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  • Creativity in the Year of the Pig

    Next week, we will celebrate once again Chinese New Year. On February 5, we will start the Year of the Pig, or to be more precise: The Brown Earth Pig (sounds like a perfect fit, doesn’t it?). According to Chinese legend, the pig is the twelfth and last animal of the Chinese Zodiac. This is because according to legend, it finished last in a race of all animals to the Jade Emperor’s palace. 

    As such, the Year of the Pig closes the cycle of animal signs in the Chinese Zodiac. And this year, I close this cycle, too. For the last twelve years, I have written one article each year in the Thinkergy blog (and co-published in my bi-weekly Bangkok Post-column “Creativity Un-Ltd.”) of how to creatively approach each New Chinese Year in harmony with its animal Zodiac. So today, let’s explore what creative inspirations we may derive from the pig — and close the cycle of “Creativity in the Year of [Current Chinese Zodiac]” with this twelfth and final article in the series.

    1. Play to the character traits of the pig

    Chinese astrologists assign the traits and behaviors observed in each animal of the Chinese Zodiac to describe personality characteristics of people born in the corresponding year. How are people born in the Year of the Pig said to be? Action-oriented and diligent, while also enjoying life and indulging in entertainment and occasional treats (‘work hard, play hard’). They are also characterized as being harmonious, empathetic and warm. Because they are generous, empathetically care for others and like to help others, they are at times taken advantage of and are said to be easily tricked and scammed. Finally, they are said to stay comparatively calm when confronted with trouble.

    Creative Inspiration

    In the Year of the Pig, consider emulating the ways and characteristics of a person born in the pig-year. Take action and work hard, but also play hard (which stimulates creativity and gives you fresh dots to connect into ideas for challenges you’re working on). Explore new ways to care for and help your customers, so that they will also help you and think of you when they look for vendors for their future projects. Be generous to your suppliers, but beware of falling for pretenders and tricksters who promise you the earth, and in return give you nothing or worse. Finally, keep your cool when facing troublesome situations in 2019 (such as high volatility in the FX markets, or a sudden slump in the stock market).

    2. Be as useful as a pig

    Almost 1 billion pigs live on our planet, making it the third largest population of livestock in the world (on a par with sheep and behind chicken and cattle). Pigs give utility to humans in many ways: Pork is a major source of meat in many countries; as the American journalist Hunter S Thompson’s noted: “Today’s pig is tomorrow’s bacon!”

    Humans also use pigs for medical experiments and, more recently, as potential donors of living cells, tissues and organs to humans. We make paint brushes from the short, stiff and coarse hair (bristles) of pigs. We enjoy hunting boars and escaped or released feral pigs. Finally, the French use trained pigs to search for truffles.

    Creative Inspiration

    Ponder these questions: How can you be of more value to your clients? How may you serve them in new ways? How could you make one of your core competencies available to your clients to allow the discovery and creation of new value?

    3. Be as smart as a pig

    Probably you’ve already heard that pigs are intelligent. But did you know how smart they really are? According to recent research, pigs often outsmart dogs and have the same cognitive capacities as chimpanzees. Researchers found that pigs have excellent long-term memories; easily maneuver mazes and similar tests requiring spatial orientation; can understand a simple symbolic language; can learn complex combinations of symbols for actions and objects; love to play and tease each other; live in complex social communities where they cooperate with and learn from one another; and show empathy when witnessing the same emotion in another individual, among others.

    Creative inspirations

    Who do you regularly deal with without really appreciating how smart they are? How to increase the smarts of yourself and your colleagues in times of rapid change?

    4. Get dirty as pig

    Considering how much utility pigs give to humans, and how smart they are (at par with human’s closest relatives, chimps), why do many humans look at pigs with disdain, and often treat them bad? One possible explanation: Pigs are notorious for being dirty animals. As the American anthropologist Marvin Harris explains: “Pigs prefer to wallow in clean mud, but if nothing else is available, they will frequently wallow in their own urine, giving rise to the notion that they are dirty animals.” Interestingly, this connotation is so strong that we even characterize a person who looks dirty or does dirty things as a pig.

