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Everything listed under: Creativity

  • Inspiring Quote: Beginning of Creation

    Creating what you will begins with the vision. X-IDEA can help you discover the path to make that vision a reality.

  • Inspiring Quote - Creativity Drug

    Creativity gets the juices flowing and re-energizes organizations better than anything else. Thinkergy's X-IDEA, Genius Journey, TIPS, and COOL, are all designed to increase innovation and creative output.

  • Case Study: VIVA Creative Studio

    What's going on when "creative awesomeness" meets "know how to wow"? 

    On April 26, 2019, Thinkergy enlightened VIVA Creative Studio on the features and applications of our cognitive profiling tool TIPS in "The TIPS Innovation Profiling Workshop". As VIVA is already a bold creative agency full of creativity, the training focused more on the many business applications of TIPS (and not so much on its innovation applications). 

    We talked about how to better manage people in line with their preferred cognitive styles, how to resolve conflict at work, and how to empathize with people from a different TIPS home base (theories, ideas, people, systems), among others.

    The training was part of a TIPS Talent Alignment & Acquisition Project that followed three objectives: 

    1. To inform VIVA about what talents it already has on board
    2. To map out and analyze the talent mix in the entire agencies and key work teams
    3. To make recommendations on how to realign internal talents, as well as close crucial delivery gaps through a TIPS-informed acquisition of fresh talents.

    Want to know how TIPS can benefit your team? Contact us to learn more about TIPS workshops. 

  • Taking Creative Leadership Lessons From My Baby Girl

    “The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm,” noted the British novelist Aldous Huxley. Unfortunately, most of us have no recollections of our early childhood. Hence, we don’t have any remembrance of our own innate spirit of genius in us. According to Albert Einstein, “There is a genius in all of us,” and we showed it as a young child.

    Infants and the very young children are still closest to their true selves. So, observe their behaviors to get a better grasp of the concept of genius. Becoming a Dad somewhat later in life, I have the privilege now to study the ingenious ways of a very young child: Zoë, our 16-month old baby girl. Admittedly, I do it with a hidden agenda: I am curious to find out to what extent Zoë’s ways overlap with the mindsets and routines of geniuses and top creative leaders. I’ve studied these mindsets for over a decade and modeled them in Genius Journey, Thinkergy’s creative leader development method. 

    Today, I share what genius mindsets of Genius Journey I’ve also spotted in Zoë,  (I share my observations solely our baby girl. But I noticed that most other babies exhibit the same ways and behaviors. And I invite you to observe infants in your family or environment to form your own opinion on the ingenious ways of very young children). 

    Lesson 1: Young children take action, and persist until they succeed

    Zoë observes her parents and other grown-ups doing certain things. If it’s exciting, she desires to do this, too. Then, Zoë boldly takes massive action. She persists in the face of —at times painful— temporary failure until she succeeds.

    Take the example of how infants learn to walk. Babies spend most of their early days laying flat on their back or being carried around. All the while, they see their parents and other humans walking on two legs. Babies seem to have an inherent belief that they too can master the art of walking. So, they take action one step at a time: First, they learn to sit. Then, crawl. Next, they pull themselves up. At some point, they stand. Finally, they begin to walk their first steps.

    In the process, they fall many times. According to some books, babies fail a couple of thousand times while learning how to walk. Like Zoë, they persist until they succeed. Nowadays, Zoë confidently walks —and often runs— around her little world. Why? Because she’s a courageous, action-oriented and persistent believer. Are you?

    Very young children tend to exhibit the foundational success mindset of genius. Here’s what we teach at Destination Stop 1 of Genius Journey:

    “Stop your doubts, worries, and fears. Start to be a courageous, action-oriented and persistent believer.”

    Lesson 2: Young children are simply themselves

    Zoë naturally expresses her true self and her unique personality. She is original and insists upon herself. Unlike most adults, she has no desire to hide her true essence behind a mask. She has no intention to play a role that pleases the expectations of others. She confidently shows her talents, ideas, feelings, and true colors. She just is.

    No doubt about it, Zoë and other young kids live in harmony with the tenet of Destination Stop 2 of Genius Journey:

    “Stop your ego. Start being yourself.”

    Lessons 3 and 4: Young children have a beginner’s mind

    “Children are the most learning-hungry beings in the world,” said the American anthropologist Ashley Montagu. Why do babies and young children learn so much so fast? They have what Zen Buddhism calls a beginner’s mind. They are open, curious, and playful.

    Zoë is no different. She embraces her world full of curiosity. She openly approaches a person, animal, plant or other new experience with a spirit of wonder and awe. She wants to play with all other young kids without judging them based on their color of skin, nationality or religious belief. She displays an open body language. Often, she is in a “hero’s pose” with widely opened arms and legs. And very soon, she is likely to bombard her parents with lots of questions about this wondrous world. 

    “Play is the work of children“, noted the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget. Like other young kids, Zoë uses every opportunity to play and often is absorbed by this. She plays with toys and stuffed plush animals, pans and pots, bottles and boxes, in short: everything she spots and deems worthy of playing. She loves to laugh and have fun with her parents, other caretakers, and other kids. She enjoys dancing and humming along with a song (in her baby language, as we expose her to English, German and Thai). She loves to run around and ride on every toy on wheels. In short, she’s immensely playful and radiates pure joy and positive energy.

    How does this curious, playful behavior of Zoë contrast with the ways of many managers? They often critique and lecture others (instead of listening to ideas and asking questions). Many go through their days with closed minds and bodies. Their hands, arms, and legs are crossed when encountering people or a new situation.. After all, many consider life and work to be serious affairs, and tend to see the glass to be half empty. So it isn’t surprising that they often use the words “No”, “don’t and “but”.

    By the way, Zoë only loses her positive mood when her Mom —and admittedly, at times her Dad, too— stop her from doing something by using the words “no”, “don’t” and “stop”.

    All these observations connect to the creative mindsets at Destination Stops 3 and 4 of Genius Journey:

    “Stop being judgmental and closed(-minded). Start being curious and open(-minded).”

    “Stop being negative and serious. Start being positive and playful.”

