first creative process stage, Ideation, emphasizes idea quantity. Here we make an effort to produce hundreds of raw ideas (including many wild and uncommon ones) in a playful, fast and furious atmosphere.
    • In the second creative process stage, Development, we take our time to transform idea quantity into quality. Here it’s our job to design and develop a smaller portfolio of two to three dozens of novel, original and meaningful idea concepts.
    • Next, we evaluate the pros and cons of our idea concepts in a critical and realistic stage,Evaluation. Now we’re finally allowed to judge our ideas, but not before.
    • Finally, we take Action on those ideas that we selected for real-life activation

    How exactly to does the second creative stage work?

    In the Development-stage, we discover, design and develop to turn idea quantity into idea quality:

    • First, we discover intriguing ideas within the large portfolio of raw ideas generated during Ideation.
    • Then, we use these intriguing ideas to design realistic idea concepts through refinement, combination and transmutation.
    • Finally, we develop these designed concepts further by looking for ways to add even more value to them.

    Just like during Ideation, we also must follow four ground rules in the Development-stage. While ground rules #1 and #4 stay the same as before, two rules are changed compared to Ideation to reflect the altered objective of the Development stage:

    • Rule #2: Go for quality, and take your time.
    • Rule #3. The more meaningful, the better. Shoot for valuable, useful, realistic, meaningful idea concepts.

    Lesson: A creative process can unfold its magic only once it consists of two creative stages. Continue using a conventional, ordinary innovation process method with one creative process stage if you only want conventional ideas. Or switch to an unconventional innovation process method with two creative process stages (like X-IDEA) if you want to get unconventional, extraordinary ideas.

    Contact us if you want to learn more about how the two creative stages of X-IDEA may help your innovation teams to make the leap from ordinary to extraordinary ideas.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article is published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 26 May 2016.

  • Understanding the Cycles of Changes Using TIPS (part 1)

    Imagine a time machine brought you a few hundred years back in time to a feudal principality in the agricultural age. Upon your arrival, you’re randomly assigned to join one of three traditional social groups: farmers, clerics or warriors. You have to perform the duties associated with your newly assigned role. If you’re lucky, you feel a natural connection with your class, and perform well in your new role. But what if not? Today and in two weeks time, we’re going to explore the societal classes that preserve the traditional order and those that drive change — and how this struggle between stasis and progress perpetually drives the cycles of change in society and business.

    Introducing the traditional fabrics of society

    For centuries, the three social groups described in our imaginative scenario could be found in most countries:

    • The nobility was the first class. They owned and ruled the land. They paid for a standing force of loyal warriors who defended the lands against external enemies, kept the social order and collected taxes.
    • The noblemen also sponsored the second class: the clergy and scholars, who provided the nobles with knowledge and counsel, and also gave spiritual consolation to commoners to keep them docile.
    • Finally, commoners with many duties and hardly any rights formed the third class. These farmers and craftsmen did all of the menial work and paid taxes to the nobility in lieu of getting security.

    Together, these three groups formed a stable, traditional societal system. In every era, we can find similar social groups — for example, had you traveled back only a hundred years to the industrial age, you would see three similar groups: workers, academics, and policemen or soldiers.

    Fortunately, the feudal days are long gone, and the industrial age has ended, too. We have passed through the information age and are now entering the innovation economy. This raises an interesting question: What forces have led to the demise of each of the traditional societal models that dominated past centuries? Let’s answer that with the help of TIPS, Thinkergy’s innovation people profiling method.

    Introducing the four TIPS bases

    Most established personality profiling instruments exclusively use constructs to profile differences in people’s preferred cognitive styles. TIPS adds a new layer on top of these purely cognitive dimensions: the TIPS bases, which can capture both the dynamic, cyclical nature of business and social change, and people’s responses to these changes.

    TIPS distinguishes four bases: Theories, Ideas, People and Systems. We are all attracted to one or more of these fundamental base orientations. For example, the entrepreneur and inventor Elon Musk plays exclusively on the ideas base with his bold new ventures, while investment legend Warren Buffet’s success rests equally on two bases: theories and systems.

    The three traditional social classes mentioned above relate to the three TIPS bases systems (the nobilities and their warrior class), theories (the clergy and scholars), and people (common farmers and workers). But what if you were forced to work in a role that does not align with your natural base?

    Introducing the driving force of change

    Let’s expand on our introductory scenario: Imagine you didn’t go back in time alone, but in a group that included Elon Musk and Warren Buffet, both of whom were randomly assigned to work as farmers. What a waste of talent, you may think. Now, while Warren Buffet may accept his fate, Elon Musk will be a troublemaker. Why is that?

    There is a fourth social group that complements the three traditional ones. Depending on the historical context, we may call this fourth group merchants, voyagers, capitalists, entrepreneurs, creators, inventors, or pioneers. Elon Musk is one of them. The rebellious people belonging to this fourth group love to shake up the traditional way of doing things. In TIPS, these progressives  associate with the fourth base, ideas.
    Ideas people have high energy levels, as if change and progress were programmed into their DNA:

    • They take up new research and technological progress created at the theories base, and use it to create bold ideas and progressive change in the form of new social ideas or new products and ventures.
    • They know how to convince some people from the traditional bases to provide funds for their new ventures, or even better, they have already succeeded before with an earlier venture so that they can fund themselves.
    • Finally, they know how to enchant the people base to join their work force and consume their buy their products, earning them with their labour.

    In short, people aligned to the ideas base recognize opportunities to transform emerging new technologies into innovative products that they then introduce to the markets. They drive the cycles of change.

    Interim conclusion and outlook: In our TIPS Innovation Profiling Workshop, we bring the introductory scenario to life by enacting a game that allows people to experience what it means being assigned one’s right social role — or being stuck in the wrong one.

    So how about you? Do you play on a base that feels home for you? Do you see yourself as more of a smart intellectual, progressive entrepreneur, collegial worker, or rule-enforcing cop? Are you someone who stimulates, creates, enjoys or resists change? Come back in two weeks time, when I give you more insights into how to ride the cycles of change in society and business by looking at the four TIPS bases through another lens: the evolutionary macroeconomic concepts of Joseph Schumpeter.

    And if you’re curious to learn more about our new innovation people profiling method TIPS, then check out this video — and contact us if you want to be informed of the launch of our new online profiling platform in a few weeks from now.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 29 September 2016.

  • Taking Creativity Tools Apart

    As a kid, did you ever take apart a toy to see what’s inside? Or as an adult, have you ever taken apart an electronic gadget –or maybe even your car- to understand the inner workings of its different parts? In today’s article, we’ll take a look below the surface of creativity tools – why we need them, what they are, how they work and even how you can create your own ones. Ready? Then let’s go.

