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Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

How Many Ways to Kill Innovation?

February 21st, 2012

One of my favorite posts on the topic of Innovation-Killers, comes from the innovative blogsite, ThinkJar, created by Ben Weinlick.  Ben attended The Intersection 2012 and has created a great site for convergent and divergent creativity.  Take a look at this post on 21 Ways to Kill Creativity, written by Michael Michalko (author of Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques).

I would like to add one or two of my own creativity-killers:

1) don’t ever, ever, listen to your children’s ideas

2) immerse yourself in lots of television (especially sitcoms, game-shows, and reality tv series) and mobile games.

What other innovation-killers are you experience at home or work?

The serendipity of TED

March 4th, 2011

I’m at the last day of the TED ’11 conference in Long Beach, CA.  Many friends have asked me about TED over the years: what’s it like? who goes? how do you get in?. This is my fifth – and there are many “TEDsters” here that have come far more times than me.  I find the Serendipity of TED to be an interesting topic…

Gratitude for Wurman and Anderson

I’m grateful for what Richard Saul Wurman created in 1984 – the early TEDs took place in Monterey, in a fairly intimate setting, with just a few hundred people…and equally as grateful to Chris Anderson, who’s non-profit entity acquired TED in 2001 and has turned it into a global media brand.  Grateful for amazing connections, great content, and vibe.  TED now has conferences throughout the year:  the big event in Long Beach (from which I am posting), the TEDGlobal in summer – now moving to Scotland, and over a THOUSAND TEDx events throughout the world – in every imaginable country – over the past few years.  The website is one of the best video content sites on the web, boasting hundreds of high-quality videos of “Ideas Worth Spreading”…

Ideas Worth Spreading

Ideas are just ideas, unless they do spread to the right minds, hearts and activists. And that’s where the magic of TED seems to work and continue to grow.

TED 2011 Main Lobby

Here at the TED conference, I survey the outside hall:  to my left Al Gore is standing and conversing with a group of repeat TEDsters, behind him Vinod Khosla holding court, with daughter (who presented this year at TED) next to him, and behind me Jason Mraz, musician (who was incredible last night on stage) walking by with his friend/partner in trademark fedora.  Beyond them, scores of venture capitalists that I recognize from the Silicon Valley mingle with 20ish looking young men in jeans and sneakers.  Sitting on the stairs, the founder of Amazon, with family in tote.  Chris Anderson, holding hands with wife, Jacqueline Novogratz (CEO of Acumend Funds).  Off in far corners of the room, scores of creative people mingle, talk excitedly about art, science, music, mother-in-laws and raising kids.   This is a typical scene for TED.

This year’s TedEd talks, held on Mon, Tues and Thurs mornings were short 5 min talks – and many were fascinating. The topics went from How to MindMap a TED talk (by Nina Khosla) to genomes on the Internet (by friend, Jim Hornthal) to the Hoax of State Budgets (Bill Gates).  This short-form talks are a great way for a wide variety of TEDsters to show off another unique aspect of TED:  the diversity of participants from teens to baby-boomers, from scientists to musicians.

The scene not only creates viral spread of ideas, but so does the website, which is available for free to anyone in the world? Missed a session? Look it up on TED within 3 months and you’ll likely find it.  In the future, TED will be broadcast in many companies (their latest endeavor) around the world simultaneously to the live event – so thousands of viewers can watch live, even though at a distance.  That creates more spread.

Sweet Serendipity

What makes this all worthwhile for these folks to shell out $7500 (plus hotel, flights, food) each year?  Serendipity, most likely. At TED, one sets oneself up for that serendipitous moment…a “TEDEd lecture earlier this week by author John Hagel emphasized that serendipity can actually be encouraged, planned for and enhanced.  TED is the ultimate example of this.  The serendipitous moments come when you sit down in the 2000-person auditorium next to the founder of Twitter (as I did yesterday),  or grab coffee and run into someone you’ve followed on Twitter (@aplusk) for a pleasant conversation on the state of Angel Investing…

But, here at TED, serendipity doesn’t seem to be simple luck.  Although the event has reaching proportions that sometimes make you feel like you are at a large trade show party (last night’s party for example, featured a 30-foot puppet and hanging gymnists), the event is set up to allow for interactions, exchanges, and lots of causual “bumping into”.  The five days quickly blend into a blur of great conversations with highly creative people, people who are here to learn and to meet others, many who come with open minds.

At the Intersection

I think what TED represents best is an “intersection” of creative thinking from around the world.  Movie stars, venture capitalists, engineers, singers, adventurers, scientists, mathematicians, CEOs – all in one place – all with expertise in some area, but open  mind to BLEND their expertise with other “ideas worth spreading”.  This is very much like the

Musician & friend, Jason Mraz on stage, Thurs

experience that the Medici Family created in 15th century Florence when they brought together groups of this nature.  So, think of TED as the traveling/virtual equivalent of Firenze.

