Tag Archives: Innovation

Lucyinnovation blog has moved house

Lucyinnovation blog has moved house. It now lives at lucyinnovation.co.uk

It’s moved because its been spruced up.

If you follow this blog, and want to keep following, you need to go to lucyinnovation.co.uk and scroll down to Follow Blog by email and sign up again.

I know that’s a pain. I’m sorry its clunky and not very innovative, but I hope you choose to keep reading….

Lucy

@lucyinnovation

Lucy@lucyinnovation.co.uk

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How do you get ideas?

 

ImageIn 1965 James Webb Young published a book called ‘A technique for producing ideas’. It is a small and simple book. This blog is about what it says.

It talks about whether it is possible to identify a standard format for having ideas, so that ideas become a definite process, like an idea assembly line – in the same way that Henry Ford produced his Ford Model T.

Young starts on the premise that an idea is nothing more or less than a new combination of old elements. And that the key to an effective idea process is an individuals’ ability to search for relationships between elements that turn separate unconnected bits of knowledge into something greater.

Young identified a five-step process for having ideas.

1. Gather raw material; this is an on-going process and includes two types of material. Firstly specific material related to the problem you are trying to solve, for example getting under the skin of your supporter and really understanding where the opportunities are for you to add value. Secondly general material, which could relate to anything at all, for example the topics that interest you or you are passionate about. It is the combination of the specific and general material that you then have to opportunity to combine into something new. An example of this is when Steve Jobs dropped out of college. It gave him the opportunity to drop into classes that he was interested in. He attended calligraphy classes that had no practical application at the time, but years later he was able to combine this element when developing the fonts and design of the Apple Macintosh. He talks about this in his 2005 commencement speech.

2. Order and catalogue your thoughts; Young talks about Sherlock Holmes who spend hours indexing and cross-indexing his thoughts in scrapbooks (remember it was 1965). You too could keep a scrap book and there are now also many online tools to gather your raw material in one place, for example Pinterest, your own blog, Slideshare or even Twitter. Then seek relationships; deliberately look for relationships within your gathered raw material. Write your random thoughts down and build on those thoughts. Young describes it as ‘listening for meaning rather than looking’  

3. Incubation; if you are following the process, at this stage you are likely to have a hopeless jumble of random thoughts. This stage is about putting the whole thing out of your mind. Go and do something else, anything else. Something that stimulates your mind and emotions, have a nap, go for a walk, read a novel, go to the movies, go the gym or phone a friend. This is a definite and necessary stage that allows the unconsciousness mind to processes your thoughts.

4. Out of nowhere the idea will appear; according to Young this is the way ideas come, after you have stopped straining for them and have passed through a period of rest and relaxation from the search. The expression ‘sleep on it’ isn’t accidental. It is the process of your subconscious mind processing your thoughts.

5. Shaping and development of the idea; this is the really difficult bit. You have to be brave and put your idea out there.   You have to take your little new born idea out into the world of reality and develop it to fit external constraints. This is where good ideas can easily get lost. However, according to Young, a good idea has self expanding qualities, it stimulates those who see potential to add to it and possibilities in it that you have overlooked will come to light.

So if ideas are a new combination of old elements it is important to gather raw material by constantly expanding your experiences. So get out from behind your desk and experience more. It’s important. 

Pillows, helmets and hygiene

Dave Brailsford, Team GB Cycling Performance Director attributes much of his teams’ recent Olympic success to incremental improvements.

The principle of incremental improvements across the cycling team came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.

This concept of incremental improvement or ‘aggregating marginal gains’ in sport is not new, but it has not been included into every element of a training strategy with such conviction before.

GB Cycling’s training included rigorous training schedules to improve physical fitness, a carefully planned diet, a series of marginal technical improvements to equipment and working with psychologists to adopt a winning mindset (which included reducing the number of racing days but competing in those fewer races with a focus on winning).

Brailsford also highlighted the importance of other things that might seem of little importance, like sleeping in the right position, having the same pillow when you are away, training in different places and being scrupulous about hygiene so as to reduce the chances of getting ill.

“They’re tiny things but if you clump them together it makes a big difference.” Dave Brailsford

The team also looked to worlds outside of cycling for answers. They hired Formula One engineers to model the aerodynamics of helmets and bikes, the “pillow” idea apparently came from the Royal Ballet and the emphasis on hygiene is the result of talking to surgeons about avoiding illness,  (Rumour has it that Brailsford had someone to continuously clean the door handles in the Olympic village lest germs should get into the camp)

For me, the team’s success is about the sum of the parts including; the dedication of the cyclists and the coaches, the physical training schedule, the best equipment, working with psychologists to ensure that cyclists were focused on success and the hard work and constant striving to be the best that they can be.

In addition to all of the above, the GB cycling team were doing something different to their competition, and I think that also contributed to making them outstanding.