    Moreover, being omnivorous scavengers, pigs frenziedly munch on virtually anything while foraging the ground with their snouts (which is why we call a binge eating a pig-out). So, as the saying goes: “If it looks like a pig, sounds like a pig, acts like pig, smells like a pig, make no mistake, it is a pig!”

    Creative Inspiration

    In the Year of the Pig, “get dirty” in a wild creative bout to get ideas. How can you do this?

    1. Suppose you work on a particular creative challenge in 2019 (such as: “How to double your revenues in the next 12 months?”).
    2. Next, let your mind wander off for a couple of minutes and allow your imagination to “wallow” in dirty thoughts.
    3. Then, use these dirty associations as stepping stones for creating wild ideas related to your challenge (e.g., “Send out proposals to clients with coffee splashes on them”).
    4. Finally, transpose each dirty wild idea from negative to positive by keeping its “dirty intrigue”, but making it more meaningful and “clean” (e.g.  “Add colorful art splashes as a design theme of your brand identity to visually enhance your proposals and make them stand out”).

    5. Stop behaving like a pig!

    “I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals,” said the British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill. He has a point. Not only do some piggy humans emulate the ways of swine as discussed earlier, but interestingly, pigs equal humans in that we have an imminently destructive effect on nature.

    When pigs were brought to countries or environments where they are a non-native species, and then some of them accidentally escaped or were deliberately released as prey for hunting, they have caused extensive environmental damage. Pigs tend to severely transform ecosystems that are new to them because of their omnivorous diet and their feeding method of rooting in the ground. Moreover, because pigs also eat small animals and destroy nests of ground-nesting birds, wild pigs have earned themselves a place on the list of the world’s 100 worst invasive species.

    Creative Inspiration

    In what ways do you and your organization cause excessive damage to the environment? How may you become cleaner, less invasive and destructive in what you’re doing and how you’re doing things? Pondering these questions is well worth your time: In 2020, humanity is due to start the Sixth Wave of technological development — and clean technologies (in a wide range of industries such as energy, transportation, food, etc.) are widely expected to be one of the new lead technologies to drive this next long cycle.

    6. Create taboos to counter pig-like overconsumption

    For Jews and Muslims, eating pork is a taboo and only permissible in emergency situations when no other food is around. Why did these world religions restrict the consumption of pork? The obvious answer draws upon what we’ve discussed earlier: Pigs are considered impure because they are dirty animals; they also carry parasites and viruses harmful to human health.

    However, some anthropologists argue that simple economic-ecological considerations may mainly have led to these religious restrictions on the consumption of pork: Both Judaism and Islam originated in the Middle East, where water and vegetation are scarce. Pigs require water and shady woods with seeds, and a Middle Eastern society keeping large stocks of pigs would destroy their ecosystem (as also discussed in the previous point).

    Creative Inspiration

    Humanity is living beyond our means. Currently, we consume roughly double the resources that planet Earth can sustainably reproduce. So in view of this imminent ecological and economic crisis, how can we effectively create a social taboo for overconsumption?

    • If you’re a politician or social activist, look for creative campaigns and slogans that create a social taboo for overconsumption (similar to the taboo of eating pork in certain religions).
    • If you’re a creative leader of a business, explore how to creatively elevate your business from quantity-driven growth (units sold) to a quality-driven growth (higher margins) in line with former Braun designer Dieter Rams’ “Less but better.”

    7. Metaphor: Farming pigs is like producing a disruptive innovation

    “You can’t fatten the pig on market day,” noted the former Australian Prime Minister John Howard. It takes years of hard, dedicated work for a farmer to breed, raise and fatten a pig before being able to sell it at the market for a high price. Likewise, creating a breakthrough innovation doesn’t happen on the day of launch, too. It requires many, many months or even years of sustained creative effort before you can release an innovation that wows the world into the market.