    Why do we need creativity tools?
    In our Thinkergy innovation training, we typically ask participants at the beginning of the ideation stage to do a brainstorming exercise for a given challenge. When we review the ideas afterwards, the same interesting pattern always emerges: many ideas appear in each of the different brainstorming groups. This is a clear indication that such an idea is not highly original, but rather common and obvious. Why is that happening? When people are just doing a simple brainstorming, they are likely to produce rather obvious ideas that are all within a very narrow range of thinking. The ideators are stuck in what I call the “tunnel of expertise and conventional thoughts”. So how can you get out of the tunnel? Here is where creativity tools come in.

    What are creativity tools?
    Creativity tools are mechanistic processes that can reliably push your individual thinking into a new direction with the help of one or more triggers in order to generate ideas for your creative challenges (i.e., for the problems that you face or for the opportunities that you want to realize). A creativity tool works in a similar way to a revolver. When you pull the trigger, you reliably set in motion a mechanistic process that propels a bullet out of the gun towards a target. Similarly, creativity tools reliably push your thinking to a new starting point that is outside of your “tunnel of expertise and conventional thoughts”. From this fresh starting point, you are able to come up with new ideas that are very less common — and in some cases highly original.

    How do creativity tools work?
    So far, so good. Like a good car mechanic strips an engine to understand how it works, let’s similarly dissect creativity tools even further by trying to understand the underlying principles of their working. Here we come to the trigger that propel us to a new starting point. These “motors of a creativity tool” can be constituted using one or more of the following schemes:

    • First, a trigger can be a fresh perspective or novel point of view to look at the underlying problem in a completely different way, thus allowing coming up with ideas that are really different. For example, in a strategy innovation case, imagine how a visiting Alien without any “emotional baggage” and historical attachment would reposition your company for the future.
    • Secondly, a trigger may enable you to come up with many new associations — these are the mental images that pop-up in your mind when you hear a certain word or concept. For example, when we you hear the word New York, you may think of 9/11, the Empire State Building, Central Park, Wall Street, and other concepts that you’ve associated with the concept ‘New York’.
    • Thirdly, a trigger may be a formal framework or a sequence of thinking steps that you need to follow in a systematic order. For example, in the creativity tool Morphological Matrix, you first construct a table of input that then you use as stimulus for generating fresh ideas.
    • Fourthly and lastly, a trigger can be a question that fires up your imagination, or that takes your thinking to unusual heights. This last type of trigger is exemplified by What If-questions like “What if you were granted 3 wishes by a good fairy?”

    Once you have understood the inner workings of the “motor” of creativity tools, and how to combine and pull the different triggers, then you can easily compose your own creativity tools.

    How do creativity tools work in practice?
    Let’s end this article by sharing with you one creativity tool (or I-Tools as we call them at Thinkergy) from our X-IDEA Innovation Toolbox. Word Association Chain is a beautiful and easy-to-learn creativity tool. It allows you to individually generate ideas that are inspired by a chain of words that you build as a stimulating trigger. All you need to use this tool is a blank piece of paper, a pen and your brain. Here is how you apply this tool:

    1. Review your challenge—say: “How to create a novel lip care product?”
    2. Get yourself any word. For example, you look into a news magazine and pick the first word you see: RED.
    3. Start a word association chain by completing the sentence: “When I think of RED, I think of the MAASAI”. Then repeat this procedure for each new word in a fast pace: “When I think of MAASAI, I think of AFRICA”. “When I think of AFRICA, I think of KILIMANJARO”. “When I think of KILIMANJARO, I think of SNOW”. And so on. Continue until your paper is full of associations.
    4. Review your word association chain, and use it as stimulus to create ideas for your lip care innovation challenge. For example, the word MAASAI might trigger the idea “Print ethnic tribal motives on a lip care stick”, while the word SNOW might inspire the idea “Create a cooling lip care product made from snow”.

    Conclusion: Creativity tools help you to fight two enemies of creativity: They remove your tunnel vision caused by the “expert syndrome” and your habitual conventional ways of thinking. Moreover, they also overcome a lack of inspiration or complacency, as using creativity tools is usually great fun. When are you ready to play for ideas?

     
    © Dr. Detlef Reis 

  • Why Perfectionism is a Foe of Creativity and Innovation

    Perfectionists, be warned: This article isn’t perfect. I started it around midnight a few days ago when I got the idea for it. I continued working on it in a coffee shop the next morning, and completed it in between two client meetings, all the while knowing it wouldn’t be article. This raises an interesting question: is there something like “the perfect article?” Or “the perfect product?” Today, let’s talk about the perfectionism in business and innovation, and how the urge for perfection may stop you from being truly creative, innovative and productive.

    What is perfection?

    Perfection can be defined as the condition, state or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects; or it can be the action or process of improving something until it is faultless or as faultless as possible. If this article were perfect, I would have written it —and my editor would have honed it— in faultless English using perfect words to express the subject of this article in perfectly logical order of discussion points. Had my editor and I strived for the perfect article, this spot would be empty now, as we both were still busy writing and editing the masterpiece.

    So, what’s wrong with striving for perfection?

    Perfectionism is the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection, and as the noted the American novelist John Updike noted: “Perfectionism is the enemy of creation.” Why?

    • Perfectionism breaks your creative flow while your creating something new, be it a new column or a new product. Instead of simply letting your thoughts flow, your urge for perfection breaks the creative flow by continuously judging your output and dismissing it as “not yet perfect”. Perfectionism emphasizes critiquing over creating.
    • Perfectionism slows you down also when it comes to shipping a new product. While you continue trying to optimize that last 0.5% you need to make your product a masterpiece, faster competitors start shipping their new products and capture the market with a functional, 99.5%-ready product.
    • Perfectionism is expensive. It drives up your costs as you require ever more resources (materials, people, capital) as you continue working to perfect the last tiny bits and pieces.
    • Perfectionism locks you into a tunnel. Because you focus so much on perfecting what you’ve been working on for a long time, you fail to notice that in the meantime, the world has moved on and changed: a new technology has emerged; consumer preferences have changed; and the economy has moved into a new cycle. In short, the product your work on perfecting doesn’t resonate with the market anymore.

    To sum up, in the highly dynamic modern business environment of the early 21st century, perfectionism drives you out of business sooner rather than later.

    Why are many business leaders and managers perfectionists?

    Perfectionists are usually people with an overinflated sense of self-importance. Such people have a very vocal inner critic who relentlessly demands perfection from the team and themselves. If you tend to be a perfectionist, then resolve today to begin ignoring your ego’s demands for perfection. Set yourself and your team free from your critical, perfectionistic ego. Simply be yourself — it boosts your creative energy, and speeds up and amplifies your creative outputs.

    How to overcome the urge for perfectionism?