TED has been a great experience for me over the years…nearly each time I have come, I’ve developed relationships that have been long-lasting, career-changing.  Two of my greatest triumphs and failures have come from relationships with well-known TED speakers that were made here at the conference:  one led to the biggest return in the history of my venture work, another led to less-than-successful (nonetheless interesting) start-up which caused me to question who I really am.  That’s the thing about TED, the serendipitous moments that are created by the intersection of so many wonder-filled people,

Creativity Tool: Mind Mapping

December 18th, 2010

I was inspired this week by a set of mind-maps delivered at the end of a course by student Bryan Alvarez, who is a PhD  Psychology student in my UC Berkeley class on Innovation, Creativity & the Entrepreneur.

Bryan sat in each class this past semester, diligently creating little masterpieces of art/notes while the class discussed all matters of creativity,innovative organizations, famous entrepreneurs, design thinking, wicked problems, and  living in the present moment (to name a few topics). Bryan is also using mind maps to create the game-plan for a very ambitious project he’s under-taken at UC Berkeley called the Virtual Human Body.

What is a Mind Map?

Mind maps are writings/drawings that may include words, graphics, notes, tasks, etc…which are arranged around key ideas, words, or thoughts.  A nice overview of Mind Maps is given on MindTools videos by Amy Carlson & James Manktelow.  Mind maps can created with a few simple words connected by lines, or they can be elaborately drawn as near works of art.  Bryan Alvarez had a simple way of putting it:  “A mind map is a precise way to consolidate a lot of information into an organized system that appeals to our perception in an intuitive manner and can fit on a single page. If a picture is worth a thousand words, one good mind map is worth a thousand notes.

How are Mind maps used?

I’ve seen mind maps used for note-taking, speech-giving, list creation, creative problem solving, visualizing concepts, creating to-do lists, organizing information and group brainstorming.  A quick check on Google yields some wonderful and beautiful mind-maps – like works of art.

Since Alvarez has studied the Brain and Cognitive Science, I thought I’d ask him: “In what ways do you feel that mind-mapping correlates to the way that your mind/brain stores and retains information?”

Here’s what he said:

1. There are at least 17 dimensions (different categories of features) that the visual system uses when creating a visual image. These include dimensions like color, shape, size, orientation, texture, luminance, etc. Map mapping takes advantage of many of these to group related objects (or distinguish unrelated objects) by color, borders, textural patterns, branches extending at different orientations, etc.

2. Your brain can hold about 3-4 different things in mind at one time. This is the capacity of the average working memory. If you are shown 10 numbers very briefly (9238547601) and ask to memorize and recite them in the right order, you will likely remember about 3-4 numbers in the correct sequence. However, if the numbers happen to be ordered in a meaningful way with a clear pattern (0123456789) you will remember all of them easily. In this case, you have “subitized” the 10 bits of information into one meaningful concept. Mind mapping works the same way by grouping different branches with different colors, textures, etc., and by nesting the details of a concept (e.g., 10 different numbers) within a broader framework (e.g., numbers ascending 0 to 9).

3. Mind mapping demands a certain level of attention and focus compared to rote copying. Mapping necessitates an understanding of the way things relate and thus challenges the mapper to find the broad structure of an idea and it’s related pieces and organize them in a way that clearly shows this relationship visually. This means a person must pay close attention, think about and absorb the information deeper, and thus understand it better to structure it in a way that is most meaningful. Attention is a critical part of learning and memory — you learn things better that you attend to and you remember things better that you’ve learned

These are just a few of the cognitive benefits I get from mind mapping. I’m sure there are many more!

How does one get started?

Using Mind Maps is easy, and you can start with no training at all, by following a few simple rules:

  1. Place your central idea, problem, focus-area, etc – at the center of your paper within a small balloon or box, allowing space on all sides of the idea.
  2. Consider roughly how many major sub-topics or “tracks” might emanate from the central thought (and add 2, assuming something new will come to mind later).  Then plan your space around the mind-map so there will be room for all the sub-topics.
  3. Starting with sub-topic #1, create a line to a new box or circle.  Label the line to the new concept with the sub-heading topic name.  You can add a drawing depicting the new sub-topic (for example a drawing of a book if the new sub-topic is “information”) at the end of this sub-topic line.
  4. As new ideas come related to sub-topics of sub-topics, you can branch the line from the central thought and create further branches. Think of the way a tree grows (roots or branches). The central trunk represents a sub-topic, and branches coming off it are further descriptions or sub-sub-topics, and minor branches then become even further sub-sub-sub topics. This is the Divergence step.
  5. New information can be added later to your Mind Map, but finding the appropriate spot to add it and simply drawing a new line.  When you are done, the  map may have “branches” coming out of it in all directions.
  6. After you are done with your drawing, you can go back and make new connections between branches, add color to more easily see the sections/sub-sections or add drawings for major topical findings.  This helps the mind map TELL A STORY.
  7. Some find that an important Mind Map can be improved by consolidated and made more crisp by re-drawing it and re-thinking its structure.  (like a “convergence” step)

