People are thinking in new ways

“Marketing came into engineering and said we had to put extra chips in the product (Apple III), extra money, extra parts to disable the features the business users wanted when it booted up as an Apple III, so they would think Apple II was just for games,” he said.

Steve Wozniak, NAMM 2015 in Anaheim talking about the early days in Apple

Sounds familiar ?

Apple 1 & II were designed and built by Steve Wozniak before Steve Jobs saw them, they were designed to move the world forward, socially goals – communication and education

 

People are thinking in new ways and not just repeating what they’ve learned from books.”

courtesy of PianoManChuck

Talking about creativity, innovation, technology, Apple and his experiences along the way.

Working as a creative person, don’t work in a structured way, you need to have some creativity in your process and methods

 

 

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Innovation

Most of my projects involves innovation in some flavour: new product design, software development, customer engagement or operational process change and many more aspects. I work on a project (contract) basis, typically 6 month and longer projects with clients.  Presently I am coming to the end of some contracts and on the search for new ones. Many times this involves tendering, networking and plain old job searches in various job recruitment websites.

Frequently I am amused when looking at innovation management, project management with innovation positions (not pure new product development roles): Candidates must have X years, Y experience, Z skills but all in the area of the position.

Surely innovation needs a broader skill set. Bringing in experience from difference fields, sectors and life in general. Do they understand the term innovation, I often wonder ?

Innovation differs from invention in that innovation refers to the use of a better and, as a result, novel idea or method, whereas invention refers more directly to the creation of the idea or method itself. Innovation differs from improvement in that innovation refers to the notion of doing something different rather than doing the same thing better.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Innovation

Yes, we need a sound platform to work from, an understanding of the environment that a position requires is necessary, but surely still missing the point. If you come from a company in a similar field to another, what can you offer in terms of innovation other than product or sector knowledge.

Innovation

Innovation

What can you bring to the table?

  • Do you or can you bring a different perspective on a problem?
  • Have you the ability to re-frame the problem in a different lense (design thinking) ?
  • Can you bring empathy to the project, customer understanding and engagement skills?
  • Being Creative?
  • Curiosity as to why it something works as it is.

Working in the innovation sphere, in my opinion needs a well rounded skill set. Ability to use a diverse toolkit; brainstorming, listening, empathy, understanding, patience and more besides.

I Want to Cook With Confidence

 

Recently I was asked to teach a 6 week cookery class at night. I run Creativity workshops for professionals where there is particular emphasis on developing Creative Confidence. Embracing new challenges and developing new perspectives are principles that I encourage people to adopt in order that they develop their own creativity so, even though I was a bit daunted, I accepted. Some years ago I gave up my IT career and trained as a chef and since then have become a qualified trainer, but until now these two aspects on my career have never met. To be honest, in the days leading up to the first class I was quite terrified. Even though I made my living getting entrepreneurs to play with markers and playdough, getting people to cook seemed impossible. I spent a lot of time poring over recipes and planning time down to the last minute.

When finally the first night arrived and it turned out nobody did have a hammer, I realised that this class was very similar to my other classes. People don’t go to cookery classes for recipes or technique, unless they are particularly advanced classes. Most people arrive because they have a belief about themselves –‘I can’t cook, in the same way that I hear ‘I’m not creative’ in my Creativity Workshops. Immediately we are hamstrung because we develop these beliefs over time and they become fact. Our lazy brains can hang on to these statements because it’s easier than coping with ambiguity.

I believe that everyone can cook and everyone is creative. We’ll deal with creativity later – today we’ll talk about cooking. Here are a few lessons that I shared with the class:

 

1. Cooking is an art, Baking is a science – this means that in baking you must’ve measure everything exactly and follow all the rules because there is an alchemy that occurs to ensure dough rises. Cooking on the other hand can be more about free expression…recipes are guidelines. If you don’t like garlic and it’s in the recipe, don’t put it in. It’s your food. (But seriously, who doesn’t like garlic…….)