    Here are four tips that help you producing more creative outputs and meaningful products by fighting your urge for perfection:

    1. First create, then critique: Instantly judging what you create is like driving with one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake — you lurch forward at a slow, awkward pace. Better focus on creating first (and suspend judgment). Later on, you can spend time critiquing your creation by asking, “What’s wrong with it?”
    2. Strive for excellence, not perfection: “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence,” said the famous American football coach Vince Lombardi. You can still move towards excellence and let go of your need for perfection without dropping your standards. Don’t insist on perfect products that are 100% faultless, but also don’t settle for mediocre products that are “good enough”. Aim for excellence, which are excellent products that are 95-99% perfect.
    3. Do rapid prototyping and iterate based on user feedback: Nature is full of apparently imperfect yet functional and well- working designs. Nature constantly improves and refines its present designs through the evolutionary process of feedback as well as trial and error. Follow the success principles of nature by practicing rapid prototyping: Build simple prototypes of your products, then show them to people to get critical feedback; quickly iterate and build new prototype versions that reflect your learnings; release great-working, but not yet “perfect” beta-solutions into the market; finally, quickly fix any unresolved bugs based on user feedback. As a result, you speed up your product development cycle and increase the overall number of creative outputs.
    4. Do your best within a target date: Set yourself a challenging, yet possible deadline to complete a functional, well-acceptable first version of a new product. Tame your inner critic who demands perfection by following this maxim: “I herewith resolve to produce the best possible output that I can come up with by the deadline.” If time is really tight, aim to get 95% of deliverables 95% ready.

    Conclusion: Let’s face it: The “perfect product” (or perfect creative output) doesn’t exist. What’s perfect today won’t be perfect tomorrow. So, relax and start striving for excellence, not perfection. Or as Salvator Dali put it: “Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.

    Do you want to learn how to tame the inner perfectionist in you? Contact us to find out how Genius Journey, our creative leadership method, may help you to create more and critique less.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 15 September 2016.

  • Turning Critics into Allies with Rapid Prototyping

    Want to know one of the success secrets of global innovation leaders such as Google or Apple? They all heavily use a technique known as rapid prototyping. “We make a lot of models and prototypes, and we go back and iterate. We strongly believe in prototyping and making things so that you can pick them up and touch them,” says Jonathan Ive, Apple’s chief designer. “We make lots and lots of prototypes: the number of solutions we make to get one solution is quite embarassing, but it’s a healthy part of what we do.”

    What is rapid prototyping?
    Rapid prototyping is a powerful idea evaluation and activation technique that every wanna-be-innovator should want to have in his toolkit. Prototyping can be used for real-life testing of products, services, processes, and experiences and works at all stages along the value chain (e.g., development, marketing, distribution, sales).

    What are the main benefits of rapid prototyping?
    In rapid prototyping, you aim to evaluate the potential of an idea and enhance its disadvantages by using one of several methods to make the idea more visual and tangible. The objective of rapid prototyping is to detect the flaws of an idea early and then to quickly find solutions to “fix the bugs”. Thus, you plan to fail earlier in order to succeed sooner.

    Probably the most important thing to understand about this method is that rapid prototyping follows an iterative approach that is based on trial and error and the principle of negative feedback. Thereby, you first develop a prototype using the one of the seven methods that we discuss below. Then, show your early prototype to other people and ask them to tell you what’s wrong with it and how they would improve it. Thereafter, quickly build a better prototype by using all the sensible tips for improvement, and once again expose it to the critical scrutiny of other people. Continue this process until you arrive at a prototype that can represent a meaningful value proposition and can be turned into a tangible innovation deliverable. As such, prototyping allows you to unknowingly make those eternal critics to become your allies in creation.

    How exactly can you do rapid prototyping?
    At Thinkergy, we distinguish eight ways to bring rapid prototyping into play. Here are the four most popular methods:

    1. Sketch out your idea. The starting point of prototyping is to draw a simple sketch that communicates the essence of your idea. Alternatively, make a collage by combining photos, drawn elements and written text that you cut out of a newspaper or magazine into a picture that gives meaning to your idea.
    2. Build a simple model or mock-up. “If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a prototype is worth a million words”, believes IDEO founder David Kelley. The second option for prototyping (that often expands on the first one) is to build a simple model of your idea that is made of paper or carton-paper, paper-mâché, modeling clay, or any other materials that you glue or tape together in a quick and dirty way. After gaining some initial feedback, go through several iterations of more and more sophisticated and realistic models and mock-ups using more realistic materials before arriving at a final prototype mock-up version.
    3. Act out your idea as a role-play. An excellent method to rapidly prototype an idea for a process improvement or service innovation is to create a short role-play to bring out the benefits of your idea.
      Devise a storyline that clearly explains how your idea adds value and caters to a resolution of your challenge. For example, in a process innovation project, stage a role-play showing first the old process with its major shortfalls and then how you correct those with your redesigned new process idea. Or act out your idea for a new service —say, a temporary office rental service that offers high-end offices by the hour— and show how it creates meaning for small business owners or entrepreneurs. Or in a customer experience design project, role-play an idea for a memorable WOW-experience.
    4. Build a test-website. Build a simple website to test your idea by seeking online feedback from users on your value-proposition. Then, rapidly prototype your website using the user feedback to improve its value from iteration to iteration until you arrive at a version that you can take. For example, Google rapidly prototypes new solutions as beta-website before officially integrating it into its alpha-website; many novel value propositions that created in the past years (such as Google Insights or Google Trends) have been enhanced along this path.

    Aside from the aforementioned four methods, you could also do rapid prototyping by developing visual test designs of your product ideas with the help of CAD-software tools, creating a photo story (for example, of your idea for a new nightclub-service that specializes in matching singles), shooting a video clip (e.g., on how to improve the chaotic passenger flow at peak times in some BTS stations), or by testing different tag-line in online ads In brand and corporate image design projects to learn through the clicks on the online which slogan resonates most with your audience.

    Conclusion: Rapid prototyping is a powerful, highly effective technique to quickly turn a great idea into a tangible innovation. But be warned – rapid prototyping is hard work, as emphasized in the famous quote by the first master of prototyping, Thomas Edison: “Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration. Accordingly, a ‘genius’ is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework.”

     
    © Dr. Detlef Reis 

  • How to become a more fluent creative thinker (Part 2)


    Two weeks ago, we discussed how your inner critic prevents you from being a fluent creative thinker, leading you to produce only a few, typically ordinary ideas in an Ideation effort. This is because your inner voice of judgment dismisses any uncommon or wild ideas, thus stopping you from producing a lot of ideas. Today, you’ll learn why your inner critic is wrong, how to gain control over your idea-killing inner voice of judgment, and how to train your mind to become a more fluent creative thinker.

    A new creative thinking exercise:

    In order to give you a hint on how to effectively overcome the reasons of fluency, let’s do a new creative exercise that builds on the previous one. Two weeks ago, I asked you to come up with as many ideas as possible in two minutes on “How to make good use of an empty plastic water bottle?” Now, write down on a piece of paper as as many ideas as possible for this slightly modified creative challenge: “How to NOT use an empty plastic water bottle?”