Dave Brailsford and his GB cycling team bought home 7 gold medals at the London 2012 Olympics. Tell that to anyone who doesn’t see the value in incremental innovation.

What tactics can you borrow from the GB cycling team and apply to your fundraising?

Are you still useful?

This week I went to ‘Overturn’ the MA in Innovation Management Degree Show at Central Saint Martins. Who even knew you could do a MA in Innovation?

Innovation expert Max McKeown (taller than I expected) delighted the audience for over an hour with a great presentation and some rather interesting innovation discussion featuring;

  • If anyone wanted or expected future to be exactly the same as it is now
  • How washing machines have made women in America fat
  • Pondering over to what extent past experiences affect our behaviours

Pretty intense stuff for a school night, but the observation that really struck a chord with me was;

If you have been with your firm for less than 6 months then you are still useful.

You are still useful because new people have enthusiasm that something can change. New people bring diversity as they are external to established systems and can see where change could make improvements. New people ask questions. New people challenge ‘the way things are done around here’.  Six months were how long it took for a person to stop being new, to stop asking the challenging questions, to stop believing that something can change.

The next question was how long we thought it takes for a new person in an organisation to get listened to.

There was a range of answers. All over 6 months.

So there we go, organisations employ people for their skills and experience to get the job done as well as their potential to ask questions and drive change. For the first six months they tend to do that, question and challenge, as time goes by they challenge less until they are one of the team, conformed to the status quo. That is just when they start to get noticed and gain influence. But by that point it is too late.

Sound familiar? Or not? Love to know your views.

P.S. Central Saint Martins Kings Cross Campus in London opened last September.  It is an awesome building, part of the regeneration of the Kings Cross area. Find a reason to visit if you can.

Creativity, Innovation and Quality of Life

Innovation is a buzzword topic. You can even do a Masters Degree in Innovation, Creativity and Leadership at City University in London. It has its own acronym; it is fondly referred to as the MICL.

This is great because they have free public lectures. Last week I went to listen to Professor Patrick Jordan talk about Creativity, Innovation and Quality of Life.

Quality of life is defined as the wellbeing of individuals and societies. There is an increasing emphasis on the importance of quality of life and wellbeing. The Office for National Statistics is now attempting to measure national wellbeing in the UK.

Jordan suggests that there are nine major factors that need to be taken into consideration when measuring quality of life in his 2010 paper, ‘The Good Society Framework’.

The nine factors are explained below with examples highlighting how innovation and creative thinking are helping individuals and communities improve their quality of life.

1. Relationships; the quality of our social,family and interpersonal relationships is the single most important factor in measuring quality of life or wellbeing. Research has shown that there is a loneliness epidemic in older men.  Men communicate best when bought together round a task. Men in Sheds is an innovative project responding to this by establishing a task based shed network providing a community of support and social interaction for men.

2. Economy; this refers to people’s degree of economic spending power and the extent that jobs develop and reward individuals. In tough times, with public trust in large banking corporations at rock bottom, there has been an opportunity for the development of peer-to-peer economics. Zopa provides opportunities for people with savings to lend. The lenders earn interest and the borrowers receive better rates than banks can offer. Regulated by the FSA, Zopa has half a million members who have to date lent more than £190 million.

3. Environment and infrastructure; this is about how pleasant, effective and efficient our environments are. Transport for London invested in an initiative to ensure public transport in London was accessible to people with disabilities. Yet, despite the improved access, people with disabilities were not using London trains and buses. In particular wheelchair users didn’t use buses. Transport for London worked with Jordan to establish why. He discovered primary reason wasn’t the physical barrier; it was because of the uncomfortable interaction with the driver and the public. Bus drivers are measured on punctuality, the additional time to help a wheelchair user on and off the bus meant their bus would arrive back at the depot late. Because of this they often didn’t stop for wheelchairs – or were stressed and rushed when they did. Making using the bus a bad experience best avoided. Therefore changing the time measure for drivers, rather than the physical environment may improve the bus experience for wheelchair users.

4. Health; in particular access to good healthcare and food. Jordan spoke of a hospital project in Korea. They turned their radiography ward into an entertainment centre. Patients could upload photos and listen to their own music in an attempt to take some of the trauma of sitting in a stark and unwelcoming ward by making the experience as comfortable as possible.

5. Peace and Security; this refers to levels of crime and if people feel safe in their homes and public spaces and whether or not society is affected by war or terrorism. Jordan spoke of initiatives to develop more effective ways to identify terrorist suspects. Currently terrorist suspects are single people in a public place, looking nervous, with a backpack, meeting another single nervous person. Anyone who has ever been on an internet date is a hot terrorism suspect based on current techniques.

6. Culture and leisure; this is about identifying if there is a rich and rewarding
culture and opportunities to participate in leisure activities.  GoodGym is an organisation that connects people who want to get fit, with physical tasks that need to be done and benefit the community. So rather than mindlessly pound a treadmill you can run to an elderly neighbours garden that needs digging. Great concept.

