Book Summary – Ingenius: A Crash Course on Creativity

Posted: January 29, 2014 by Todd in Books, Culture, Productivity
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Ingenius: A Crash Course on Creativity

Tina Seelig – 2012, HarperOne

Finished December, 2013.

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” – Alan Hay
“Creativity is an endless renewable resource.”
“The parts of your brain that are responsible for self-monitoring are literally turned off during creative endeavors.”  (118)
innovation engine - ingenius
Chapter 1: Spark a Revolution (AKA, Expand/Change the Frame)
“All questions are the frame into which the answers fall.”  (231)
– Copernican revolution
– MC Escher painting
– John Cage’s 4’33” music piece
– Joshua Bell’s subway violin performance
– Difference in orgnization of cities in the West vs. in Japan
– Arbitrariness of cuisine eaten at different meals
– Pop-up resturants
– Tesco’s QR code grocery shopping
– Netflix as movie, not DVD delivery
– prosthetic limbs as fashion statements
– history class where students write the history
– analyzing jokes
“Take a careful look at jokes, and you will find that the creativity and humor usually come from shifting the frame.” [more…]

Chapter 2: Bring in the Bees (AKA, Let Ideas Have Sex)
Create ideas by mixing unusual things.
– chindogu
– New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest
My ideas: #1 – “I’m here to make you more thankful.” #2 – “Congradulations, you’re in management now.”
– sex toy with two household objects
[Todd – I’m recalling here, the Shots of Awe video where “ideas have sex”]
Proximity facilitates cross-pollination.
– Silicon Valley proximity; also universities
Pablo Picasso, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”
“It is theorized that a small jolt of dopamine is released in our brains whenever we connect the dots.”
Engage lots of people to cross-pollinate
– Twitter hires cross-disciplinary people on purpose
– In Bangladesh – rising sea water and higher blood pressure are linked
– Ticks, lime disease and blue-belly lizards
– Guillain-Barre syndrome’s cure sparked ideation for cancer cure trials
– parallel play
– Metaphors frame problems, e.g., crime as virus vs. crime as monster
Chapter 3: Build, Build, Build, Jump! (AKA, Brainstorm and Iterate) 
– Align from Jan to Dec
First solutions are often not the best.  The 3rd idea is often the most creative.
– “Theory of Inventive Problem Solving” or TRIZ; “Algorithm of Inventive Problem Solving”
– OnTech’s self-heating container
– Alistair Fee’s poetic, music, video imagination challenges
– Brainstorming
Four core tenets of brainstorming: 1) deferring judgment, 2) generating lots of ideas, 3) encouraging unusual ideas, 4) combining ideas
“it is really difficult to reserve judgment when someone suggests an idea that you think is stupid. And it is hard to continue generating ideas once you think you have found a viable solution.”

Brainstorming Guidelines from The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley

  • Design brainstorming space
    • stand up
    • lots of room to move around
    • lots of room to capture ideas – whiteboards, flip charts
  • Choose the right people
    • Brainstormers aren’t the same as the ones making final decision
    • Include different perspectives
    • 6 to 8 people ideal; after this, break into multiple groups
  • Consider the topic
    • Not too broad or too narrow
    • Consider the framing of the question
  • What else should be in the room
    • relevant props
    • prototyping materials – markers, paper, scissors, tape, cardboard, etc.
  • Use warm up exercises
    • progressive poem
    • Mad-Libs
    • Make words from long words with letter cards
    • Silly prompts – “How would you design eyeglasses if you had no ears?”
  • Set rules
    • No bad ideas
    • Don’t criticize ideas
    • Build on ideas
    • Don’t evaluate ideas (esp. initially)
    • Encourage wild and crazy ideas
    • Give a goal – come up with 500 ideas
    • Come up with the worst ideas you can
  • Create a fluid process
    • Only one conversation at a time
    • Challenge participants to look from a different point of view
    • Eliminate obvious answers to propel creative solutions
    • Prompt setting/context change ideation (e.g., underwater or on the moon; limited or unlimited budget; past or future)
    • Keep things to short statements
  • Idea capture
    • everyone should have pen and paper
    • mitigate the tyranny of the pen
    • mind mapping
      • who, what, when, where, why as initial branches
  • Consider the time
    • Hard to maintain energy beyond an hour; 45-60 minutes ideal
    • End on high note
  • When you’re done
    • Consider voting, perhaps top several choices in various categories
    • Categories could include things like: cost-effective, easiest, quickest to get of the ground, etc.
    • Capture the products of the brainstorming
As with anything, practice helps you get better at brainstorming.