    Here are the things you can NOT do with a water bottle I came up with in 120 seconds (I recorded the ideas):

    An empty plastic bottle can NOT be used: 1. to drive. 2. to shoot at people. 3. to run. 4. to cook food. 5. to create something new. 6. to make someone laugh. 7. to dress someone up. 8. as food. 9. as a watch. 10. as a phone. 11. as a computer. 12. as a calendar. 13. as a bag. 14. as a house. 15. as a shoe. 16. as a weapon to kill people. 17. as a health device. 18. to help people make money. 19. as a way for entrepreneurs to know what’s the next big thing. 20. as a fitness device. 21. as a water pool. 22. as a transportation means. 23. as a tool to learn in university. 24. as a tool to learn in school. 25. as a toy.

    How to silence the inner critic?

    With the previous exercise, we’ve given our inner critic permission and time to do what it likes to do most: telling us what doesn’t work, what’s nonsense or just plain ridiculous. But is our inner critic right? Can we really not use an empty bottle in the ways described above?

    Let’s pick some examples and apply some creativity. An empty plastic bottle cannot be used:

    • as a shoe. Well, in Africa, people turn empty water bottles into flip-flops.
    • as a watch. Fill one bottle with sand, connect it to a second one, and turn it into an hourglass. Or stick it into the ground, and turn it into a sun watch by using its shadow to tell you the time.
    • as a fitness device. Fill it with water, sand, or stones to turn it into a dumb-bell.
    • as a computer. Recycle the plastic and use it as input material for cheap computers (just think of the “one laptop per child”-project).
    • as a way for entrepreneurs to know what’s the next big. Pose the empty bottle-challenge as a warm-up exercise at a futurist convention. Then, turn them loose on the question: “What are impossible business trends that cannot happen in the next years?” Next, have the futurists brainstorm on how each of the impossible trends might materialize. Finally, harness your insights on new business opportunities and emerging trends on the fringes.

    So what have you learned from this exercise? If we make an effort, we can come up with ideas for making each “cannot use” comment of our inner critic into a “can do” idea.

    How to become a more fluent creative thinker?

    Here are eight tips that help you speed up your divergent thinking, amplify your creative outputs, and gradually evolve into a more fluent creative thinker:

    1. Follow the ground rules of Ideation: Whenever you generate ideas, remind yourself and other ideators to comply to the ground rules of Ideation: #1. No killing of ideas. Defer judgment. #2. Go for quantity, because quantity breeds quality. #3. The wilder the better. Shoot for wild, crazy, silly, zany, off-the-walls ideas. #4. Combine and improve on ideas.
    2. Set an idea quota: In a real Ideation session with a team, set an ambitious, yet achievable idea quota. For example, with a group of eight people, push for at least 250 ideas in one hour of brainstorming.
    3. Silence your inner critic: Whenever you hear your inner voice of judgment dismissing an idea, scream “Shut up” and jot down the idea.
    4. Silence others: If another team member judges one of your ideas in a brainstorming session, remind him to comply with ground rule 1 of Ideation.
    5. Practice, practice, practice: Generate ideas whenever you have an opportunity, be it in an real brainstorming session or unofficially on a personal challenge in a boring meeting. Creative thinking is a skill just like learning a language or playing golf — the more you practice, the better you get at it.
    6. Play word associations: Get a start word, and then use it to quickly come up with more words by using the sentence “When I think of the word ___, I think of the word ___.” For example, say our start word is money. “When I think of money, I think of bank. When I think of bank, I think of stock market”. Then you go on: Wall Street, New York, Big Apple, fruit, orange, juice, drink, party, music, and so on.
    7. Create a word concept map: This is a free association exercise similar to the last one, just that you engage in concept mapping. Think of one word that you write into the center of a piece of paper (say: light bulb). Then, come up with related words that you write clockwise around —and connect with a line to— the start word (creativity, idea, Edison, electricity, lamp, light, illumination, candle). Finally, add more words around each of the related words as they pop up in your mind (illumination: Eureka, subconscious mind, breakthrough, luminous being; lamp: cord, switch, stand, shade, Pixar; candle: flame, fire, matches, wax, etc.).
    8. Get into a rhythm: One way to become a more fluent creative thinker is to follow a rhythm of suggesting ideas. For example, suggest one idea every 15 seconds. Don’t panic if you don’t come up with an idea in each interval, but playfully embrace the time challenge to speed up your ideation pace. Here are two playful ways to practice rhythmic creative thinking to boost your creative fluency: use a virtual metronome while coming up with ideas; or step forward and backward following a steady rhythm while playing word associations.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 1 September 2016.

  • How to become a more fluent creative thinker (Part 1)

    How much of a fluent creative thinker are you? What is standing in your way to becoming a more fluent creative thinker? How can you boost your creative fluency? Let’s seek answers to these questions in today’s column as well as the next.

    Setting the scene:

    At Thinkergy, we draw upon four psychological parameters (that E. Paul Torrence and other cognitive psychologists formulated to measure individual creativeness) to objectively assess the quality of the work and the outputs in an Ideation session: the qualitative criteria offlexibility, originality and elaboration of ideas, and the quantitative criterion of fluency of creative thinking. While all four parameters affect the performance of individuals and groups during Ideation, the latter is the most important one. In order to explain these four parameters, let’s do a little creative exercise as follows:

    As I type these lines, I’m looking at an empty plastic water bottle. Let’s frame a simple creative challenge: “How to make good use of an empty plastic bottle?” Now, get a piece of paper and a pen and take two minutes to come up with ideas for this creative challenge.

    Here are the ones I came up with in 120 seconds:

    1. Recycle it. 2. Use to water flowers. 3. Use it to water the lawn. 4. Use to store tab water for a water shortage. 5. Refill it with water. 6. Refill it with lemonade. 7. Refill it with iced tea. 8. Refill it with wine. 9. Refill it with beer. 10. Use it to throw at someone who annoys you. 11. Use it to hit someone who attacks you. 12. Fill it with sand. 13. Fill it with stones. 14. Use as a dumbbell, filled with water, sand or stones). 15. Use it as a piggy bank to store coins. 16. Use it to capture rain water. 17. Use as a flower pot. 18. Use to fill a bath tab. 19. Use to flush the toilet. 20. Use it to splash water at other people celebrating Songkran (the Thai water festival). 21. Use it to cleanse Buddha statues in a temple at Songkran.

    How flexible is your creative thinking?

    Flexibility is the first parameter we use to check on the quality of idea outputs. It is based on the variety of different categories of suggested ideas. For example, the ideas 4-9 all belong to the same category (refilling with a liquid). Overall, the more categories you have, the more flexible a creative thinker you are. Depending on how strictly you categorize, we can distinguish 10-15 different categories in the example above. How flexible a creative thinker are you?

