Hopefully I’ll have time to elucidate more later.
Continue reading ‘5 Things I’ve learned or been reminded of this month’
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Hopefully I’ll have time to elucidate more later.
In this week’s lectures and materials we tackled the group obstacles to innovation as well as the often misused innovation tool: Brainstorming. In speaking of the group we’re referring to the immediate work-group or direct organization that one works in whether it’s a division, subgroup, project group, etc. Within the group Owen’s identifies 4 major constraints:
- These constraints include relationships that prevent trust, free sharing and productivity in the group. Sometimes even loyalty can cloud our judgement about people’s actual skills or capabilities.
- Also the emotion of fear (of rejection) can prevent us from willingly volunteering new ideas. If we’re afraid that we may be ridiculed or even ignored, we will stop sharing. Fear of being blamed for mistakes acts as an innovation killer.
- Emotional and relationship conflict can cause team dysfunction. Lack of trust can destroy group dynamics.
Culture includes how the group both perceives and behaves. Culture defines what the group values. Here’s a really simple parable of how events in the past effect a group’s view of change. This view may prevent a group from finding new solutions. For example, let’s say Group X tried a new implementation Method Y to produce Product Z under the leadership of a new manager who had good intentions. Unfortunately, the group was not properly trained or prepared in the implementation method, and there was an old guard who was quite married to their way of doing things and the decided to openly resist using the new methodology. Consequently Product Z failed miserably.
Upper management decided to blame not only the new manager and those who advocated for Method Y. From this time forward, in order to avoid conflict or shame, employees in this group avoided suggesting new ways of doing things unless they were blessed directly by upper management. This group consequently became married to ‘their tried and trusted ways’ of doing this. This account may be slightly exaggerated but I’d be willing to bet many people working in business have seen a similar scenario some time in their career.
Cultural constraints can be the hardest to overcome when suggesting innovation or change because there’s some real hearts and minds stuff behind people’s investment and even pride in how they do things. Also, as in the example above, fear of the consequences of making mistakes within a group’s culture can be a negative constraint.
This constraint is quite simple to explain if you don’t have the right environment and tools, you may have a difficult time collaborating. Even having a document management system or an online collaboration system or tool that meets the group’s needs is important. Also, if there is no comfortable physical space to meet and work together the group will have a difficult time being productive as a group.
Owen’s in his lectures this week spent a great deal of time explaining this constraint and how to overcome it. Owens notes that groups can sometimes be so married to their process and focus on achieve efficiency in this process that they get stuck on a track. The problem with this again, is it makes the group less likely to adopt new ways of doing things when rapid change is needed. This puts the group at risk of experiencing a process that may cause a bottleneck in their ability to change and be innovative.
But to overcome process constraints Owens recommends a few remedies that make a great deal of sense.
First is to use a process, but a simple one that can be adaptable to the group. Owens suggests a Seven phase process that has different levels of engagement from the group as a group and as independent workers. In phase 1 the problem is identified and in phase 2 as many ideas to solve the problem are identified. There’s emphasis here in finding or listing as many ideas as possible. As you travel down the path, this list naturally will be will be whittled down. But here’s the great part: The group doesn’t have to be involved as a whole in every step of the process. Those committee meetings that caused projects to inch through the calendar like a limestone parade float – those are forbidden if any true innovation is to happen.
The second suggestion I walked away with was that it is important to analyze the problem or issue that requires innovation and determine if radical innovation is needed. If so, it’s important to assign the right kinds of people to the innovation team. But how do you do this? One answer: assign the right people on your team of innovators.
Owens explains that there are two types of Innovators (Team R & Team A). Their qualities can be described as follows:
The “R-type” innovator can be characterized as the person who often sees radical or even unconventional solutions, They are people who are good at laying a number of seemingly unrelated ideas or solutions down. They might also question how things are done. Which can be frustrating to co-workers who don’t want to challenge the status quo.
The “A-type” innovator can be end-product focused. I worked with someone who was like this in a past worklife. He was highly detail-oriented and would manage the process every step of the way, making sure that each step had a milestone and the group would do want ever it could to accomplish it. I would use him has a springboard to find the possible execution problems in a project because of his broad analytical thinking and his meticulousness. However, not everyone saw his detail-orientation as I saw it and sometimes thought of him as being contrary to their process flow.
Initially I thought I was an “R” but then I realized after working at my last group I became the “A” person, always looking for a defined process, measurements, ways to determine or measure our success… because they didn’t seem to follow any process or even understand that one was necessary. I wanted to have an end product to shoot for. This group was still struggling to define the product they wanted and would often rely on their upper leadership to set the tone. This was fine when leadership had a clear picture and was well-informed about what they wanted. When it comes down to it, I’m probably a hybrid of the two types.
