"We gather knowledge faster than we gather wisdom." - William Bell

Six Principles of Creativity

Posted: September 18th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: On Ideation | No Comments »

I was in a meeting this morning and someone brought up the term “greenhousing” and how it relates to ideation and creativity. I thought the concept that they were talking about was so steeped in truth, that I decided to do a little research. Apparently, greenhousing is one of six creative behaviours needed to stimulate the right environment for creative problem solving. Ironically, the source of these six principles were to topic of last week’s article.

The six behaviours are as follows:

1. Freshness

New ideas come from new experiences.

Creativity does not necessarily have to be something completely new, but creative people have the ability to see how something could work in an alternative situation. With this end in mind, they seek wider experiences and new ways of thinking. Freshness can be found in simple ways, such as getting lost in a new part of the city, trying rock climbing or even a salsa class.

2. Greenhousing

New ideas are delicate. Of course they have not been thought through, they’re new! However, if you pounce on an idea too quickly and subject it to rigorous testing (for financial soundness, for general feasibility etc) it will soon fall down. Once destroyed, it is unlikely to be revisted again, and even worse, the person who had the idea is unlikely to be keen to have another one.

However, being analytical is the natural way to think in the Western world. Making swift and critical judgements is what drives our success. However, such behaviours are anathema to creativity.

?WhatIf! describe the situation needed to nurture a new idea as ‘Greenhousing’. To greenhouse (protect) a new idea, we have to:

  • suspend judgement and bite back criticism
  • understand the world through another’s eyes
  • nurture ideas until they are strong enough to cope with criticism on their own

Try to put into practice the principle that every idea should be followed by two ‘builds’ (developing the idea further with phrases that start with “That makes me think of . . . ; To build on that idea, if we . . .; X’s idea could also work if we . . . “). Language is an important part of being creative.

3. Realness

The technique is very simply and extremely effective. It demands that we stop talking about innovation and ask “how can we make it real right now?”

A recent Harvard Business Review article (Levitt T. Harvard Business Review August 2002) likened the situation to someone who talks about painting a beautiful picture, and someone who actually paints one – which person is the creative artist? Levitt felt that lots of organisations confuse brilliant talk with constructive action. The solution is to build a prototype as soon as you can (yes, this can work with policies as well as products – think of pilots). Play with it, think about it, carry it around with you improve it, tweak it, build another model and start again. Some good advice from great thinkers- Don’t Think, Just Leap.

4. Momentum

All really creative people have an air of urgency. An innovative leader can learn to create this state, especially with the help of a skilled facilitator who can help enthuse the people around. Working on a project that has momentum is fantastic.

There is an energy and an optimism that is infectious. There is a sense of determination to get the job done, no matter what obstacles get thrown in the way. Good managers will understand how to manage and harness this energy.

Meetings are dreadful momentum-killers; ?WhatIf! suggest trying one of these 5 types of meeting instead:

  • information only: no discussion, no debate, just the sharing of information
  • decision only: no discussions, only yes or no
  • stand up: stops the chatting and long winded debates
  • decide at the beginning: make all the decisions first, then discuss them (cuts out
  • unnecessary talk and focuses on real issues)
  • rattle and roll: rattle through the first 8 easy and quick points. everyone feels hopeful despite the long agenda

You can also keep meetings energetic and creative by the way you plan the meeting: for example use flipcharts instead of slides; take turns to be chair; have an ‘energiser’ or break if energy is low.

5. Signalling

Signalling lets people know what you are doing and how you are thinking. It helps people align their effort. Signalling makes the creative process explicit and legitimate and (hopefully) stops others from crushing your emerging idea. It’s pretty much playing the politics of the room to ensure that ideas don’t die.

6. Bravery

Creative ideas are strange at first. That’s what makes them creative. If they were not unusual and off-the-wall, they would already have been thought of and you would not be trying to solve this particular problem.

As a result, many creative ideas are lost because the person who had them does not say them aloud. A creative idea requires you to stand up and dare to be different.

Bravery is vital to the creative process because it enables creative people to offer the full power of their minds, and use their spontaneous connection-making skills without self-censoring ideas into mediocre acceptability. To be brave, you need to be confident that all the other creative behaviours are in place; but without bravery, none of the other behaviours are any use. Bravery is difficult, and the best advice is to just do it!

- Christian

Source: Strategy Survival Guide: Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit

The Idea Drunks at ?What If!