Technology Tools Available

There are a variety of tools out on the market that you can use with your Windows PC, Mac or iPad.  MindMeister, is an online tool that allows you to create and share mind maps that reside in the cloud. My students tend to use MindMeister because it’s free/low-cost and can be shared and shown from any browser.  MindJet is a software company specializing in software for the Mac and PC – it is more sophisticated that MindMeister, and better suited to business use in my mind.

Resources for Mind Mapping

There are several great books on the market about mind mapping.  The ones I like best are:

Four Key Elements of Innovative Marketing

November 27th, 2010

A tradition at my U.C. Berkeley class “Creativity & Innovation & The Entrepreneur” (ICE) is to set aside one class each semester to discuss “innovations in Marketing”.  I ask the students to each contribute 1-2 examples of highly creative, imaginative and innovative marketing and post them to a WIKI.  This year, we had over 70 postings and great discussion in class about the nature of the “creative” advertising agency, and what makes a marketing campaign highly innovative.

As a former marketing exec (IBM, Apple, Yahoo, Netchannel, Overture and others), I’ve worked with hundreds of highly creative people  – in fact, at a place like Apple, marketing seemed to be a never-ending game between creatives as to who could create the most innovative plan.

I learned that sometimes, just simple ingenuity and the element of surprise and delight works wonders…for example the simplicity of the Apple logo, the release of the Mac in 1984, the irreverence of the iPod and simplicity of iPhone advertisements, all underscore the innovative culture of Apple. Our class found several great examples of creative, yet highly simple, marketing campaigns in every-day advertising:

The game in marketing is to figure out who can create the most innovative ad campaigns, the most effective lead drivers, and the best branding and positioning. Naturally, with so many creative people in this industry, lots of creative ideas occur.  How many are truly innovative?

Top Four Elements of Innovative Marketing
This year in class, we tore apart several of the marketing campaigns to figure out what makes for truly innovative marketing.  Here are the five elements of innovative marketing that came from our Wiki this year:

1. Highly innovative marketing campaigns employ the age-old craft of story-telling, sometimes allowing the user to fill in the missing pieces of the story. Everyone loves a good story.  And, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other sites are perfect viral channels for the spread of a good story.  Here are several examples of highly viral campaigns that tell a great (and personal) story:

Google posted a particularly clever campaign during a period when it was under fire from the press for some of its practices.  5 million viewers have watched the viral video.  The video shows the “human” (softer) side of Google (often said to be a bit “tc in its culture) and the viewer is pulled into the story with a certain “that could be me” feel.

Not to be out-marketed, Facebook posted a similar video recently, although its viral effects have been minimal so far. But still, it’s fun to watch.

Another very effective campaign that tells a poignant story to get its point across is the Dove Evolution campaign that hit the ‘Net in October, 2006.  This innovative marketing example used stop photography to get its point across, leaving the reader to think about Dove in an entirely new light.

2. Highly innovative campaigns draw the user in …often engaging the user in the story or campaign. Given the nature of the social web today, the best way to engage many users is to draw them in on a personal level.  One of my all-time favorite viral videos “Where the Hell Is Matt?” (33 million views) does an amazing job at this.

One great example of this is the Pepsi Refresh project, which has (as of this writing) attracted 640,000 viewers. The project engages entrepreneurs around the country in submitting socially beneficial business plans.  The music and visuals suck you in and tell a motivating story.

This Nissan Sentra advertisement highlights the takes personalization to an new level, but actually showing the main character living out of his Nissan.  Young audiences could relate well to this.

3. Innovative campaigns draw their creativity from the intersection of 2 or more marketing devices. When one discovers the power of a new medium but leverages the legacy of an older medium, great things happen.  For example, Paranormal Activity was a run-away low-budget box-office smash, based on the incredible viral marketing the film used prior to theatrical introduction.  One key element of this was the combination of Twitter and viral video.  People “tweeted their screams”.

Here are several other, more recent, examples:

  • Groupon is combining crowd-sourcing with location-based marketing to craft campaigns that draw big crowds into locations for on-the-spot promotions
  • Volvo – teamed up with Double-Click to create innovative banner ads that incorporate live Twitter feeds
  • Ikea came up with a completely novel use for Facebook “tagging” by allowing users to claim prizes

The campaigns that are most innovative will come up with novel ways of combining 2 or more forms of existing marketing to arrive at new combinations.