    Lesson 5: Young children are full of love and passion

    “Passion is the genesis of genius,” noted the American life coach Tony Robbins. Like other very young children, Zoë approaches every new day full of passion, zest, and energy. On most days, she’s the first to wake up and jump out of bed. She immediately runs to her indoor playground, where she enthusiastically greets, kisses and hugs her teddy bear. She radiates joy and love from the word go. It’s part of her essential nature. So, it’s not surprising that she also seems to love everything that she’s doing. Zoë loves playing with her toys or with other kids. She enjoys messing up the room as much as tidying it up again. She takes pleasure in giving a hand to her parents or grandparents. In short, Zoë is passionate about what she does every moment. 

    How does this contrast with how the average working adult approaches a new day? Many businesspeople drag themselves out of bed in the morning, especially on Mondays. It’s the day of the week that many adults say they dislike most because it’s the beginning of a full new week of work. These people hardly can wait for the weekend to begin. What does this tell us about their attitude towards their work? 

    The genius mindset at Destination Stop 5 of the Genius Journey captures this notion:

    “Stop being indifferent or working only for the money. Start being passionate and love what you do.” 

    Like other young kids, Zoë lives by this motto. She’s full of love and loves what she’s doing. Are you?

    Over the past months, I have observed the behaviors of Zoë, my 16-month-old baby girl.  I found that her natural ways go in line  with the foundational genius mindsets and routines of Genius Journey: 1) Be a courageous, action-oriented believer. 2) Be yourself. 3) Be open and curious. 4) Be positive and playful. 5) Love what you do. 

    Now let’s continue exploring if and to what extent the itsy-bitsy ways of our little ones correspond with the success mindsets of genius. (I share my observations solely on our baby girl. But I noticed that most other babies behave and do things in the same way. I invite you to observe infants in your family or environment to form your own opinion on whether the very young children carry the spirit of genius inside).

    Lessons 6 and 7: Young children possess a broadly interested creative mind

    Zoë is still too young to express her thoughts verbally. But observing her gives hints of what may be going on in her mind, and what interests her. So what have I noticed? 

    Young kids take an interest in almost everything. They enjoy learning broadly about the world, instead of profoundly focusing on one subject as most experts do. In their early years, young kids engage in a broad range of activities: playing alone and with other kids; running and riding wheeled toys; dancing and singing; and drawing and building things, among many others. To sum-up, Zoë and other young kids enjoy developing a broad range of skills and talents. They naturally follow Howard Gardner’s concept of multiple intelligences.

    Our little daughter Zoë has a highly-developed intuitive mind, too. In many situations, I can spot how she uses her innate creativity to have fun and get her way. When watching her playing with her doll and plush pets, I am positive that she imagines them to be real. 

    Zoë also frequently does things that surprise me — another sign of her high innate creativity. For example, one morning, she carried my mobile phone to our bed in an affectionate attempt to wake me up. After I got out of bed and —still tired— sat down on the sofa, Zoë brought me all my clothes. Then, she fetched the backpack we carry along when taking her out. Suddenly, I realized what’s going on. Zoë communicated that she wanted me to bring her to the nursery now. (Then, she can still play with her friends there before they all go for their morning nap.) So, I complied, got dressed and walked to the door, and she followed me all smiles and bright-eyed. 

    How does this all compare to the world of business? Over the past two centuries, our western education system has emphasized the development of logical-mathematical intelligence (IQ) and a predominantly rational, analytical mind. This focus equipped workers and managers with functional knowledge and skills needed to function well in the industrial and knowledge economies. 

    Moreover, the modern western education system encourages and celebrates domain expertise. Many experts are so specialized that they know everything about their tiny niche — and almost nothing about the world. In contrast, a classical education used to favor a polymath or homo universalis.

    Stops 6 and 7 of Genius Journey advocate to live and learn both deeply and broadly, and to cultivate a balanced, integrated mind: 

    “Stop being myopic and thinking with only half of your mind. Start thinking integrated with your whole mind.”

    “Stop being stuck in the expert tunnel. Start collecting and connecting the dots both deeply and broadly.”

    Lessons 8: Young children are living change

    Most parents try to establish daily routines for their little ones (e.g., when to eat; take a nap, go to bed). Why is it advisable to create such an orderly framework? Regularity counter-balances the innate drive and high energy of young kids. Infants tend to move, play and do something continually. Such sustained activity allows them to practice and learn new things. Young kids are very flexible in their body and minds, enabling them to evolve so rapidly. Babies personify continuous change. They embody the creativity-empowering mindset at Destination Stop 8 of Genius Journey: 

    “Start to move, change and flex yourself.” 

    How does this compare with a typical businessperson? Many not only do not adhere to healthy routines but rather are slaves to their daily habits. They do the same things over and over again without embracing the variety of life. While habits can simplify life, they also tend to make our bodies and minds inflexible and inert. They prevent us from trying something new in an ever-changing world. So, avoid the creativity-inhibiting, limiting mindset at Stop 8: 

    “Stop being so rigid, inflexible and inert.”

    Lessons 9: Young children are present with all their senses

    “No Columbus, no Marco Polo has ever seen stranger and more fascinating and thoroughly absorbing sights than the child that learns to perceive, to taste, to smell, to touch, to hear and to see, and to use his body, his senses, and his mind. No wonder that the child shows an insatiable curiosity. He has the whole world to discover,” noted the American psychoanalyst Ernest Schachtel.

    Very young children perceive and interact with the world using all their senses. They not only see and hear but also want to touch, smell and taste everything. (Ask any parent how often babies put things in their mouths). Young kids are also fully present in the now. Neither do they reminisce of what they did yesterday nor do they worry about, or look ahead to, tomorrow.

    In contrast, many adults often miss out on what’s going on now. At times, their minds look back into the past full of nostalgia (“These were the days…”) or with regret (“I should have …”). At other times, they look forward to the future, either full of worries whether they will still have enough money or good health, or in hopeful anticipation of what they will do when reaching a certain point in future (such as, when the kids flee the nest, or when they retire). In any case, they miss out on the present moment, on what’s happening right now. So, it’s not surprising that their sensory acuity has atrophied, too. Most adults overemphasize their visual and auditory senses, while neglecting the others.