Posted: September 11th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Cool Ideas, Inspiration, Thought Starters | No Comments »

There is a company in the UK who’s sole purpose to educate people on how to have kick ass ideas and encourage innovation in companies. It’s called “?What If!” They are the people you hire when you want your senior management team to push the envelope and champion new ideas. Basically, they jump around and think of cool ideas. Or coach people on how to think of cool ideas.

To be honest, they have come out with some pretty cool stuff so far. The clients they list include Ikea, Red Bull and Google. Three organizations that have revolutionized their industries. Ironically, those are three companies that probably don’t require the help of an innovation consultant. They already know and value the potential of a good idea. They have already fostered cultures of acceptance and creativity.

In my opinion, the places that need this the most are those that don’t think that they need it. The companies that have yet to see the value in fostering an organically creative culture. Anyways, enough of my ranting. Here’s an overview of the ?What If! story:

The Problem

Back in 1992, Matt Kingdon and Dave Allan (both idea drunks) started to feel increasingly frustrated working within the bureaucracy of big corporate structures.

Both felt that big corporations had inefficient and damaging approaches to creative innovation, especially when it came to new product development.

Rather than just accepting the situation for what it was, Matt and Dave decided to do something about it

The Process

After several months of clandestine pub talk about setting up a creative agency, Matt and Dave had cracked the offer: to help super tanker corporates become innovation speed boats. Over a few months the start-up fund, of just £20,000 was scraped together.

Like everything in the early days the ?What If! name was developed as a result of an informal brainstorm session, whilst on a beach somewhere. Someone said they liked the word ‘if’, then someone else said ‘yeah, as in ‘what if’. And that was it.

The business opened its doors on Sept 28th 1992 in a rather dingy office. In the subsequent years the business has stuck to its mantra of “recruit superstars only” and has retained the original entrepreneurial, collaborative and creative ethos throughout all its offices by being a strongly values-led business. I want to work there. Sounds fun.

- Christian

Word of the Day: Mind Grenade

Posted: September 5th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Thought Starters | No Comments »

Mind Grenade

A mind grenade is an idea that is so astounding that it shakes the very foundations of how you think. It is a concept that when you hear about it or look at it … you just stare in awe.

It can manifest itself in a picture, a movie or even though words on a page. Regardless, it makes you reframe the way that you are looking at a problem. It may even encourage you to reconsider the way that you perceive human nature or the world around you. It’s what idea drunks like me live for!

Here are a couple of mind grenades for you today. Some are good. Some are bad. But hopefully, they’ll blow your mind.


Sun breaking through clouds over Belagamo. Makes you believe in God.

Blink by Malcom Gladwell. It made me trust my instincts.

Click for the PostSecret video. It has changed the way I perceive those around us. Everyone has a secret that defines them.

- Christian

A Brilliant Idea – BMO Field's Hawk

Posted: September 4th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Cool Ideas | No Comments »

Check out this awesome idea to deal with the seagull problem at BMO Field. You can read the full article here.

As our local soccer team works out its growing pains, so too does its home stadium. The seagull-to-human ratio at BMO Field has been on a steady incline, and everyone from the players to the fans have felt their presence. Until now.Perceptive spectators attending the Toronto FC against D.C. United match on Aug. 25 would have noticed both the distinct absence of gulls and the ominous presence of a hefty brown hawk perched near the park’s press area.

Gulls love a good time, especially when there’s food involved, but they are terrified of hawks. Well aware of these truths, park management has hired one such predator – a Harris hawk named Bitchy – to stand guard during matches and other events, compelling the fine-feathered gatecrashers to scavenge elsewhere.

“I think she is the solution,” says the park’s general manager, Marc Petitpas, who has been trying to resolve the gull problem since opening day. “She just sits on her perch all game. Pretty much doesn’t move. But the seagulls will come nowhere near her out of fear. … ”

The four-year-old Bitchy (who was named by her trainer, Mike Givlin) has “a bit of an attitude,” Mr. Petitpas said, but poses no risk to fans, players or even other birds. “She’s tethered to her perch, so she can’t go too far. Just by being there, she stops the seagulls from disrupting play and bothering people.”

Anyways, kudos to whoever thought of this brilliant idea. If it was up to me, I probably would have hired some 15 year old kids to shoot seagulls with pellet guns. So much for my dreams of employing restless teenagers or selling them a live version of “Duck Hunt”.

- Christian