4. Highly innovative marketing utilizes an element of surprise and delight , which crosses the expected with the unexpected.  The result is a campaign that people want to share among themselves and watch over and over.

  • Coke used this highly effective campaign to brand itself to happiness and fun – and who doesn’t want happiness and fun?
  • Burger King allowed people to “have it their way” by personalizing the experience, delighting and surprising their customers in the process
  • A favorite among the 20-something crowd is the Old Spice viral videos from 2009 which used surprise and humor to re-build the brand’s image.

These are four approaches to creating innovation in Marketing.  What other examples match up to these four findings?  What other sources of innovation defines the Marketing field?

Innovation in an 8000 year old profession?

October 16th, 2010

How do we identify Innovation in one of the world’s oldest professions?  No, not THAT profession, the other oldest profession: the wine-making profession. I’ve long had a love-affair with wine, not just because of it’s social lubricant qualities and enjoyment on the palette, but also because the process of wine-making is itself a CREATIVE endeavor, honed over 8000 years into both a craft and an enormous industry at the same time.

I am the vine, you are the branches (John 15)

Entrepreur_wine_bottle

Wine-making starts with selection & planting of a  terroire and vines. The soil that the vine is placed in is critical to the fruit it will produce.  The vine has to be trained, stressed, pruned, watered – nurtured just right.  The weather, over which the vintner has little control, dictates the region that one might choose to do this in. For thousands of years the wine-maker (typically trained by family over generations) would determine by touch, taste, smell, if the grapes on the vine were ripe for the picking. Each “varietal” of wine has to be harvested: de-stemmed, crushed, re-crushed, then  mixed/combined with the juice from other grapes (most wines are not 100% of one varietal), and finally set away in barrels to ferment and age.  All the decisions involved in each of these steps involve a certain creative/artistic approach. No two seasons or harvests (vintage) are the same, no two sets of produce are the same. By the time the wine is bottled and labeled with a branding message, the wine has gone through a considerable number of creative steps.  This is an annual form of creative problem solving process hat the wine-maker goes through each year: “in what way can I maximize the variables to produce the most optimal yield, quality and product for each vintage?”. The art of wine-making is a great example of the creative process at work…over the past 8000 years.

The quintessential Entrepreneurs

By the same token I have always found the wine-maker to be the perfect example of American entrepreneur in action. Part creator, part business-man, part risk-taker.  A successful winery involves a blend of art, science and management.

This week in class at UC Berkeley my students in “Innovation, Creativity & the Entrepreneur” class (ICE, as it is fondly known), were introduced to Steve Mirassou, founder of Steven Kent Winery (Livermore, CA).  Steve, who is as passionate about wine as I’d imagine his forefathers were, is a direct lineage of the OLDEST wine family in the United States – he is a 6th generation in the wine business. His great-great-great grandfather started one of the earliest vineyards in the US, which later became the Mirassou Family Vineyards in the San Jose area (sold to Gallo). Steve started his own winery in Livermore in the 1992 with his father.  Today the winery produces some ~30,000 cases of wine per year and offers 2 wine clubs (“direct to consumer” model), many varietals, and just launched a new high-end label called Lineage. Steve is a highly unique individual – a blend of business talent, artistic taste and PASSION for what he does for a living (we all want that!).  He lives and breathes wine.  Here’s a clip of Steven which is part of a video I took for my Creativity class:

Also joining Steve was another entrepreneur, Alyssa Rapp, founder of BottleNotes - a leading online start-up in the

AJR New Headshot

area of wine-making. Alyssa’s enthusiasm for wine comes out in a different form from Steven. She loves educating the public about wine growing, tasting and collecting.  Bottlenotes offers interesting new approaches to wine, using a unique mix of events, online information, social media, email marketing and more.  Alyssa spoke to our class about innovations, particularly in marketing and online media, in the industry over the past decade, but she also cautioned that the regulation of the industry by the government and the pressure on the industry by lobbyists is something is a constant check-and-balance to potential creativity and innovation.

Innovation in the wine industry

A key question that came up in discussions with Steve and Alyssa was the nature of innovation in an somewhat slow-growing and notoriously stodgy industry.  The wine business in the US and abroad has seen considerable consolidation in the past 25 years. Today, 80% of wine production in the US is owned by a small number of huge wineries.  Are these large players innovating or simply consolidating? Are mid and smaller wineries showing signs of innovation or creativity?

The question I pose here:  based on examples like BottleNotes, Steven Kent and others – is the wine industry showing signs of innovation in the past 5 years…or is it simply evolving?  I’d like to hear reader’s thoughts and in my next post will share some of my own thoughts on the topic.