2. When you are cooking at home it’s usually for you, your family or friends. These people will not be scoring your food on the way home in a taxi…people come to your house to see you, if they get a free meal that’s a bonus. Television judges get paid a lot of money to be pantomime villains for ratings. (I own a Gordon Ramsay book that I rarely cook from because I imagine him shouting every instruction at me!)

3. It is very difficult to burn things….smoke pouring out of ovens is a tv comedy vehicle. Yes, kitchen fires can cause serious damage but things burn in the kitchen usually due to inattention…so if you are new to cooking, just do that. After a while you’ll notice that devoting your time solely to cooking a meal can be quite relaxing if you let it. There is mindfulness to be had in slowly stiring a risotto.

4. Try doing your food shop without a list. Wander around the aisles and look. Concentrate on the fresh fruit, veg, meat and dairy products. Find something and stop and imagine how you would cook it. Many of the worlds top chefs base their daily menu on the best available ingredients they can find in the food markets each morning. Pick out something because it looks good. The internet is awash with recipes so you won’t be stuck.

5. There are always foods that we don’t like but if you’re not allergic, don’t refuse to try like a 4 year old. The pretend airplane is not a good luck for a grown up. If you dislike something try being specific about why. Is it too salty, sweet, too much vinegar, the right balance of hot and sour? This challenges your creative brain to come up with solutions!

6. Many people fear cooking meals because getting everything on the table at the same time is stressful. If this is a problem, start with a one-pot dish.

Where Ideas Come From: Be a visitor!….

island_cruise5_smallWhen you travelled to work this morning, assuming it’s a route you’ve taken regularly, what did you notice? Did you see the people? Did you notice the beautiful Georgian architecture or wonder about the inhabitants of the 1970s concrete office tower? Chances are your route is so familiar that you really don’t notice anymore. Our brains are so overloaded with information that, for efficiency, we automatically ignore what is routine.
Our everyday environment can be a bountiful source of ideas but to see them we need to change our perspective and start acting like a visitor. A study in 2009 showed that students who lived abroad were significantly more likely to to solve a difficult creativity problem than those who had never left their birth country. Those who travel widely develop their observation skills.
Imagine you are taking your route for the first time… what would change? Is there an alternative route that would be more interesting? Observe others…what causes them frustration? Often we become used to things that initially caused us irritation. A fund of ideas can arise when we come across something that doesn’t quite work but instead of saying ‘it should be fixed’ say ‘how would I fix this?’. Take it further and figure out what resources you need or who you could get involved to improve things…..is the ticket machine in the wrong place at the station ? It’s possible that a 5 minute email to the right person could fix the problem eliminating years of stress. Or you might end up working with a local university to develop a brand new turnstile system. Or it may come to nothing….but with all these options you are now an active participant in your environment! So how about setting yourself an ideas quota? Your goal is ten in one day. To quote Tom and David Kelley of Ideo in the book ‘Creative Confidence’ …”part of what makes venture so business savvy -and ultimately so successful- is that they see a lot more ideas than ordinary people”
After all the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas!

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Grainne

Fail Better, Fail Quicker, Fail incrementally

Fail Better, Fail Quicker, Fail Incrementally.

That is the theme of a recent event I attended, Flounders in the Science Gallery in Trinity College, Dublin Ireland on 9th April 2014. This was part of the Science Gallery Fail Better exhibition, which acknowledges the attempts and efforts of inventors, designers, business people and ordinary ‘joe soaps’ in their attempts to deliver their dream.

Flounders was an event organised by a number of Irish entrepreneurs as an alternative to the success of those who attend the F.ounders events, acknowledging that life is never straight forward.

flounders

Exhibitions included Dysons 2000’th attempt to perfect the new vacuum cleaner, dc54, Formula 1 analysis of the destruction under race conditions of a back axle & suspension assembly on a Formula 1 racing car during a race, failure of the authorities in Ukraine around Chernobyl to enforce the safe zone around the reactor, and the old ladies that live and survive in the shadow, with their own nuclear moonshine that they distil.