    Creative Inspiration

    In the Year of the Pig, consider beginning an ambitious innovation project that aims for creating a disrupting innovation that can take the market by storm in a few years, and promises you sustainable high margin-revenues. Use a systematic yet fun-to-do innovation method such as X-IDEA to guide your thinking:

    1. Explore possible opportunities (Xploration).
    2. Impregnate the teams with lots of raw ideas (Ideation).
    3. Breed out potential winning concepts (Development).
    4. Raise and fatten the most promising ones (Evaluation).
    5. Finally, bring your fattest pig to the market with a bang (Action).

    Kung Hai Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year 2019 from Thinkergy

    Are you ready to get creative in the Year of the Pig? To think, create and play hard? Then enroll your company or team in one of our Thinkergy training courses, or consider doing an X-IDEA innovation project with us.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2019. 

  • Becoming Dr. D of Thinkergy

    My name is Detlef Reis — and I am also known as Dr. D of Thinkergy. How did I end up with this personal brand as my alter ego? Today, allow me to share with you some experiences that I’ve had with my name over time and space. In a globalized world, names matter as much for people as they do for brands. What lessons can we learn when we have to name a child, or create a catchy (personal) brand?

    My German family name“Reis” translates into ‘rice’ in English, and you pronounce it in exactly the same way. I’ve always liked my family name: it’s short and crisp, and everyone could get it right away once I highlighted the commonality with the staple food (“rice like noodle”). After I landed a posting to Asia, the jokes came fast and furious. I’ve heard so many, I can now make up my own: “As if Asia needs more Reis”; “Sending Reis to Asia is like sending coals to Newcastle”; “Don’t they have enough rice to begin with?”; “Wow, Reis to Asia, how original!”

    After I had moved to an environment where (bad) English is the unifying language in business, however, I quickly found out that many people called me “Ries” instead of “Rice”. No big deal, I learned to flexibly respond to both pronunciations, and learned to appreciate those few people who bother to ask how to pronounce my family correctly. I also found out that in Asia, some locals take the letter “r” for an “l” (and vice versa), so I embraced “Leis” as a further Asian interpretation of my family name.

    Tip: Choose a name that is easy to pronounce in every language.

    Apparently, my parents first wanted to call me Dieter. At the name registry, however, my Dad had a sudden hunch to switch my first name to Detlef, which means “son of the people” or “belonging to the people”. In the 1950s and 1960s, Detlef was a popular name in Northern Germany, but was rare and unique in Southwestern Germany where we lived. which was probably why my Dad preferred the name over the more common Dieter.

    Tip: Most names have a meaning. Make sure that you investigate the historic roots of a name before you use it to name a child or a brand.

    The ending of my first name comes in two variations, Detlef and Detlev. Predictably, I regularly saw my first name misspelled with a “v” at the end. So if you were me, would you be surprised to receive your doctoral degree and see your first name written with a “v” at the end? The official document was written in Latin, the traditional scientific language of learned people in Europe. In Latin, a “v” is often used in lieu of a“f”, which is why I suppose my university switched to Detlev in my official document. I had already moved to Asia when I received my official doctoral degree, and was busy getting into business in my new job and environment, so I accepted the document as I received it.

    Tip: Ensure that the name of your brand or baby is spelled in one unambiguous way.

    As a little boy, I liked my first name Detlef because it was rare and unique. When I got older, suddenly other kids began teasing me because Detlef was supposed to be a “gay” name. As a teenager, this silly name-calling began to get on my nerves, even more so as I didn’t feel attracted to men. For example, when AIDS came into public awareness in the early eighties, one joke suggested that “AIDS: Alles ist Detlef’s Schuld”, which translates as ”It’s all Detlef’s fault”, or “Blame it on Detlef”. (Nowadays, as the leader of Thinkergy, this motto makes much more sense to me; after all, as the boss, I have ultimate responsibility for anything that goes wrong at my innovation company, so “blame it on Detlef”.)