Owens teaches us that as innovation leaders we should be able to tell when to use the “A’s” and the “R’s” in a project timeline. As he illustrated in the diagram below, both the A’s & R’s have their place in a project and should be leveraged by the leader to work in harmony with each other. Now that’s something worth learning.
I forgot to add some resources I found earlier that related to this week’s topics:
Article from Fast Company: “Five Ways Process is Killing your Productivity”
How Collaboration can Kill Creativity:
What are the disadvantages of Project Management:
One word from the author of this post = “Obsession”
It’s the 2nd week of Leading Strategic Innovation in Organizations and the focus this week has been on individual constraints to innovation. According to Owen’s there are three main individual constraints to innovation: perception, intellection, and expression.
I’ve taken a cue from the last course I took (#edcmooc) and I’m making an attempt to define what I’ve learned this week visually (see the image above). But what I’ve really taken away from this week’s content are the following three bits:
Lesson 1: “There is no such thing as a creative personality.”
In other words, creative people aren’t born, they’re made or developed by their learning and experience. Numerous studies have shown that children are naturally open to experience and creative. But arguably our education system and life experience shapes or constrains this ability to be creative. We are taught the proper way to solve problems or how to keep our ideas and thoughts in check.
What Owens does argue is that there are personality traits conducive to creativity, and these are:
Logically, if you are open-minded to multiple ways of seeing a problem you’ll come up with a number of different ways to solve it. If you’re agreeable and able to connect effectively with others, you’re better able to explain your solutions to them. Neurotic behaviors and thinking on the other hand can negatively affect one’s ability to be creative here’s an example of how neurotic thinking can prevent creativity and innovative problem solving.
“I can’t share that solution or express that that in front of others, they’ll think I’m a.)wrong, b.)stupid and I’ll just embarrass myself.”
In order to be a truly effective at innovation, you need to be able to share your ideas freely without fear of being judged. Perhaps that’s ultimately what makes Woody Allen one of the most creative storytellers of our time. He’s portrayed himself as the lovable neurotic, but he has never flinched at attempting to portray this neurosis in stories that examine the human condition from different perspectives.
Lesson 2: It’s important to always approach the problem from multiple perspectives.
In reading through Chapter 2 of “Creative People Must be Stopped, I ran across the story of a playwright who purchased different “odd magazines” for hobbies or topics foreign to her. Her purpose was to “see” things from that particular magazine audience’s views and therefore reinterpret what might be seen in her own vision portrayed in her plays. Of course, your savvy marketing professional would simply call this focusing on your target markets, but there’s something so simply empowering about this approach to seeing other’s views of the same situation or problem you’re attempting to solve.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when you’re analyzing a problem:
- How would someone who is completely polar opposite to me see this problem? How would they describe it?
- Why might they not see it as a problem?
- What solutions may they came up with?
Lesson 3: It’s not how cool your idea is, it’s how you sell it to your audience.
Sometimes, and I admit I’m guilty of this as well, when you come up with what you think is a ‘great idea’ its logic seems to inherently obvious to you and therefore everyone else should see it that way. However, other’s way of viewing things may NOT be aligned with your own. I feel that this is one of my greatest Individual Constraints to innovation. I’m not always adept and explaining or selling my solutions to others. In actuality, I am really the Asian guy in the image above from Kathy Sierra’s blog post from years back. I often have hunches or feelings about when things are right or wrong, but I’m not always able to explain them to other people around me. This is where exercises and questions from my previous lesson would come in handy. Or…
Developing a ‘common language’ might be helpful.
I had to laugh when Owens made a dig at using ‘buzzwords.’ As he noted, they may make you feel important, but they’re not a great way of gaining common understanding of both the problem and your proposed solution. At one of my former jobs, a former colleague of mine and I played a game called B.S. Bingo in meetings that seemed like more verbal exposition than development or planning (or action). Though arguably, these same buzzwords are the common language used by people in the corporate world to talk with each other. I do agree with Owens that when they’re bandied about to elevate your business klout or savvy they’re simply about posturing. However, I should consider that if this is the ‘speak’ that’s being used by people who are using this language, I should develop translations of my ideas in this language.
I’ve decided to create a template for writing out my ideas to better articulate them. It’s pretty simple. I would take the idea as I see it and then translate it into at least three or four different perspectives including the intended audience or end user, my peers, my boss, and my boss’s boss. This may take a little more discipline than I’m used to.