Science Gallery #failbetter event

The event #FailBetter from the Flounders was a celebration of failure, that we fail, pick up the pieces, learn from our mistakes and try again, hence the hashtag #FailBetter

The event as we Irish do well, storytelling. The night was on each individual story’s in their journey to build something that they had passion about. We all have our stories of achievements, but who has the ability to discuss those that did fail, either quietly or spectacularly as in some instants

It was a quazi panel discussion format, 3 judges on the night, Constantin Gurdgiev@GTCost   Jamie Heaslip @jamieheaslip & Ciara O’Brien @ciaraobrien with Paul Hayes as the compare for the evening.

flounders 2

We were treated to 8 different perspectives of failure, re-invention and carrying on with life, work and happiness including

  • Tech: Blowing 140K in a few months and company folding 3 days before getting married.
  • VC: Investing in a start up in form of programming work vs share capital, only to find this creeping into 6 digit figure, many multiples the actual value of the company, and then getting requested by Revenue, tax authorities for VAT on invoices reclaimed by the 2nd company, #twisting in the knife
  • Property: Discovering the joys of property bubbles, having 80% of nightlife clubs in a city only to discover the recession at your doorstep, and an establishment bought for €9M now 5% of that market value, oh the joys of property speculations
  • Journalism: Writing or failure to write an sizable article for a leading media outlet, informing your boss of failure to deliver on a deadline close to the deadline and then the ability of said person to deliver more expletives in a few seconds than thought possible, let alone the financial cost of not delivering this article.
  • Media: Having a well know personality on the show only to discover they weren’t interested in delivering any set pieces of their show, and audience figures plummeting.
  • Science Gallery #failbetter

    Science Gallery #failbetter

and my favourite, a Tech Entrepreneur;

  • Realisation that close to Christmas time that the company was insoluble and likelihood to fail. Acceptance that they could always get a job if it did; this wasn’t the end of the world.
  • Secondly, later in their entrepreneurial journey; the discovery having signed a multi-million deal for the purchase of the company, that the credit cards were maxed out and the inability to pay for the celebratory meal with friends.

This kind of sums up the life of an entrepreneur, living on the edge, using one card to pay the minimum payment on the other but forging on with their passion and determination for success.

I found it an enjoyable night with no sadness in evidence, it was the celebration of failure, failure is not an end point, just stepping stone to the next incarnation of your dreams. I have previously written about children’s ignorance to failure, how many times do they when babies fall over when attempting to walk. We have our hearts in our mouths, terror of the damage a fall will inflict, but does a fall stop them, the shock makes them cry, occasionally somebody is unfortunately hurt, but by far they carry on, pick themselves up and try again until they succeed. Similar to riding a bicycle. With or without stabilizers, we will fall, topple over, go astray and perhaps crash, but we get back up and with some practice gain the ability to cycle.

Failure is only momentary, it does not stop our journey, and we should celebrate the lesson learned, understand why it occurred and move ahead. Life is for living, work for enjoyment and failure only a knock that we bounce back from.

Time to Create

“All Work and no play makes jack a dull boy”

People frequently comment that if you enjoy your work, then it feels no longer like work. Working as a consultant with startups, micro and sme(b) business in Ireland,  I often see the translation of enjoyment of a hobby into potential self employment and to the creation of a micro business. Speaking personally, I would favour this transition, of making a business from a hobby, so then it never feels like work.