    Despite the occasional teases on my first name, I never thought of abandoning it. Why should I? I am Detlef and always will be. I believe it’s a wonderful name for me that I am destined to carry proudly in this life. (In contrast, one of my childhood friends decided to officially drop his middle name Detlef as soon as he came of age.)

    Tip: Names may evoke surprising negative connotations over time that you cannot anticipate in advance. Shrug it off if you have a thick skin, or if you can’t, consider letting go of the name.

    So how then did I become Dr. D, and why? When I left my home country to work in Asia, I quickly noticed Detlef to be a name that many non-Germans have problems pronouncing, learning and remembering correctly; this wasn’t only true at first contact, but even with colleagues and students who I worked with for extended periods of time. So, I had the rare opportunity to collect a multitude of creative interpretations of my first name that I encountered in conversations, emails or handed-in assignments, such as: Deplet, Deplef, Detler, Deflet or Deflep, to name but a few. Clearly, Detlef isn’t an international commonplace name like Tom, Dick and Harry.

    Tip: Consider using names of one syllable that are catchy and easy to learn; in the case of first names, Tom is undoubtedly easier to remember than Thomas (particularly when paired with Jerry), Ben has a ring to it (especially when associated with ‘Big’), and Max beats Maximilian (unless you happen to be an emperor).

    Because of the problems that non-Germans had with Detlef, I wondered how I could simplify my first name to make it easier for people to learn. So why not go for one of my German nicknames? Unfortunately, “Deddy” and “Det” don’t work so well in English environments; due to their connotations, these nicknames tend to provoke answers such as “You’re not my Dad” or “Dead? You still look pretty alive”.

    Tip: Check for connotations that short names or nick names may evoke in different languages or locations.

    Eventually, I realized that I should make my first name even simpler, and I arrived at “D” (pronounced “dee”, which in Thailand, where I live, also means “good”). “D” sounded like a good start, but I felt that something is missing So, I added my doctor title in front and became “Dr. D”, which for me complied to Albert Einstein’s maxim to “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” (After all, I had worked very hard on my Ph.D. for roughly 3 years). Moreover, from a Thai perspective, I became “Dr. Good”. Finally, in English “Dee” rhymes with Thinkergy, the name of the innovation company that I founded. So in the end, I became “Dr. D of Thinkergy”, which is a harmonic play of words that took my personal brand from great to wow.

    Tip: Play with words to arrive at alliterations and rhymes, which tend to stick in the mind (think of YouTube, Dunkin’ Donuts or Piggly Wiggly).

    Conclusion: In our Genius Journey training courses, one exercise we do at the second destination stop of the journey is called “I am”. Thereby, delegates first have to introduce themselves to the group using a celebrity persona drawn at random (e.g., “I am Madonna”, or “I am Mahatma Gandhi”). While some delegates feel proud about a person they draw, most introductions look and sound awkward, unconvincing and false. Thereafter, everyone introduces themselves again to the group with their real name, and the second time around, all name introductions sound confident, natural and genuine.

    So how do I introduce myself nowadays? I use both “I am Detlef” and “I am Dr. D of Thinkergy”, as that’s who I am. While some people may regard me as having a split-personality, I enjoy all of my names — knowing that truly creative people are tolerant to how people may call or write their name, and embrace all shades of their personality. It is little wonder that most modern superheroes have an alter ego: Clark Kent aka Superman; Barry Allen aka The Flash; Bruce Wayne aka Batman; and Detlef Reis aka Dr. D of Thinkergy.

    Contact us if you want Dr. D and his fellow-superheroes at Thinkergy help you solve your next big innovation challenge. Thinkergy — know how to wow.

  • Is your mind set on a genius mindset?

    In September 2018, Motivational Press will publish the first part of my book trilogy “Genius Journey. Developing Creative Leaders for the Innovation Economy.” At the moment, I update and refresh the copy that I originally drafted in 2013-14, and I see this also as an opportunity to simplify how I present key concepts of the Genius Journey method in my creativity and leadership book. So in simple terms, what is the Genius Journey Method? How does it work in general terms, and how can it help you to transform your mindset into the genius that you are?