    How original are your ideas?

    The second parameter used to assess the quality of our idea generation efforts is originality. Here we measure the relative degree of “uncommonness” of raw ideas (how rare is an idea compared with all responses in the overall population). For example, if you have three groups brainstorming and an idea pops up in each group, it is not original.

    While we have no comparison here, I guess “throw it at someone annoying you” or “use it as a dumbbell” are more original than, say, “recycle it”. Probably about five of the ideas above are more uncommon and thus more original.

    How elaborated are your ideas?

    The third and arguably most important assessment criteria of idea quality is elaboration. Here, we look at how developed or embellished an idea is — meaning how many words it has. For example, in the example above, ideas #14 and #20 are much more elaborated than idea #1. Here note as a rule of thumb that the more elaborated an idea is, the more interesting it becomes.

    How fluent a creative thinker are you?

    Fluency is the sole measure used to assess the quantitative performance of an ideation effort. Thereby, we simply count the number of ideas in absolute and (if the numbers of members differs between teams in an innovation project) relative terms. The more ideas you can come up with in a given time, the more of a fluent creative thinker you are. How many ideas did you create in two minutes on how to use of an empty water bottle? Did you beat my 21?

    If you’re like most people, you probably have created about 10-12 ideas in the given time interval, which is a sound performance. In all likelihood, you could have easily had a higher score, but you secretly judged some ideas you thought instead of letting those ideas simply flow onto the paper. Am I right?

    What stops you from being a more fluent creative thinker?

    Why do so many people struggle to come up with a high number of ideas during an Ideation effort? What prevents fluency of creative thinking? It all comes back to judgment.

    Most people don’t produce a lot of ideas because they secretly judge an unusual or even wild idea as soon as they think it. Their inner critic (or “inner voice of judgment”) instantly reacts to an unusual or even wild idea with silent comments such as, “This is impractical”, “This is crazy”, “People will laugh at you”, and so on. This violates the ground rules 1 to 3 of Ideation formulated by Alex Osborn, the inventor of Brainstorming: #1. No killing of ideas. Defer judgment. #2. Go for quantity, because quantity breeds quality. #3. The wilder the better. Shoot for wild, crazy, silly, zany, off-the-walls ideas.

    Interim lesson: Judgment slows you down during Ideation, leading you to produce only a few ordinary ideas instead of a large pool of normal, interesting and wild ideas. What can we do to silence the inner critic who impairs creative fluency? What cognitive strategies and creative exercises can help us transform ourselves into more fluent creative thinkers?

    Come back in two weeks from today, when we will discuss these questions with the help of another creative thinking exercise. And contact us if you want to learn more about how using creativity tools and a systematic innovation process such as Thinkergy’s X-IDEA method may help you to become a more fluent creative thinker.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 18 August 2016.

  • Creative Leaders and Innovation Managers: Same but different

    Do creative leaders and innovation managers perform the same innovation role? A few months ago, I had an interesting conversation related to this question with the global head of idea and innovation management of a tech multinational. When we talked about the responsibilities related to his role, my counterpart revealed to my surprise that he sometimes has to key in ideas into his organization’s idea management system. Now know that this particular innovation executive is a strategic big picture thinker who is ideally suited for creatively driving major innovation initiatives across his organization. Sweating the small stuff is a waste of his time and talent, if you ask me.

    Many organizations seem to interpret the role of the executive spearheading corporate innovation function as a “Mr. Know-it-all-do-it-all”. I believe that’s wrong, and how I believe we must make a distinction between the role of a creative leader and that of an innovation manager. Let me elaborate by discussing the responsibilities of each role and, with the help of my innovation-people profiling method TIPS, make a case for why these roles suit fundamentally different personality types.

    Creative leaders: driving innovation from the front

    Creative leaders run the “innovation front-office” of their organization:

    • They set or influence the innovation agenda by identifying new trends and technologies to focus on.
    • They spearhead or participate in innovation initiatives of business units or dedicated innovation teams, such as new product development or product design teams.
    • They participate in innovation events and conferences to promote innovation within and outside of the organization.

    Creative leaders inspire and drive innovation teams towards excellence to bring truly novel, original and meaningful ideas to life in the form of new products, new services, new solutions or new customer experiences. They look for new business models, strategic partnerships, networks and channel solutions to multiply revenue from innovation. Finally, they drive campaign, packaging and branding initiatives that magnify the innovation in the eyes of customers.

    Creative leaders ought to be at the very top of the executive structure, whether as CEO or chief innovation officer (CIO). This allows them to drive or at least influence the top management agenda, and to intervene and remove any internal barriers preventing innovation. Famous CEOs who exemplify the role of a creative leader are Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs (Apple), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) or Jeffrey Immelt (General Electrics), among others.

    Innovation managers: driving innovation from the back

    Innovation managers run the “innovation back-office” of their organization. They take care of certain internal responsibilities related to innovation, such as:

    • organizing and administering the formal innovation management system (how innovation is organized and formalized within the organization);
    • managing the corporate innovation pipeline (top ideas earmarked for activation);
    • administering and maintaining an online idea submission and evaluation system;
    • organizing and coordinating innovation events and project initiatives;
    • developing and fine-tuning an innovation measurement system; and
    • measuring and controlling innovation performance and efficiency.

    The innovation manager heads a dedicated administrative innovation team that supports and directly reports to the creative leader. A good example representing the systematic, reliable mindset of an innovation manager is Tim Cook, who took care of Apple’s “back office” to support Steve Jobs before rising to CEO when the latter passed away.

    Why does the innovation function benefit from two separate lead roles?

    Thinkergy’s Innovation Profiling System TIPS (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems) helps us to understand why it is beneficial to separate the two roles of a creative leader and an innovation manager: They draw upon diametrically opposite base energies, and should be staffed by different profiles:

    • Creative leaders are all about the TIPS base “Ideas”. Ideas people innately drive change, innovation and progress. They are strategic visionaries who enjoy focusing on boosting corporate performance, profitability and margins through innovations. TIPS profiles that naturally cater to this energy —and thus qualify to be a creative leader or be developed into a future one— are Ideators, Conceptualizers, Promoters and Imaginative Experimenters.
    • In contrast, innovation managers draw on the TIPS base “Systems”. Systems people enjoy managing, organizing, directing, coordinating and controlling internal activities. They take pleasure in setting-up and administering an innovation management system, including defining measures that allow them to check-on innovation performance and efficiency (How to increase our innovation outputs? How to more efficiently employ internal and external resources for innovation?). TIPS profiles that innately operate on Systems energy —and thus make dependable innovation managers— are Systematizers, Organizers, Technocrats, and Systematic Experimenters.