Whilst this blog post is not on that endeavour, I enjoy the freedom from an office. Ask family, friends, past co-workers, I am not an office person. I suffer from stagnation being in an office on a daily basis and require being released into the real world, meeting people, doing ‘stuff’

One of my hobbies from when I was a still in shorts was fishing. I have been brought fishing in the lakes in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath from when I was 5. I have enjoyed being in 19ft fishing boats out in the downpours, wind and waves along with the fair days when fishing was more productive. My fishing companion was my aunt’s partner of many decades, Mick Ward from Moyvore. He has forgotten more that I probably will ever remember on fishing in the lakes of the Irish midlands.mullingar_map_lakeswww.mullingarbusiness.com

Mick is unable to fish now and over several months, Saturdays and the odd Monday I have spent on restoring his fishing boat. The boat was left out in the weather for many years and was in need of major TLC. My first concern was to get the boat into a shed and preserve whatever was salvageable. This has been my endeavour and this is the initial post in my project to restore the boat which I have many fond memories of to a working condition. This the my story…..

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I first observed the condition of the boat in Sept 2012, and got Mick’s permission to take ownership of the boat during the Spring of 2013 and my thoughts then turned to restoration.

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Project:  Restoration of a 19ft Lake Fishing boat. Gunnels (top part) were of teak and the body of fibreglass.

Scope: Restoration of this boat

Cost: Budget approx € 500 for materials and parts. Minimise expenditure, factoring in a good condition 2nd hand boat is in the region of €3-4k. .

Duration: Open ended, this is a hobby and a challenge, no monetary gain involved, only enjoyment of task at hand.

When a project is initiated from a passion, many of the formal aspects of management are discounted and it becomes a labour of love, very true in this case for me.

My professional background: Fisherman, and school level ability of carpentry

Condition: Most of the timber that was exposed to the elements and appeared to be rotten or in a state that the safety of a user, Me, would be put at risk if these were not addressed.

  1. Perform an analysis of the timber condition; undertake if professional repair would be necessary or if I could undertake this as a hobby.
  2. Sourcing the necessary timber to allow restoration
  3. Removal of damaged timber
  4. Using appropriate tools preparation and construction of new timber sections
  5. Sand down timber & varnish
  6. Tidy up

My first step was to move the boat indoors into disused hay shed to save any further damage to the timber and protect the fibreglass from any frost damage. This was the quickest win for me of this whole project. Always nice to get a quick win under the belt. So in Sept 2012, I was able to analyse the timbers of the boat once they had dried out, which were rotten and unsafe to keep. The fibreglass appeared to be clean, no bubbles in the fibre and looked structural good.

Over the winter, I did research into the costs involved, sourcing of parts and materials and cost benefits of getting professional craftsman to restore the boat. I subsequently discarded this, as it was my project, I wanted and needed the satisfaction of saving a treasured memory.

In the Spring of 2013, with the permission of Mick, I started my hunt for materials. The primary issue was timber. The boat is 19ft long, but this is not like a car, which can be of similar length, a boat has a beam. This is the belly in the middle where the boat starts from a point at the front end (bow) and finishes at the stern (back) where the engine is attached. A typical fishing boat ranges from 17ft to 19ft long, but in terms of total length the beam is factored in, this amounts to approx. 22ft long for a 19ft boat.

In prior positions, I have been a project manager for a construction company and have project managed my own self build. So I knew that going into the local builders providers, that these lengths are ordered specially. Taking into the consideration, that most timber will rot when exposed to the elements specifically water in a short period of time, that Larch is the favoured timber of choice for boat builders. The character of larch is that it is not affected by water, you can leave it indefinitely immersed and it won’t be damaged, at least not compared to other timbers, beech, ash or oak.

Dilemma: Builder suppliers/merchants don’t stock 22ft length of timber and larch is not common and is a special order in this case. So off to my local timber yard and placed an order for 22ft lengths of larch, 2″ (inch) x 1.5″ planed by 22ft long.

I waited . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and waited . . . . . . . .   you see they have to get a tree to cut of sufficient length to supply my needs, so mother nature has answered their call.

Roll on to late Summer 2013 when my order was finally ready. In the mean time I was able to measure out all the various parts of the boat that the timber needed replacing. These sizes were also requested from the timber yard, my order numbered over fifty pieces of timber of various dimensions.