    What is Genius Journey?

    Genius Journey is a highly effective, experiential and enjoyable creative leadership development method that I created for my innovation company Thinkergy. The method is based on three key insights that I uncovered by reading biographies of geniuses and creative leaders in business and other domains, by studying psychological accounts on traits of highly creative individuals, and by comparing these findings with my experiences during my own personal genius discovery journey. What are these three insights?

    • First insight: Geniuses produce extraordinary ideas and results because they think and work and behave differently than ordinary people. We can also say: They deliver abnormal results because they are not normal, they are abnormal.
    • Second insight: Most geniuses share a similar set of abnormal action routines and mindsets that vary noticeably from those of normal people.
    • Third insight: Normal people can reconnect to their genius if they adopt and practice these abnormal creative success mindsets of geniuses.

    In short, ordinary people share a set of common, normal, usual, expected and conventional attitudes and action routines that disconnect them from their creative source. In contrast, extraordinary creative leaders have acquired and automatically practice a set of uncommon, abnormal, unusual, unexpected and unconventional attitudes and routines that allow them to reconnect to their inner genius and to produce extraordinary ideas and results.

    So Genius Journey is all about transforming your mindset and routines to elevate you to higher levels of consciousness and reconnect you to your creative source, to your inner genius. This leads us to another important question that we discuss in the following.

    What are mindsets and routines?

    A mindset is made of “the established sets of attitudes held by someone”. So what then is an attitude? The word attitude can be defined as “a settled way of thinking or feeling about something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior”, or “a position of the body proper to or implying an action or mental state”. Interestingly, attitude is also an informal way to express “individuality and self-confidence as manifested by appearance or style”. Think of your favorite genius or creative leader — does this person have an individual, self-confident attitude? I bet.

    Likewise, the word routine can be defined as “a set of actions regularly followed; a fixed program”. We routinely undergo certain daily activities, and often routinely respond to a particular situation we experience.

    Note that the unified set of attitudes that forms a certain mindset relates to mental states (cognitive activities taking place in your mind, such as thoughts, beliefs, emotions), while routines are more linked to things we do with our bodies (physical actions or activities such as working, moving, exercising, etc.). Of course, body and mind are interconnected. Your body (posture, facial expressions, pitch of voice, etc.) reflects what’s going on in your mind, and vice versa: Your body can influence through certain actions what the mind thinks and feels.

    In her excellent book titled “Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges”, Amy Cuddy explains how power posing can positively charge your mind: the simple action of assuming an outgoing, empowering pose with your body raises the levels of the dominance hormone testosterone in the body while at the same time lowering those of the stress hormone cortisol, which tends to make you think, act and perform in more empowered ways. (Amy Cuddy also shares key concepts of the book in a highly inspirational TED talk that I recommend you to watch.)

    To sum up, people’s set attitudes and action routines that are connecting mind and body characterize their settled way of thinking and feeling about particular people, things, situations and circumstances they encounter, what thoughts they repeatedly tend to entertain, and what actions they routinely practice while going through a typical day or responding to a particular stimulus.

    How about your mindset and routines?

    Are your attitudes and routines normal or abnormal? Common or uncommon? Do you follow the usual layperson’s way or the unusual genius way? To get your mind primed and curious to partake in this journey, allow me to ask you a few questions related to your mindset:

    How do you typically think and/or feel about:

    • having to encounter an unknown challenge, event, or situation?
    • yourself?
    • making a mistake? Or failing in a project you undertake?
    • life in general? And your life in particular?
    • your work?
    • your domain of expertise?
    • your levels of rationality and responsibility — and of creativity and empathy?
    • change?
    • events in your past?Or about the future?
    • how many hours you must work to be a successful person?

    If you were to travel the Genius Journey, you would encounter questions like these — and your answers determine your current level of genius and how common or uncommon you are. Fortunately, we’re not stuck on a certain level for good. We can always choose to upgrade our mindsets to genius level by working on transforming our minds.