    But what if you insisted on keeping the two roles together? One compromise would be to staff the role of a “creative innovation manager” with a balanced Experimenter or an All-Rounder, both of whom can bridge the divide between the two polar energies “Ideas” and “Systems”. But, as with most compromises, you end up with a suboptimal result, because one person will be less effective than a real S-based innovation manager supporting a real I-based creative leader.

    Conclusion: Not either or, but both 

    Both creative leaders and innovation managers care for driving innovation in an organization. But they do it by different means and by focusing on different ends. Both roles support and complement each other by letting each person play to their strengths while compensating for the weaknesses of each others’ shadow-side. So, separate the two functions of the creative leader and the innovation manager of your organization. And consider using TIPS to find out how to out the right person in each role.

    Contact us if you want to learn more about how TIPS may help you getting the people side of innovation right in your organization — or if you’re curious to find out what’s your TIPS innovator profile. Our TIPS online personality test is going live soon.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 4 August 2016.

  • Business model innovation: It’s all about the money

    Last month, I presented a research paper at the International Society of Professional Innovation Management’s Innovation Conference in Porto, Portugal. When looking at recent trends in innovation research, I discerned one popular topic at this year’s ISPIM conference: business model innovation. Today, let’s discuss what business model innovation means and why it’s valuable, then look at examples of “classic” innovative business models before exploring applications in a real-life innovation project.

    What is business model innovation?

    Business model innovation is one of roughly 15 modern innovation types that the innovation literature distinguishes. Innovation experts look at this concept either through a wider, more global lens or a narrower, more focused one:

    • Through a wider lens, business model innovation is a synonym to what the majority of innovation experts (including myself) call strategy innovation. In a strategic innovation exercise, a senior-level innovation team aims to create meaningful strategic action ideas that allow for prolonged, sustainable growth, ideally in a newly emerging, uncontested market space. 
Their ideas typically can play on all levels: generating novel, original and meaningful value propositions; finding cost-effective processes and structures to produce these value propositions; exploring new channels, networks, platforms, and business models to deliver them to the market; and magnifying new value propositions with impactful brand, image and campaign designs.
    • If you look at the concept using a narrow lens (as I do), business model innovation simply means coming up with novel, original and meaningful ways to get paid for a value proposition that you release to the market. 
Here the scope is more narrow: we just focus on the profit model, as opposed to the “do it all in one go” approach of a more abstract strategy innovation project. The following looks at business model innovation through the narrow lens.

    Why is business model innovation useful?

    Compared to using a plain-vanilla way to get paid, creating an innovative business model can help you make more money from a meaningful value proposition by increasing revenues and/or profit margins. It can also differentiate your product from those of competitors using more traditional business models. Finally, it can extend your market presence by tapping into new customer groups that —for economic, lifestyle or convenience reasons— prefer payment schemes deviating from the industry standard.

    What are famous examples of business model innovations?

    Many books on business model innovation describe a number of already “classic” business model innovations. Here are three examples to make you curious to look for more:

    1. The “hook and bait” model reverses the pricing structure between the durable and disposable parts of a product. A company sells the durable part at low cost (or even a loss) to enjoy recurring revenues from disposable parts sold at a premium. Gillette popularized this model with razors (baits) and blades (hook). Other examples are printers and cartridges, or more Nestlé’s Nespresso cheap coffee machines and pricey coffee capsules.
    2. The “freemium” model offers a basic value proposition for free, with access to premium offerings by charging a membership fee or premium. Example of companies using this model include the business networking platform LinkedIn and the music streaming platform Spotify.
    3. The “subscription” model gives you access to a value proposition (often content or services) after you subscribe and pay for a periodic membership. Think of pay-TV channel packages or Netflix video-streaming.

    How can you do business model innovation for your business?

    Before you begin, ensure you have a truly novel, original and —in particular— meaningful value proposition at hand in the first place. Why? Business model innovation is one of the innovation types used to leverage an existing value proposition. Leverage is a neutral agent: It can help you increase revenues and margins if your value proposition is meaningful, but can harm your finances and reputation if your value is lousy.

    With a meaningful value proposition in hand, you can aim to monetize it in novel, more profitable ways:

    • First, take some time to explore alternative business models used in different industries and markets.
    • Then, run an ideation session to come up with ideas for the challenge: “How else to monetize this value proposition in the market?”
    • Next, discover interesting ideas to design into realistic, relevant and valuable idea concepts through elaboration, combination and transmutation.
    • Finally, evaluate all the concepts to find the most suitable business model, then take action to implement it.

    The Business Model Matrix is a creativity technique that I’ve created for Thinkergy to support ideation in business model innovation. The matrix contains four categories related to business models:

    • activities (what else could we do?);
    • business models (how else could we get paid?);
    • variations (how else could we charge for it? What variables can we twist in what ways?); and
    • business model trends (What new models are others using?).

    Each category lists many sample elements that allow you to connect the dots between different matrix elements, making it easy, effortless and enjoyable for you to come up with ideas for new business models.

    For example, you may ‘organize events’ or ‘educate clients’ (activities); you may ‘auction off’ or ‘charge a reservation fee’ for a value proposition that is short in supply and high in demand (business models); you may charge a fee ‘onetime—periodic—ongoing’ that is ‘flat—increasing—decreasing—progressive—degressive’ (variations); or you may provide certain values for ‘free with a requested donation, as with shareware’ (business model trends).

    To give an example, Thinkergy is planning an expansion into the US market using a licensing model with a one-time upfront certification fee, regular sales-based royalty payments, and a periodic re-certification fee.

    Contact us if you want to learn more about that cater to business model innovation-specific thinking tools in X-IDEA, our systematic innovation method and toolbox. When would now be a great time to start an innovation project to create innovative business models to monetize your business?

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 21 July 2016.

  • How do you prefer to think, work, interact and live? (Part 2)

    Do you know how you — and everyone else on your team — really tick? In our increasingly complex and dynamic business environment, self- and team-awareness are more important than ever to use the talents and strengths of a team. For that reason, I have developed a ‘people’-oriented innovation profiling system called TIPS. TIPS is based on the idea that people have one or two of four basic orientations: theories and knowledge (T); ideas (I); people (P); and systems and processes (S).

    Combinations of these orientations define 11 innovator profiles, and there are four other preferences that explain how people prefer to think, work, interact and live. In the last column, we looked at differences in how people prefer to think (Figure vs. Fantasy) and work (Brain vs. Brawn). Today we discuss the two remaining preferences that explain how you and others interact and live.

    How do you prefer to interact?

    People communicate with others in different ways, and also make decisions differently. The third TIPS preference, called Fact vs. Feeling, illuminates those differences. It explains why some people cannot communicate well. This preference is adapted from some elements of the psychoanalyst Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types.