On a cold Sunday morning in November, I loaded up the jeep with my timber, the 22ft lengths draped over the front & back, securely tied and I hit the road with my delivery.

Now the fun begins. A boat not only has a beam (belly), but the bow is several inches higher than the stern. So a single piece of time not only has to bend outwards but upwards closer to the bow. This creates the problem, have to form the timber into the shape of the gunnels.

The first challenge is to form the gunnels, 22ft lengths according to the existing timber. Out with the G-clamps secure the two lengths each side to mould the timber. This I intended to leave over the winter months and jokingly delegate the work to the clamps. This is the most critical part of the project, getting the shape formed correctly will ease my work later.

While the timber is clamped, I start the process of measuring out the other pieces of timber to allocate pieces, all have been pre-numbered as per the various locations in the boat.

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All sizes are correct, but cannot cut them until the gunnels are in situ.

Now for patience and let the timber mould into shape, its too cold to be in an exposed hayshed working over the Winter.

 

Pets

My morning can hardly be described as innovative, its a routine.

Wake, rise, bathroom, dress and then kitchen. Next stage gets me in the mood for work, our golden retreiver (dog) Finlay. Always a smile wag of the tail and a glance towards the dog leads. Pets are the embodiment of routine, they know you better than your spouse in my opinion. They like us are creatures of habit.

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My morning then goes outdoors for a dog walk. Off-lead through the fields or on down the town, I use this period to plan my day. The essential period when thoughts are unencumbered by emails, social media or ringing of telephones.

Rain, snow or fine mornings, I find these time periods critical in my day, its just me, my thoughts and Finlay.

We all need our time to be creative, focus our thoughts on our business; break our routines and challenges ourselves. Comfort zones are needed to progress through the day but we need diversity that innovation and creativity brings to our business to break the mundane of routine.

Business is the management of routine, innovation challenging there of. We need challenges to keep us sharp

 

 

What business are you in, can you define your environment?

Can you define?

  • What business you are in?
  • What environment you are operating in?

The Challenge:

This begins with a problem or a goal that needs to be achieved; this is formulated into an innovation challenge. This is presented to a group or team to solve this task, or generation of possible solutions. This may be done in the form of brainstorming, idea generation or other innovative process. The team can consist of employees, suppliers & customers, general public or by the use of crowd sourcing.

Collaboration

In order to maximise the potential outcome of the problem solving group, the methods to generate ideas should be collaborative, and if possible fun. When we are enjoying an activity, our mind relaxes, lets down our guard and we tend to be more creative.

Combination

Ideas in this process cycle starts with a challenge, ideas come from all aspects of your business, process, services, products, staff  and more besides, they can be interrelated, diverse and perhaps complimentary. The best method is to combine these complimentary ideas into clusters that can be handled in a single package.

Idea Generation

Idea generation, organisations can spend resources on idea generation, only for this ‘report’ handed to a superior who cherry picks a solution, which is less than an ideal method, hopefully based on expertise rather than popularity. The scientific approach of peer review is suited to identify the most promising ideas, ranking ideas based on categories, such as potential development, suitability, commercial or simply the most effective idea to implement.

Testing & Development

Ideas identified as being potential innovation, is now ready to be tested and developed. The uses of prototypes are a good example of testing. Make a prototype, with the basic of features, test it with your customers, and get their feedback, opinions and reaction to its design, functionality and whatever you require.

Of course it is not perfect, but it indicates possible issues in the implementation of the idea, as well as benefits that may not have been obvious to the original idea developers. They are an excellent means for testing ideas. By building ad playing with a prototype, this is a good method of further improving upon the core idea. Prototypes are, ideally suited towards material ideas such as new products, but those abstract ideas, new services, process improvements and other concepts can be prototyped through role-play, making diagrams.

Implementation

Ideas that make it through these stages are typically ready to be implemented.

Review

Once the idea has been implemented, they need to be review, against milestones and targets. Even at this stage, under-performing ideas/products may have to be killed off, and or reviewed at regular intervals.