    So how does Genius Journey work?

    The Genius Journey method takes you on an imaginary journey were you visit 10 destinations. At each of the ten destination stops, you learn about one mindset or routine that stops you, limits you, confines you, keeps you small, keeps you thinking inside this tiny little box, keeps you producing normal ideas and normal results. And at each stop of the journey, you will also discover the corresponding mindset that sets you free, unboxes your thinking, expands your consciousness, empowers you to become outstandingly creative and successful, and reconnects you with your inner genius. As such, traveling the Genius Journey gives you the chance to become aware of your typical attitudes and routines, and if they serve or limit you. As you progress in your Genius Journey, you gradually adopt the empowering abnormal attitudes and routines of genius that build upon each other and reinforce themselves in a virtuous cycle that expands your consciousness, thus opening your mind to reconnect to your inner genius.

    Are you ready to become and be abnormal? If yes, consider preordering a copy of Part 1 of the Genius Journey book trilogy, which is titled “The Journey to Your Self”. Or would you be more interested in booking one of our Genius Journey training courses to experience how to think like a genius and develop a creative genius mindset? Or do you rather prefer to stay a normal person, continue thinking and doing the same normal things that everyone else is thinking and doing? The choices are yours.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018.


  • It’s not only what tools you use, but how you use them

    When you work with a team on an innovation project case, what matters is not only what kind of thinking tool you use when in the innovation process. To do sound thinking and produce adequate outputs, it also matters how exactly you use the tool — or in other words: how you communicate and interact with other team members while applying a particular tool, and how you capture outputs. Today, let’s learn more about the different communication styles that you can use while working on an innovation project.

    Background: The problem with “brainstorming”

    When hearing the words “creativity” and “innovation”, many businesspeople automatically think of another word: brainstorming. Unsurprisingly, they also indiscriminately use this word while working on an innovation case, such as: “We need to brainstorm for ideas”, or “Let’s brainstorm what we know about our case”.

    While applying a particular thinking tool, however, you may alternatively use a range of other —and often better— communication styles. Why shouldn’t you always simply “brainstorm” for outputs with your team?

    Using a variety of communication styles has the following benefits: For one, it often can help teams to noticeably enhance the quantity and quality of their outputs. For two, going beyond “brainstorming” for ideas or outputs is also an effective way to circumvent intercultural issues like ‘saving face’ or ‘respecting seniority or authority.’ For three, varying communication styles can also enhance the levels of fun and enjoyment of an innovation session for the various team members who often differ in their personality and preferred cognitive styles.

    For example, while the more social and extraverted types enjoy “brainstorming”, the more theoretical and private types tend to prefer —and contribute more and better outputs— less dynamic and more well-structured interaction styles. Apart from “brainstorming” for ideas or outputs in a group, you may also fall back on other innovation communication styles depending on the cognitive styles of the different team members and the nature of the thinking tools you intend to use. For example, we may do solo-brainwriting or pool-brainwriting, enjoy a round of buddystorming or brainstorming, among others.

    Variables to decide on while applying thinking tools:

    Say you’re an innovation facilitator who’s guiding an innovation team through the application of one particular thinking tool. Apart from setting the time available for the exercise and ideally a target output quota, you also have to decide on the following variables with regards to the precise application of the tool by a team:

    • Team member split: Do we apply this tool by working with the whole team, in pairs or individually?
    • Feedback: Do we apply a thinking tool so that the output of other team members may stimulate a delegate while producing more outputs (feedback), or do we use it without feedback? e.g., when you exchange idea worksheets, you may read one idea that inspires a new one.
    • Rotation: If various tools are used in parallel by a group of participants, do we rotate the participants working on a specific tools after some time to provide additional input to the work of other participants on another tool? Or do we keep the work groups static?
    • Output capturing: How do you capture outputs? For example, do you write ideas on a flip-chart, blank paper sheets, Post-it notes, worksheets? Do you have one person writing down the outputs for the group, or is everyone writing and producing outputs in parallel?
    • Repetition: Do we apply the tool in one go (which is the norm), or do we allow for multiple rounds?

