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Archive for April, 2008

Is Innovation an exercise in creativity or synthesis? A post by the Innovating to Win blog lays out a compelling argument that:

The vast majority of innovation is not driven by pure creation; it
is driven by synthesis, a particular form of creation that builds on
the existing to make something which is new.

I’d like to add that innovation is driven by synthesizing
interdisciplinary ideas as well as synthesizing the old and new.  So to
extend Todhunters point, innovation can be driven by the synthesis of seemingly unrelated ideas that builds on the existing to make something which is new.

Innovating To Win: Is Too Much Creativity Killing Innovation?

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From the Heart of Innovation Blog comes a great list of 100 ways to be more creative.  My personal favorites are:   

  • Present your biggest challenge to a child (I can’t wait to see what my 5 year old comes up with).
  • Schedule time with the smartest people at work.   
  • Ask five people how they would improve your idea.

The Heart of Innovation: 100 Simple Ways to Be More Creative on the Job

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The title and simple cover art of Dan Roam’s new book The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures drew me right in (pun intended).  My drawing skills are in a word–bad, and I thought, "If this book can help me to to draw like that, I want to read it."

Well, the  book didn’t transform me into an artist. In fact, it probably had no effect on my (in)ability to draw even the simplest of stick figures.  An abundance of drawing books exist to help the average person become a better drawer. Roam’s book, however, focused on using drawings (even the most rudimentary of drawings) to help solve problems.  So, even though I did not come away a better drawer, I did learn how to use drawing as a tool.

The Back of the Napkin combines three frameworks to create a powerful problem-solving and communication tool.  The three frameworks are:

  • SQUID (or SQVIΔ): A series of questions to help clarify and direct focus on an idea.   SQUID is a mnemonic for

Simple vs. Elaborate
Quality vs. Quantity
Vision vs. Execution
Individual Attributes vs. Comparison
Delta (Δ) or Change vs. Status Quo

Each of these continuums can be communicated using a set of pictures.  Roam spends some time explaining how best to communicate each of the dimensions above.

  • Visual Thinking Frameworks: A group of six drawing types and what they communicate.  They are tightly connected to the six types of questions:  Who/What, How Much, Where, When, How, and Why.  A Timeline, for example, best answers "when?"
  • "The Visual Thinking Codex": This framework puts everything together.  Roam describes it as "a master list of problem solving pictures."  It takes the SQUID Questioning and Overlays it with the Visual Thinking Framework.  An example: Answering the question of "What?" using a Simple (the ‘S’ from SQUID) focus would be different than answering the same question using a focus on change (the ‘D’ from SQUID).

This Codex is not complicated, yet it provides a usable framework for analyzing any problem.  Almost a third of the book is dedicated to running through a real-life example of how to use the Codex. Roam’s description of his approach combined with the case study provides a usable decision making tool that can easily be used after reading The Back of the Napkin.

Bottom Line: I closed the book with more courage to use drawings and a better understanding of how to use them to solve and communicate problems.

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I just finished reading The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need by Daniel Pink.  Not your run of the mill career guide.   Pink (the author of one of my recent favorite books A Whole New Mind), writes this career guide in the form of a manga.  The book took me about 1 hour to read, but don’t let that fool you–it’s packed with insightful lessons  (6 lesson to be exact).   

The story’s protagonist Johny Bunko is in  a dead-end job.  His boss sucks, his work is uninspiring, and his talents are not being utilized. Diana, a modern-day genie, appears after rubbing some chopsticks and sets Johnny straight with six quick lessons.   If you are not into fun books and don’t have an hour to spare, just turn to the last page for a list of the lessons.  But It’s a quick read, so I recommend  investing the hour or so to read from the beginning.

This is not a book about how to find a new job or even how to determine the optimal job for you.  It is a book about how to approach your career.  The first lesson, "There is no plan" helps frame the context for the rest of the lessons.  Basically, career plans are too simplistic and rarely stand up to the twists and turns of a career.  Accentuating one of the main premises of A Whole New Mind, Diana the Genie explains that the idea that we can plan out a career with any smidgen of accuracy is

…a fantasy.  The world changes. Ten Years from now your job might be in India.  Your industry might not even exist.

The other five lessons are equally insightful and fun.  Although I presume that  this book was written for those at the beginning of their career, the six lessons are very useful for those of us closer to the middle of our careers as well. 

Thanks for another insightful and useful book Daniel Pink!

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