    So, young kids like Zoë live by the motto of Destination Stop 9 of Genius Journey:

    “Stop living in the past or future. Start focusing on the now with all your senses. Be mindful.

    Lesson 10: Young children apply and then relax themselves

    Zoë is action pure and simple. She plays, runs, climbs, and carries things around until she’s completely exhausted and tired. Later, Zoë falls asleep in an instant. In downtime, she recharges and processes everything she’s encountered and learned anew. When she reawakens, she goes back to active mode right away. She applies herself to the activity of the moment until her battery runs down. Then, it’s time again to relax and recharge. 

    Our little ones seem to intuitively balance periods of intensive action and total relaxation (sleep). Thereby, complete application and relaxation alternate in a harmonious rhythm. This pattern likely helps kids to get absorbed in an activity and experience states of flow (or be in the “zone,” or find their “Mojo”).

    In comparison, modern businesspeople are busy almost all the time. They engage in countless activities at a frantic pace. Nowadays, even if they get a moment to take a breath, they glance at their smartphones. Busy-ness and overload lead to what Marshall Goldsmith calls “No-jo”: no relaxation, no rhythm, no flow, and no breakthroughs. 

    Like other young kids, Zoë enjoys the ebb and flow of total action and relaxation that produces flow. So, she naturally embraces the lesson of Destination Stop 10 of Genius Journey:  

    “Stop your busy-ness. Stop doing, doing, doing something all the time. Start balancing doing and being in a harmonious rhythm to induce states of flow.”

    Conclusion: Learn the ways of genius from our little ones

    “Grown men may learn from very little children for the hearts of little children are pure and, therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people may miss.” Take in these words of wisdom from the Native American Medicine Man Black Elk. 

    “If children grew up according to early indications, we should have nothing but geniuses,” noted Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Being a genius himself, Goethe recognized genius in the eyes of very young kids. So, I invite you to do as the German playwright and philosopher. Openly and curiously observe the ways of babies and young kids. Sooner or later, you’re likely to spot the genius in their eyes, too. And by recognizing and appreciating the ingenuity of very young kids, you take the first step to acknowledge your genius that you exhibited as a very young child, too.  

    Are you interested in reconnecting to your inner genius?  Contact us to learn more about Genius Journey and our creative leader development programs

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2019


  • 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. 

  • 10 Ways Digitization May Impact Innovation

    Digitization is one of the technological mega-trends in business. Humanity has not only moved into the innovation age, but more and more modern innovations include digital elements that allow for a better more meaningful user experience. Digitization is said to bring massive changes to business, and to discuss this fully would go beyond the scope of this article. However, what we can do here is to discuss how digitization may change the ways we innovate.

    What is digitization?

    To get started, let’s establish a common understanding of what digitization means. In a technical sense, digitization is the process of converting information into a digital (i.e. computer-readable) format, resulting in the creation of a digital representation of an object, image, sound, document or signal. In business terms, however, the concept goes far beyond this technical frame. It includes integrating digital elements into existing products and services to ensure a more seamless and better user experience. It also encompasses the digitization of reimagined business processes (both internal and external). This allows companies to cut the number of process steps, reduce the scope of documentation, include automated decision making, and offer frictionless payment solutions while at the same time addressing regulatory and fraud issues. Done well, digitization can lead to much improved user experiences, lower costs and therefore reduced prices, faster decision-making and turnaround times, reduced documentation coupled with increased security and safety.

    How may digitization affect innovation?

    While predicting the future is like looking into a crystal ball, here are 10 predictions about the impact of digitization on innovation that I envision.

    1. Innovative products and services will increasingly have digital components and elements. For example, you may control a product remotely via a smart phone app, or track the delivery status of grocery items that you shopped by scanning code from a retail market billboard while waiting in the subway. Digital components are likely to also extend to solutions (e.g., getting online health consultations from an AI-powered avatar doctor) and even customer experiences (think AR- and VR-powered excursions à la Westworld, hopefully without a bald gunslinger dressed in black).
    2. More and more companies will create digital platforms to globally distribute their digitally-empowered value offerings via the Internet. Such digital platforms add value to customers by reducing frictions in the delivery and payment process; and they add value to the company by giving them increased control over their intellectual property (e.g. through digital rights management solutions) and by allowing them to mine big data for surprising new customer insights.
    3. On the process side of innovation, imagine doing an innovation project with a core group of innovators in a real workshop, who are joined through virtual reality technology by fellow-participants from different offices around the world to work in an innovation team together. A top innovation facilitator from the other side of the world may also guide the teams through the innovation case using a sophisticated innovation process method and tools animated by VR technologies, apps and remotely shared presentation screens. At the front end of the innovation process (e.g. Stage X-Xploration in Thinkergy’s X-IDEA method), companies can use big data mining to arrive at deeper market-, technology- and customer-specific insights that allow them to better frame the real innovation challenge and the teams to develop idea concepts that cater to important insights.
    4. On the systems side of innovation, digitization is likely to further amplify the value of innovation management systems. These are used to virtually pose an innovation challenge, collect ideas from internal and external collaborators, evaluate the submitted ideas (e.g. by creating a virtual idea stock exchange), and to manage the innovation pipeline of top ideas that are going through a real-world implementation process. Some of these systemic solutions exist already today, however, I expect future innovation management systems to become more integrated, immersive and entertaining. Moreover, I predict them to get linked to social networks to invite engage external participants to join internal innovation projects. Provided that these systems share incentives to take part in an innovation challenge in mutually beneficial ways., these external customers, suppliers, distributors and top influencers may not only help companies to create more meaningful innovations, but also to diffuse them faster.
    5. On the people side of innovation, I predict the emergence of cognitive profiling tools based on MRI-scans of the brain (think getting assigned a TIPS profile not by answering a set of questions, but getting your brain scanned at the same time).
    6. On the cultural side of innovation, I anticipate the emergence of online ratings and rankings of company cultures by former current and former employees that will determine whether a firm will be able to hire and retain top creative talents. Changes in these rankings may over time become one factor impacting a company’s stock price and market valuation.
    7. On the individual creativity side, I can see more apps providing creative tools and instant inspirations (e.g. simply shake your phone to receive a fresh, creativity-inducing stimulus). VR may even create digital avatars of famous creative leaders who act as mentors for executives eager to evolve into authentic creative leaders for the innovation economy.
    8. Digitization seems to promise us a brave new world, doesn’t it? However, I also presuppose three problems related to it. As more and more innovative digital products get developed that digitally communicate with their users and —thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT)— with each other, we will see the emergence a giant digital ecosystem with over 75 billion connected devices by 2025. From systems theory, it is well known that the more variables a complex system has, the more likely errors will occur. So, predicting, preventing, controlling and fixing such system bugs will offer opportunities for new innovative digital solutions.
    9. All new innovative digital solutions (websites, apps, etc.) need to be programmed to work across a range of different devices and software technologies. These programs also need to be maintained and regularly updated to keep up with the latest technological advances. As more and more companies are “going digital”, I predict that there will be a scarcity of excellent programmers. The top of the crop will either work for big bucks at “blue chip” old economy companies, or work as a partner in one of the many new creative ventures that will mushroom in line with the shift from a managerial to an entrepreneurial society. This means that the majority of corporations and SMEs will be left with average to mediocre developers. These tend to program average to mediocre digital programs that suffer from bugs and compatibility issues and impair a seamless user experience. Do you still recall my last point made above, the unexpected behaviors of a complex adaptive system? They may be caused by a poorly programmed app that interacts with other devices in totally unexpected ways.
    10. Looking ahead, ever more computers increasingly amplified by artificial intelligence will allow for better intelligence and insights on markets, trends customer wants, needs and behaviors (thanks to big data and weak signals analysis). I foresee that at least for the next 2-3 decades, however, humans and not machines will still rule in breakthrough creativity. I predict that while artificial intelligence will be able to produce ideas using basic creative thinking strategies (such as combination, division, addition, elimination, adoption, adaption, alteration, etc.), machines may still need more time to master advanced creative thinking strategies that often trigger revolutionary innovations or scientific breakthroughs. Let’s pray that my prediction proves to be right here. Otherwise, the singularity challenge may threaten the existence of humanity: Before the majority of people realize, creative super computers and hyper-intelligent machines may start making creations on their own that are good for the machines, but not necessarily for humanity. And according to evolution theory, once a species rises to the top of the evolutionary pyramid, it begins to rule over less evolved species.