    What innovation communication styles do we distinguish?

    When an innovation team works on an innovation case, they have the following options to apply a thinking tool within a certain stage of an innovation process method:

    • Brainstorming: This is the default way of how most teams typically apply a particular thinking tool, especially a creativity tool. The team works together as a whole group to produce the desired outputs (e.g., ideas). Thereby, each team member can freely —and without any formal order— suggest thoughts and ideas, which are recorded by at least one person on a paper sheet, a flip-chart or a whiteboard.

    • Round Robin Brainstorming: Sitting at a table or in a circle with your team, you go around and share a thought or idea one by one. Once a round is completed, you start again with the first person and continue going around; when it’s their turn, team members may say “I pass” if they need more time to think (or temporarily go blank). Just as with brainstorming, make sure to have one person to record the comments or ideas.
    • Bodystorming: As a group, enact a role play where you use your bodies to check out or act out a value offering or subject under investigation, such as boarding an airplane or queuing options for immigration checks at airports. As s bodystormer, loudly communicate your experiences and feelings, which are recorded by one team member.

    • Buddystorming: Pair up with your buddy (a newly befriended or already close team member), and work together on a tool to generate the desired outputs (which one of you may record on paper, worksheets or Post-it notes).

    • Think-Pair-Share: This communication style blends solo, pair and teamwork. First think: Work alone silently and note down your thoughts and ideas. Then, pair: Exchange your thoughts and ideas with a buddy. Finally, share: one by one, work through all the thoughts and ideas from each team member, which gives the team the chance to add more content. Make sure to consolidate the individual and pair outputs, or capture the outputs of the sharing session at the end.
    • Solo Brainwriting: Here, all team members silently work and think for themselves, and note down ideas and thoughts on paper sheets, worksheets or Post-it notes. As everyone works in parallel, the team typically produces a much higher output number in a given period of time compared to a team engaging in one of the “brainstorming” styles. Of course, Solo Brainwriting works also for a sole ideator, but it’s more communal doing it together with other ideators.

    • Team Brainwriting: In this communication style, all team members silently work alongside each other in the group and produce outputs (e.g. raw ideas) or throughputs (e.g., associate inputs such as a Morphological Matrix) on flip-chart paper or on paper sheets.

    • Pool Brainwriting: Once again, all team members silently work and think in parallel as a group, but now they exchange the written ideas and thoughts (on worksheets or paper sheets) with their team mates, who then can piggyback on certain ideas or build on other’s thoughts.

    Conclusion: Producing outstanding results in innovation projects is largely a numbers game. An innovation team needs to produce a certain number of outputs, say raw ideas or idea concepts, while working through the different stages of an innovation method to arrive at novel, original and meaningful innovation deliverables by the end of an innovation project. Even if you reach the target output quota, you don’t have a hundred percent certainty that you will always succeed in producing an innovation output that wows your target users.

    However, your odds of success dramatically increase if you use an effective innovation process, select the thinking tools that fit the innovation type that you target with your innovation project, and then also have mastered the art of how to effectively use each tool within the context of the process method with regards to the key parameters (heads: team, solo, pair, small team, large team, or mixed?; feedback: with or without?; team dynamism: static or rotating? output recording: one for group; several per group; or all individual?; interaction styles: brainstorming, round-robin brainstorming, buddystorming, bodystorming, think-pair-share, solo brainwriting, or pool brainwriting?).

    So, facilitating innovation projects is both a science and an art.

    This article is one of 64 sections of The Beginner’s Guide to Innovation, a new book that I am currently working on (targeted for publication in 2Q.2018 by Motivational Press). In our X-IDEAinnovation training courses, we also practice the different innovation communications styles with the training delegates. Innovation trainers can learn the art of comfortably switching between different communication styles in our X-IDEA innovation licensing programs. Contact us if you want to find out more.

    © 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. 

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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