    People at the Fact extreme of this preference prefer a more factual, objective, and distant style in their interactions, whereas those at the Feeling extreme listen to their heart and interact in emotional, intuitive, and empathic ways. As with all of these preferences, some people balance these extremes, and draw on, flexibly shift between, and combine the two disparate styles of interaction.

    Both fact-based and feeling-based people produce results by relying on their intelligence, albeit in different ways: fact-based people pride themselves on having a well-developed logical intelligence (IQ), while feeling-based people have better-developed emotional intelligence (EQ). When working on projects, “thinkers” rationally look at and argue based on facts and evidence, while “feelers” consider how projects affect stakeholder groups, and make passionate pleas for considering the needs of others. Unsurprisingly, these two very different interaction styles often make very different decisions: “thinkers” logically deduce or compute the “rational choice”, while “feelers” tend to go with their gut.

    It’s interesting to note is that “thinkers” tend to be “lone wolves” who prefer to think and work by themselves, while “feelers” tend to be “joiners” who love to be around and work with others. Those people who combine Fact and Feeling are usually flexible loner-joiners who decide when they need space and solitude for thinking and when they need stimulation from, and interactions with, other members of the team.

    Questions: How about you? Do you prefer to interact with others and produce results by looking objectively at the facts and relying on your intellect (head over heart)? Or do you thrive on social interactions and produce results by trusting your gut and your high EQ (heart over head)? Or are you a case of head meets heart, i.e., you interact with others with both rationality and empathy, and look at things with both logic and intuition?

    How do you prefer to live in the world?

    The fourth and final TIPS preference is arguably the most important in both individual and organizational innovation. This construct adapts elements of two earlier psychometric concepts: Michael Kirton’s Adaption-Innovation theory, and Isabel Myers Briggs’ extension of Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types. This fourth TIPS preference, called Form vs. Flow, shows whether you prefer to live in a highly structured, well-organized world  that focuses on preserving the status quo and the established order(Form), or prefer things to be more fluid, flexibly changing and steadily evolving (Flow).

    Form vs. Flow explains the differences in people’s innovation styles. If you are a form-person, you generally dislike change and prefer that things remain, in essence, the same. You’re satisfied with making things incrementally better and fixing things and processes that don’t work well. You focus on efficiency. In other words, in the terminology of Kirton’s Adoption-Innovation theory, you are an adaptor. In contrast, if you are a flow-person, you are an innovator who is able to tolerate or even enjoys driving change. You push for evolutionary or even revolutionary ideas that are radical game-changer thanks to your high creative energy and drive.

    Form-people prefer to work and live in stable institutions with an established order and control and a clear hierarchy, while flow-people value individual freedom and are highly individualized, even if this means that they have to tolerate more uncertainty and to take higher risks — both of which they feel comfortable with. Form-people are risk avoiders with a very low tolerance for uncertainty. Because they are rooted in the past and value traditions and heritage, form-people are loyal to the institutions that they associate with, and to the established societal order. In contrast, flow-people look forward to the future and stay loyal to their personal beliefs and values and the causes that they choose to pursue. Form vs. Flow also explains the different frequencies that people operate at work: flow-people usually think and talk at a fast pace and work in leaps and bursts, while form-people prefer to think and work at a more moderate, yet steady pace.

    Questions: Are you a person who likes stability and essentially likes things to stay the same? Or do you prefer to creatively drive change and enjoy variety and freedom? Or do you enjoy stability when it’s blended with occasional doses of excitement, creativity and change?

    © Dr. Detlef Reis

  • How do you prefer to think, work, interact and live? (Part 1)

    Wouldn’t it be great if you understood what made everyone on your team tick — including yourself? That's why we've created a people-oriented innovation profiling method that I call TIPS. It’s based on my observation that people orient themselves towards one or two of these four dimensions: Theories and knowledge (T); Ideas (I); People (P); and Systems and processes (S).

    The preferences you orient yourself toward determine which of 11 innovator types you match most closely. In addition to this, there are four other variables that describe your preferences, and which will help you understand thinking, working, interacting and lifestyles — both yours and those of your team and organization.

    Understanding what drives behaviors at work

    The four TIPS Preferences with their three different expressions represent fundamental differences in people’s thinking style, work style and lifestyle preferences based on their preferred TIPS preferences. The preferences are: Figure vs Fantasy; Brain vs Brawn; Fact vs Feeling; and last but not least, Form vs Flow.

    It is important to note that each preference comes in three expressions: e.g., the three expressions of the fourth preference “Figure vs Fantasy” are: (a) Figure, (b) Figure & Fantasy, (c) Fantasy. These different expressions signify the major differences of people’s preferred style of thinking, working, interacting and living.

    Moreover, the different preference expressions can also help to better understand and manage the conflict potential of people according to their TIPS Innovation Profile. We explain the essence of each preference in the following paragraphs.

    How do you prefer to think?

    The Nobel Prize-winning neuropsychologist Roger Sperry tested the functioning of each of the two hemispheres of the neo-cortex (the powerful “outer shell” of the human brain) independently of the other in split-brain patients.

    In his resulting split-brain theory, Sperry noted important differences between the two cognitive functioning of the two hemispheres: the left hemisphere is said to be more analytic, rational and logical in nature, while the right hemisphere is more creative, holistic and intuitive.

    According to their thinking preferences, people are categorized in one of three groups: those who prefer to engage in cognitive activities related to analytical thinking (such as rational reasoning, numerical calculations, analysis, among others); those who enjoy practicing creative thinking (such as using your imagination, creating ideas, or creating metaphors); and those who feel comfortable in both analytical and creative thinking (integrated whole-brain thinkers).

    In Thinkergy’s TIPS Innovation Profile, we capture this notion with a preference called Figure vs Fantasy, which tracks whether people are more left-brain or right-brain-directed thinkers. If you’re a leader or manager, this preference helps you to identify who in your team is an analytical “number cruncher” (Figure); who is a more creative “dreamer” (Fantasy); and who is an integrated whole-brain thinker (Figure & Fantasy).

    What is interesting to note that left brain-directed thinkers tend to follow a linear-sequential, step-by-step approach in their thinking and aim to produce a specific solution, while right brain-directed thinkers prefer following a heuristic, more radiant and holistic cognitive approach that is more vague and open-ended.

    Moreover, Figure persons tend to be more critical thinkers who look to find the underlying problem when confronted with a challenge, while Fantasy persons prefer to take a positive, optimistic look on everything and look for the hidden opportunity in every challenge.

    Questions: How about you? Do you prefer to predominantly engage in analytical thinking? Or do you enjoy creative thinking and know how to use your imagination? Or do you see yourself as an integrated whole-brain thinker who feels at home both approaches?

    How do you prefer to work?

    While working on his theory of psychological types, the famous Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung noticed that some people preferred to focus their attention on details, while others tended to have “their head in the clouds” and to focus on more abstract matters.

