Friday, September 28, 2007

The Train Innovation Comes In On –

Anyone whose taken brainstorming training knows you don’t critique ideas as-you-go, you “defer judgment.” This allows for a flow of ideas to emerge. A few years ago Sid Parnes went a step further when giving a talk to a group at the Creative Problem Solving Institute. He said to be more creative, you need to defer judgment -- as a way of life. It made sense to me at the time, I thought, getting into the habit of it would make you a better ideator in times of divergence. I still think this is true, but here’s a new insight:

Deferral of judgment has a deeper impact. It unlocks your mind and allows for more intuitive thought.

This occurred to me while reading “Awakening Intuition” by Frances E. Vaughan. Vaughan is associated with the Institute of Transformational Psychology in Palo Alto, CA*. She discussed that awareness of the choices you make every day, moment to moment, is a good starting point for getting in touch with your intuition. Being more aware of alternative choices, or options, puts us into a sort of alert and open state that gives the mind a chance to suggest something that it “knows.” Stated another way, deferral of judgment opens doors to intuitive thought.

So, if you get more intuitive thoughts, and are aware of them, then you are going to have a greater stream of insights and ideas with which to solve your problems. Ultimately these ideas are what innovation is made of – this is the kind of thinking you need to make breakthroughs. I also believe that this idea stream is going to come from a different source within you; intuition is an inner knowing that is quite different than rational/logical thought, it’s non-linear. And again, non-linear thinking is the train innovations come to the station in. If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s book about intuition, “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” you’ll be convinced that while it may be difficult to explain how it happens, it does happen, and the impact can be dramatic on a business.

So people, try this on for size – walk through each day being very conscious of the judgment choices you are making. Make an effort to hold off, to defer, and allow your mind to suggest creative alternatives. Defer about everything! Give it a week and let us know what happened.

* For more about this cutting-edge psychology school, see

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The One Apple Apple Tree

I live in a new country home in Michigan. I have 10 acres of mature trees and I've made a game out of identifying them. I'm not bad -- I can get 9 out of 10, but one tall slender tree in a thicket near the house was throwing me. I went through the books and based on the leaves, bark, etc. I came up with a Tupelo.

Well, I was wrong. My arborist Chris came by and I pointed out my Tupelo. He smiled and said, "creative identification" which was political correct speak for mistake! Chris told me it was actually an Apple tree. He took a long look upwards and pointed his finger. I looked up and saw a lone apple about 40 feet up. We looked everywhere and it was the only piece of fruit on the tree, but, it was a perfect apple. I still can't believe it's an apple tree! I never figured it for a fruit tree in among all the hardwoods, and the shape was so tall and thin, very unapple. I skipped that part of the book entirely when looking for matches!

So, as always, I ask myself "what does this mean?" What's the link to innovation?

What comes to me is that it's a bit like a problem employee, or a difficult partner. They have a role but there is conflict and they don't seem to fit. You can't figure out what they have to offer, and so we tend to slap a label on them and stop listening. And yet, even the worst employee, even the most difficult partner, often has one good insight or idea -- one good piece of fruit. The problem is we have preconcieved notions about who they are and what they know, so we don't hear it.

Years ago I was told by an employee of one of my software companies that one of our managers was "losing it." I discounted the comment as this employee was an oddball and an introvert. He was a good programmer, but I gave him no credit whatsoever for insight into anything more, particularly people. Well, he was right and it was tough sledding handling someone who was having a mental breakdown. The company and that employee would have been far better off if I had been really listening, we might have prevented a real disaster.

So here's the lesson: Listen to everybody. Somewhere way up in the leaves is a piece of perfect fruit. It might be a good product idea, a way to cut expenses, a way to boost morale. If you listen, an apple may fall right into your lap.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The "CAM Factor" -- Consumer Anger Motivates (C.A.M.)

I've coined a new term today -- CAM, an acronym for Consumer Anger Motivates. If the CAM Factor is high, you buy something else! Let me explain...

Everybody has consumer nightmare stories. Told afterwards they are often pretty funny. The old adage of "big problems make good stories" does apply. It's not too funny when it's happening though! I've suffered through a horrendous customer service experience with AT&T in the last few days, including several very frustrating phone calls, long delays on hold, hang-ups by the automated system, multiple transfers within the organization, frustrating attempts to do it myself on the web, and after all that -- still not the desired result. A comedy of errors and it really made me mad.

Saturday Night Life or Second City could really have fun with this!

I was simply trying to terminate service on my old phone, having transferred service to a new location with them. I'd been told the old number could be terminated as part of the transfer. However, it didn't -- and I continue to get bills on my old number. They've clipped me for a nice chunk of dough, in spite of many attempts to resolve the matter. AT&T now has a very high CAM Factor for me!

It has wasted so much of my time I had to think of something positive and creative in order to compensate. Okay -- I'll do a blog entry! Here's my takeaway from the experience, a simple consumer buying insight: customer service problems make people ANGRY and inspire new buying behavior. How high is your anger on a 10 oint scale? That's your CAM! My CAM with AT&T is 10!

As of today, September 8, 2007, I am officially motivated to find an alternative phone service. I will find something and I will switch and I'll do it even if it's a bit more expensive, and if it takes time to get it done. I might even go so far as to go totally portable and not have a standard phone line. If I can do it practically I will.

CAM -- you read it here first folks.