    How soon are these predicted changes going to occur (if at all)? 

    Let me answer this question with the words of the famous US futurist John Naisbitt: “Things that we expect to happen always happen more slowly” — but eventually, most of them do happen. What are your views on how digitization may affect innovation? Do my predictions make sense to you or sound non-sensical? Comment to share your views.

    Nota bene: This article is one of 64 sections of an upcoming book that I am presently writing, The Executive Guide to Innovation (targeted for publication in 2Q.2018 by Motivational Press). Contact us if you want to be informed when the book will come out later this year.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018.

  • Creativity in the Year of the Dog

    Kung Hai Fat Choy, Happy Chinese New Year! Tomorrow marks the start of the Year of the Dog, or to be more precise, the Brown Earth Dog. The dog was the first species that humans domesticated, and thanks to this long bond with humans. dogs are uniquely accustomed to our behaviors. What creative inspirations can we obtain from “man’s best friend” to help us flourish in the coming 12 months?

    Being of value

    Compared to other animals, dogs have developed a strong influence on human society because of both their practical usefulness and the emotional companionship they offer. Dogs serve a wide range of practical roles: hunting, herding, guarding and protection, pulling loads, assisting the police and military, rescuing people in emergencies, aiding the disabled individuals and in other therapeutic roles.

    Moreover, dogs are loyal companions who can light up the day with their playful enthusiasm, sincere affection and emotional sensitivity towards their two-legged friends. As the humorist Josh Billings noted: “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”

    Creative inspirations

    Wouldn’t you enjoy doing business with someone who is helpful and at the same time fun to be with? So, ask yourself: How close are we with our customers? How intimately do we know their true wants and needs? How can we become more useful for our core customers? What other roles may we perform for them to make ourselves more useful? How can we design better emotional experiences for the users of our products and services? How can we better satisfy both the functional and emotional wants and needs of our customers?

    “Breeding out” meaningful new ideas

    Humans have selected certain dogs to breed with each other, due to particular physical and behavioral characteristics that support desired functional roles. This selective breeding has led to the hundreds of modern breeds that are classified into certain dog types (such as companion dogs, guard dogs, or herding dogs). These types vary greatly in size, character and behavior and functional roles — from the tiny Chihuahua to the tall Great Dane, or from the stubbornly-dopey Bulldog to the energetically intelligent Border Collie. By the way, did you know that most dog breeds are only a few hundred years old?

    Creative inspiration

    The breeding process is similar to the approach taken by a classic creativity technique, Morphological Matrix. So in the Year of the Dog, how can you engage in morphological thinking? First, create a matrix listing all the morphologies covered by your value offerings. Such categories might be: product features (functional and emotional benefits), service types, customers types, related promotional activities, etc.). Then, list elements under each category (B2B, B2C, NGOs in the customer category, for example), and add as many new elements as possible into each (don’t forget that we’re in the digital age). Finally, ask yourself: How to create meaningful new product and service “breeds” by connecting certain desired features and elements?

    Being a smart dog

    Are dogs intelligent creatures? If you’ve ever owned a dog, you’re likely to nod affirmatively. While breeds vary in intelligence, dogs can perceive information, retain this as knowledge, and later apply it to solve certain problems. They can also learn to respond to different body postures and voice commands. But how do dogs fare when compared to other canines?

    Although dogs and wolves share a lineage, there are noticeable differences between the two species. Free-roaming wolves have longer teeth, bigger skulls and also bigger brains than their domesticated fellow canines. Moreover, experiments have shown that Australian dingos outperform domestic modern dogs in non-social problem-solving.

    Likewise, researchers have found that when presented with an unsolvable variation of an original problem solving task, socialized wolves tried to find a solution themselves, while dogs looked to a human for help. Domestic dogs seem to have “outsourced” more advanced problem-solving to humans, which is convenient but makes them highly dependent.