    The second TIPS preference, Brain vs Brawn, checks the see whether people prefer to work as abstract conceptual creators (Brain) or as practical doers (Brawn). Of course, as with our first preference, there are also people who don’t mind working both on the details and on more abstract concepts, and who excel at flexibly switching between the small and big pictures (Brain & Brawn).

    Brawniacs put their work focus more on operational matters and tend to focus on the small picture (or pictures), while brainiacs enjoy looking at the big picture and prefer to work more on strategic issues. The former get satisfaction from completing a task due to their pronounced orientation toward short-term results, while the latter get it from achieving a goal (typically more medium- to long-term in nature).

    What is interesting about this TIPS preference is that brawniacs like to manage and execute, while brainiacs prefer to make and create. This helps you to understand why in most mature organizations, the practical doers and not the abstract thinkers tend to rise to the top of the hierarchy. We discussed this phenomenon in two earlier articles (“The creator-manager dilemma” and “The brainiac-brawniac scheduling conflict“).

    A final point worth mentioning: most brawniacs pride themselves as being specialists and love to give lots of explanations about their work, while brainiacs tend to look at themselves as being generalists who prefer to ask many questions.

    Questions: Are you a person who stands firmly with both feet on the ground and likes to take care of the details? Do you prefer to work “up in the cloud” on more conceptual, abstract challenges? Or do you enjoy flexibly shifting between detail-orientation and conceptual work?

    In the next column, we will look at the other two TIPS preferences, which will help you to understand how you — and the people around you — prefer to interact with others and live in this world.

     

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 

  • TIPS Figure vs. Fantasy


    The last preference Figure vs. Fantasy tracks if people are more left-brain or right-brain
    directed thinkers.

    This preference helps to identify who are the analytical “number-crunchers” (Figure) and who are the creative “dreamers” (Fantasy).

  • TIPS Brain vs. Brawn


    The third preference Brain vs. Brawn checks if people are abstract conceptual thinkers (Brain) or practical doers (Brawn).

    This preference helps to understand why in most firms, the doers and not the thinkers tend to rise to the top of the hierarchy.

  • TIPS Fact vs. Feeling


    Fact vs. Feeling expresses if people prefer to decide and communicate based on rational judgment and facts or based on their feelings and emotions. This preference helps to explain why some people cannot interact and communicate well with each other.

  • TIPS Form vs. Flow


    Form vs. Flow captures if people prefer to live in a highly structured, well-organized world (Form) or prefer things to be more flexible, changing and steadily evolving (Flow).

    It is the most important preference to explain differences in people’s innovation styles.

  • Mastering the Art of Ideation

    “How can I get better ideas for a problem that I face?” is a question I am often asked these days. First of all, remember that generating ideas with the help of creativity tools is just one part of the creative process. In order to do proper thinking, you first need to understand and define your challenge. Then generate ideas. Next, develop these into meaningful solutions or value propositions, which you then evaluate in order to find those vital few solutions that really deserve being brought to life. At Thinkergy, our proprietary systematic innovation method X-IDEA captures all these essential steps in the five stages Xploration, Ideation, Development, Evaluation and Action.

    Back to our initial question: Idea generation is an art. And effective ideation depends on the situation you are in. How important is the problem or challenge that you face? Do you have to solve a problem alone, or can you tackle it in a team? And how much time do you have at hand?

    Let’s capture these different contexts in a four-field matrix. On the vertical axis, we distinguish two basic scenarios related to the number of people involved – you’re alone, or you work in a team on the case. On the horizontal axis, we cover the other two aspects. First, decide if whether or not a resolution of your challenge is very important for you or your organization. In the former case, commit sufficient time for the ideation. If the importance is low to medium, than you can cut down your time investment. In result, we end up with four quadrants that suggest you different ideation approaches based on the respective situation.

    Scenario 1: The Notebook.
    Here you work alone and you need some ideas for a challenge that is not highly important – for example, “How to provide meaningful rewards for highly active participants in a training session?” Start to ideate by listing down at least 25 ideas to your challenge in your idea notebook (buy one if you don’t have one yet – and make sure that it is unlined, blank paper). In addition, use some simple creativity tools (such as Free Association, Word Association Chains or Concept Mapping) to generate some associations that may trigger further ideas. Go on until you reach a number of 50 ideas.

    Scenario 2: The Eureka Seeker.
    You have already worked for some time on an important individual challenge that you face – say, you are a scientist or a Ph.D. student and need a great idea to solve a tough conceptual problem. As you continue to explore your challenge, collect ideas that come along in your idea notebook. You also may apply some creativity tools such as Metaphors here. In addition, take some time out to engage in imagination exercises (like envisioning yourself in a perfect world where your challenge is resolved), and take notes of any new ideas and insights that may occur to you in result. For example, Albert Einstein used this technique extensively to collect “jigsaw puzzle pieces” that became part of his theory of relativity, thereby imagining himself surfing on a ray of light through time and space.

    Finally, if by now you still feel that none of the ideas that you have noted down is the right solution, then you might activate the process of incubation (which was subject of the last article in this column two weeks ago). Let go of your challenge, work on something else, take amble time for relaxing activities and incubate on the solution – and with luck, you will experience your personal Eureka-Moment and get the breakthrough solution to your challenge. Sure, all of this takes time — but aren’t you happy to invest time in an important personal endeavor?

    Scenario 3: The Brainstorming Session.
    In the third scenario, you work in a team on a challenge of medium importance, like saving costs in face of a temporary economic downturn. Send out an invitation for a 2-3 hours brainstorming meeting to your team member, wherein you brief them about the challenge and ask each member to bring in at least 10 ideas. At the beginning of the session, remind everybody of the four ground rules of ideation, then Brainstorm and do Pool Brainwriting to add to your initial ideas. Thereby, ideally integrate some other creativity tools (like Metaphors or Random Word) to broaden the scope of your ideas. After you have created a sufficient ground stock of ideas – say at least 300 raw ideas – start to turn them into meaningful idea concepts by combining and improving on your most promising raw ideas.

    Scenario 4: The Idea Circuit.
    In the last scenario, you look for meaningful ideas for a really important challenge that your company faces – like a new product development, customer experience design or strategy innovation project — that is of critical importance for the medium- to long-term success of your firm. Here, your best bet to get some really good ideas is to send your team into a full-fledged idea circuit over the course of one day. Thereby, you expose the ideators to 8-10 creativity tools to great a large pool of raw ideas (here were talking about four digit numbers) that you later develop further into meaningful value propositions. If you have no in-house ideation expert, it really pays to hire an experienced ideation and innovation company such as Thinkergy to facilitate the session and to take care for the process and the selection of effective creativity tools that light up the imaginations of the ideators and stimulate out-of-the-box ideas. It’s like when you have to undergo an important surgical operation — you just want to make sure that the doctor selects the right tools and knows how to handle them to get the job right.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis

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