Chapter 4: Are You Paying Attention? (AKA, Observation is Important)

lucky people are more likely to “see” things than unlucky ones
we’re often blind to the water around us
 – Dating experience – dating agents, breakup buddies, relaunch kits
observation is key to creativity
– registration cards were a wealth of information
– weather related loss insurance
– magician asks us to select one out of six cards; step 2 – now it is missing, but all 5 are different cards
– Seinfeld’s “talking about nothing.”  Funny is drawn out of the ordinary.  Waiting rooms
– Audubon bird count
The practice of watching makes one more observant and see in greater detail.
– The Stanford Safari
– Store detail question list (911)
– observation logs
– Twyla Tharp’s boxes of ideas and scraps of information in The Creative Habit
– IDEO’s redesign of Am. Red Cross’s blood donation – “Why I give board”
– Mir Imran reading medical journals for patterns and inconsistencies; ablation & Atrial Fibrillation (AF)
Chapter 5: The Table Kingdom (AKA, Space Matters)
Environment shapes creative capacities.  In the present and developmentally as we grow up.
– Cafes have different environments – some that facilitate conversations with strangers; others that discourage it
– Real Estate agents bake fresh cookies in houses they are showing.
– Marble curtain art piece created in a space conducive for creativity.
– “The Square” mobile credit card processor is elegant as are its offices.
– Environment of the
– Office moved into a transformed van inside office building
Proximity to others in work environments affects collaboration
– Teams doing four different jigsaw puzzles, each with 25% of the pieces; setup ended up being a key variable in this game
Red focuses attention.  Blue fosters creative thinking.
Music can be powerful in setting the environment
– Rocky
– Skiing to rock music vs. soft, elegant music
– Wine experience changed by music
Ewan McIntosh’s Different Types of Spaces (all need)
  1. Private Space (e.g., office)
  2. Group Space (e.g., kitchen table)
  3. Publishing Spaces (display work that has been done)
  4. Performing Spaces (share or act out ideas)
  5. Participation Spaces (engagement with what’s going on)
  6. Data (e.g., library or database)
  7. Watching Spaces
– Creative offices at Pixar
– Creative offices and games, toys, etc. at Scribd
“Space is the stage on which we play out our lives.”

Chapter 6: Think of Coconuts (AKA, Toggle Your Constraints)

“Creativity loves constraints.” – Marissa Mayer
Time is a constraint.
Creativity under the gun matrix:
– Apollo 13 example of creating a filter under urgent conditions
– eBay’s “Auction for America”
– Startups need to succeed quickly
– Monte Python and the Holy Grail – coconuts are better than horses
– Eric Ries’s “minimal viable product”
– Create a line of greeting cards in 30 minutes
– Twitter’s restriction to 140 characters
– SMITH magazine’s six word challenge – Six word memoir
Also of value: take away all the contraints or remove them one by one.
– Amazon did this with financial constraints which led to free shipping
“Constraints are a tool that can and should be modulated up and down to catalyze and compound creative energy.”
Chapter 7: Move the Cat Food (AKA, Design Your Incentives Well)
– Car games with different rules
Rules influence behavior.
– “gamification” – rapid feedback, rewards and punishments, real social engagement
– Chevy Volt’s mpg gage functions as game
Feedback impacts behavior (Todd’s note: recall Drucker’s “what gets measured, gets managed”)
– “tip-o-meter”
– presidential debate monitors
With infrequent feedback, we tend to do what we know is safe and will work.
– “I Like, I Wish, What If” Discussion
– “Written?  Kitten!” – Every 500 words, you’re shown an image of a kitten.
– “Write or Die” – programmed punishments for not writing, including “kamikaze” mode
“Creativity is enhanced when you reward both success and failure and punish inaction.” – Robert Sutton in Weird Ideas that Work
– BF Skinner shows that random rewards produces more consistent behavior
– Relay races propel better behavior
– “Fun Theory” stairs as piano keyboard; world’s deepest trash can
– Scrabble rule tightening and loosening – more creativity and higher points in tight times
– FDA can loosen and tighten rewards to change incentives around different classes of medicines
– Ira Glass’ This American Life profile of popular teacher in Chicago over a ten year period with rapid changes; accountability rules shattered creative environment
“You get what you reward.”
“you should craft the rules that reward ingenious solutions to both short-term and long-term goals.”