    Creative inspiration

    Many multinational and large corporations today outsource internal competencies and certain functional roles to outside suppliers. While outsourcing has reduced headcount and —to some extent— overhead costs, it has also led to an organizational brain drain. The situation is comparable to a dog turning to humans to “do the thinking for us”, “solve our problems on our behalf” and “tell us what to do”. But just as a dog is dependent on the smarts of others, so do companies depend on the intelligence of their outsourcing partner. So, ask yourself: “What problem areas and functional roles are so important for our business that we should “insource” the ability again? What topics do we want to resolve by ourselves to control our fate?”

    Staying healthy

    Dogs are often plagued by parasites such as fleas, ticks, mites, and worms. Parasites live in or on another organism and obtain nutrients at the host’s expense. While they typically don’t cause severe harm, they steadily impair health, energy and performance levels.

    Creative inspiration

    Just as you want to keep your dog parasite-free, you may use the Year of the Dog to rid your business of parasitic elements. Ask yourself: Who has benefited from us and derived monetary nutrients at our expense without returning an adequate benefit? Such freeloaders may be suppliers and service providers, advisors and lobbyists, and maybe even certain managers and staff. Investigate how much benefit each derived from you, and what you really got in return. If you notice a gross mismatch, clean out the parasite.

    Rewarding loyalty

    Chinese astrology tends to ascribe characteristics and behaviors observed in an animal of the Chinese Zodiac to sum-up personality traits of people born in the corresponding year. People born in the Year of the Dog are said to be loyal and honest, amiable and kind, responsible and prudent, lively and courageous. Due to having a strong sense of loyalty and sincerity, dogs will do everything for a person —or business— who cares for them.

    Creative inspiration

    Who are key members of your company or team who have loyally and responsibly worked for you for a long time, and contributed to the success of your business? Who are your long-term customers who loyally continue buying from you? Who are other loyalists who have served your cause as loyal suppliers, advisors, advocates, opportunists and cheerleaders? In the Year of the Dog, think about ways to say “Thank you” to these loyal, dependable and sensible companions.

    Learning from Abraham Lincoln’s dog

    Let’s end with a little riddle relating to dogs. Here’s a question of the famous US president Abraham Lincoln: “How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg?” Think about this question for a moment, then settle on a number.

    Got it? Say it out loud. Now here is “Honest” Abe’s answer: “Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”

    Creative inspiration

    Nowadays, people are very quick at attaching labels to people or things (this even happened before Donald Trump popularized “fake news”). But notice that, for example, calling something going on that affects your business a problem doesn’t mean that it’s really a problem, or that it is the real problem your business faces. So in the Year of the Dog, ponder these questions: What things are we labeling or framing in ways that prevent us from noticing what’s really going on? What uncomfortable realities do we shy away from —or label as “fake news”— so that we can continue staying in our comfort zone? What are the real problems we’re facing and should tackle in the next 12 months? And aren’t these real problems rather opportunities to make a giant leap into a better future?

    Are you ready to get creative in the Year of the Dog? Why don’t you enroll your team in of our Thinkergy training courses?

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018. 

  • Learning from the daily routines of creative top achievers

    Genius Journey, the creative leadership development method that I’ve created, invites candidates to go on an imaginary journey where they travel to ten destinations to rediscover their inner creativity. At each destination stop, they learn about one disempowering mindset or action routine that limits their creativity, and they also get introduced to a corresponding empowering mindset that reconnects them to their inner creativity. 

    At the 10th stop of Genius Journey, you need to stop being busy, busy, busy all the time; instead, start cultivating daily routines that balance focused doing with relaxed being. If you find a harmonious rhythm between focused work and relaxed play, you can more easily get into flow, a state of optimal experience where you perform at your peak and creative sparks fly. But in our hectic and busy times, how to get into a harmonious rhythm between focused doing and relaxed being? Today, let’s find out by studying the daily routines of creative top achievers.

    Investigating the daily routines of creative top achievers

    In his book Daily Rituals. How Artists Work, Mason Currey shares the daily routines and habits of 161 creative top achievers: Currey studied the schedules of a collection of top achievers from a wide range of creative domains: composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven or Richard Strauss; painters such as Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh or Joan Miró; philosophers like René Descartes, Søren Kierkegaard, or Jean Paul Sartre, scientists (in the widest sense of the word) such as Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, or Carl Jung; inventors, designers and entrepreneurs such as Le Corbusier, Richard Buckminster Fuller, Nikola Tesla or Benjamin Franklin; and many, many writers such as Mark Twain, Earnest Hemingway, Friedrich Schiller, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

    While almost all creative top achievers had their unique daily schedule and peculiar preferences, they surprisingly share many commonalities in the way they approach a typical work day. Like the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, who preferred “a certain uniformity in the way of living and in the matters about which I employ my mind,” many creative top achievers are creatures of habit in the way they approached a typical workday. Why do they do it?

    Apparently, most creative top achievers noticed at some point in time that maintaining certain work routines and daily habits increases the likelihood of getting into the state of flow and creative kisses by their muse and inner genius. The French novelist Gustave Flaubert put it this way: “Be regular and ordinary in your life, so that you may violent and original in your work.”

    Uncovering patterns in the daily routines of creative top achievers

    RJ Andrews at Infowetrust.com visualized some of the more detailed schedules presented in Currey’s book in an infographic mapping out the hourly schedules of 16 creative top achievers. Other contributors (such as podio.com) added visual schedules of further creatives. In order to identify patterns in the work schedules and daily routines of creative top achievers, I visualized these data in an aggregated chart that shows six activity areas grouped in three main categories:

    • WORK (separated in main creative work; secondary creative work;  and drudgery)
    • PLAY (separated as time for exercising and leisure (e.g., meals, socializing, and spiritual activities)
    • SLEEP

    Please note that in the chart, the time displayed on the horizontal axis depicts time total hours committed to an activity irrespective of the precise time of the day on a clock, which are shown in infographics of the other sources listed above; moreover, for the main creative work activities, the chart shows a split of the work time into 1-3 creative phases.