I saw this somewhere, maybe it was part of a TED talk where people are given paper with a lot of circles on it and then are asked to draw as many pictures as they can incorporating or using these circles.
The Paper Clip exercise shared by Prof. Owens in this week’s lectures (from Leading Strategic Innovation in Organizations) inspired me to create my own worksheet for this activity. I’ll share it with you here. For those of you who are not taking the class. Owens asked us to take a paper clip and a piece of paper and list as many uses as you can think of for a paperclip. Strangely, I haven’t kept paper clips in the house forever so I could NOT find one, but I made due with my imagination.
Print a few of these pages for yourself and go ahead and give yourself about 5 minutes to complete the exercise. Go ahead if you’d like and comment on your results or observations.
- How many recognizable options did you create?
- What did you notice about the flow of your ideas? What do you think limited you?
- How is this similar and different to Owen’s paperclilp exercise?
Click the link below to open the worksheet.
Yes, I’m taking another MOOC. This time it’s Leading Strategic Innovation in Organizations taught by Prof. David Owens via Coursera & Vanderbilt University. Owens is the author of the book Creative People Must Be Stopped and he’s worked as an engineer and project developer at IDEO.
Because of work and time constraints I’m not taking the studio project track for this course (requires group participation in a project). I do think that I would probably gain much more in doing so, but considering the limited amount of time I have in the next two months, I’m opting out of the course project (sad about it).
My first impressions of the course
I’m having a difficult time feeling engaged with the course community because the forums are overwhelming. Imagine a attending lecture hall inside a football stadium, that’s what it feels like in there. And I don’t have a cheese hat or giant foam hand to wave around. It’s probably best to join a study group, but Yogita (former #edcmooc or Elearing & Digital Cultures student) has started a G+ Forum and I’m hoping that more discussion will take place there. Despite the lack of engagement in the course community, I’m still enjoying the lectures a great deal. Professor David Owens and his supporting staff or crew have done a fairly good job making the lectures more visually engaging. He’s interjected himself in the lecture videos and sometimes interacts with the slides using props or himself. Even if you’re not interested in participating in the course activities or following through with the entire course, I highly recommend checking out the lectures. I plan to use Owen’s arguments when framing proposals for innovation within my own group at work.
Course Content So Far
This week Owens has provided an introduction to how the course is structured around overcoming six constraints to innovation as he has them outlined in his book:
Seems like he’s maintaining that one of the keys to successfully implementing innovation is not just to overcome these constraints but to pinpoint the sweet spots where these constraints overlap and cherry pick the ones that will have the greatest impact. It’s these constraints that you should focus on overcoming to solve the problem of making the innovation or idea viable in your current situation.
I’ll admit when I first started taking this class, I was skeptical about how the book frames innovation around a negative: “Creative People Must Be Stopped.” Even after reading the course introduction I asked myself why are we structuring how we innovate around constraints or why “we can’t innovate.” Now it makes a little more sense to me, as Owens is taking not just the “glass half full” view, he’s looking at the constraints as a possible puzzle to solve instead of an impossibility that restrains you. I like that way of thinking.
Discussion about Overrated Innovation Companies
In week 1 we were asked to participate in the discussion and point out leading companies who are overrated innovation-wise. If I were to continue with Owen’s line of thinking around overcoming innovation constraints, it seems that any company can be innovative or appear so simply by overcoming the constraints to making their products or services viable:
- Nike promoted their products and overcame public accusations over unfair labor practices by courting & using the Olympic Idols of our day to promote their products. Though the fall from Olympus has been a long drop for a few of these idols lately.
- As Owen’s Pointed out in his lectures. The inventor of the walking sausage grill in Germany overcame the problem of having good foot-traffic accessible space by making his food vending carts more than just mobile. They made them ‘ambulatory.’
- And finally Apple overcame a number of constraints as noted in my forum post lost in a sea of posts:
My challenge to myself in the next few weeks is to look at the constraints within both my own workplace and my life and try to pinpoint which constraints I want to focus on overcoming. I also want to work on my ability to frame and sell my ideas using arguments that work with the different audiences I face. I’m also hoping to do more reflection on how I’ve adapted and sometimes even thrived working in corporate culture in addition to some avenues for participating and influencing this culture even as a wee little cubicle person.