7. Spirituality; the choice to practice which religion you choose, access to spiritual and philosophical teachings. An example is the Meditator app for smart phone has been developed to enable more people to relax and experience the benefits of meditation.

8. Education; this places the importance on enriching educational opportunities the enable people to function effectively in society. An example of a project enabling better educational opportunities is the US Knowledge is Power Programme (KIPP). Based on the premise that levels of achievement are often inhibited by low expectations, KIPP uses the slogan ‘work hard be nice’ to build the confidence and expectations of students from undeserved communities that they will go to, and do well at college.

9. Governance; so whether there is democracy, fairness and freedom of expression. Social media has given the masses a voice and the ability to spread campaigning messages. There are many examples of groups coming together to have a voice or take action; from the organization of the riots in London last summer to the uprising in Egypt last January.

Jordan’s final point was that using innovation and creativity to create a better quality of life was for all. Not for the few that can afford it – but for everybody.

How can we better engage our creative and innovative skills to improve our individual and community wellbeing? What do you think?

PS. You can find out more about MICL at a free open day conference in London on 11 June.

Why we have our best ideas in the shower

This evening I watched the live stream of a RSA talk by Jonah Lehrer about new research that is deepening our understanding of the human imagination.

Not actually being at the RSA in real life was a strange experience, I felt like I was intruding as people arrived and I watched by myself. In silence until the speakers took the stage. It was also a modern-day miracle given my recent service from Virgin Broadband.

The talk was based on Lehrers new book Imagine: How Creativity Works, which explores where creative thoughts originate.

CRAP

No I’m not being rude. CRAP is apparently an acronym for Compound Remote Associates Programmes.

CRAP is like the word puzzles you get in the Sunday paper. Unrelated words are presented and the problem is to find a fourth word that relates to them all, e.g. for the words; pine, crab and sauce  – the solution word is apple.

The study showed that the creative insight that comes before a solution, can be detected in the brain 8 seconds before it arrives. It’s identified by functional resonance imaging and electroencephalography.

In plain English this means that the bit of the brain behind your ear that scientists don’t know huge amount about shows a sharp spike in alpha wave activity. This alpha wave pattern closely resembles that of someone who is in a relaxed state.

Therefore the conclusion is that if you are in a relaxed state (and a good mood too apparently) you are far more likely to develop creative thoughts.

So this is good news. If we can relax more, and spend more time on the activities that relax us; going for a walk, having a bath, taking a break from our desk or having a few beers with friends (A different study showed that undergrads who were too drunk to drive had a 30% higher success rate in solving these sorts of problems… make of that what you will) it will help us be more creative.

The bad news is that for many people it is hard to relax and switch off from the stresses of daily life. Also relaxation alone wont cut it. According to Lehrer to master the elusive skill of creativity we also need grit, serendipity and real life face-to-face interactions.

And to find out more you can see the RSA film of the event here.

Perhaps that explains why so many of us have our best creative ideas in the shower?

The case against the case against innovation

I’m a big fan of Jeff Brooks and the Future Fundraising Now blog. I love that Jeff is a straight talker and is brutal in his views on crap fundraising – just check out the stupid non-profit ad series on sofii if you are not sure. He delivers wise words every time.

Apart from today with the case against innovation.

You know that innovation is my favourite topic so I couldn’t let this one go without comment.

Jeff talks about his experience of developing a purely recreational web project not intended to persuade or motivate any action. But If you don’t know what you are aiming for; what success looks like – how will you know when you achieve it?

Doing innovation for the sake of it or just because you can or because you are trying to be cool is an error. For starters it gives innovation a bad name, associated with wacky brainstorm sessions complete with green bean bags and warm up exercises to make the best of us cringe.

Innovation should be about delivery of a good idea that achieves a strategic business need or solves a business challenge, for example developing more effective processes, selling more ‘stuff’ or raising more money.

I agree that flouting convention and developing something new is hard. It’s much easier to just do what you have always done. It’s less hassle to just coast along. As fundraisers our job is not to just coast along. Our jobs are to change the world. And to change the world you have got to do something different.

Jeff says that there is a letter in direct mail fundraising because it works. Its convention. Good point. That doesn’t mean that convention is always right. You should be testing new things as well. New things that might even work better for some audiences.

If you want your fundraising to work you first have to get your basics right, be clear on your mission, develop your case for support, understand your donors and provide them with a compelling story that connects them emotionally with the cause, show then the difference their support can make, take care to thank them well and choose the channel best suited to their needs. Then from that place test and refine new approaches.

Fundraising innovation is about breaking down barriers to giving and making it more compelling and easier for people to give and that means trying out new ideas. The worst thing you can do is just stick to convention. Because that makes you like everyone else. To change the world you have got to do something different.

P.S. One of my favourite websites is le cool. It scrolls from left to right – Jeff perhaps you were just before your time….