    Looking at the chart above, I was able to spot the following common threats running through the schedules and daily routines of the featured creative top achievers:

    • Counterintuitive to what most laypeople expect of creatives, most creative top achievers stayed true to a precise daily work schedule, believing the routine helps them to get more easily into a creative flow. For example, the British-American writer W. H. Auden explained why he followed a strict daily time schedule: “A modern stoic knows that the surest way to discipline passion is to discipline time: decide what you want or ought to do during the day, then always do it at exactly the same moment every day, and passion will give you no trouble.”
    • Creative top achievers invested on average 6.5 hours per day in their main creative work activity. Thereby, the span is very wide ranging from two to 13.5 hours. Most writers seem to prefer one long creative phase per day (of 3-7 hours in length), while the featured artists worked in two creative time blocks and some scientists even had a third creative work phase.
    • Often, creative top achievers either commit to undergo their main creative work for a fixed number of hours each day (normally anywhere from 3 to 8 hours) or until they hit a certain output target (such as the two thousand words quota that Stephen King commits writing on every day of the year).
    • Most creative top achievers get to their main creative activity within 2 hours of rising at the start of their work day. Thereby, roughly seven in ten prefer to complete their main creative daywork in the morning; however, many of the late-rising creatives also began work as one of their first activities of the day in the afternoon or at night.
    • Apart from their main creative work, roughly four in ten also invested time in secondary work activities that supported their primary creative work (often in reading that can provide more “dots” to connect to a creative work project).
    • Three in ten of the featured artists (and here most prominently Mozart) had to invest time in other day jobs (typically teaching, but in some cases also administrative work)  that helped them make ends meet. However, most creative top achievers managed to avoid spending precious time for drudgery.
    • Interestingly, two in three creative top achievers regularly exercised (often walking, but also running, swimming, horse-riding or even chopping wood). Those engaging in exercise invested on average 1.5 hours a day for this activity. Why? It seems that exercise not only it helped them to stay productive and to deal with occasional frustrations and blockages, but is also a proven way to get creative inspirations and ideas — and to collect more and fresh dots to connect to one’s creative work. For example, for more than a quarter century, Huraki Murakami has kept up his daily routine to go for an hourly run around noon. Charles Dickens left his desk at 2 p.m. every day for a brisk 3-hour walk through the streets of London or countryside, a strategy intended to “searching for some pictures I wanted to build upon” in his novels.
    • The featured creative top achievers also invested 6.5 hours in average for leisure activities including meals, personal grooming, socializing and spiritual practice (once again, the range here varies widely from 1.5 to 12 hours).
    • More than nine out of ten creative leaders slept around 7-8 hours per day, highlighting the importance of sleep to reinvigorate their bodies and minds.

    What can we learn from the daily routines of creative top achievers?

    “We have failed to recognize our great asset: time. A conscientious use of it could make us into something amazing.” In line with the German playwright Friedrich Schiller, please find ten recommendations (that I personally also follow every day whenever possible) on how you may produce more and better creative outputs by harmoniously balancing time for focused work with relaxed play:

    1. Take your time to develop your unique schedule and daily routines that works for you and allows you to get your creativity flowing. None of the creative top achievers featured above copied the schedule of other people, so neither should you. “Be original. Insist upon yourself”, as Ralph Waldo Emerson recommended.
    2. Pay attention to your natural energy rhythm. If you’re a lark, consider starting work in the wee hours of a new day. However, as an owl, don’t feel shy in beginning your work day in the afternoon or evening when your energy levels start to come into full swing.
    3. Emulate the work-play pattern of creative top achievers to ensure a long creatively productive and happy life: Dedicate 8 hours (plus minus 30 minutes) each for work, play and sleep.
    4. Block at least 3-4 hours of time at the beginning of your work day to focus on your main creative work (e.g., writing). During this time, focus on one creative project and output that you want to produce by the end of that time. The English writer and social critic Charles Dickens noted in this context: “I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.”
    5. If your schedule permits, consider adding a second creative phase of 2-3 hours in the second half of your work day (either for adding more creative outputs, or for editing and improving on the outputs from phase 1).
    6. Consider adopting a firm routine of either committing a certain number of hours for creative work each day, or committing to achieve a certain creative output target (e.g., hitting a certain word count).  Complete any administrative work or drudgery towards the end of the workday (after you have completed your creative work for the day).
    7. Consider exercising for one hour each day as part of your daily routines to refresh your body and creative mind. Expect to get new creative inspirations and ideas while you sweat it out.
    8. Apart from exercising, commit quality time for leisure activities (dining, socializing and meeting with friends, meditation, reading, etc.). If creative top achievers can play in average for 6.5 hours, so can you.
    9. Don’t skimp on your sleep if you want to be healthy, productive and creative in the long run. If you travel a lot or temporarily need to do with less than the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep, experiment with cat naps (just like Thomas Edison or Richard Buckminster Fuller did) or doing mindfulness meditation to compensate for the lost hours of sleep.
    10. Finally, find your own work-play rhythm. Experiment with different ways to schedule the day to find a rhythm that works for you and helps you to be both creative and productive. Once you’ve noticed that a schedule works and induces creative flow, stick with this trusted routine it like the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami: “I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”

    This article will be an addition to the third part of my upcoming new book Genius Journey. Developing Authentic Creative Leaders for the Innovation Economy (targeted for publication in 1Q.2018 by Motivational Press). 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017.


  • How Generational Shifts will Impact Business and Innovation (Part 2)

    In part 1 of How Generational Shifts will Impact Business and Innovation, we discussed the concept of social generations and introduced those generations that are currently alive. Today, we will explore how the generations presently active in the workplace differ in their work aspirations, behaviors and styles, and how generational shifts that will unfold in the labour market in the next decade are likely to change the nature of business in general and innovation in special.

    Introducing the styles of different generations at work

    Let’s get a better understanding of the different mindsets, aspirations, and work styles of those generations that still form an active part of the workforce. Here, bear in mind that of course, every generation consists of lots of different individual types, so that the following descriptions represent more of a dominating tendency for each social cohort. Nevertheless, the following differences reflect the specific social markers and technologies as well as the educational upbringing of different generations.