I’ll admit this freely here: I like change at work and problems to solve. I’ve never been one for finding that ‘secure’ job where you mindlessly go with the flow, and part of me believes that the world is changing so fast that that formerly pervasive sort of job mentality may be going the way of the dinosaur. However, this may not be the view of many people tied into the traditional view of work and I have to temper this as well as explain how opportunities for innovation and change can benefit and their end value out-weigh the perceived or real fear and chaos that change brings to some.
I wasn’t joking when I tweeted this. And here I am about to take another MOOC course.
Though I still feel like a cocoon, I’d like to get here eventually.
Learning is rewarding, but it’s tiring too.
This MOOC has been one of the best learning experiences in my recent life and I think it had such an impact on me because it required me to apply what I was learning creatively. This wasn’t a typical course with a set syllabus where you could check assignments off a list.
I probably should have engaged more in the other channels, but for some reason I found Twitter to be the easiest to engage in. I’ll confess that this is most likely due to convenience. In my next course, I would probably choose a different social media to engage with others in the class. But not Facebook. Call me a curmudgeon, but I’d like to keep Facebook in a separate place in my life… like off. Is it right that I don’t want to use it? Or should I succumb and become part of the entity?
To be frank and I may lift some of the learning & reflection I’ve taken from the #edcmooc, Facebook does not make me feel human. I don’t feel like I want to know small details from other people’s lives or share private parts of my life and thinking with others and if I do maybe on my own terms. I like hearing about people tell me about their lives and their children in person. Maybe this makes me less of a digital native. that I want to carve my own little cubby corner where I can still think and be on my own, so be it. I read recently in a tweet or blogpost of a classmate that they felt that the #edcmooc was both an enriching and lonely experience. I can see that. For me it was less lonely, but by then end I was really jonesing to be ‘disconnected’ for a bit.
I am glad the designers of the course didn’t settle on one channel of social media. If it had been only Facebook I would have been SOL, but I guess that’s part of the point to have multiple channels in which to learn.
The flow of good information and thoughts shared by others in this course was overwhelming. I’m still reading through blogposts I favorited from the second week of class. I may never get to all of them, but I am inclined to read the posts of people I connected with in the Twitter feed going forward. This is probably the greatest value I got from the course: connecting with and learning from others.
I’ll be honest about one more thing. I took this course, more for the experience of being in a MOOC, not as much for the subject or the prospect of getting credit. This was my first experience in such a large course. I wanted to experience it and analyze it from an Instructional Designer’s perspective. I was incredibly curious about how such a course would work, and for the most part it seemed to do just that. Whether it gave use the ‘traditional’ higher-education experience that was academically rigorous is another matter. You could make that age old argument: “It is what you make of it.” While this may apply, I still feel that guidance and feedback from instructors even on a broad scale. On a regular basis would have been more helpful. I did notice a few facilitators really engaging with students in the Twitter and in replies on the forums, but I felt somehow that their feedback wasn’t always there. Or maybe i missed them like I keep missing the Easter Bunny.
Would I do it again? Yes. Would it be as engaging and as much fun as in the #edcmooc course? I’m not sure.
The artefact experience and consuming custom created content
I’ll admit I probably put more into my artefact that I should have. I was dealing with a topic that I feel passionate about and probably didn’t spend enough time killing my darlings. I’m glad that I was able to learn about tools I hadn’t used before for creating content like Prezi or Wallwisher.
As I watched many of the videos outside of the assigned clips I realized how much YouTube has been commercializing content, some of which was not meant have a home despot ad attached to it. It reminded me that even though we’re creating this content for free, if it’s popular, it’s becoming a commercial vehicle for someone else.
When you share things online whether it’s a quip or a carefully crafted video, you’re providing fuel for the machine. Whether it’s data to be harvested or attractive electronic flypaper (if your creation is ‘good’) you’re still contributing the lucrative value of web-content. This world of free-wheeling sharing may all seem wonderful and open right now, but I wonder how long this will last. Or will people’s expectations and demands for easily accessible content that is ad-free trump the engines that demand ad capital. I’m not sure.
Where do I go from here?
Things I learned about learning from this class:
- Learning is messy. Thanks to @EleniZazani for the image
- Learning makes me feel human
- Learning with others and from them is powerful
- Learning may not bring us to utopia, but it may help us get there
- Cultures need to continue to put a higher value on lifelong learning
I still have links to use, and tools to learn as time permits. I want to use sort my Pearl Trees and really use Storify. I want to explore every tool or website I bookmarked or favorited. And as I wrap this up I realize that I’ll probably still be learning from this course three months from now.
Just experimenting some more with Prezi. Been meaning to try to explain I.A. more in a simpler way. I’d like to go back and apply a metaphor to this.