Chapter 8: Marshmallow on Top (AKA, Weave Fun, Morale Into Process)

– Only a few from team climb to top of Everest to claim success for team
– Rodrigo (team leader) decided entire team could go to the summit
– computer game similating Mt. Everest climb
– Edward de Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats” model
  1. White hat – facts and logic
  2. Green hat – generating new ideas
  3. Red hat – intuition
  4. Blue hat – organized, process oriented
  5. Black hat – devil’s advocate; what won’t work
  6. Yellow hat – eager to make everyone happy
Try changing roles to see different perspectives.  Put on different hats to facilitate different kids of skills needed in different situations.
Julian Gorodsky’s Roadblock Checklist:
  • Do you take time out for reflection and evaluation of team process?
  • Do you stay together when the team is under pressure?
  • Do you divide the workload relatively evenly?
  • Do you take responsibility for problems instead of blaming others?
  • Are you respectful of personal and professional differences?
– Malcolm Gladwell’s “Bakeoff” article
– Marshmellow challenge
Play facilitates good work.  Employee morale is very important.
Losada ratio – 5 positive interactions for every negative interaction.
– Mark Beeman’s research has shown that complex problems are more likely to be solved when solvers are in a positive mood.
– Much of “cheating” in school is actually collaborating.
Chapter 9: Move Fast-Break Things (AKA, Fail Early and Often)
“An experiment is a question which science poses to Nature, and a measurement is a recording of Nature’s answer.”  – Max Planck
Creativity requires experimentation.
– MIT study of children and toys – when posed as “experiment,” toys are more interesting
Telling people “how to” can reduce creativity.
“Genius is the ability to make the most mistakes in the shortest period of time.”
Failures are data.
– Investor Vinod Khosla takes risks on projects with 90% chance of failure.
– Instagram as an iterative success
“In writing, you must kill your darlings.” – William Faulkner
– Tinkering School
– Olin College’s lab approach
– “Failure Faire” – riddles, gambling game, post secret website
– Show your work to others in its infancy so you don’t get too attached to it and can abandon it if necessary
– 1185 Design – produces lots of designs for clients and then whittles them down
– Simply Recipes was one of 5 blogs written by its author, the other 4 were discareded
– Seelig’s dad taste experiments and pulse lie-detector tests
– Chegg’s textbook rentals
– Facebook’s motto – “Move Fast – Break Things”
– Google’s 70-20-10 rule
Chapter 10: If Anything Can Go Wrong, Fix It! (AKA, I Think I Can…)
– Seelig’s course on creativity and the attitude of those on the outside wanting to get in.
– name change from consumer marketing to creative marketing
– finish the quilt no  matter what patchworks you have to work with. Life is more like a quilt than a puzzle.
– Start Up Chile
– Some are afraid of failure, others of success.
– John Adler’s braceless tumor removal technique
– plastic bags in Haiti used to make fabric, mold into nut shelling molds
– X Prize
– Diamandis’s Law – It will go wrong, fix it.
– NASA/DARPA – travel to another star
Chapter 11: Inside out and Outside In
– Sangduen Chailert, or Lek’s, Elephant Nature Park
Knowledge is fuel for imagination.
– See Mark Twain quote on the best swordsman needing to fear the complete novice, b/c what they do may be unexpected
Tangential knowledge can help too
Imagination: connecting/combining ideas, reframing problems, challenging assumptions
If knowledge is fuel, imagination is an endlessly renewable resource.
– Improv box/present idea
Attitude jump starts creativity.
EEG reveals that we show an “o crap” impulse, quickly followed by a “what went wrong” impulse.
Resources facilitate knowledge.
Habitats are an external manifestation of our imagination.
Cultures are the habits and attitudes of whole groups of people in which we participate.
All elements of the Innovation Engine are inexorably linked.
The outside of the Innovation Engine mirror the elements in the society of the internal, personal elements inside the Innovation Engine.
– Endeavor organizations helps create models of local innovation

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