    • Having to live through the Great Depression and World War II in their early lives, Traditionalistslearned the hard way. Being educated in a more formal, instructive disciplined and military style education system, “Silents” show great respect and deference for authority. They follow established rules and policies, and feel uncomfortable with conflict, change and new technologies. Most silents dutifully and loyally worked hard in one career for one employer throughout their working life.
    • The Baby Boomers grew up in the economic boom after WWII. They were educated in a structured, data-focused and evidence-based style, Boomers are career-focused workaholics who are driven by titles and financial rewards and show respect for power. While being early IT adopters, they feel unsure towards new technological advances and take time to embrace change.
    • Generation Xers like me grew up in the sober social and economic climate of the 80s. After witnessing the first waves of corporate rightsizing exercise early on in our work careers, many Gen Xers developed a pragmatic to pessimistic outlook on traditional corporate careers, and evolved into self-reliant, independent free agents. They are pragmatic and resourceful, creative and entrepreneurial, self-managing and adaptable, cynical and skeptical of authority. They value work-life balance and personal freedom.Gen Xers are digital immigrants who grew up with PCs and the internet and feel comfortable keeping up with newly emerging technologies.
    • Millennials were mostly raised by baby boomer “helicopter parents on steroids” and a more nurturing, “touchy-feely” education system that was more participative, emotional and story-based. No wonder that many Gen Yers approach work collaboratively .and are very socially engaged. They are said to be idealistic, dedicated and goal-oriented, and want to do meaningful work. Millennials are digital natives who are “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, the Internet, videos, video games, social media, etc. that they all learned to master in their adolescence.
    • Post-Millennials are technology natives who’ve widely used the Internet from a young age. These “technoholics”, often entirely depend on IT for doing things, with a limited grasp of offline or non-digital alternatives. Many Gen Zers start entering the workforce, often in new apprenticeships or part-time jobs. As permanent, long-term jobs will become fewer and fewer, many Post-Millennials will likely become flexible career multi-taskers who move seamlessly between established organizations and smaller “pop-up” ventures in rather short-term, transactional project roles. all the while longing for more security and stability.

    Upcoming generational shifts in the labor market

    By 2030, organizations will face massive human resources challenges due to generational shifts in the labour market:

    • The last remaining Traditionalists will all have retired by 2020.
    • Likewise, the first wave of baby boomers is already retiring en masse and will continue The second wave of boomers (55-64) will still be a driving force in established organizations. until the mid 20s, when they will also leave.
    • Gen Xers will gradually rise to power in established businesses threatened by the fast-changing, highly dynamic modern market environment, and also lead the business-side of start-ups together with more digital-affine Gen Y leaders.
    • In 2016, Millennials overtook the baby boomers as the biggest group in the labor market. In the coming years, they will gain strong influence as Bruce Tulgan notes in a white paper: “We should not expect the new Millennial workforce to eventually ‘grow up and settle down’ and start thinking and behaving more like those of previous generations. Rather, the ‘grown-ups’ will find themselves thinking and behaving more and more like the Millennials.”
    • The chairs left behind by the retiring Baby Boomers will be filled by Gen Zers starting their work life (although not the ones in the corner offices).

    Implications of generational shifts on innovation

    How will these generational shifts impact innovation? No one knows for sure. However, by factoring in the educational upbringing, general work qualities, and attitudes towards technology and change, I foresee on the risk of being wrong the following nine innovation impacts of generational shifts:

    1. Expect innovation to flourish when the pragmatic, creative and entrepreneurial Gen Xers innovate alongside the collaborative, idealistic Gen Yers supported by the fresh ideas of the flexible, multicultural and balanced Gen Zers. Coupled with the shift from a managerial to an entrepreneurial society, I even foresee an Inno-naissance (an innovation-driven Renaissance).
    2. Innovation focus will shift to meaningful emphasis from making money first regardless what it takes” (Boomers) to focus on make meaning first, then we will make money anyway (idealistic Millennials coupled with pragmatic Gen Xers).
    3. After the gradual disappearance of the remaining baby boomers in the next decade, everyone remaining in the workforce will be digital citizen: either an immigrant (Gen X), native (Gen Y), or digital everything (Gen Z).
    4. Expect almost all innovations to have digital elements by 2030. Powered by the advent of the sixth long wave of technological change, new lead technologies and related industries will emerge that will drive economic growth for the next 2-3 decades.
    5. When contrasting the different educational upbringing of the generations, and linking it to the four bases of Thinkergy’s innovation people profiling method TIPS (theories, ideas, people, systems), I noticed that the Traditionalists were educated in a disciplined military style (Systems base), Baby Boomers in an evidence- and data-focused style (Theories), Gen Xers in a pragmatic, applications and solutions-oriented style (Ideas), and finally Millennials in a collaborative, story-oriented and kinesthetic style (People). 
Interestingly, I also spotted a pattern how the influence of the different TIPS bases impacted the innovation focus of different eras: mass-market, systemic and operational (1946-70, run by the G.I. Generation supported by Traditionalists); systemic, data-based and quantitive (1970-95, run by Traditionalists and the Baby Boomers); and data-based, conceptual and entrepreneurial (1995-2020, driven by Baby Boomers seconded by Gen Xers). Looking ahead to the next 25 years, I predict the character of many innovations to be more entrepreneurial, social, qualitative and life-affirming (e.g. clean technologies, energies and food). 
    6. Innovation training courses and innovation project workshops will continue to take place in real-life formats for the next ten years, and demand for these formats will increase. This is because of the educational upbringing (Cafe-style, social and collaborative) and preferred training focus (emotional, participative, stories, continuous, expected) of the now largest generation at work (Millennials), coupled with the training preferences of Gen Xers (spontaneous, interactive, round-table style, relaxed with a practical, applications-oriented focus), who will increasingly sign the checks to pay for innovation education. In the long run, however, digital training courses will gradually gain prominence reflecting the more technology-driven training preferences of Post-Millennials.
    7. With regards to the process side of innovation in future, I also foresee the emergence of virtual reality solutions that allow innovation team members based in various creative cities to collaborate in real-time on an innovation project in an virtual reality space under the guidance of an innovation process expert.
    8. With the gradual departure of the Baby Boomers from the C-suite of big corporations, I forecast the renovation and creative cultural transformation of many established corporations led by the more pragmatic, entrepreneurial and creative Gen X leaders.
    9. Innovation will continue moving from the closed towards a more open paradigm as collaborative Millennials and technology-addicted Post-Millennials will gradually gain more influence in the labor market — provided open innovation will be organized in a win-win-win way.

    Conclusion: Have you got a better grasp of both the generational differences in socialization, education and work behavior (work aspirations, attitudes and styles) and the scope of the generational shifts in the labour market unfolding in the next decade? Once the last remaining Traditionalists and hordes of Baby Boomers will have gone into their well-deserved retirement, many ways of how we do business and innovate will change. Hopefully, my predictions and rationales are useful to help you realign your business and innovation set-up ahead of time.

    This two-article episode is one of 64 sections of an upcoming new book of mine titled The Beginner’s Guide to Innovation (targeted for publication in 2Q.2018 by Motivational Press). Contact us if you’d like to learn more about our innovation training courses.


  • 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.

  • Does The Pendulum Swing Back?

    Around the time we entered the new millennium, humanity moved from information intensification into a new economic age: the age of creation intensification. In the innovation economy, the key competitive advantage of individuals, companies and countries alike is creation — the ability to use existing and newly emerging theories, know-how and technologies to create novel, original and meaningful value.

    In the coming two to three decades, creativity and innovation rule will be the key drivers of business success and economic prosperity. That is, provided the innovation pendulum that drives or impairs the free flow of goods, people, ideas and capital isn’t swinging back.

    The pendulum: Swinging back and forth between two extreme poles

    Some time ago, we discussed the timing, direction and impact of change. We learned that change typically unfolds in one of four direction movements: linear change, cyclical change (or the wave), the spiral, and finally the pendulum.

    The pendulum describes a directional movement where forces of change swing back and forth between two extreme poles in fairly regular time intervals. In many countries, political change follows the movement of a pendulum. For example, in the United States, political power regularly swings back and forth between two parties promoting more liberal (Democrats) and conservative (Republicans) policies, with occupying the presidency and control of both Congressional chambers representing the extreme pinnacle of power.

    But how about economic change?

    Economic change seems to follow a pendulum movement, too. Here, the international movements of ideas, goods, people and capital is the decisive factor as the pendulum swings back and forth between the poles of ‘free movement and international trade’ versus ‘protectionism and nationalistic trade policies’. How has the pendulum swung back and forth between these two poles over the past two centuries?

    • The time period was an era of modern globalization, with international trade playing a major role in economic activities of the leading European countries. It also featured outstanding intellectual activity and groundbreaking scientific discoveries (such as Einstein’s theory of relativity in 1905) that inspired new business ventures in new industries based on the likes of chemistry or electricity.
    • This period of economic, intellectual and technological progress and prosperity ended with the outbreak of World War I, a major discontinuity that made the pendulum swing back: The period between 1914-1945 was one of deglobalization. Nationalistic parties and autocratic leaders took power in many countries and protected their local economies by regulating and limiting the free movement of goods, people, ideas and capital. Protectionism and the cold-hearted pursuit of national interests led to the Great Depression and culminated in World War II.
    • After the deglobalized period of two world wars had destroyed millions of people and crippled some nations, the pendulum swung back again: The period 1945-2008 saw a fresh phase of globalization, driven by trade and foreign direct investments by thousands of multinational companies, supported by multilateral trade agreements (the GATT rounds and regional free-trade agreements such as the EU, NAFTA, ASEAN) that reduced tariffs and non-tariff trade barriers. Meanwhile, technological innovations (such as computerization and the Internet) and transportation advances (such as container ships) significantly reduced costs and time intervals of international trade and communication. This new flood of prosperity and technologic progress also doubled the number of countries that embraced the concepts of human rights and democracy.
    • The financial crisis of 2008, some experts argue, has made the pendulum swing back to usher a new phase of deglobalization. Many countries have seen (again) the rise of reactionary leaders who won elections based on protectionist, populist policies or took power by military force. So, is the pendulum swinging back? And will this lead to a new outbreak of trade wars —or even real wars— that will limit prosperity and competition?

    What are consequences of inhibiting or promoting free (international) movements of goods, people and ideas?

    Protectionist and nationalistic policies temporarily secure the interests of the old establishment and secure jobs in old industries through tariffs, non-tariff trade barriers, and unfavorable investment regulations or immigration policies. They temporarily prolong the life of corporate dinosaurs and some old jobs, but at a high cost: Such policies cut off local markets and consumers from access to superior goods, cutting-edge technologies, revolutionary ideas, foreign direct and capital investments, and the brightest global talents. But eventually, the pendulum will swing back again, markets will open again, and corporate dinosaurs will face the fate of creative destruction.

    In contrast, policies promoting the free international flow of goods, people, ideas and capital lead to new waves of technological innovation, new ventures, new investments and new prosperity. They create new jobs in new industries that will drive economies and create prosperity for future decades. They attract some of the smartest minds and think the boldest ideas and have the energy and talent to turn them into reality. Innovation and economic growth flourish in times and environments where ideas, goods, people, and capital flow freely.

    But does economic development really follow a pendulum movement?

    It can be argued that movements of ‘globalization versus deglobalization’ and ‘economic freedom versus protectionism’ follow a more hopeful pattern: the spiral.

    That is, while moving back and forth, we also make regular upward leaps as we learn from past mistakes, and we also produce new waves of innovations and technologies that create more prosperity and progress for ever more people. So, we may temporarily move back in the coming years, but let’s hope that in the long run, humanity will continue to move up on the global prosperity spiral.

    How is the “tug of war” of opposing economic directions going to turn out?

    Well, it’s too early to tell. On the one hand, political forces promoting protectionism and nationalism have gained momentum or even power in many countries in the aftermath of the financial crisis 2008. It seems we’ve began moving backwards on the pendulum (or spiral) towards more deglobalization, protectionism and preservation.

    At the same time, innovation will continue to drive economic prosperity in the coming decades, with digitization only further amplifying this meta-trend. This offers major opportunities for those countries and creative cities that decide to boldly go forward and create the free environments that attract international capital and the brightest scientific and creative minds to become an innovation hotbed and drive the sixth long wave that will start around 2020.

    Today’s articles is one of 64 sections of a new book that I plan to finish writing by the end of this year. The Beginner’s Guide to Innovation is targeted for publication in 2Q.2018 by Motivational Press. Contact us if you’re interested in learning 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. 

  • 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. 

  • 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. 

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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